Day One. Of 12 months off from work. What a feeling.
Today is the culmination of a decision I made over 12 months ago during a whirlwind 10-day trip from Santiago to Buenos Aires. Overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi in Argentina’s Northern Patagonia during my second 8+ hour hike in three days, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I wanted to properly explore the region – on my terms and at my own pace – while I’m still young and fit enough to maximize it.
What I didn’t fully appreciate that day was how difficult it would be to follow through on that feeling once I was re-immersed in my life and career in London.
Despite nearly 8 years in the UK where taking a ‘gap year’ is both common and well accepted, knowing others who have taken career breaks and working for a company with a generous policy that guarantees me a job even after 12 months off, I still needed to reconcile my desire for a break with both personal and cultural expectations of achievement and responsibility. “Isn’t it basically slacking off? Will it hurt my career progression? Who in their right mind decides to do this at 29? What will my family think? What would I even do for 12 months?” – these were just some of the thoughts and insecurities that ran through my mind for months, on top of the utter FOMO of leaving my friends and London, which I truly adore.
Besides, I grew up in a country where the average worker leaves approximately a week of holiday unused per year and only has about 3 weeks to start with (Project Time Off). My 32* days of annual leave and 8 bank holidays per year were already a luxury in comparison – did I really need a full year off?
The answer is Yes.
Within a couple of weeks last November, my grandfather was diagnosed and treated for cancer, and I also found out my mother was going to have surgery in February. They are both ok now for which I am truly grateful, but their health problems put things into perspective and cemented my decision to take time off. Plus, another purpose had emerged for my 12 months: to spend quality time with family and friends, especially those that I haven’t seen enough since moving abroad at 22.