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Does long term travel affect your career?

I am planning to bagpack across south east Asia for one year. But I am afraid of my career ahead. What will I do after I complete my dream of bagpacking. Right now, I am 25, working in a marketing firm. I am thinking to quit and travel. I am constantly threatened by the thought of what will I do next whether I will be able to get job or start my own. Is getting job is easier or difficult after a year gap of traveling?  Any suggestions please

17 Answers

top answer by
Don from Kathmandu

Mate, at the risk of sounding old, you're in your 20s! Jobs come and go. Careers come and go. Heck, in this age, entire industries come and go. Allow me to quote Gandhi: "[L]ive as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." Travel is the ultimate education. Reprogram yourself as a life-long learner and you will transcend the limitations of the markets. Re-plot your notions of success outside the rubric of any job, career or degree you now know. If you do this then the answer to your question will become self-evident: it will not be easier, or more difficult, to find a job post your travels. Instead, your life will lead you to the opportunity  you will next explore. Note: such an approach is not a license to simply float though life (though I would argue that there are times when 'floating' is the proper choice). It is license to take control of your life as a progressive journey, to properly plan, to make mistakes, to set your own course and, above all, to learn as much as you can about everything you can. Cheers -  Dhaka

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Dhaka (city)
19 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Won Sun

Nothing is for certain in life. If you go travel, it might turn out well. You might end up meeting the love of your life, he or she might know some CEO who needs someone just like you and you end up having your dream job. If you decided to postpone your travel plan and focused on your career, you may end up stuck in the same job for 10 years and then realize that it was not at all what you want to do with your life and you had just wasted 10 years hating it. The opposit might happen, too. If you go travel, you might end up catching a disease in some foreign land without good medical facility and become blind, lose a limb or something. If you stay and work, you might get a chance of a life time opportunity and become an executive of a multinational company.

The point is: you never know. So many things can happen in the future that can change the course of your life. It's good that you are asking this question but I think deep down inside, you already know what you want to do. Don't be afraid of the "what if"s. Have faith in your own ability that no matter what happens, you will find a way to deal with it and move closer and closer to knowing what it is that you want out of your life. 

I think backpacking for a year is a great idea. If you do it now, you will have an amazing experience that most people don't get to have. You will come home full of stories to tell and will develop new perspective of this world. Whether people take it as a positive and negative is not the point. The point is that you will have a richer life and you will be better equiped to sail through your life's journey. If you don't do it now, it is okay, too. You will find a way to do it when you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s, or any age, for that matter.

Whatever you end up deciding, everything will be alright. 


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answered by
Sabine from Amsterdam

All good employers would only see a gap year as something positive. At least, that is what I always encountered. You will learn how to adapt, how to deal with other cultures and you will work on your problem solution skills and communication (because you will most likely be in a couple of situations where things will not go as planned). You can always work on your carrier and you will most likely do it for an other 40 years, but there will be a time where it will not be that easy anymore to go backpacking! You will always keep wondering 'what if....' if you will not go! So grab your backpack and go go go! 

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answered by
Lara from Coral Gables, Florida

I was a creative at an ad agency when I quit my job in January 2010 to sail across the Pacific Ocean from Trinidad to New Zealand, then travel around New Zealand for awhile. Before leaving I had the same reservations, but based on my own experience, I can assure you that it did more good for my career than harm. I was 27 at the time.  


My husband (boyfriend back in 2010) was 36 and did the same thing and had the same experience.  


The value of the knowledge we gained traveling the world far exceeded the value of what we would have gained in the office all year. We are both more worldly, more flexible, and more confident in our ability to make decisions and handle unexpected outcomes successfully.  


At new jobs, clients and coworkers always ask about how we did it, and say things like, "Wow, I wish I could do that." I usually answer "You can. All it takes is doing it," but the point there is that it takes a unique kind of person to take the risk and make the leap. The characteristics that it takes to make a good long-term traveler are often the same ones that are important in business. You are willing to take calculated risks, you can plan for contingencies and react effectively to unexpected outcomes arising, you are self reliant and have the experience to deal with a diversity of personalities, etc... 


