Career break advice

Eight powerful TED talks to inspire your travel career break

From the woman who travelled solo to 196 countries to the man who takes a year out once every seven years, these talks show how travel can break the monotony and transform your life.

Everyone loves a good TED talk to get pepped up and motivated, right? For anybody who doesn’t know, TED is a non-profit organisation that hosts short, inspirational talks on all manner of subjects. We’ve picked out some of our favourite TED talks on career breaks and travel to help inspire your next adventure in life.

1.  Live your own life – take a sabbatical: Wojciech Mroczynski


Wojciech Mroczynski and his family had a comfortable life in Poland, but felt that something was missing. In this TED talk, he discusses how they made the decision to leave everything to take a year out and travel the world together.

“I observed that my life was becoming very predictable and routine,” he says. “My head was full of thousands of thoughts. I would think about money, my career, other people’s opinions… it was so hectic.”

Over dinner one day, Wojciech’s family decided together that they would go away for a year. But when they broke the news to friends and family, there were mixed reactions.

“They ranged from ‘Oh my goodness! You’re my hero, I always dreamed of doing that!’ to ‘What are you doing? You’re going to ruin your successful career. What about your kids?’”

But they maintained their conviction, and went on to travel over 90,000km through 13 countries in Central America, North America, Oceania and South-East Asia.

“Live your own life, because we will all die our own death. But before that, please take a sabbatical.”

He talks about the life lessons they learned from the family journey. Most poignantly, he explains how spending so much time among people in successful careers had built an illusion that wealth leads to more happiness. “Having spent three months in Central America and a month in Fiji, these were the places where we have seen a lot of happy people,” he says. “In fact, the richer the country, the less happy the people were.”

He also discusses how travel has improved their relationships and enabled them to make new ones. “Many of us rush through life,” he concludes. “But somewhere along the way we lose track of our own life.”

“Live your own life, because we will all die our own death. But before that, please take a sabbatical.”

For more on travel and relationships, read our article on FOMO, guilt and long-distance family relationships.

2.  The real reason I travelled to 196 countries: Cassie De Pecol


“Who in their right mind would travel alone to 196 countries?” This is how Cassie De Pecol begins her frank and honest TED talk. At the age of 27, she travelled to all 196 sovereign countries of the world, setting two Guinness world records in the process.

She talks about the underlying reasons that motivated her journey: it was a response to depression. For Cassie, travel became a way to manage the melancholy that was threatening to dominate her life.

“I used social media as a means to showcase the beauty of countries around the world, and encourage others to travel in ways they never have before,” she says. “But what you don’t see on Instagram is the constant exhaustion.”

“Find that one thing that brings you just a little bit of excitement, and devote yourself to it one hundred and fifty percent.”

She tells some incredible stories from her travels, such as arriving at border control in Somalia at 2am to be greeted by men in trucks with machine guns, and getting stuck at 11pm in Cuba with no money and nowhere to stay. A taxi driver came to her rescue and invited her to stay at his family home for the night.

She explains how she spent three years planning and raising funds for the 18-month trip. “I didn’t grow up in a family with a lot of money,” she says. “I had to put myself through college.”

In conclusion, she appeals to the audience to follow their dreams. “Find that one thing that brings you just a little bit of excitement, and devote yourself to it one hundred and fifty percent.”

3.  The power of time off: Stefan Sagmeister


Stefan Sagmeister runs a successful New York design studio. Once every seven years, the business closes down for a year to refresh its outlook. In his TED talk he explains the incredible value of this approach, and how other people and businesses are thriving with similar approaches.

“We spend about 25 years of our lives learning,” he says. There’s another 40 years that’s reserved for working. Then tucked on at the end of it are about 15 years for retirement. I thought it might be helpful to basically cut off five of those retirement years, and intersperse them between the working years.”

I told as many people as I possibly could about it, so there was no way I could chicken out later on.”

He gives examples of people who have made great success of taking career breaks. Furthermore, he looks at how companies that strongly encourage staff to take career breaks have excelled in productivity and creativity.

Discussing his own journey towards this approach, he says: “When I had the idea of taking a sabbatical, the process was that I made the decision and put it into my daily planner book. Then I told as many people as I possibly could about it, so there was no way I could chicken out later on.”

4.  Travel more and buy less: Luis Vargas


Luis Vargas has spent two decades working all over the world in the adventure travel industry. His life of exploration has centred around the principle of spending money on experiences rather than material things. In this rousing TED talk, he conveys the incredible benefits of this approach to life.

