Stories

How a travel career break inspired a teacher to start her own business

This interview is the first in a series exploring the inspirational stories of people who have taken travel career breaks.

Gemma Armit took a 15-month break from her teaching career to travel the world with her partner, Craig. In this wide-ranging interview, she discusses choosing travel over flash cars and big weddings, approaching her career break with her employer, getting married on the road, returning to work after the trip, and building her own successful blogging business Two Scots Abroad.

Why did you decide to take a career break to travel?

Regret! I’d always regretted not taking a gap year between university and work. The conveyor belt of life kicked in after I’d graduated, and I just wanted to make money so long-term travel plans took a backseat. I’d also fallen into the Glasgow party scene pretty heavily which was fun at the time but not conducive with saving.

I then went into high school teaching which not only meant six weeks off in summer for travel but also the opportunity to apply for a career break after three years of service with my local authority.

I met Craig in 2012, was clear from the start that I had planned to take a career break and he was up for it too. We tested our relationship with a five-week trip around Southeast Asia in 2013 then started planning our 18-month adventure for 2015.

What do you feel was the biggest obstacle to making the decision?

I honestly don’t think there were any obstacles. I’m lucky to have been part of a very supportive department and as a politics and current affairs teacher it was easy to justify the trip.

“Some students made fun of our old Honda in jest to another teacher and they pointed out how many holidays we take instead of having a new car!”

On my return, I used my experience of travelling around the USA as part of our International Studies unit and the knowledge gained from spending time in South and Central America for our Inequalities course.

Naturally, others might fear the aspect of money, but we’ve always been good savers. We’re not lavish. I’m not a slave to brands, opting to shop in charity shops for environmental reasons.

All of our savings go into travel. We don’t have a flash car either. Actually, some students made fun of our old Honda in jest to another teacher and they pointed out how many holidays we take instead of having a new car!

Craig and Gemma, pictured here in Austria, prioritise travel over luxuries
Craig and Gemma, pictured here in Austria, prioritise travel over luxuries

How did you manage to still have a life while you were saving for your travel career break?

We’re very social so cutting back on drinking alcohol was a natural change we made to our lifestyle to help us save.

We had lots of weddings (five!) to attend the year before we left so that took up much of our social time. I actually did a lot of car boot sales with my ever-supportive friend, Shelley, a fun job when you do it with a pal.

How did you approach your career break with your employer?

I sounded out my options with my line manager initially then broached the subject with my head teacher.

I asked for one year starting March 2015, but the head teacher suggested 18 months was better for school timetabling. Both were onside which made life easy! Next came the application, which included a justification section. This went to HR who signed it off.

What did you learn from your travel career break that you would never have learnt otherwise?

How to blog! I started Two Scots Abroad for the career break. It began as a storytelling site, keeping followers up to date with our travels through the Americas and Europe, then progressed into a detailed travel guides when I learnt more about SEO.  

“There was no way we were having the traditional £25K wedding back home, travel is our priority.”

Would I have learnt this without a career break? I wouldn’t have had the focus of travel or the free time if I was teaching.

We also went to Spanish school in Cusco, Peru and stayed with a local during the week to bring on our survival Spanish!

Not sure if this is anything to do with learning but it’s pretty important; Craig and I eloped to Austin, Texas after the music festival South by Southwest! He proposed to Vancouver on Hallowe’en under the fake stars of the MacMillan Space Center. There was no way we were having the traditional £25K wedding back home, travel is our priority.

Gemma and Craig tied the knot in Austin, Texas during their travel career break
Gemma and Craig tied the knot in Austin, Texas during their travel career break

How did you maintain relationships with friends and family back home while you were travelling?

WhatsApp and a willingness of friends and family to come to visit us! My parents came to see us in Vancouver and again in Hungary. Craig’s brother also visited us in Vancouver as well my friend Jen.

I left Craig in Vancouver for a trip to Toronto where I met my newly pregnant friend Helen. Another friend, Laura, met us in Hungary (popular destination!), twice.

Craig’s family paid for us to stay in a villa in Spain for them for a week. We had a pool and lived close to the local town centre so it felt like a real holiday within the 18-month trip. Anyone who backpacks knows long-term travel is rarely a relaxing holiday!

Jen met us again, this time in Spain with our friend Shelley. We’re lucky to have friends who don’t need an excuse to jump on a plane.

You initially went back into a full-time job after you finished your career break. Was it difficult to go back into work?

I went back to full time teaching then part-time before quitting altogether for a career in professional blogging in 2018.

I enjoyed the routine again and the money didn’t hurt. It was tough to juggle teaching and blogging though, luckily, I had nailed an SEO strategy, so the traffic looked after itself in the months I didn’t publish any posts.

