A family gap year without work. . . Thinking about taking a career break?

Our family plan to take a year off work and live abroad needed careful long-term planning. To convince my wife that I was not “finally at the CRAP END of CRAZY,” I first needed to think about several important questions to make a family move abroad, with two young kids in tow, possible. Then, I had to address the money/funding concerns as to how much and where to get the money for a family gap year. Next we’ll talk about the other questions that helped us (and may also help you) move closer to reaching a positive decision point. (Soundtrack: opens in new window: Should I Stay or Should I Go? ~ The Clash)

Drawing of a man in suit-and-tie with eyes closed, laying on a hammock. Text reads: Health does not always come from medicine...
Taking a career break; a year off work.

What about your career?

Next to money, work is naturally what we had been asked about the most. So, let’s break this down a bit into the following little chunks. The bottom line up front is that we believe that by putting the career on hold for a year, we will be gaining more in knowledge and life skills that would enhance any future jobs, such as language and cultural immersion for the entire family!

I loved my job! Sure, there were a lot of things wrong with it. A few of the people I worked with, I could have lived without. But there were good ones (and bosses) too who made it fun and worthwhile. And yet, we reached a point when my wife and I had to choose whether to continue with a demanding career or change our family lifestyle so that we could have more quality time with our children. Many would say there’s a happy balance between work and family. But, like many, I fell into the trap of working too much? So we needed a year without work to put things into perspective.

Motherhood is more than a full-time job.

Ania and I planned on switching roles. By giving up my career, even just for a year, I would be able to help Ania slowly transition into the role of primary bread-winner for the family. During the year of transition, I would become a happy househusband, and it IS more than a full-time job!

When our first child was born, Ania and I decided that we would be a single-income household because we wanted to give the proper time and attention to raising our children. Sure it was a tough decision. After all, it was not exactly cheap living in Washington D.C. Working as a program/project manager for Uncle Sam did allow us to make this single-income-household choice happen. Now, in support of gender equality, it is the other way around.

Sabbatical year from work.

If you don’t want to quit your job and simply test the waters of freedom, your work may allow you to do a year of sabbatical or break with rights of return. In my previous govie jobs, I was offered that option for educational purposes, with no pay but with a right to be absorbed back to the same or similar job. The benefit for you and your work is that you could gain a new language, cultural experience, other knowledge and life skills during your break. I could not take a sabbatical for more than a year though. Your co-workers might frown upon this move especially because your work is likely gonna fall on their laps and your office could not fill a spot which you never will have vacated. Something to think about.

A painting of a nomadic, roaming family in a caravan with two horses on a country road to highlight a year (perhaps years) off work.
A semi-nomadic, roaming family.

What’s the plan for work when you get there?

If you must work during your year without work, once at destination, you may teach English (or another language). You may use your other skills that you were always passionate about to expand or teach others but never had time to follow through because of your important work. Make sure that you can actually legally work in your destination country. As Polish citizen, Ania can work pretty much anywhere in the European Union. So, we have this in the pocket, just in case we need to generate some income.

While you are still in your home country though, go ahead and sign up and set up your profiles for the various online platforms for side gigs and freelance jobs, such as Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, among many others.

Remember though that a year can go by so quickly, especially if you are actually working for somebody else. So, make it count. Learn the language. Volunteer locally and engage with the locals. It will be fun for the family!

For us, a year was the original plan… but only if we accomplish our primary goals within a year.

Next, we’ll talk about obtaining a Spanish visa for long-term stay and a cheap way to ship your car and household goods to Europe from the U.S.

What ideas do you have for making money and living cheaply in another country? Feel free to put them in the comments section below.

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