He says: “This idea that we go from high school to college to career, perhaps have a family, at the end we accumulate some wealth – and that is how we get respect? This idea that making money and having things is much more valued and celebrated than having enriching experiences?”

Luis’ fascination with travel began at an early age. Born in Mexico, he suffered an identity crisis growing up in the USA and experiencing negative attitudes towards immigrants. “Ultimately I felt like a citizen of nowhere,” he explains.

“Whether you’re in your 20s and taking a gap year, in your 30s working to take a month off, a sabbatical in your 40s, looking towards retirement and perhaps living abroad, there is never a bad time.”

His talk focuses on overcoming the three main reasons that people do not travel: work, fear and money. “The glorification of ‘busy’ is a problem, and it’s real”, he says.

His core message, though, is about how we choose to focus our finances: “We don’t have any money because we spend it all on stuff!”

Luis believes that people can travel at any stage of life. In conclusion, he says: “Whether you’re in your 20s and taking a gap year, in your 30s working to take a month off, a sabbatical in your 40s, looking towards retirement and perhaps living abroad, there is never a bad time.”

5.  How to get back to work after a career break: Carol Fishman Cohen


Carol Fishman Cohen is the chair and co-founder of iRelaunch, an enterprise that helps people return to work after an extended career break. In this TED talk, she discusses the challenges that ‘relaunchers’ face, and how they can be overcome.

“People’s view of you is frozen in time,” she says, relating how different things can be on your return. “When you start to get in touch with people from the past, they are going to remember as you were before your career break.”

Carol, whose background is in finance, talks about her own experience of seeking work after a career break. “I hardly kept up with any news when I was at home caring for my four young children,” she says. “I was afraid I would go into an interview and start talking about a company that didn’t exist anymore. I had to resubscribe to the Wall Street Journal and read it cover-to-cover before I felt like I had a handle of what was going on in the business world again.”

“We have an energy and enthusiasm about returning to work precisely because we’ve been away from it for a while.”

She gives insights into how employers view career breaks, and how attitudes are slowly changing. She identifies that the biggest concerns companies have are that relaunchers may be technically obsolete, or might not know what they want to do.

‘Re-entry internships’ are growing in popularity. Carol highlights major finance and engineering firms that have successfully implemented them. “My goal is to bring the re-entry internship concept to more and more employers,” she says.

Her message is that people returning from a careers break have a lot to offer employers. “We have an energy and enthusiasm about returning to work precisely because we’ve been away from it for a while.”

For more on returning to work after a career break, check out our advice on finding a job after travelling the world. Also read about how travel will make you better at your job.

6.  Learn to travel, travel to learn: Robin Esrock


Robin Esrock is a travel writer and television producer. His life was changed when he received 20,000 US dollars in compensation after suffering a broken kneecap in a bike accident. In this TED talk, he explains how he used the money to leave his job and travel solo around the world for a year.

“I had an ok job, but I really wanted to travel like I did in my early 20s,” he says. “But it just seemed irresponsible to quit my career. Society was telling me it’s time to settle down, make some dough, and enter this god-forsaken housing market.”

Travelling gave Robin a different perspective. He discusses how his life had been restricted by routine, and that his journey blew that apart.

“Decision-making began to take on a new significance,” he says. “Where am I going to sleep? Where am I going to eat?”

“The people we meet on our journey shape the way we look at everything.”

He addresses the stigma around the perceived dangers of travelling. Today Robin has visited 107 countries, but has never been robbed, attacked, or suffered more than a mild illness. “I must be either extremely lucky, or one of the vast majority,” he says. “My experience has told me that people would rather help you than hurt you.”

In summation, he emphasises the impact that the people we meet have on our lives. “Paradise islands and epic festivals, wild parties… it doesn’t mean much if you’re not connecting and sharing with the right people. The people we meet on our journey shape the way we look at everything.”

7.  How to travel the world with almost no money: Tomislav Perko


Tomislav Perko is a travel writer from Croatia. After the global financial crisis left his career as a stockbroker in tatters, he turned to travel to rejuvenate his life. In this TED talk, he explains how it is possible to explore the world without a huge budget.

“You don’t have to be brave to travel,” he says. “You just need a little bit of courage to start.”

Tomislav discusses the many ways that he has been able to travel for free, such as hitchhiking, camping, Couchsurfing, working, volunteering and cycling.

You don’t have to be brave to travel. You just need a little bit of courage to start.”

