An adult gap year?

I've got about another 10 months left at my current job and after that... I don't know what I'll do. I've already moved down to 4 days a week in an effort to glide down to FIRE. Do I really want to go back up to 5 days? Could I find somewhere that would be happy with me doing 3 days? Can I be arsed to constantly hustle for ad-hoc client work?

Can't I just stop?

What would happen if I took a gap year? A sabbatical? A full year of not working?

I'm lucky enough to have enough savings for this venture. I've got me a wife who could also do with taking a break from her career.

So could we...?

The obvious downside is a year without earning any money.

The next issue is returning to work. "Can you explain this absence on your CV?" Oh, yeah, I just decided to quit for a bit. I'm not sure how attractive that is to future employers.

And the final issue is... to do what? Backpacking round India? Gardening? Eating our bodyweight in cheese?

I'm pretty sure this is what I want to do. Take a year or so out. Recharge. Reconfigure. So the next few months are going to be planning on what that looks like.

If you've ever taken a voluntary mid-career break, I'd love to hear what you did and how you planned it.

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24 thoughts on “An adult gap year?”

  1. said on

    @Edent Whilst I haven't done this before, it's definitely something I've thought about. My advice would be:

    a) have a clear plan about what you are going to do whilst on your break (for example, I have thousands of photos, some of which could make good stock photos that I don't have the time to sort, and I would like to travel more in the UK)

    b) make sure it makes financial sense

    c) decide when you're going to return to work and have a plan for that, e.g. When to start applying for jobs etc

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  2. said on

    @Edent I wonder if what you want is similar to the concept of sabbatical for academics. Sabbatical definitely involves some refresh/recharge, but also usually a career-related plan (e.g., research for a book project, or learn fundamentals in an adjacent field). So, that may or may not be the kind of "gap year" you have in mind.

    Either way, if you can say it was a sabbatical, that could definitely help explain it when you want to return to work.

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  3. said on

    @Edent I did at 25 and never looked back. I've worked 3 days a week since then (nearly 20 years now) and have no idea how people who can afford to work less don't. Happy to have a cuppa about it any time! Sure I could have been very rich, but I have loved every minute of my semi retirement at 25 and wouldn't swap it for anything.

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  4. said on

    I took something like 8/9 months off - though I did break it up with a couple of months with a failed attempt to return to work after about 6 months off 😆

    I did a lot of travel and reading and cooking. Don't regret a moment of it and never been asked to explain it since I returned to work.

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  5. said on

    From reading your blogs you have always seemed like someone with a huge number of projects and interests on the go. Anyone or two of those could be tarted up into a gap filler explanation. I suspect any time "away" would be full of interest anyway. Sounds excellent

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  6. says:

    Not quite a year: my voluntary break ended up lasting nine months.

    I moved from Munich, Germany to Chicago, USA in July of 2013 (aged 35). The original plan was to find a job quickly, but my parents convinced me to spend that winter with them (they live in a ski town in Colorado). So I spent July-November crashing at my sister’s in Chicago and then November-March being a ski bum. I did very little planning other than the logistics of moving across the Atlantic.

    I was lucky that I was able to stay with family in both places, so that reduced my costs significantly, but it still ate a decent chunk of savings (especially health insurance but that’s US-specific).

    Zero regrets. I got to know Chicago better than I would have if I’d started working immediately. And being a ski bum for a full winter was amazing, especially spending so much time with my parents after being separated by an ocean for seven years.

    After returning to Chicago it took me about a month to find employment. I was asked about the gap but the reaction when I explained it was universally positive-although there were some applications that got no response at all so I can’t say if the gap was why I didn’t get a response.

  7. I was in a similar situation in late 1999. I did some free-lance, and had a solid online presence on assorted forums ( and social media weren't there yet, but individual sites did) which connected me to several little projects. Pretty much every time I said to myeslf "I should look for a job," a thing came up.
    In fall 2001 I looked in the paper and found 2 jobs I applied for: full time at the University, training faculty and staff in their new software and part-time at the community college, working w/ underprepared students. I went with the part time, and then the job went full time and I'm still doing that and can retire if I want.
    I did keep an updated resume and whenever I did a thing I would add it to the resume and that made it a lot easier to seize opportunities. That's also been handy for the odd side gig that's come up.

