5 Things We Can Learn from Jaclynn Seah, A Singaporean Who Took A Career Break to Travel The World

5 Things We Can Learn from Jaclynn Seah, A Singaporean Who Took A Career Break to Travel The World

Do you need that bit of inspiration to start discovering the wonders of the globe? Hear it from Jaclynn, who left her job in 2016 and traversed 5 continents in 16 months.

As much as we’re glad we have steady, comfortable desk jobs, who doesn’t harbour that secret dream of dropping everything on a whim to go globetrotting? Well, if this feels more than just a dream to you, read on.

travel the word

Image credit: Jaclynn Seah

When Jaclynn Seah, a 30-something Singaporean, finally got round to quitting her job in 2016, what followed was a 16-month-long solo trip that spanned 37 countries over five continents.

In a recent interview, we were able to speak to Jaclynn about her exciting expedition, and here we share her (and our) greatest takeaways from her story, from her planning process to what she brought back with her.

1. It’s not actually that easy to get away…

Escaping the frenzy of working life sounds wonderful, but in reality, it takes serious guts to let go of financial security and most likely blow your hard-earned savings at one go. You’ll want to be sure you:

  • Are financially stable
  • Have travel insurance and vaccinations in order
  • Gain your loved ones’ approval
  • Have a contingency plan so that you aren’t lost when you return.

Even for Jaclynn, an avid traveller, this wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. She had been saving up for years, taking on more freelance work as a backup, and had brought up the topic to her family several times before finally announcing her plans.

Even then, her travels were put on hold for a good two years before she felt that it was an opportune time to leave. “Don’t take a career break just because it seems like the cool thing to do,” she cautions. “Everyone has different circumstances and things that are important to them.”

2. But if you really want to, then start preparing yourself ASAP!

While it may not be a good idea to quit your job after a bad day and buy a one-way ticket on impulse, if you truly feel like your career is going nowhere, then perhaps you should start beefing up your savings account or dropping subtle hints at the dinner table – right now!

There was some inertia to making such a big decision, but Jaclynn tells us that doing tangible things like booking her first flight were big steps for self-motivation and it helped to prevent herself from looking back.

Her advice to the hesitant: “If it’s something you really want to do, make some concrete plans, start small, and work your way up.” There’s no time like the present! 

Spending all your waking hours working for that ideal future where you can retire and spend your time and money travelling in the far future – it didn’t seem right for me to be sacrificing all my youth for such an abstract future,” Jaclynn confesses.

Image credit: Jaclynn Seah

For Jaclynn, she was glad to do this sooner rather than later. “Travel is different depending where you are in life. You really do feel the strain of travel as you get older.”

3. Allow yourself to be surprised!

“Every country does have something special about it,” Jaclynn enthuses when asked about her favourite and least favourite countries.

She visited places on her bucket list and famous landmarks like Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands and Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, and found them to be just as amazing as she had imagined.

Image credit: Jaclynn Seah

But she also found herself pleasantly surprised by the beauty of Colombia, contrary to its depiction in the media as dangerous and violent.

Image credit: Jaclynn Seah

She was also unexpectedly charmed by the friendly people and rich history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is next to her bucket-list country Croatia.

Surely, being open-minded to new destinations and experiences made the trip more thrilling than it otherwise would have been. It’s best not to travel with strong preconceived notions of what certain places will be like; you’ll end up disappointed if a place doesn’t live up to expectations, and you might miss out on great destinations if you skip them due to mistaken impressions.

4. Keep your itinerary open

Jaclynn intentionally left most of her itinerary open for this trip, which gave her the chance to detour to interesting places with new friends. She’s glad she did this, because she learnt to be more flexible with her plans. She cites an unplanned experience – skydiving in Kenya – as one of the most memorable of the trip.

travel the word

Image credit: Jaclynn Seah

Even more bravely, she did not set herself a fixed deadline to return home. After an entire year, she found herself in Peru and still eager to continue exploring. Since she had a decent amount of money left, she simply decided to keep moving for a couple of months, before finally ending her journey in Istanbul.

Image credit: Jaclynn Seah

She has no regrets over the way the trip turned out!

5. Follow your dreams!

When Jaclynn got back to Singapore, it was with new ideas of what success and happiness mean, besides the ‘Singaporean’ definition of success as having an iron rice bowl and lots of money to support your family. “Plenty of people [in other countries]… had such unusual jobs and ways of making a living,” she says. With this in mind, she was able to better understand her own motivations and reconsider what she wanted to pursue next.

In addition, her job-searching efforts following her return revealed to her that employers were keen to hear more about her unconventional career break and blog, rather than her actual work experience.

“Society is becoming more open to looking at other measures of success beyond your paper qualifications and appraisals,” she explains. To her, this is a reminder that you shouldn’t forsake your passions for your day job – they could even help you along the way to a more enjoyable and fulfilling career.

travel the word

Image credit: Jaclynn Seah

“Singapore is a really tiny speck in the grand scheme of the rest of the world”

Jaclynn’s own words remind us that there are plenty of things to see, hear, taste and do out there in the world. Staying in one place for too long can get dreary. So if your feet are itchier than usual, why not spice things up?

We’re done with dismissing mid-career wanderlusters as ‘going through a midlife crisis’. Far from a crisis, travel enables you to glimpse other cultures and ways of life. This forces you to re-examine your own life and come back rejuvenated, with fresh perspectives on how you want to live and work.

Jaclynn is currently a freelance writer. Let her regale you with her tales, photos, reflections and travel tips at her blog, The Occasional Traveller.

About Author

Rachel Lee
Rachel Lee

Rachel loves to write, travel, and of course, write about travel. She believes that you can find beauty and wonder in the little things, in any little corner of the world. If you can't find her at a desk with her head stuck in a book or up in the clouds, she is probably dancing or even more probably checking the fridge.


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