I took a career break because I was bored and didn't know what to do. I had been working in general management jobs and we (me and my wife) didn't want to live in the same area any more. We didn’t quite know what we wanted to do or where we wanted to do it, so we thought a year out would give us time to think about it. Of course, it gave us the chance to travel, which we both love doing!
We travelled from East to West, from here [the UK] to the States, the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, South-East Asia, India - we saw (and ate!) loads of things. Our career break took a year and both of us quit our jobs to do it.
Just before we went, I bought a Fuji digital zoom camera, 2 megapixels, which cost £200. But I didn’t really get into the photography side of travel until probably New Zealand, when we went to the hot springs in Rotorua. I thought it was interesting, took some photos and it just started from there really. As time went on I took more photos of local people, local scenes etc, enjoyed capturing things as they happened. Erika (my wife) always wanted me to take photos of her standing in front of monuments and I hate taking photos like that, I think it’s boring! I wanted to take photos of strange things like Buddhist monks going up escalators.
The worst thing was, because we started fresh, which was the whole point of it, we didn’t organise a sabbatical, we gave up our jobs and moved to a new area, it took time to settle in, although a lot of that was to do with moving to a new area though, rather than the actual career break.
The best thing about travelling – I don’t know where to start, it was all so good! It wasn’t actually where we went, it was giving up what we had – jobs and all the rest of it – taking what seemed like a massive risk and putting things into perspective.
It felt that no matter what the situation, you could always get up and start again somewhere else, even if it was only for a short period of time. You didn’t have to be confined by the daily grind and never ever do something different. It gave us the space to think about where we want to be and what we want to do. We completely changed everything that we did.
When I came back and set up a food guide, I knew that I needed to take photos of food for people, so I bought myself a basic SLR camera for about £465. I used that to take photos for my customers, and got really interested in food photography. Then I had a couple of people ask me to do weddings. So I did and I set up my own website (www.tonykluge.co.uk) to see if anybody liked my photos and wanted to book a wedding, and I managed to get a couple of weddings off that, and just went from there really.
The career break helped a lot, in being able to talk to people I didn’t know. I was quite shy before, and I had to do that every single day when I was travelling. It means that now, when I meet new customers or at weddings when there’s like 150 people and I’ve got to make them warm to me within minutes, I can do it! It got me used to talking to complete strangers straight away and just getting on with them. And of course, it got me interested in photography in the first place!
My career break gave me the experience of a lifetime, and a new career. I wish I could do it all over again!
Tony Kluge was talking to Rachel Morgan-Trimmer of The Career Break Site. All the photos on this page were taken by him. If you'd like to buy a print, or to hire Tony, visit www.tonykluge.co.uk.