Ajarn Street

Quite literally a lucky career break

Be bold and ask your boss for a career break

I have a great job, with a good wage, awesome friends, I'm way too lucky with the ladies, part of a talented band and I live in a creative city in beautiful country. Life sounds great eh? But you know what, I have the urge to leave this all behind for a country I know little about and the more I read about it, a country that doesn't appear to want me as part of it.

Like many of you I work a regular job. For the last 8 years I've been a psychiatric nurse working for the NHS. Life is pretty good, I've never had as much job satisfaction as I do now (I'm not lying, honest!). But the lure of adventure is just too much. Why? Now picture this scenario, I'm working a night shift on a psych ward, I'm getting spat at, having to clean up after a dirty protest, injecting people in the butt and generally speaking being verbally and physically abused (I do actually enjoy this!) and I got thinking to myself there has got to be something better than this, better than cleaning the shit off the walls. Now I just had to decide what to do, I could go work in Australia, New Zealand or even Canada as psych nurse, but hell that's just the same shit, different day. NO, what I wanted was something different.

Thailand was not my first choice of adventure destination, in fact because I went there on a backpacking trip 6 years ago it was not on the list at all. Places such as Japan, Argentina, Finland, Hungary, even Somalia got on my list, but Thailand never made an appearance on that list until the very last minute. Why? You know what, I'm not sure why at all, but I do know somehow I found my way to this website Ajarn.com and through the stories told and advice given I was sold. I decided Thailand was the place for me. Now I'm an optimistic guy, even with all the bad press Thailand gets for how it treats its ‘Farang' population, I felt so confident that it was the place for me, I decided quit my job and buy a flight!

To quit a job, for me, is one of the most exhilarating things you can ever do. It's like asking someone to marry you, but you're in fact facing your boss, your natural enemy, getting ready to stick two fingers up at authority and say "screw you" I'm leaving this job for a better climate, with cheaper living and beautiful women, ha, I don't need you and your regular wage affording me a comfortable living. Screw you I'm going! Thinking about it was such a rush, I couldn't wait, the day had come, it was the moment to strike and I had my notice in hand. I was excited like a teenager on a date with a condom in his pocket! It was going to happen today... I was going to quit my load, ummmm, quit my job!

But also like that teenager its finale was something of an anti-climax, I got ready for it, prepared myself in the bathroom, gave myself a pep talk and walked into the office to proclaim my desire to quit my job. My boss sat there, legs crossed, with that professional listening expression, letting me spew my guts, telling her even though I loved the job I had to leave, I had to try something new, I had to quit! Then it happened, the two words I never expected, I had never heard of, never anticipated "Career Break", whoah, WTF, Career break!!

"A career break" I asked "Are you saying I can take a leave from my job and you will retain my position for me to walk back into at a later date?" My boss looked at me like she often does when she thinks I'm being a complete moron "Yes Colin, ‘career break', like it says on the tin!" So naturally I asked for a two year career break straight of the bat, she replied "Now your taking the piss!" fair point! But she is going to give me a year and this is better than anticipated. I can go travel and work in Thailand and now I have nothing to lose.

"Sorry about the screw you boss, I'll keep my job thanks!"

Now maybe some of you know that your employer offers a career break, but like me if you didn't, go ask. Check your employers policy regarding annual leave, for example my employers policy offers a career break of anywhere between 3 months and 5 years at the line managers discretion. The length of time is the final decision of your manager. Mine will only give me 12 months not the 24 I requested but that means I have a guaranteed job to walk back into a year later. I may not come back to work but this gives me the security and opportunity I've been looking for to go try something. So if leaving your job scares you and it's holding you back from a new adventure, this is your opportunity, go ask for that career break and join me.

Colin Steele

I will be attending a month long TEFL course in August 2011 and will be running a blog called Farang in Thailand the whole time to document my experience. Please visit my blog for further articles and information regarding moving to Thailand in the pursuit of adventure and employment!


I took a 6 month career break from my local authority in 2007. I was 42 years old, rented an apartment in BKK. I used this as a base and would take 2 / 3 week breaks to visit other countries around Asia. It was by far the best thing I ever did. The great thing with a career break is you return to work refreshed and walk right back into your job. But most importantly it helped me plan out the rest of my life. And guess what, having just taken my redundancy from the local authority i worked for, I'm now about to move to thailand to live.

By Stuart Meikle, UK (25th June 2011)

Hi Colin. Really interesting article. I also work in the UK and have just successfully agreed a two year work break from my local authority, where I have worked for the last 20 years. I will have reached the grand age of 50 this November and want to try something different. I have a Masters Degree and have already undertaken my Cert TESOL qualification. I will also be moving to Thailand this coming December (2011). Only time will tell if I will ever return to the UK. However, it is nice to have the comfort blanket of a job waiting if I do decide to return.

By Andy, UK (22nd June 2011)

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