Gap years for grown-ups: how to take a career break later in life


Career break for adults allows time for travel
Tourist couple enjoying sightseeing and exploring city
If you’re looking at taking a later-in-life career break, we answer some of the big questions to help get you started.

Thought a gap year was just for teens out of high school, or maybe 20-somethings taking a break from uni? Think again. Taking a career break after age 30 is more common than you think, and it’s also a great way to learn new skills and reprioritise what’s really important.

What will I do?

Whether you want to work, volunteer or travel (or some combination of all three), there are lots of options available for adults looking to take a career break. You can teach English in Japan or China, help with wildlife conservation efforts in Africa, or build on your existing skills by taking an internship abroad. Do your research with companies like Gap Work and find something that suits you. The sky is the limit!

Will I be kissing my career goodbye?

Obviously, every job is different – but many employers are more open to the idea of offering employees an unpaid sabbatical than you might think. Talk to your boss about your plans, and see what sort of time they will allow you to take. If there is an opportunity for you to upskill and add value to the company in future, they might jump at the chance. Even if they don’t, just remember to leave on good terms – you may be applying for a job with them when you come back, or at the very least asking for a reference. 

If your trade can be done online, you may also be able to freelance or work remotely. This will allow you to travel and get out of the nine-to-five grind, without leaving your industry or losing your company connections.

How will I afford it?

Long-term travel can be expensive. So as soon as you decide that a career break is what you want, put a savings plan in place. Map out where you’d like to go, how much accommodation will cost, whether you’ll be employed and able to earn money there, and so on. Make sure you have enough cash in the bank to allow for any emergencies, and allow for at least six months’ worth of additional income for when you return.

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