How Travel Can Help Your Career

By  Matt Milloway September 27, 2011

When considering a year off from the 9-5 grind, don’t think of it as sabotaging your career for a travel break. There are lots of reasons why taking time off to travel can actually help your career, not hinder it.

By Matt Milloway

Networking: Ditch the happy hour, Blackberry, and pinstripes. Travellers often fall around either end of a spectrum: freewheeling soul searchers who take a year off to travel or established entrepreneurs with bank accounts and flexible schedules. While the former makes for a great way to swap war stories, the latter may very well offer you a job—or at the very least a business card. Travelling has a unique way of placing people on an even playing field. Share life stories over a drink at the hotel or local watering hole and you may just add a few important Facebook friends.

Recharge the Batteries: Depending on your field, a year-long break doesn't always look great on a resume. (Denistry, for example.) On the other hand, life is too short to waste away as you trudge through the daily routine, especially after you’ve hit the proverbial wall. Too many 50-hour work weeks and late nights at the office aren't doing you any good. A year abroad may not give you fame and glory, but many employers love well-travelled types. Travelling the world sounds much more acceptable (not to mention exotic) than sitting around at home or frequenting your local spa. As an added bonus, the more worldly and intelligent version of yourself will interview much better than the older model. Trust me. 

Volunteer: From personal experience, long-term volunteering should not be seen as a chance to get some rest and relaxation. The antithesis of recharging the batteries, most volunteer programmes involve rustic accommodations and long hours. The time commitment is nevertheless an extremely rewarding experience and much like reason #2, gives you an acceptable excuse for a year away from the work world. Not to mention the fact that, while all volunteering should be applauded, giving back in an exotic locale sure does beat weekly trips to the local soup kitchen.

Travel + Career: Don’t just assume that a year of travelling means high-tailing it out of your cubicle, leaving a vapour trail and an irate boss behind. Many careers can be taken on the road. Does the company have an office overseas? Your weekend travel options just went from visiting relatives to camel safaris or midnight strolls through Paris. Maybe a master’s degree from an international institution can be co-funded by the company. What about an international internship? Pitch a long-term goal and you might just be rewarded for your progressive thinking.

Perspective: Perhaps you're just not sure that a white-collar job and a mortgage make for the best life plan. If that's the case, you’re not alone. Travelling is a great way to look inward, as people inevitably learn about themselves during months on the road. Maybe you'll discover that you're meant for something else. Or maybe a year of globetrotting will simply amount to a nice break. That lifestyle you left behind sure does look inviting—your grass is indeed greener on the other side. Jump back into the workforce with a renewed vigour and stories that will last a lifetime, even if you don't find travelling to be a life-altering experience. Either way, the mysteries of your own life and its direction may come into focus. 

This article is the winning piece for the Verge Storyboard for the week of Sept. 26, 2011. Click here to find out how you can submit your own story.

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