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what is a career break?

What is A Career Break And Why You Need One?

what is a career break?

You’re supposed to get an education, work your fingers to the bone, buy a house, raise a family and pay off your student loans all while trying to stash away money like a squirrel for the day you turn 65, retire and FINALLY enjoy your life and do all of the things you’ve been putting off or did not have time to do because you were to busy doing what you were supposed to do! Ooof!


Well, kind of right but mostly wrong!

What’s the point of waiting?

I’m sorry but If you’ve worked for any length of time than you know that working like a dog until you are 65 is just not sustainable. Sooner or later you get burnt out or bored with the monotony of living your life just doing what society has taught you to do.

I’m not saying to completely abandon your values and throw good sense to the wind but life was meant to be lived as you are living it not when you turn 65 and not just once a year for your annual two-week vacation.

Who’s to say you won’t get hit by a car and die tomorrow never having done anything worth while except work on your career?  It happened to my father the year before he turned 65.

What if you get in an accident or your health deteriorates and become physically incapable of doing the things you want to do when you reach the age of 65 and older?

That’s where a career break comes in sometimes people call it a sabbatical

So what is a career break?

A career break is an extended period of time where you STOP working to do something worthwhile, new, different, exciting or whatever you want to call it.  A career break gives you the time you need to recharge your batteries so that when you do go back to work and your normal routine, you are refreshed, enriched and hopefully with a better perspective and outlook on life.

Think of a career break as a detour on the road of life where you stop the car and take alternate more scenic route to your destination while enjoying the sights along the way.

The term career break is closely related to the following terms with slight differences but for the most part can be used interchangeable. 

  • Gap year
  • Adult Gap Year
  • Sabbatical
  • Family gap year or family sabbatical
  • Mini Retirement
  • Leave of absence

How Long Is A Career Break

Depending on who you talk to, some say a career break is between one month and two even three years long.  The time you take off will depend on a lot of different factors and your unique situation.

Some things that will determine the time of your career break are your financial situation, your goals, whether you have a family, kids etc.

What Can You Do On A Career Break

Career breaks are not just about taking time off for the sake of it. Typically a career break can be life changing if used as a personal development tool.

Some things you can do on a career break are..

  • Travel
  • Live abroad (That is how we ended up in France)
  • Volunteer, Volunteer abroad
  • Learn (language, ski or sailing instructor, for example)
  • TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language)
  • Raise kids
  • Start a business
  • Train for a marathon,
  • Learn a new hobby (painting, pottery, sewing)
  • Training or education to staying up-to-date with professional skills
  • Go back to school (get an advanced degree)
  • Recover from an accident or illness.
  • Look after a dependent
  • Spend more quality time with your family.
  • Write a novel
  • Yada Yada Yada

The downside to Career Breaks

Unfortunately, in order to enjoy a career break, you will most likely have to quit your job and find a new one when you return to the work force. What that means is that you will have to save enough money to sustain your life for the duration of your break, plus have enough to do the activity that you want to do and support yourself during the time when you look for a new job. ( unless you’ve negotiated with your employer to hold your job for you when you return).

How To Take A Career Break?

Every year hundreds of thousands of people around the world take career breaks.

With a little planning you can take one too.

15 ways to save money for your career break or sabbatical

Here is my journey taking career breaks and sabbaticals

Our story of taking a sabbatical to live in France for a year

Below is a video which talks about the “Power of time off”. You should watch it!!

Do You Want To Live In France? 10 Excuses Stopping You From Living Abroad Debunked!

Ever since I can remember, I have dreamed of living in France but never believed I could ACTUALLY DO IT.  I always had 100 excuses why I couldn’t move to France.

AT first it was lack of money, then it was my job, then after I got married it was because I had kids, then it was because of timing and then *excuse after excuse after excuse. add another excuse here.

What I didn’t realize was that my fears, misconceptions and limiting beliefs were ultimately stopping me from taking the first step to pursuing my dream of living in France.  I was my own worst enemy. In the end I overcame my fears since as I write these words, I am living in France. My point is, it’s O.K. to be scared, heck it’s normal but you don’t let your fears stop you from achieving your dreams.

I’m happy to say that as of October 2011, we (me, my husband and our three children) moved to the south of France where we will stay for a few years.

