Unemployed Nomad or Sabbaticalled Worker?
One of the two real decisions to be made once you decide to travel the globe for an extended period of time is that of employment. Most notably, do you attempt to keep a job while you are gone or do you step away from work and worry about the consequences later? If we were 20, this would be an easy decision. When you get to the middle of your life it becomes a little more daunting.
For most of us in the first world, by the time we have reached middle age, we have invested a certain amount of our life in establishing a career. If you have a decade with a company and are entrenched in healthcare and retirement options, the decision to leave that comfortable place can be a hard one to make. If you are at a point in your professional advancement where you are acquiring company bonuses and profit sharing plans, it can be even harder.
Most travel blogs would offer the advice of: Go Travel! You can find a new job when you return to your home country. While I completely agree with this mindset when it comes to someone just out of school, I would say to the middle aged crowd that you may want to consider it further. There are a great many things to consider for people that have invested time in establishing careers. The most important of which is, will it be there when I return home?
The job market in the United States in definitely in a better place than it has been in some time. That being said, work availability for different skill sets and sectors of the population, not to mention age brackets, is still in a great deal of flux. If you are in technically specific industry or are coming up on that age where employers view you as more of a health risk than an asset, you may want to consider staying put. Also, if you are a family person, this is definitely a family decision. If you can escape the confines of your cubicle, then I would say that you have better options at hand.
It should be noted here that I have had one of those jobs where I traveled for work. I mean I travelled extensively for work. All across the continental United States, 40-50 weeks a year on the road. It’s easy to say go, when you go all the time. When you are entrenched in the corporate 9-5 it is not as easy a decision. It’s also one that needs to be substantiated by rational decisions.
Is the experience of traveling worth the time you invest in it? In my opinion, yes. Experience is much more important, and practically useful, than the acquisition of material goods. At the end of the day, stuff is stuff. Experience is something else. It’s knowledge of places. It’s new and rekindled friendships. It’s acquired skills. It’s a host of life’s moments stamped indelibly into your being. (Okay, that last one was a stretch – but also probably true.)
If you find that leaving your current employment to travel is not something you are comfortable with, then take heart. Most rational people aren’t comfortable with it either. It’s Okay! When you have invested sufficient time in a career to be in a comfortable place, wanted to leave that place doesn’t make a lot of sense. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options available. One of them might be the previously mention route of the Ex-Patriot. It can be a solid move for some people.
Another option to consider would be a sabbatical. Sabbaticals are usually thought of in the context of teachers and other academic professionals. While this is true, there are other industries where it can be an accepted practice. These areas include technology sensitive and highly skilled companies. Many companies would rather offer things such as sabbatical than lose employees to burnout and sector pressure. They also would many times rather accommodate an employee than spend time and money training a new one.
Sabbaticals are surprisingly available in the corporate world. They are also not spoken of, because companies would rather have employees producing for the company. They keep them in their back pocket and pull them out when they are needed. This being said, you may want to investigate your company’s own policy regarding sabbaticals and extended periods of leave. You may find that your employer isn’t completely hostile to the idea.
It’s my own personal opinion that experience is what we are. The sum total of one’s own experiences define who that individual is. Experience is the only thing that can’t be taken away from you, and is the only thing that you take with you when you leave. Experiences can be as small as the time spent studying the spring flowers in your local park or as large as studying the expansive mountain views from atop Machu Picchu. (I have done both with, what I would like to think is, equal merit.)
Since this is theoretically a travel blog, we are going to try and focus on the far flung. The getting out there and experiencing the world part of life. The small journeys have great merit. The large journeys also have great merit. Being able to disconnect from your routine life and become absorbed in another setting or situation is what travelling is about. The longer you spend doing that, the better and more worthy experiences you will come away with.
So, for the mid-lifer’s out there, think it through. Career stability is a worthy goal at our age. The experience of life is also a worthy goal. Someone once said; “To live is rare. Most people simply exist.” Whoever they were, I think they were right. But, that just my opinion.
Now go! Get out there. Life is waiting for you.
The inside of the Convent of Christ, Templar Stronghold and later home to the Knights of the Order of Christ. Tomar, Portugal, fall of 2009. Just one of the places you might end up.