I will say that for my first job back I did have to take a step sideways/slightly backwards to prove myself to my new employer, but within 6 months I was back on track with my career path at my highest ever salary and have never had the travel create a negative career effect for me. I would do it again in a heartbeat and likely will in the next year or two. 


If you're under 30, you have an incredible number of opportunities in front of you with potential Working Holiday visas around the world. Don't let this opportunity pass you by! You only live once. Why be here if you aren't out experiencing the world?!?

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answered by
Dylan from Seattle


In 2010 (at 28 years old), I quit my career to travel around the world for a year. While I wasn't in love with my career, there were parts I enjoyed, but the trip was more about accomplishing a life goal of mine. I shared many of the same reservations that you have. Here are a couple notes from my experience:

1. Fear is a poor choice to not do something, esp the fear of the unknown. Many of those reservations are just fear; the little voice in your head that parades around as reason, but is far from that. Ask yourself, what is the absolute worst thing that could happen that you are afraid of and write it down on paper. Revisit that paper a couple weeks later - chances are you'll laugh at how improbable that scenario is - and it should quiet that silly voice in your head at the same time as give you courage.

2. A year is a long time, and traveling that long will change you. It will change you in ways that can't foresee. I thought I'd be coming back to do the same career, but I learned, discovered, and found things that set me on a new path. You may return with a new passion and want to follow it into a new career. You may find something, somewhere, or someone you love and stay there.

3. Even if I had to scrape by taking crappy jobs after returning, I wouldn't trade my experience. That didn't happen anyway - and I returned during a recession - where it was already difficult to get a job - and I was switching careers to something I had zero previous experience. I would say if I kept my career, it would have been easier to just pick up a new job at it. But never, NEVER, was the year travelling a hindrance. In fact, it was the reason, or part of the reason, I got my first couple jobs after returning.

Go for it dude, the only regret that's possible here is not doing it!

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answered by
Michelle from Oregon

If you're in Marketing, you can always work for yourself and keep traveling. It's called being a Digital Nomad and there are now thousands and thousands of us making it work. Check out Live & Work From Anywhere at Unconventional Guides if you're interested.

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answered by
Spencer from Los Angeles

Really important question. I've had so many people ask me this. I started traveling at 27 following a divorce and losing my dream job shortly prior. I can confidently say it was the best thing I've done to date, and I'd actually say it accelerated my career. It gave me ambition and drive that I didn't have before, and I really believe it's afforded me career opportunities that would've come much later in life if it wasn't for traveling long-term like that. I truly believe that travel is the greatest classroom of life and a trip like that really accelerates your learning. The rewards may not always be tangible, but I think when it's done right, the rewards are far-reaching to positively influence relationships, career, and so on. Kind of like the quote, "Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer."

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answered by
Lindsay from Santa Cruz


I'm in the same boat but I just returned home after being away for over 3 years in Europe, not having started my "career" whatsoever after college.  Coming home after that, after having zero background, has been and is tough but ultimately I'm pushing through and now in a management position in the hospitality industry, looking to transition to a more B2B setting... enough about me! How does this relate to you?

I found that we don't do anything well unless we're 100% "in".  What I mean is, if you have your reason for staying in your job.. do it. Do it like you mean it, make it worth it, save, move up, whatever you have to do... until you're ready to take off and feel good about that.  Or, if you're over it, if you feel like you could walk away tomorrow and you're not leaving behind any incredible opportunity, you need time to reflect, discover more about yourself and the world, and truly believe it could be beneficial to you NOW, then go.  What I'm saying is, there is no right or wrong or universal, there's what you know you need to do now and what you know can wait.  It does sound like both your career and travel are important, as for me (maybe not career but having my "shit together" and travelling go hand in hand for my ultimate happiness and neither I am willing to sacrifice).  