I’ve put together a list of my own personal mental road blocks along with reasons why you should not let them stop you from just going for it.

1: I don’t have a job lined up for my year abroad

You don’t need a job to move to France. Yes it would be easier and that would have been our first choice too but we didn’t have that luxury.  We decided to finance our trip ourselves and use our time in France for personal development., spend time together and work on our freelance careers. But what if you don’t have enough money?

2: I don’t have enough money

Money, money money. The obvious answer would be to save but for those of you who spend every single cent you have and have nothing to spare? I sympathize. I was in that same position for a long time. You’ll have to wait until you are in a better position to save but that doesn’t mean you can’t do other things in conjunction like cutting back on spending or starting some freelance activity now that you could eventually do remotely at some future date when you can move to France. Just make sure you put the extra money you save or earn in a special account for your trip. Heck, you can even tweak your tax estimators to give you the largest possible refund in some cases. It might take you a few years to archive your goal but you can do it.

Here are some ideas on different ways which you can cut back on your spending and potentially save a few thousand dollars or more toward your trip abroad.

3: It’s too expensive

The other misconception about moving abroad is that it’s too expensive. Living abroad isn’t like going on vacation. It’s a lot cheaper. Instead of paying for an expensive hotel room and eating out every night, you rent an apartment or house and cook meals at home like you would in your home country.

Also, you may be able to eliminate certain expenses that you incur while living in your home country like a car which means no auto insurance and no gas.  This is the route we chose. We have public transportation and access to trains in Marseille France so we can go wherever we want any time.

If you own you home, you can rent or sublet it out to cover some of the cost of living.

Lastly, choosing where to go for your move abroad is a lot like choosing a car. You chose based on your budget.

If you only have 12,000 dollars to buy a car, you don’t choose to buy a Mercedes. When choosing a place to move to, if you have 12,000 dollars for a year you don’t choose Paris, you choose someplace where you can live for 12,000 dollars like parts of South America or Asia.

We wanted to stay in Paris but we couldn’t find anything within our budget so we chose Marseille  where the cost of living and food is considerably cheaper than Paris and even cheaper than living in the cities we were living in the United States.

4: I don’t know where or what to do with all my stuff

You can either store it all in public storage or get creative and put an ad on Craigslist or some other online ad and ask to rent someone’s basement.

If you have a lot of junk, um, I mean stuff what about downsizing and selling the stuff you don’t need anymore in a garage sell?  If you do this, my advice is to start downsizing early so you can asses how much stuff you are going to keep and need to store.

5: I can’t go because I’ll lose my job, be out of the workforce and fall behind

can'tlive-abroadThe best thing to do would be to convince your boss to hold your job for you while you are away. Or do your job remotely.

But if you can’t don’t sweat it.  It won’t make a bit of difference to your future employer if you are away from the work force for a year.  In fact it might work to your benefit depending on how you use your time.

Moving abroad is an impressive feat and your future employer might see your move abroad as a sign that you are more well-rounded and can handle change easily. While abroad you could also work on getting a new set of skills to help your career. Even learning a language might help your career.

I’m using my year abroad to do a few things that will help me should I decide to rejoin the work force. I’m also working on an entrepreneurial venture, a book and helping my kids by giving them a solid understanding of a second language which they will need for college.

But you don’t have to sharpen your skills while abroad, you can always use your time abroad to recharge and get reconnected with the person you used to be before you got busy with work and life.  No one will look down on it. You will return recharged and have a better sense of who you are and what you want to do with your life.

6: I don’t speak the language

I’m not going to lie, not speaking the local Language will be hard. But don’t look at this as negative. It’s an opportunity to learn a new language which is part of the adventure. When I moved to Japan at 18, I didn’t speak Japanese. I only knew the song “Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto” and a hand full of words which I studied on the plane to Tokyo. I quickly immersed myself in the culture and really enjoyed the challenged of learning Japanese. It literally turned everyday into an exciting adventure.

7: I can’t go because I have kids

The first time I took my kids to Europe, my son Andre was 9 and shocked me when he said “ I didn’t know there were homeless people here”.

It never occurred to me that my children’s views of the world were limited to the suburbs of our comfortable life in Silicon Valley.

