Gap Year Coach Roshida Dowe and I interviewed 12 Black women who have taken (or are currently taking) a career break to travel. These women had 12 different reasons for going — from toxic workplaces to travel curiosity –and 12 different ways that they afforded the time off of work.
But there were some very common lessons in their stories that might help you in making your decision to take a sabbatical to travel.
And let me be clear, in this country where we’re seen as only valuable for what we contribute to the economy, I think Black women should take a sabbatical to travel.
Here are 12 valuable lessons from Black women who took a sabbatical:
Dealing With Black Burnout
1. Parents support the decision to take a career break.
We grow up seeing out parents work and work and work some more. So it’s easy to assume that they value hard work over almost everything. But when these women had conversations with their parents, they all got an enthusiastic “GO!”
The older generations have seen people work themselves to an early grave or retire so sick that they can’t enjoy what they’ve worked so hard for. They want us to take advantage of the opportunity to see the world while we’re able.
2. Your therapist supports taking a sabbatical too.
The person who is the most vested in you being your FULL self without any attachment to how that presents itself, thinks that taking a sabbatical is a great idea.
I lost count of how many women said their therapist was the one who SUGGESTED that they take extended time away.
Some of the 12 women were experiencing burnout at work, others were bored with their current life and looking for a change. They all had a strong desire to travel but, for different reasons, kept the idea at bay. Talking things out with their therapists helped make the dream seem more realistic.
How do you afford a sabbatical?
3. Start intentionally saving now.
Some of our interviewees planned their career breaks for months or years. Alyson made a relatively last-minute decision to leave her job.
But they all were able to live their dream because of saving.
Courtney recommended opening a separate savings account to save for your sabbatical. Alyson even says to make that account somewhat difficult to access so that you won’t be tempted to withdraw money that’s not aligned with your goal.
4. Monthly rentals are a budget-friendly choice for travel.
They didn’t all agree on hostels. Some were okay with them, others didn’t even want to try.
But almost all of the women we talked to did rent an apartment or private room abroad for a full month or longer. This route saves you a lot of money over staying in hotels a few days at a time.
Which cities are best for getting monthly rentals on a budget? Click here for a list of 50 cities where you can Airbnb for $500 per month.
5. House sit for FREE accommodation!
When Wanda told us she traveled on $10,000 total for 3 years, Roshida was STUNNED lol, but I already knew the deal. Because I’m doing the exact same thing.
Wanda and I have both house sat for free accommodation. In fact, I’m house sitting in Mexico as I write this, and I’ll be here all winter long.
I’m all-in on house sitting. Check out this blog post on getting started house sitting.
Practical advice for Black women traveling long term.
6. Keep your hair simple for travel.
Jacey got her hair braided before she left the US, and then planned a couple of stops in Thailand and Vietnam to coincide with hair braiding appointments. Easy!
Wanda cut off her locs when the Malaysia heat and humidity were destroying her style.
And I have a YouTube video about how I manage to travel long term with natural hair but almost no products in my suitcase.
7. Don’t overpack.
Easier said than done, right?
Roshida tried to warn Danica that she was doing too much before her sabbatical, but Danica STILL ended up in SE Asia with items she’s never even removed from their packaging. She even left a whole suite case in Chiang Mai while she traveled around Vietnam for a month.
The key to packing light is to take a limited number of outfits — I’d say no more that 8 total. Sounds harsh, but you’ll end up just wearing the same couple of items the whole time.
And use packing cubes to compress your items so you don’t have to check a bag.
How to not get lonely while traveling.
8. If you’re new to solo travel, start with friends.
I was shocked to hear that both Courtney and Alyson had NEVER TRAVELED SOLO before they took off on their sabbaticals! Talk about courage!
They both used a similar strategy to ease themselves in to solo travel.
Courtney started her sabbatical with a friend. They traveled together for the first few days, then her friend left to go back to the US. Courtney was a little afraid in the beginning, but a reassuring conversation with her therapist, and wonderful advice from a friend on how to meet people calmed her nerves.
And Kenya’s first leg of her sabbatical was a group tour. Group trips are a great way to travel solo but not alone.
9. Your kids will LOVE full-time travel!
Adalia quit her job after 19 years to teach English in an international school in Honduras. And she took her 15-year-old daughter with her!
Her daughter attended the same school Adalia taught in, and she had a FANTASTIC experience. Her daughter’s still friends with the kids she met there, and is planning to go to college abroad because of that experience.
10. You’ll make wonderful friends.
Because our awesome women didn’t have to rush back to work, they were able to spend a lot of time in their destinations. And they developed friendships along the way.
11. But dating worldwide? The ghetto.
Okay, this is a little bit of an overstatement.
Kenna enjoyed Tinder-ing in Dubai. And Courtney met a dude in Tblisi, Georgia.
But dating while traveling has been more of a struggle than a success for several of our women. Danica is not impressed. And I can’t even type out what Wanda said.
The most surprising thing about career breaks?
12. You’ll want to do it all over again.
We talked to women who took a sabbatical then came back home to a job they loved or who moved on to new jobs and personal projects. And ALL of our women said they were actively planning to do it again!
After the years of planning and saving. And the months of living out of a suitcase. After the new job searches and old job re-entry, these women are working on ways that they can leave the US and travel longterm again.
Even though I did the same thing, I was surprised by this!
Adalia and Wanda even have moved abroad already.
I keep watching the playlist and picking up new lessons lol. The list began with people who are supportive of your sabbatical, but it’s important to know that not everyone will be team #justdoit.
Lots of the 12 women we interviewed talked about having to protect their dream from other people’s fear.
So please make sure that you find people who will support you to share your plans with. And don’t feel obligated to talk about them with people who are only going to try to discourage you and block you from living your dream.
I know where you can find a group of supportive women.
Roshida Dowe and I host the ExodUS Summit Facebook group. This is a group for Black women who are planning their sabbatical or their move abroad.
If these lessons speak to you…
You’re probably interested in taking a sabbatical of your own.
We’ve learned from these women that taking time off of work doesn’t have to break the bank, and that it’s worth EVERY PENNY.
Join the ExodUS Summit Facebook group to find ways to make your own career break a possible.
Ready to live your DREAM?