Did you view your career differently after returning from your travels? If so, how?

Not at all. I have a lot of respect for the education system in Scotland and the people who work in it. They don’t get enough credit for the commitment they show every day to the hundreds of young people they teach.

I like working, it felt good to be back and being challenged by the new year. I did have less patience for the amount of admin that comes with teaching though.

Gemma and Craig at Seljalandsfoss waterfall during a trip to Iceland
Gemma and Craig at Seljalandsfoss waterfall during a trip to Iceland

You are now a professional travel blogger and business owner. When did you decide this was the route you wanted to take?

I had always suggested to Craig that the blog could go from hobby to business in the future, but he never had any confidence that it would. Last month Two Scots Abroad took us on a dream trip for Craig, to space camp in Huntsville, Alabama. He now believes it’s a business!

“I had trialled part-time teaching/blogging the year before so knew I could sustain a monthly salary.”

When my traffic started to consistently increase, and I watched other bloggers make money from their sites through ads and affiliates, I knew this was something I could do too.

I wouldn’t say we took a risk with me going full time because I had trialled part-time teaching/blogging the year before so knew I could sustain a monthly salary. I’m too sensible to take reckless risks! Craig is self-employed so watching how he runs his gas engineering business helped in relation admin and organisation.

How do you think your life would be different now if you hadn’t taken a career break to travel?

We definitely travel more. We average one to two trips per month, some at home in Scotland, others abroad. Out of the 16 trips we’ve taken this year, six were press trips, three of which were paid.

From 2019, it’s highly unlikely I will be taking part in unpaid press trips. Anything that takes me away from the desktop is the equivalent of me not making money so if a client wants us to market their product, we need a wage for it.

In 2018 Gemma went full-time on running the travel blog Two Scots Abroad
In 2018 Gemma went full-time on running the travel blog Two Scots Abroad

This shift in thinking has actually stemmed from going back to full-time teaching and valuing my time more. I think it was one of the best decisions I made because it stretched my time, made me prioritise and thus realise our worth.

All bloggers need to realise this or the industry will never respect us and continue to see us as free labour. You can learn more about how I make money from blogging here.


Gemma Armit, the Scotland travel blogger, is the fingers and lens behind the incredibly useful travel site Two Scots Abroad and part owner of the SEO support site and consultancy team, Make Traffic Happen.

Follow Two Scots Abroad on social media:  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Pinterest

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In this interview, Gemma Armit discusses how taking a travel career break from teaching inspired her to start her own blogging business, Two Scots Abroad. Career gappers blog | advice and inspiration | stories and experiences | career ideas

46 comments

  1. I’m saving this so that tonight at the airport I can “accidentally” stumble upon it while sitting next to my husband and be like “Oh- look at this!” He is a teacher too and we’ve talked about him taking a year off for nearly five years now to travel. He just can’t pull the plug. It’s hard because I know he LOVES his job, but I also know they’d be really supportive if he took a sabbatical year to travel. I hope that someday we can make it work like you guys did!!

  2. Very inspirational interview! I personally left university while doing a Masters degree and went to Asia – was one of my best decisions for sure.

  3. Thank you for sharing Gemma’s inspiring story Alex! It’s good to know how the system works in other countries and how supportive it can be. In Greece, there can be no such thing as a career break. You either stay put or you’re out. So, in my case, although I know for sure that blogging and that alone is what I want to do, I have no alternative but keep my day job and blog on weekends, at night etc. Of course, this means that the blog grows way too slowly. It’s a vicious circle but it’s the best I can do. Thank God there are supportive and inspiring people like you and Gemma who give me the strength to carry on when I’m feeling down <3

    1. Thank you Maria! That’s very insightful – I had no idea about the attitudes towards career breaks in Greece. Even in the UK you need to be very lucky to have an understanding employer – I didn’t, and had to quit my job to travel. We are seeing that many more companies are becoming more open to it though, and realising the benefits! We’re actually doing an interview feature soon with a small business owner about her experience of allowing an employee to take a career break to travel.
      Keep up the amazing work with your blog by the way – both me and Lisa love it! You’re doing great work!

  4. I also quit my job and started traveling. Actually I didn’t go back to my former job, sustaining life as a traveler and doing volunteer works on the way or teaching yoga. This story is so inspiring. I hope everybody who has a dream can have the courage to do that!

  5. Thanks for sharing Gemma and Craig’s experience! Some great tips on how to save money for upcoming trips and as a new blogger I find their success also very encouraging! Thanks again 🙂

  6. Good for them! Gemma and Craig are really brave and I think anyone who will follow their dreams and what they love will really succeed. Travel more!