He does not shy away from the downsides of low-budget travel. “There is a big chance that you will be lonely, that you will be hungry, that you will be homesick,” he says.  “It all comes down to your gut feeling. If after these acknowledgements you still think ‘I wish I could travel like this’, you should definitely do it.”

If you’re unsure about the costs of travel, take a look at our breakdown of costs for our round-the-world travel career break.

8.  The value of travel: Rick Steves


Rick Steves is one of the world’s best-loved travel personalities and writers. His eye-opening TED talk draws on his experiences from spending four months a year on the road for the last three decades.

“I’ve spent a third of my adult life living out of a suitcase,” he says.

“When I’m travelling, I love this whole idea that travel connects you with culture.”

Rick’s talk focuses on how we can all learn from immersing ourselves in different cultures. “Travel opens us up to the wonders of our world,” he says. He recants stories from his travels in Iran, El Salvador, India and all over Europe.

“When I’m travelling, I love this whole idea that travel connects you with culture.”

Feeling inspired? Read about how you can make your career break travel a reality with our six-step guide.

For more motivational career break stories, read our interview with a teacher whose travel journey inspired her to start her own business.

Do you know somebody who is taking a travel career break? Check out our ideas for practical gifts you can give them for the adventure.

Love it? Pin it!

We've picked our favourite TED talks on travel and career breaks to inspire your next adventure. From the woman who travelled solo to 196 countries to the man who takes a year out once every seven years, these talks show how taking time to travel can break the monotony and transform your life.Want to take a travel career break but need some inspiration to get started? Check out these eight powerful TED talks to help get you in the travel planning mindset. Want to take a travel career break but need some inspiration to get started? Check out these eight powerful TED talks to help get you in the travel planning mindset. Want to take a travel career break but need some inspiration to get started? Check out these eight powerful TED talks to help get you in the travel planning mindset. Want to take a travel career break but need some inspiration to get started? Check out these eight powerful TED talks to help get you in the travel planning mindset. Want to take a travel career break but need some inspiration to get started? Check out these eight powerful TED talks to help get you in the travel planning mindset. Want to take a travel career break but need some inspiration to get started? Check out these eight powerful TED talks to help get you in the travel planning mindset. Want to take a travel career break but need some inspiration to get started? Check out these eight powerful TED talks to help get you in the travel planning mindset.

Want to take a travel career break but need some inspiration to get started? Check out these eight powerful TED talks to help get you in the travel planning mindset.

22 comments

  1. I have seen Stefan Sagmeister’s episode, I must say that he has a lot of conviction in his work and the way he talks. I am not a fan of traveling without money so Tomislav Perko didn’t really fascinate me that much.

  2. These talks makes me just want to leave everything behind and chase my dream of traveelling the world but I know I still cant do it. It takes a lot of courage and I really admire all those who did it.

  3. Haven never been an audience in TEDx Talks. But really, thanks a ton for these videos, they all are damn inspiring, especially Tomislav Perko gives me much hope considering the current condition of my bank account. haha

  4. So many fascinating stories and lessons to learn. I love TED talks, they always inspire me. You gave me food for thought! I wilp definitely take a closer look to these I haven’t watched yet!

  5. I do enjoy TED talks and there seems to be some really inspirational ones here. I’ve recently been told that i need to start thinking about ‘settling down’! Yawn! Apparently there will be no place for me in the job market if I don’t… think I might send them a link to Carol Fishman Cohen! Thanks for sorting out my afternoon viewing 🙂

  6. This is a really great list of some fascinating travel stories. I know what my Sunday afternoon will be spent doing!

  7. These are awesome suggestions. For some reason I didn’t think of Rick Steves doing TED talks. I guess it totally makes sense!

  8. This is great! We will have to watch some of these later, I am going to save this post!
    We got mixed reactions as well when we sold our house and quit our jobs, so we love hearing how it went with other people in their lives, and how they dealt with it. Thanks for sharing these, guys!

  9. Very inspiring post! It needs a lot of courage to do what these people did and they are the proof that when you have a dream, there is always a way to make it come true 🙂

  10. I am a big fan of TED Talks. I always find them very inspiring. However, I mostly have watched talks on motivation and education, not travel. I’ll have to check some of these out. We try to spend money on experiences, not things, so I’ll start with Luis Vargas.

  11. This is truly inspiring. I loved the honest reply of traveling all 196 countries. Loved the one saying live your life, take sabbatical. Indeed traveling teach us many things and help to discover ourselves.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.