I think taking my kids out of their protected suburban bubble to experience other cultures has made them more appreciative of what they have and more aware of other people and their cultures making them more compassionate and open-minded.

Another great reason is to give your kids an opportunity to learn a second language and possibly bilingual. I can’t tell you how many people I know that have said that they wished they could speak another language.

8: What will I do with my house?

If you own your home, rent it out.  My home is rented in California and it helps finance part of our cost of living in France. If you are a renter you have it a little easier, you can just give notice and move out or if you want to have the same house for your return, you could see about subletting your house during your time abroad. You never know. Talk to your landlord.  Plus, if you sublet your home out, you could always rent it for more if you rent it furnished. Do your research and know all your options.

9: I can’t leave my life, my work, my friends or relatives behind!

It might be hard but it’s only temporary. Your friends and family will be there when you get back.  You will have gone away and had an amazing year abroad and you’ll see that nothing really changed when you return. Besides, If you are really worried about losing touch with friends there’s a great thing called the Internet where you can make video calls using Skype. It’s free. The other person needs to have it installed on their computer. Or if you pay a monthly fee, you can make calls to landlines and cell phones. I pay 3.00 dollars a month for unlimited calling. That’s almost free.

10: I don’t know anyone or have any friends in the country where I want to go

This is the worst excuse ever. This is one of those excuses that my teenager would use but happily didn’t. Yes it’s hard to say “au – revoir” to friends and family back home but moving abroad is an opportunity to meet new people, make new friends and do something different for a change.

I was on the phone setting up our electric for the apartment we are renting in France and the woman I was talking to asked me where I was from. Then we got to talking and before I knew it, we decided to meet for coffee. (in a public place of course). My point is, there’s lots of things you could do to meet new people. Just be creative.

If your dream is to move abroad, make it happen.  It’s possible it just takes changing your mind-set and working hard towards that goal.


Don’t just look at all the reason you can’t make the move to live in France or live abroad for a couple of years. You should also look at all the positive things you could accomplish.

adult gap year: take a career break from your job

Adult Gap Year: How Taking Career Breaks Helped My Career And Life

gap year for adults. A career break to recharge

What if you could could take a break or quit your job for a few months even a year? Would you do it? I would and I did. Here is what I did and how it actually helped my career.

Why take a career break?

Everyone needs to get away for a while to recharge, reset and do the things that matter to you. But sometimes the weekends or that 2 week annual vacation just isn’t enough to do the things you want or need to do. Take time off from work for a few months to a year, a career break can give you that time. It can also give you a chance to rediscover and give you back purpose in life.

I’ve taken several career breaks and have never regretted it. Most people fear taking a career break because it leaves a big gap on your resume but if you use that time to do something meaningfuul it can easily be explained and can even make your look more appealing to future employers once you return from your career break.

I’ve always grown as a person and achieved things I never would have accomplished while working.

Don’t call a career break a vacation because it is not

Don’t confuse a career break with a vacation because they are not the same. The major difference is that a career break usually involves time off from your main job or career to achieve a life goal or experience something significant.

Some people call taking a break from your job a “CAREER GAP” or “CAREER BREAK” but these terms seem to be used interchangeably with the terms, “SABBATICAL” and “ADULT GAP YEAR” ( which is different from “Gap Year” apparently).

There are other terms too but these seem to be the most widely used and accepted but career break is the term I will use for this article.

How long do career breaks or gap years last?

Because career breaks are typically unpaid, the length varies depending on your goals, financial situation and obligations but typically last anywhere from a couple of months to a full year. Most people cannot sustain a career break longer than one year due to financial reasons and responsabilities.

What can you do on a career break?

What you do on your career break is entirely up to you but here are some examples of things people are doing on their career breaks.

  • Take care of a newborn or stay home to raise older children
  • Volunteer Abroad (family programs exist)
  • Education: Studying to improve your skills or get a degree
  • Training for an adventure career such as a ski instructor or sailing instructor
  • Start a business
  • Prepare for a career change
  • Pursue a passion or hobby such as panting, writing, marathon
  • Travel: see the world, learn a new language
  • Paid work abroad to fund your travels: Possibly outside your career field like teaching English, waitress, tour guide, au pair etc.

Here’s what I did on my two breaks.