  7. Such a great story, thank you for sharing! I definitely think everyone should take a gap year, doesn’t even have to be a full year – whether it’s a career break, study gap or anything else. It teaches you so much and puts completely different perspective on your life.

    1. Thank you Zenja! We couldn’t agree more. A career break doesn’t have to be a year, it could just be a month or two – taking a step back for just a short time and experiencing something a bit different can be hugely beneficial. Glad you liked Gemma’s story!

  8. Wow guys!!! this post is so inspirational!!! I am a full travel blogger since 2 years ago but I opened my blog 7 years ago. Anyway my husband works in an office 9-6pm but I am creating a business with my blog now!

  9. Such an inspiring story. I took a career break and at the beginning it should have been of one year…I went back at work after almost four years but in the meantime I was a different person with new goals and perspectives and so I quit.

  10. Definitely go after what your heart wants.A lot of people hold back, not wanting to take risks and at the end, regret their choices. A career break is a good start and if all else fails, you’ll return more culturally aware, internationally exposed and your mind is just bursting with great ideas to kickstart another career!

  11. Love reading stories like these. I too, quit my job to travel for a year in 2002. Loved travelling so much, I never did return home 🙂

  12. Very inspiring interview. Interesting how she slowly built up the blogging business. Coming from journalism, it’s the first time I hear that people get paid for going on press trips – funny, for us, the trip, of course, is free, but we don’t get paid for participating.

  13. Thanks for sharing this story, it’s comforting and inspirational as I’ve also taken a loooong career break to go travel the world with my husband. It’s hard on maintaining family and friend relationships and one does miss home and th familiar routine but in the end, it’s all worth it for the new friends we make and the places, culture and sights we get to see!

  14. This interview means a lot to me. It is a great inspiration to know that although it is difficult, it’s important to work to achieve our dreams, no matter what they are.
    Inspiring story!

  15. What an engrossing post, what a story! ♡
    I can definitely relate to “I’d also fallen into the Glasgow party scene pretty heavily which was fun at the time but not conducive with saving.” I think many people know that feeling. I personally struggled to get out of it for a very long time. Well done to Gemma and Craig, may you both have all the best travels in the world ✈

  16. What an inspirational interview! The world needs more people like you and Gemma to inspire more people to take career gaps and do what makes them happy!

  17. I can definitely relate to them not having a flashy lifestyle in exchange for travel. I too try not to be slave to the names and material things (except food). How impressive she quit her job to blog full time. What a dream.

  18. Nice to see how people manage to change their life, looks like things got quite easy for her though. It isn’t that easy for everyone. But despite complications, I think it worth it. My target is to start own career break next year and I find your content really useful in helping with planing.

  19. Wonderful interview by my favorite travel bloggers and really it is inspirational also about how to turn your hobby into a successful business. I loved how they are so passionate about travel and nothing could stopped them to travel. Taking a break from career is difficult and unimaginable but they did it successfully. Thanks for sharing the journey of Two Scots abroad by Craig and Gemma.

  20. It’s amazing how the world changes and these options are presented to us. Twenty years ago you wouldn’t have considered being able to work as remotely as we do now, with new industry popping up all the time. I don’t career break was really a thing either.

  21. Thanks once again for an inspiring post Alex! I envy all persons that have the courage to take a break in life and being able to travel the world. Maybe I should consider that too? 🙂

  22. Super inspiring, definitely an example for someone like me. Sharing others experiences in blogging really gives me hope that I can make it too!

  23. I’m so happy to see the long-term benefits your career break gave you: how much effort friends and family made to come and see you and support your ambition of travelling the world,which gave you the platform to and take it full-time. Little did you know eh 😂 It’s also motivating for us like ourselves who want to get out of the working system and be independent earners and grafters, to see someone who’s been there and done it.

    Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures
    http://www.johnnystraventures.com

  24. This interview is truly inspiring. It’s encouraging to read how other bloggers have made. It gives me hope that what i want is achievable.
    I had no idea it’s possible to take a year off in some countries; on my previous job, even to take a month off was after serious explanation and presenting all sorts of medical forms.

  25. What a story. It shows if you put your mind to it,you can have what you set out to achieve. I’m not into material things and don’t waste money on alcohol either, but love my job and travel on the site. Hope it all continues well towards the future.

  26. I loved reading about their experience! It takes guts to drop everything and follow your dream but clearly the bigger the risk the bigger the pay off. One inspiring success story!

  27. As someone who is not on a traditional route re: travel and career, I totally appreciated this read. You really explain it well. I love the inspiration here. Following your dreams is the most important thing to do. Kudos!

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