26 April 2018

This is Rachel Jones. She's 23 years old and is about to go on the trip of a lifetime. Here is our interview with her.

Rachel Jones
Rachel Jones

Hi Rachel. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Ashford, Middlesex but currently live in Chertsey, Surrey with my new husband - we married in December after 8 ½ years together!

I graduated with a First Class degree in History from the University of Southampton last year and almost immediately started working in my current role as a Student Administration Assistant at a local university. Sam is a couple of years older than me and is the Assistant Manager at one of the busiest car dealerships in London.

Why are you taking a career break now?

After a very busy year, we are qualified, married and in secure, well-paying jobs – some people we know simply can’t understand why we would take a career break at this point in our lives. Many of our friends have just put deposits down on houses while others are focussed on establishing themselves in enduring and rewarding careers, and yet here we are… about to spend a significant amount of time and money on an extended holiday.

And yet… What better time could there be to take the leap? We’re young and newly married, pre-children and pre-mortgage. While the jobs we have pay well, our overall experience of working life so far can be described in three words: repetitive, stressful and tiring (I admit that this probably indicates that we’re in the wrong careers!).

It was after yet another of these uninspiring days at work that we turned to each other and asked “Is this it?” Is life meant to be lived as a series of countdowns – how many hours until lunch or the end of the day? And how many days until the end of the week?

Undeniably, pursuing more stimulating and fulfilling careers would (hopefully one day will) make a huge difference to our quality of life, but once we had acknowledged the decades of 9-5 ahead of us we were overcome with a sense of confinement that was hard to shake. What surprised us was the number of people around us who felt exactly the same but didn’t do anything about it!

Another factor in our decision was our desire to travel. From speaking to friends and family it seems that almost everyone has a dream trip that they would love to go on, from island hopping in South East Asia to a road trip across America – but very few people ever go. Money, jobs, family, friends all act as hurdles that stop dreams of travel and adventure from becoming a reality.

Each of our parents told us that they wished they had travelled when they were “young” – they all have wonderful lives but it did make us wonder what it must be like to feel that an opportunity has passed you by.

Our opportunity is now.

All in all, our decision came down to the following points. 

  1. Working in a job you don’t like, let alone love, is a soul-destroying way of spending (or should I say wasting) your life. 
  2. You only ever regret the money you didn’t spend. 
  3. In life we want three things – to travel, to have children and to buy a house. If we have children and buy a house first, long term travel may never happen. If we travel now, we can have children and buy a house afterwards. In our eyes, we are getting the best of both worlds.
  4. It’s impossible to know for sure how we will feel about our lives when we’re old and grey, but we’re pretty sure we’re more likely to say "We wish we had travelled more" rather than "We wish we had worked more".

You said you tweeted us, did you also use our site? What did you tweet us about?

Early on in our decision process when "The Big Trip" was just an idea that we chatted about casually over breakfast, we were very torn about what we 'should' be doing at this stage of our life and whether it was a good idea to take a career break.

I think I tweeted you and browsed your site for reassurance that everything would be OK should we decide to take a break. (The answer: Yes, it will be more than OK!)

What are your career break plans?

Our total trip is 5 ½ months.

Two and a half months will be spent in South East Asia experiencing the culture and food of Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand. After working so hard for the past few years we are looking forward to a bit of rest and relaxation! We’re looking forward to lazing on the beach, topping up our tans, reading and eating delicious and exotic foods. Also, my dad is from the Philippines so it will be lovely to go back to my roots and spend some time visiting the place where he grew up.

Then, after ten weeks exploring South East Asia we will fly to the USA for a three-month road trip from San Francisco to New York City!

How are you funding it?

As I mentioned before, last year was very hard work. We paid for our wedding ourselves, although our guests were generous and contributed to our ‘Honeymoon Fund’ as gifts.

Since our wedding four months ago, every penny we earn has been saved for the trip. We have been taking on overtime where possible, we sold Sam’s car and I have been eBaying (you would be very surprised what people will buy!)

We were also very lucky that we were able to give up our rented flat live with Sam’s mum and step-dad in the run up to the trip. This has saved us a fortune and while it has been difficult downsizing from our own home to a small bedroom, it has definitely been worth it!

It’s also worth mentioning that I’m a huge fan of spreadsheets and have been keeping track of our spending and what we need to save for over a year! This has helped to keep our finances in check and also allowed us to make plans for the trip that are achievable on our budget.

Will you come back to the same job or start something new?

Sam spoke to his boss and he is very lucky in that they are not only holding his role, but are actually offering him a promotion upon his return. He let them know of our plans to travel about a year in advance and they were very supportive of his decision. We hope that the new challenges this brings will make for a more rewarding career for him.

Regarding my own career, I hope to pursue something new when we come back. I only told my managers that I planned to leave five weeks in advance (one extra week than my contract required because I didn’t want to leave them in the lurch).

The day I had to hand my notice in was nerve-wracking but in reality the conversation was much less traumatic than I thought it would be and they even suggested that I give them a call upon my return if I would like to come back to work. I would never close the door on an opportunity and it’s great to leave on good terms, but I hope to move on to something more creative and project-based after our time away.

I have also considered training to become a teacher but I’m not certain yet – I think the trip will give me lots of time to decide what I would like to do next!

What have people at home said? Have they been supportive or not? (Or jealous?!)

On the whole, people have been very excited and supportive, but we frequently have people say how great they think our decision is before immediately launching into a list of reasons why they wouldn’t go (it’s not safe, it would be silly to give up a stable job, travel is good but a house is better, it’s impossible to save up that much). The funny thing is, I think they are often justifying their decisions to themselves rather than to us!

What are you most excited about?

This is a tough one! Aside from the food, beaches and adventures, I really can’t wait to wake up every day for five and a half months knowing that I haven’t got to go anywhere I don’t want to go or do anything I don’t want to do – each day will be full of potential memories.

After months and months of planning, I can’t wait for the moment that we can finally start living our adventure. And most of all, I can’t wait to experience everything with my wonderful husband at my side!

Is there anything you're apprehensive about?

I think the only worry I have had about our career break is the idea that while we’re away, everyone else will make so much progress in their lives at home.

I envisage coming back and all of my friends have bought houses and found their dream jobs – it is a bit scary to feel that you may fall behind but every time I start to worry about this I remind myself that 5 ½ months is a fraction of my working life and that I will have plenty time to make up for it later!

What is your advice for other people who are want to take a career break?

Honestly? I would say DO IT. Travelling the world isn’t for everyone, but the chances are if you have a desire to travel now you will almost certainly regret not doing it once the opportunity has passed. Not everyone will be able to go on a 5 ½ month “holiday” - everyone has different personal limitations, financial constraints and family ties but these can all be factored into a career break to suit each individual. You will always be able to find reasons not to go, but believe me – if you take the leap and embark on an adventure you will not regret it.


Rachel and Sam Jones

Inspired? Start planning your own career break by looking at all the options here.