My first career break

When I was 29, I had a good job that I hated.  I was newly divorced ( married way too young) and I needed time to get grounded while taking care of my two toddler sons.

With a little savings in the bank and no child support I quit my job to accomplish three things.

1- Stay home and take care of my kids.

2- Support myself with a job I can do from home

2- Prepare for a career change. I was working as a corporate Treasury and Foreign Exchange analyst and I was burnt out. Most of all I dreaded going into work and I needed a change.

Kick start the entrepreneur in me

I knew that I could transfer my skills and talent for working with numbers into a job working as a web or marketing analyst but with no experience in this field no one would hire me.

Solution: I created my job and taught myself what I thought I needed to know. That was my first foray into entrepreneurship.

Ultimately I achieved all of my goals. Best of all, I was hired as a web and marketing database analyst with a salary increase.

My second career break

10 years later, It’s now 2011. I’ve since taken a second career break which has lasted for about 4 year. My break started back in 2007 when the company I worked for had a massive lay off. (Thank You silicon valley).

The timing couldn’t have been better. I was ready for another career change and it just so happened that I was remarried and had a newborn on the way.

So I did it all over again.

Entrepreneurship Again

This time I used my layoff as a catalyst to launch my new career and create an ecommerce store.  It was a lot of work but I handled all aspects of running my shop including designing and creating handmade sleeping masks to sell in the shop.

I ran my shop from my home for 3 years. It was very fulfilling and I know if I wanted to get a job in this field I could. But I don’t want to work for “The Man” anymore.

Travel Long Term / Live abroad

Something happened to me and my values. After being home with the kids, my husband and running my business the way I want to I realized that I enjoyed all this personal freedom.

I also realized that I missed travelling.

So here I am now after almost 7 months of planning with my husband.  I am living in France with my husband and three kids since October of 2011. Before this, we lived in Montreal for 8 months and Maryland for a few months visiting family and friends.

Entrepreneurship A Third Time Around

While in France, my goal is to build a portable business based on my passions and talents which I can run from anywhere as long as there is internet access and somewhere to plug-in my computer.

Some might call me a lifestyle entrepreneur and digital nomad (for now) rolled up into one because I’m building a business and hopefully a career around my life rather than a life around my business. One that I not only enjoy and am good at but also pays the bills while giving me the mobility and freedom to work when and where I want.

But these are my goals and intentions, yours will no doubt be different.


You might think that career breaks, gap years and sabbatical are a new fancy or a passing trend.

I can assure you, taking a career break is not a new idea.

It’s not reserved for middle-aged people having a mid-life crisis.

And It’s also not just for wealthy people with a huge savings account.

As I mentioned earlier, I took my first career break over 10 years ago. And even before that, I took a gap year after high school to live and work in Japan and travel around Asia that turned into three years.

I thought I was a trailblazer but I know now that taking time off from work and life is an old concept.

1960’s: Gap Year

The British have known for a long time the benefit of taking time off. During the 1960’s, they coined the term GAP YEAR to describe any adult who took time off from life to travel or work abroad. The British also use the term A YEAR OUT. I had never heard of this term until recently but apparently it’s widely used in Britain.

Since then, the term gap year has grown in popularity, especially among Americans and perhaps by coincidence it seems to have taken on a new meaning. Now a gap year is mainly used to refer to younger people taking a year off from school, before college or even during high school.

While an adult gap year seems to be more closely related to a career break in that it is used to describe any adult who quits their job or the normal rhythms of their day-to-day life to do something worth while including travel and working abroad.

Biblical Times: Sabbatical

Taking time of from work goes back even further than the 1960’s. Back to biblical times. Every seven years, the ancient Jews who farmed took a year-long break during which time they were forbidden to plow and work their lands. They called it a SABBATICAL YEAR.

So there you have it. Taking time off has been around for a long time. It’s here to stay.

Have a plan

Taking a career break can be scary especially if you have a family. It requires a lot of planning. You may experience doubts and question yourself not to mention all the Nay Sayers who will tell you that you are committing career suicide but don’t let that stop you if you.

Having taken several career breaks and gap years, I can honestly say that the adventures you experience on your career break will be something you remember for the rest of your life. You won’t regret it if you plan it well. Life is nothing without a little ADVENTURE.

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