In September 2017, Lindsay Ferry resigned from her HR job in the London banking industry to take a career break. Coming to the end of a major project, she decided the time was ripe for a seven-month sabbatical, including travelling on Flash Pack trips to Italy and Chile.
“There were so many places I wanted to see but they needed a little bit longer to fully explore. And annual leave was fairly limited,” she explained. “I decided it was a really good window of opportunity to take some time out for travel. One by one, I was ticking off the countries that I’d been desperate to visit.”
With a 10-year career behind her and money saved up, Lindsay was in a good position to to take time out. However, pressing pause on the corporate wheel still required a fair amount of bravery.
Just seize the moment
Many of us mull over the idea of a career break, then file it away under ‘would be nice to do one day’. It was Lindsay’s belief that if she was in a situation where she could take a break, she should. “I didn’t really overthink it as it just seemed like a natural next step for me,” she says. “I don’t want to be cheesy and say YOLO but when it’s right, just seize the moment.”
For Lindsay, a career is something you can return to – so you have nothing to lose. “You can always re-group and get back into your work,” she says. “If a sabbatical is something that you want to do, I think you should explore it. Jump right in.”
She spoke to a lot of like-minded travellers before taking the plunge, which gave her the validation she needed on the brink of a major life choice.
I concluded this is definitely what I should do
“They gave me an insight,” Lindsay explains. “As I was preparing to make the decision to press pause on my career, many people were saying, ‘you will not regret it’ or ‘it’s the best thing I ever did’. That was really reassuring. I concluded, ‘OK, so this is definitely what I should do.”
Saving money for a career break or taking time off between jobs can be a huge challenge, especially considering the cost of living crisis, where rent is higher than ever and salary levels are stagnating. In order to afford her career break, Lindsay cut down on lifestyle spending – and she also made an active choice to prioritise experience above all else.
I wanted to put my money into experiences
“I decided that I wanted to put my money into experiences. For me, that’s not a waste of money and it’s certainly something that I feel worthwhile,” she says. “Also, you can be creative about the choices you make for travel. Through the people I met on my Flash Pack trips, I continually find ideas from places others have gone and tips on how they’ve done it in a cheaper way.”
Having worked within HR, Lindsay has seen plenty of people come up against the same decision she took. And – although she actually quit her career – she believes the tide is turning when it comes to how bosses feel about their employees taking sabbaticals.
Sometimes we have to be less risk-adverse
“People get nervous that perhaps it will impact their future progression or could be a bad move. There is volatility there, it’s not necessarily that jobs are aplenty. I also feel like sometimes we have to be less risk-adverse and just take that leap of faith. I would say that employers look at it more favourably than ever,” she says. “I think they want people to come back to the workforce who are re-charged and ready to sink their teeth into a new project or something, rather than people getting jaded and cynical and tired,” she concludes.
The general perception around taking a career break is that you’ll do all the planning before you go. But Lindsay’s experience has been that she built up momentum while on the road. By making one major change – the decision to pause her career and travel – she opened her world up to a series of new ideas. And in doing so, she endorses the choice she originally made.
A change of scenery can give you a good injection of energy
“I love my career but equally I do think sometimes things can stagnate. A change of scenery can give you a really good injection of energy,” she says. “I’m meeting new people, seeing new places, getting fresh ideas. There are so many people I’ve met recently that are entrepreneurs doing solo projects and working remotely. That could be a change of career for me, too. I’m very much open to ideas and looking for those new opportunities.”
A key element of Lindsay’s time out is the people she’s travelled with. “I didn’t want to do it completely on my own, I wanted to experience it with others. I’m very social,” she explains. “I didn’t want to just do tours with one company, either, so I tried a couple,” she continues. “I think the great thing about Flash Pack is the people I’ve met on the group holidays. They are people who I would socialise with anyway. I’ve kept in touch with them, too, which is testament to the friendships we made. These will be friends for a very long time.
It’s normal to be cautious
“I think that’s the point,” she continues. “You are meeting a friendship group that you may not necessarily find in your normal day-to-day life, but they’re very interested and interesting people.”
On Flash Pack trips, “you don’t have factions,” Lindsay says. “Obviously people will make genuine connections with different people. Some may be closer than others, but I think the social element is that people choose to eat together and do the activities together. Even when options come up to splinter as a group, people always gravitate back together.”
“It’s normal to be cautious about travelling with strangers for the first time,” Lindsay adds. “Relations gel pretty quickly I’d say, so don’t worry about it – just try it. You’ll have no regrets.”
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Images: Flash Pack