Career Break at 40…OK, 41!

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller

I’ve been collecting travel quotes for about 18 months now…waiting for this moment. Counting down months, then weeks, now days! I knew it would go fast, and here I am!

Yesterday, I left a pretty darn good job and a wonderful company where I spent the last 11.5 years. Today, I pack what’s left of my belongings and move them into a small storage unit near my sister’s house in the Chicago suburbs. Tomorrow, I move into my mom’s house. Wait, what?!

Ok, not really, but it will be my mailing address. What’s up, Moline?!

taking a career break at 40

Overcoming Debt

As a Gen-X’er, we are really the first generation to be mostly reliant on self-funded retirement. Pensions are nearly non-existent and my peers and I often joke about working until we die. (We also grew up during the 80’s peak of conspicuous consumption, spending our entire teenage paychecks on Benetton rugbies and Guess jeans. Who didn’t lust after Jake Ryan and his Porsche?!) So I surfed the credit card waves through my 20’s and 30’s, buying things I couldn’t afford and didn’t need. Thankfully, I eventually came around to my senses and started to reverse that trend! Unlike many others in my generation, I’ve been lucky on the employment front. I’ve never suffered a layoff and have never been fired, which means I’ve been working since 1990, with never more than a two-week break between jobs. Even when I moved across the country. Twice. Call it a mid-life crisis, but I’m just past 40 and I’m ready for some time off!

Saving Up for a Career Break

Ok, full disclosure here: I was in the right place at the right time and had some nice stock options that made this career break possible. I only had to wait 4 years for them to vest, haha! I used to hear of people taking a career break, or a gap year, and used to make all kinds of assumptions about how they did it. Honestly, had I not spent so much on dumb stuff, I could have done this much sooner. (If I had $1 for every Clinique “free gift” I got…oh, God!) So, it’s not impossible, it’s actually quite achievable, but I wanted to be honest about how I’m doing it. I also have sold a lot of belongings, curtailed my travel in the last year and reduced my expenses greatly, while at the same time trying to enjoy my last year in Chicago.

Of course, the smart move would be to continue investing and put this money towards my retirement, but frankly I’m tired of waiting for retirement. It might never happen. I’d rather travel now while I’m healthy and work forever if I have to. If you pull into a diner in Tucson in 2045 and see me waiting tables, don’t be surprised!

career break at 40

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What’s Next?

After a brief trip to Switzerland, I will be traveling the Western US through the end of the year. The ultimate goal is to find a new hometown, and it will certainly be in a drier climate than the Midwest! I may try my hand at remote work, or I may decide to return to the comfort of life in a large corporation. There are certainly benefits and drawbacks to both, which I will debate endlessly in my head while I’m out hiking for the next 5 months! It’s surreal to think that I have no idea where I’ll be at this time next year. For someone who is used to meticulously planning out my 4 weeks of PTO every year, sometimes a year in advance, it’s an interesting, but unsettling feeling. I don’t know how it’s all going to work, living in my car. I’ll probably stop at every Target between here and the Pacific Ocean, or I’ll be dumping more things at Goodwill along the way!

taking a career break at 40

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Summer Fun in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Just three hours from Chicago is the 2nd largest city in Indiana: Fort Wayne. Not really on my travel radar before, but the theme of my summer is the “Best of the Midwest” and I wanted to see it all! When the folks at Visit Fort Wayne invited me to visit and shared a list of options, I was overwhelmed by the choices! My first impression of Fort Wayne is that it’s a lot larger than I imagined. At 250,000 people, this is no po-dunk farm town. From my two-night visit, here are a few fun things to do in Fort Wayne.

Fort Wayne Baseball

My first stop in Fort Wayne was Parkview Field for a Friday night Tin Caps game. Parkview Field is rated the #1 Minor League ballpark experience in the country, and I’m not surprised! The park, built in 2009, has a ton of options for watching the game. I thought the lawn section in the outfield looked pretty fun. There are plenty of food and drink stalls, along with games and activities for the kids. Parking in a nearby lot was $5, but I’m sure you could also find street parking if you arrived early enough. When I visited, it was 70’s Night, and there was plenty of disco entertainment, and good 70’s jams between plays.