So maybe you wait til you get that promotion and that new title or until you achieve something really noteworthy in your current company before you take off?  Compromise is good, and in no way do I mean compromising travel because that's a necessity for your happiness as well.  I mean, it's not now or never. Just keep dreaming, make sure you follow through both on your career and your travel dreams, and you WILL do both.  I struggled with this a lot myself and I'm realizing now, because I'm choosing to do it, that I can do both, I am doing both, and I'm my boss when it comes to what my requirements there are in my life... i.e. when I'm at work, I work hard and I achieve success and when I decide it's time to move on (and maybe take a gap to travel?), I will.  You're in power!

Hope that helps you... you've got more to say about this than you realize :) And I find that travel only gives you a brighter perspective, a more well-rounded view and insight on the world, immense creativity and most importantly livelihood and happiness.  It helps work out problems that bring us down through relativity, it helps us rediscover our priorities.. it's a beautiful thing.  It's my drug!

Best of luck and remember! When you come home, when you go into that new interview, it's up to you to tell your story.  I mean, you can make it sound as productive and responsible as possible.. explain how this has adapted your strength as a marketing expert.  Society may judge because of jealousy, out of fear of not being able to do the same thing, but you can and I know it will help you in your life and thus your career.

4 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
Valerie from Seattle

Varun, interesting question! I was just struggling with this last week!

For context, I turn 28 next month. My background in travel is that while I did a lot of vacations/holidays of travel, I didn't really start traveling until I got my MBA in London in 2012-2013. I moved back to the U.S., and had limited travel until I lost my last job in July 2014 -- then I traveled up to a week of every month for the last few months!

My boyfriend and I were actually planning to spend 2 months in the Caribbean this summer since I was now working remotely and he wanted to leave his job, then maybe go on to Europe in the winter. Then, I was unexpectedly offered a full-time job in Seattle that has very limited travel for the next 1-2 years.

I feel your decision -- should I take the job so that I can keep my career moving forward, or turn it down and travel?

I actually decided to take the job. I think that, especially in marketing (which I am also in), your tenure is very important to how well you are compensated. If you want to have a high-paying job, you need to have a certain length of experience and certain job titles to get there. Taking 2 months to go travel (or maybe longer if we loved it!) would have been fun, but I would have not progressed my career at all.

As I explained it to friends, I can't spend my 20s pretending my 30s, 40s, and 50s don't exist -- I want to travel and have a career -- I'd rather work a bit now to get to the point where I get paid enough to really enjoy travel than be 35 and still working in the same job I left when I went to go travel.

Hope that helps!

4 thanks

answered by
Gina from Minneapolis

Hi Varun, 

I think you need to ultimately do what's right for you. I've acted as a hiring manager in the past, and for me, if a candidate had traveled, it was a plus. But that's because I'm a traveler and I know what travel can impart and how it can enrich a person's knowledge and broaden their perspective. It's very true that there are people out there who resent others who travel and might view it as irresponsible. But you have to ask yourself—do you want to work for someone with that perspective? 

I would say that if you do travel, use the knowledge you've already gained in your marketing career and apply it to your travel. Document what you do in a blog so that you have something to show future prospective employers. If you want to work in digital marketing, do what you can to develop a social media following—that in itself is something you can learn from and offer future employers.

And do keep in mind that in many cases, the further you get into your career, the harder it is to get away. I think you have an extraordinary opportunity at your age. Best of luck, either way.

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answered by

I think you shouldn't worry too much about it. There will always be a way to come back to your job. You might not find something within a week but you will find something. And from what I've heard and experienced employers are more and more open to gap year travellers and they are open-minded, get out of their comfort zone, are patient and can deal with problems, maybe speak different languages etc. 

You learn so much during a gap year and you shouldn't miss it. You will regret it all your life, if you don't do it now. You won't get any younger and it won't be easier. There's is never the right time. Do it now.

