7 September 2011

A lot of career break advice is about what you should and shouldn't do. But are there some rules you can break?

As a matter of fact, yes. And I'm going to tell you what they are!

Career break rule 1: go alone

There's no denying that going solo is amongst the best ways to travel (the best way in my opinion) but it's not the only way. Take your partner, a mate or your nan if you want.

More and more people are travelling with friends, relatives, partners - and even their kids these days! Most of them will complain about their travelling companion at some point - but most also say their relationship is stronger as a result of their shared experience.

Career break rule 2: Don't take expensive stuff

Yes, you are taking a bigger risk if you tote the latest iPhone instead of a cheap pay-as-you-go but then you might take better care of it.

Also, if you want to work as a blogger or try to get started as a travel photographer, expensive kit is going to be part of your work. You'll need to insure it too, don't forget!

Career break rule 3: Don't take things which have sentimental value

This is a rule I generally stick to because I am always losing things. But you are probably more careful than me, especially with precious stuff.

If you tend to get homesick or this is your first time on a long trip, or away from someone you love, a memento can ease your emotional pain. You might also find that a picture on your phone, or a special keyring dangling off your tatty backpack makes for a useful icebreaker!

Career break rule 4: Do some volunteering

Loads of career breakers do it and it makes them feel brilliant, but if you don't want to, then don't. If your heart's not in it, it's not fair on you or the project.

If you feel you're being selfish by just travelling, doing a course, or doing paid work, please don't! By travelling responsibly, you're bringing much-needed income to communities, and if you're doing a paid job, you're still helping people. Making the effort to have a positive impact on the places you visit is something you can feel good about.

Career break rule 5: Plan it well in advance

We say this a lot (an awful lot, in fact), because the majority of people will get more out of their career break with careful planning (and it gives you time to have all your jabs).

Having said that, if an opportunity falls into your lap you'd be foolish not to take it. Plenty of career breakers I know have taken the leap after being made redundant for example - using their redundancy pay for travelling before it gets swallowed up in more mundane stuff! You can sort out your career break very quickly if you really want to - it's a bit more work but it's doable.

Career break rule 6: Take the time to get to know a place

Much as it pains me to say it: not everywhere is worth getting to know! And even if everyone else raves about a place, you might get there and find that it's not really for you.

That's OK, there's no point kicking your heels somewhere you don't care about, when there are plenty more places you could see - which you might love!

Career break rule 7: Be safe

I do encourage career breakers not to do stupid stuff, and a lot of that comes from seeing people do stupid stuff. Some of this is simply naivety which is common when a person's on their first big trip, or it's their first time in a particular region. And some of it comes about because people tend to be a bit more carefree when they're away from home, and don't take the same precautions that they usually do.

Having said that, taking the odd, calculated risk is good for your confidence. We've watched nervous travellers complete a bungee jump, novice skiers challenge themselves and shy people opening up to strangers they meet on the road. And all of them come out better for the experience!


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