How I've Financed a Career Sabbatical to Travel the World Twice in My 20's
Updated: Feb 26
5 years ago, I was stressed out by the monster I had created with my business. I was out of shape, stressed, and not happy. Somehow I came across 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss where he explains how he was in the same position and how he transformed his life. I acted on pretty much everything I learned in that book and it changed my life. I became free.
That experience led to being hooked on the Tim Ferriss Podcast from Day 1 where I was turned onto thought leaders like Ralf Potts.
One of the big themes Tim advocates for in 'The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich' and others like Ralf advocated for in his book 'Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel' were mini-retirements.
Now, 5 years later, Tim is officially an internet icon and very wealthy. He has one of the top podcasts in the world where he interviews billionaires and the world's top performers. When people try to tell me outdated dogma like "Don't have a gap in your resume," I just kind of laugh. They aren't 'woke'.
To hear really successful people talk about the benefits of world travel, and taking a non-traditional path was deeply inspiring.
Taking a multi-month break from work is something I've done twice in my 20's. The first time at age 24 I set myself up to travel around Europe and do personal development while self-employed.
When I got back from that 'mini-retirement', I got ambition anxiety that I wasn't gaining enough experience working for myself. I decided to take a long-standing offer to go work at a high growth technology startup and sell my business. That ended up being an awesome decision because I learned an enormous amount and made lifelong friends in the trenches of startup life.
After 3.5 years of doing that I felt plateaued again, just as I had at 24. So last month, I decided to leave my comfortable job as a product manager at age 27 to travel around Asia and follow my lifelong passion of writing and learning to surf.
In each case, I set myself up to not be stressed about finances for an extended period of time without a job.
Anyone can do this. It just takes a bit of creative thinking, discipline, and execution.
First off, what is a career break or mini-retirement?
A career break is different from unemployment. Unemployment conjures thoughts of sitting on a couch, watching TV, and actively looking for the next opportunity.
A career break is intentional. The goal of a career break is typically personal growth. Some people take a career break if they are burnt out, feel plateaued, reach a quarter-life crisis or have a major personal issue to deal with. You may not feel like you need a a career break right this second, but it's always good to create the freedom to take one in the future.
A career break is not simply a period of unemployment. Career breakers usually do one or more of the following:
Paid work abroad
Studying or training
Launching a start-up
Following a creative pursuit or paassion
10 ways to set yourself up for a career break
There's no get rich quick scheme advice here. There isn't just one item on the below list that will get you there. It will likely take a combination of these things to finance a career break. Perhaps you will think of your own creative ways to make a career break work and I'd love to hear about them.
Here are 10 ideas to get your idea juices flowing:
Buy a house and turn it from a liability to an asset (Post coming soon on how to do this in detail)
Get a side hustle that is location-independent, flexible and ideally recurring
Ditch your limited beliefs about how much health insurance costs. Now that the Affordable Care Act fine has been removed you can find really good insurance for your 20's. For example, my insurance that works abroad and in the US is only $77/mont
Sell your car or at least downgrade your car insurance to an "in-storage" plan.
Don't overestimate how much it costs to live in Asia or South America. Take a look at Nomadlist for cost of living. For example, Here is The Unfathomable Lifestyle $500/Week Can Buy You in Canggu, Bali
Become a minimalist. Learn to live with less stuff while you still have a job.
Invest smartly while you have steady income. Take advantage of Roth IRA or Traditional IRA. You can always take out your principle with no fees.
Don't try get rich quick schemes or anything that sounds too good to be true. This is a recipe for losing your hard earned money. For example, don't invest your savings into weed stocks on Robin Hood that you've never heard of or crypto coins you've never used.
If you're going abroad, get Travelers Insurance. If you look at the details of travelers insurance policy, this will give you more peace of mind than a health insurance policy.
Want me to expand on any of these ideas or have questions? Tweet me @jamesvdl.