Get some motivation here: and If you want to read about what I've learned in the last six months living an unconventional life, have look at this post:

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answered by

As a hiring manager at my company I know I actually value this type of thing done in your 20's.  Does it sideline your career options no, does it put you 'behind' others that you might know in terms of salary ...  probably, but who cares.  These types of experience make you a better person beyond your technical skills which could in the long run make you a more valuable person.

Keep it to no more than 2 years.  That 1-2 year range people do start to wonder if you might be a flight risk.

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answered by
Allan from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island

Varun, I have often struggled with your problem time and again in my career, especially when I feel frustrated and angry, or when I hear of other people taking off for a long spell. I am now in my late fifties, and I am thinking this at this very moment, for an upcoming 30 day trip, and I have been working for the same company for over 20 years! It all depends on the level of responsibility you have assumed in your current employment. The more authority you own, the less likely are you available to travel long term. If I were you, at 25, working in a marketing firm, I would not worry about it unless you have to be financially responsible for someone else (which I assume you do not have). My guess is that in your industry and market, the situation is relatively dynamic and turnovers are quite frequent. You will probably be able to find a similar position after your return, and your wanderlust experience will add valuable insight and vision to your next job. You may even luck out and find someone to take you on while you are travelling in South East Asia - as someone living in HK, I have seen this happen quite often, and many people even stay on and make Hong Kong their permanent home. If you have a good set of credentials, bring your CV with you while you are on the road, it can't hurt. Good luck!

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answered by
Sylvia from Texas

Hi Varun,

I also vote for "Go For It!," but only as long as you can afford to do so. Make sure that you are financially sound before quitting your job.  I got laid off last year at the age of 26, so if I had seen it coming earlier I would have been more strict with my budget so that I could have done some traveling.

One idea that I had for you since you are afraid of losing job skills is that you can set up a travel blog for free using Wordpress or Blogger. You can document your travels and share your pictures and thoughts with others.

That way when you return, you can add to your resume that you were a freelance writer for a year and you would have gained critical writing, photography, and communication skills. All things that someone who is working in Marketing should have. I think most employers would be impressed by this.

Be like Nike: Just Do It!

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answered by

There's always a risk that this could adversely impact your career, but a change in the stock market could change your career too.  

But it could also set you apart when interviewing for a job after your travels.

Much of the interview process is emotional, yes you need the right skill set and all that, but there are ways to put long term travel on your resume that will enhance it.  

Once you're in an interview it may be a detriment in a company that is very conformist. But at another company where they want more creative types, it could set you apart from every other applicant - you'll hit the emotional factor that working the "right" jobs at the "right" time won't.

Having said that, it's probably a good idea to have some experience in your field before you take a year off.  It gives you a baseline when you're traveling and for when you're evaluating your future life and if what you wanted when you left if what you want when you get home.

If you decide that you still want the same things, or want to switch you'll want to have some time during your travels to keep current on your field.  You'll also want to plan your trip to have enrichment in it, where you can sell the trip to a future employer.  If you say you compared McDonalds around the world, they're probably not going to be overly impressed.  But, if you talk about a volunteer experience or how you took cooking classes in 5 countries - those will show that the trip was about growing as a person and not a year break from responsibility.

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answered by

I say go for it! You are only young once and this opportunity for extended travel may only present itself once! On the flip side of the coin, my working career expands nearly 35+ years. I recently asked for an additional 2 weeks of unpaid leave for a month long trip to SE Asia and was denied. I was shocked seeing that I am a salaried employee who averages anywhere between 10 and 15 hours beyond my standard 40. I love the people I work with but apparently there is zero appreciation for hard work. Consequently, I will be putting in my two weeks notice prior to our leaving. It will be tough financially at times but it is much more important that I spend time with my family and celebrate our daughter's graduation from college. Enjoy your trip of a lifetime!

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answered by
Laurie from Canada

It may be the smartest decision in your life. My husband and I left our jobs to travel for a year despite the same fears that you have expressed. It was life changing. We made friends traveling that we have kept for 30 years. You will make contacts and have experiences that will expand your world view beyond your wildest dreams. Don't think twice. Go for it!

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