Taking a leave of absence to travel is not that common. For most of the travel blogs that I’ve read, folks have either done their travelling between large life events, such as university and their first job, or they have quit their job altogether.
What I haven’t seen much of is what to do when you plan to take a shorter time period, say 2-6 months off. For the past year, my husband and I have been planning to do exactly that, take 3 months off to travel Southeast Asia. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
- Talk to your employer EARLY. The difference between taking a leave of absence and having to quit your job almost always comes down to what kind of company you work for and how flexible they are. I’m lucky in that I work for an international company as opposed to a small start up. That said, I gave my employer 12 months notice, yes you read that right, that I wanted to take three months off. Taking time off to travel isn’t nearly as common as taking time off for a new baby or to go back to school, so you need to give your employer time for this to sink in, and think about ways to manage your absence. Can you work ahead, put in some extra hours to get big projects done in advance, thereby only needing someone part-time to cover your work while you’re gone? There are lots of things to consider.
- Benefits – can you pay them forward? If you work for an organization where you pay into a benefits scheme, many of them will offer you the opportunity to pay your benefits while you’re away, rather than take a break. You’ll have to weigh your options, based on what you receive and how much you’ll have to pre-pay.
- Home Sweet Home. What are you going to do with your home/apartment/rental while you’re away? Can you rent it out? Sublet it? Or are you comfortable to leave your place sitting empty? Remember that the cost of this should be considered when budgeting for your time off. For my husband and I, we budgeted to leave our apartment empty, as the rent was affordable, we can’t sublet our apartment, and the cost to move our stuff to and from storage would more or less equal three months rent anyways.
- Fur babies. Where will they live? Leaving a pet for an extended period of time can be heart breaking for both the owner and the pet. Yes, you could board your animal, but how would you feel if it were you. Best option is to plan early and see if a trusted friend or family member will take them. That way your pet has a home to stay in, people to love it, and maybe they can even see you on Skype once in a while (sap that I am!). Make sure you plan in advance to cover all your pet’s expenses (food, litter, etc.) and get it checked at the vet before you go. You can often leave your credit card number on file with the vet, in case of emergencies, so that your friend/family member isn’t fronting costs for any emergency services.
- The question nobody wants to ask themselves… what if something happens to me? It might seem morbid, but we decided it was a smart idea to get a will. I’m happier heading overseas knowing that if something were to happen, my family and my preferred social profit organization would get exactly what I would have wished for them.
These were some of the key elements that initially kept us up at night, but as soon as you get a good plan in place, the stress eases off. After all, you want to enjoy your trip, don’t you?