Tin Caps Game at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne Outfitters

Fort Wayne Outfitters is your one-stop shop for outdoor fun in Fort Wayne. Their location in the Cass St. Depot offers a gear shop, boat rental and bike rental. I was able to take a kayak out on the St Mary’s river, and given a tour by local river enthusiast, Aaron, who regularly paddles the area, picking up trash along the way. Like many Midwest towns, the rivers in Fort Wayne weren’t always valued for recreational opportunities, but are now seeing a resurgence in funding and conservation. We paddled along Headwaters Park, where the Three Rivers Festival was taking place, with boat tours and helicopter rides. The river was abuzz with activity!

Kayaking St Mary's River, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Arts United Center

If you are a theater buff, go see a performance at the Arts United Center. If you prefer architecture, get yourself on a tour of this unique building! The Arts United Center was designed by world-famous architect Louis Kahn as part of a larger Arts Campus in the 1960’s. The 655-seat theater features performances by Fort Wayne Ballet, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, and more! The building is an architectural marvel, with folded concrete walls and brick arches throughout. Next door at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, you will find two special exhibits highlighting Louis Kahn and his work in the community.

Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne Festivals

The Fort Wayne calendar is chock full of festivals. When I visited, the Three Rivers Festival was in full swing. This 9-day festival draws nearly half a million visitors each summer! There are over 80 events including Food Alley, Art in the Park, the Three Rivers Festival Parade, the Raft Race, Children’s Fest, and the Chalk Walk at the Arts Campus! Evening concerts highlighting artists like The Purple Xperience (Prince tribute band) and Rock of the 80’s Tour had crowds dancing until dark! Three Rivers Festival is more like a ton of festivals within a festival as there seemed to be events all over town.

Image Courtesy of Visit Fort Wayne

Image Courtesy of Visit Fort Wayne

Bicentennial Woods

Bicentennial Woods is one of many properties in the ACRES Land Trust, and is a wonderful respite from urban activity. Located on the north end of town, Bicentennial Woods features 2.6 miles of hilly hiking trails along a shallow creek that is perfect for splashing around on a hot summer day. We found many intersecting, unmarked trails, so a good sense of direction (or a GPS unit) is a good idea, although you’re never too far from civilization to get lost. When in doubt, follow the creek!

Dog-Friendly Hike at Bicentennial Woods, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fox Island County Park

Fox Island is a great little park on the edge of town with a swimming beach, seven miles of hiking trails, wildlife observation towers and a doggy beach! A $2 entrance fee provides access to the park for the entire day, even if you leave and come back. We visited on a warm summer Sunday and there were lots of families enjoying the beach and nearby picnic shelters. Fox Island is a great place to take your pup when it’s hot out.

Fort Wayne Hotel

During my visit, I stayed at the Ramada Plaza Fort Wayne Hotel and Conference Center. Pet friendly is the #1 hotel requirement for me when traveling, and the Ramada allows dogs up to 80 pounds for a $50 pet fee. The outside of the hotel is not much to look at, as it’s one of those large convention hotels on the northern edge of town. However, the interior has been updated more recently, and there’s a pretty cool indoor/outdoor pool with a nice sundeck. The hotel is about 15 minutes from the downtown area.

Ramada Fort Wayne

More Fort Wayne…

For all that I saw in Fort Wayne, I feel that I missed even more! There’s the Children’s Zoo, Science Central, the Genealogy Center, the Botanical Conservatory, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, DeBrand Chocolate Factory tours, 12 free splash pads and over a dozen farmers markets!

Fort Wayne also appears to have a serious foodie fling going on. There are plenty of brewpubs, food trucks, cafes and ethnic dining available for all kinds of tastebuds!

Image Courtesy of Visit Fort Wayne

Since there are so many fun things to do in Fort Wayne, I recommend starting at Visit Fort Wayne to plan out an itinerary of your interests. Feel free to contact them via Facebook or Twitter as they are a great resource for information, and can help you narrow down the many, many options in the area!

So many fun things to do in Fort Wayne, Indiana! @visitfortwayne #myfortwayne Click To Tweet


Summer Fun in Fort Wayne

I was a guest of Visit Fort Wayne. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

I’m participating in The Weekly Postcard blog roundup. Click the photo below to check out other posts this week!


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