  8. said on

    @Edent I did it when my mother passed. No planning -- but I did keep track of the assorted little projects and free-lance writing thigns that came up. I was active online and in the community and kept my resume updated with all the little things. I landed a free lance gig for $38/hr writing phonics stories (and could afford to be the honest person on the crew when things got interesting because I could risk "ruining" my free lance educational writing career 😛 )
    Because I could pursue assorted skills and interests... I became the unicorn that was a good fit for a good part-time match about 2 years later... when it went full time I did that and now I am planning retirement...

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  9. said on

    @Edent I did 6 months at the end of last year until a couple months ago! It was wonderful and well worth the drained savings. To be honest, the hardest part was going back. It took me over a month to adjust to the grind again and to be honest I like it even less than before. Lol. It did get me over some severe burnout and do some things I really wanted to do. And after 3 months I found my love for building software again. Anyway, I say go for it and have fun!

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  10. said on

    @Edent Do the sabbatical! And afterwards, find an employer that offers a 4-day workweek (or ask for it early in the interview process – worked for me). Companies and organizations are slowly warming up to the idea that the 4-day workweek is working well (especially if they want to hire good people), and that people take sabbaticals and other breaks from their burnout-prone jobs. (1/2)

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  11. said on

    @Edent They might ask about your time off (out of interest and/or to make sure you haven’t been struggling with getting hired somewhere for ages), but if an employer does not accept an answer like “I took some time off to recharge my batteries and do something else for a change”, you probably shouldn’t work for that place anyway. Either way, best of luck and I hope you’ll find a good way to do your sabbatical. 🙂 (2/2)

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  12. Claire says:

    I recently took 3 months Dec-Mar to travel with my partner. I had it signed off while in the Civil Service. The deal was that you don't get to choose the job you come back to, but guarantee the pay would be the same. I was already out on temp promotion/secondment - it was a no brainer. Plot twist: I got the opportunity to apply for a new job - a dream job. But I had the trip signed off! What to do: I applied and haggled that I'd start, do the first 10 weeks, then take the break and come back fresh. It worked (somehow!). I held strong boundaries and didn't meddle with work while I was away. Nobody died, we're all good.

    Three months was a good amount for us - we could travel as we wanted (flashpacking with half in NZ and half in cheaper climes) without worrying too much about the budget. Make the trip a year and that would have been different. Similar vibes to you in terms of living the life you want. Having taken the trip, I think now we'll want to take regular trips of a month or two between contracts/jobs or by saving up leave and brownie points.

    In terms of justifying it, I've tried "I'm better to you recharged than burned out", "I needed to re-find my creativity and verve" and other things. The one that gets the most nods and knowing 'hmm yeah's is " even though it was a hard system reset, I didn't realise how much I needed it - I'm so glad I took the risk and did the trip".

    Bonus tip: fly out in early December (or whenever your late year work peak ends - we went after the first full working week of Dec) and nobody really notices your absence until the second week of January anyway...

  13. says:

    This is kind-of sort-of a-little-bit what unintentionally happened with my unscheduled exit from the birdhouse. Certainly the "hanging out in an art studio making stuff" aspect came about because I was no longer fully employed, and while i have done a sprinkle of freelancing in the past 18 months, it has not been enough to either fully qualify as a replacement for my previous lifestyle, or enough to prevent me having plenty of downtime.

    Yesterday I had a conversation with a prospective future full-time employer where the question about what I've been up to was raised, but it didn't seem (!) to be in a particularly problematic way.

    My problem is, if you take a year off, you'll basically do lots and lots of other things very very well, and make me look bad. So, don't do that.


  14. Merton says:

    Would you want to work for a company that questioned you taking a year off to "refresh" yourself?

  15. Mark Braggins says:

    I have taken a career break a couple of times. First time was for six months in 1998 after leaving Fidelity International. I had no plan, and made it up as I went along. I had a marvellous time, solo backpacking in New Zealand and winging it. The second time was more planned, and I had sufficient funds to last a year. Again, I did a some backpacking, charity walks (inc Kilimanjaro and Inca Train). However, my not-at-all cunning plan backfired when the nice job I had lined up at BoA disappeared immediately after Sept 11 2001. By that time my skills (mid-range IT, data centres & tech services) were dated, and after 18 months I started again from scratch part-time in localgov. I am now on my third break, but this time it's permanent as I've retired, and absolutely love not caring what day of the week it is.


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