Dropout life: when and how you can plan a break from work

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“I have the coolest life in the world,” says Christine Thürmer. The former manager gave up her job and apartment twelve years ago. Since then, she has mainly spent her time hiking, cycling or canoeing – across Europe, America or Australia. Her tours are at least 1,000 kilometers long, and you spend the night in a tent. She is currently on her way from Görlitz to Palermo. “I stretch out on my sleeping mat almost every evening, stretch all four of me and think: How cool is that? I have such a great life and I don’t want to miss a single day, ”she says in an interview with

On her Facebook and Instagram profile, she not only shares beautiful panoramic photos of her tours, but also pictures of her scraped legs, of endless asphalt roads and her dinner, which mostly consists of bagged meals from the camping stove. The dirt is your constant companion and of course there is also constant rain and storms. Nevertheless, she no longer wants to sit in the office all day as she used to.

Two strokes of fate led Christine Thürmer to completely turn her life upside down. The Franconian was not at all unhappy in her old life and with her job. By the end of 30, she had made a career, worked successfully as a corporate restructuring specialist, managed companies, and earned well. But a resignation as well as the stroke and early death of a good friend made her pensive.

The business plan for life

She transferred her thinking for the job to her life and looked at it from a completely different perspective. “Back then, I made a business plan for the company that I had just restructured. And I said to myself: Christine, that’s actually totally nuts. For a company that is just your job, you make precise business plans: How should the company look in two years, five, ten? ”Says Thürmer. “But for your own life, which should actually be much closer and much more important to you, you don’t sit down and think about where you want to be in five or ten years.”

She had only recently discovered her passion for hiking and nature – and wanted to devote herself to more than just the six weeks vacation a year.

“Two things became clear to me: First: I can continue this career, then in the best case I’ll be CEO of some DAX company at some point. But actually I already know how to do it. At the time, I had already restructured several companies. That was actually always the same theme, just with variations. The second insight was: With a business plan, you think about what the critical resource is. Then it became clear to me: In my own life, the lifetime resource is most important, ”explains Thürmer. Because lifetime is limited; unlike money or property, it cannot be increased almost infinitely.

"I have worked for my freedom," says hiker Christine Thürmer.

“I have earned my freedom,” says hiker Christine Thürmer.

Christine Thürmer

Nevertheless, she did not make her decision overnight, but made meticulous plans. It was important for the manager to be financially secure. First, she tried sabbaticals to combine her passion for hiking with the desire for financial security. However, when she was given notice in the middle of her sabbatical, she decided to say goodbye to traditional professional life for now. “At the time I thought: now I’ll go hiking for two or three years,” explains Thürmer.

She also consulted with a career coach who encouraged her: Even with a break of two to three years – then Thürmer would have been in her early 40s – she would find a job again. “The two or three years turned into ten,” she says with a laugh. “At some point it was clear: I no longer feel like going back to work – especially since my previous jobs and my frugal way of life meant that I wasn’t forced to work again.”

Her job gave her financial security – and freedom

At the beginning of 2008 Thürmer gave up her apartment, radically reduced her property and put the rest in a small rented storage room. For more than ten years she spent most of the year outdoors and in the meantime lived with friends or sublet. Since she now earns additional money thanks to her work as an author (including “Running, Eating, Sleeping”) and speaker, she is now able to afford a cheap apartment in Berlin all year round: “You simply finance it through. If I had a chic, great apartment, it would be more of a block on the leg. “

Escape was not her decision for her new life. “I am also very happy to have made this business career. I really enjoyed the time. And I’m also incredibly happy that I came to long-distance hiking ‘so late’ ”, says Thürmer.

The former manager advises young people to do an apprenticeship and gain professional experience before they lead such a “dropout life”. This is the only way to be really free – and not just because of the money.

“I no longer have to look for success while hiking, because fortunately I have already had the self-confirmation that I can do something at work,” she says. “It’s different with many younger people because they have completely different constraints, because they need sponsors. Because of these sponsors, they absolutely have to do something special, break some records, to get the media attention. I am not dependent on anyone. “

She gets by on 1,000 euros a month

In addition, her financial reserves also help her to survive bad moments while hiking, for example when it’s cold and has been raining for days. Because she knows: in an emergency, she can have a taxi take her to the nearest hotel – even if she never uses this option. “What I find very difficult is this new trend: around the world without money.” She personally doesn’t like to live off other people’s good natures. “I’m often invited, but I don’t have to. That is also an appreciation for people, ”says Thürmer.

The manager earned well before she gave up her job. But even as a young woman she was thrifty and invested her money in stocks. It still lives on this financial foundation today. Before deciding to quit her job, she phoned the pension insurance, the health insurance company and her bank advisor a lot. She calculated that she could live on around 1,000 euros a month.

“My bank advisor called me and said: ‘Ms. Thürmer, I have good news and bad news for you. The good thing is: you can start hiking with peace of mind if you can get by on 1,000 euros a month. The bad thing is: you have to die on time at 90 and then you have zero more money, ”she says with a laugh.

“I have earned the freedom”

Many decades into the future cannot be precisely planned. But one advantage of the long-distance hiker is that she gets by with very little comfort and luxury. “I am now relatively relaxed about my age. I won’t experience that in the large villa on the lake, but in the prefabricated building, but it will work out somehow and that’s a great feeling, “she says. She emphasizes: “I have earned my freedom.”

But she is convinced that you don’t have to have managed large companies beforehand. Anyone who takes up a job for which there is always and everywhere need has no problem returning to work after a break. Thürmer recommends obtaining a degree that is as comparable as possible, which is also in demand abroad. That could be the auditor or the nurse.

“If you don’t have that, it can be difficult for you to get back in. It doesn’t have to be 20 years of professional experience, but just enough that you can go back to the job market with a break. ”During her hikes, she also got to know people who work and save over the winter half of the year Summer to be free again. Others regularly take longer time off after a few years at work.

But a popular job and financial reserves alone are not enough. Almost even more important is the crucial bit of courage to actually go through with the decision. Thürmer experienced this himself with a friend who had several hundred thousand euros in his or her account. “No matter how much coal you have, no matter whether 10,000 or a million euros: at some point you have to jump,” she says. “You will never be able to cover all eventualities. If you are such a German-fear-Korinthenkacker, you will always find an excuse. “

Social contacts change when you are constantly on the move

Worries about not being able to gain a foothold in the job are often exaggerated. After returning from her first long-distance hike, Thürmer received an acceptance for the first job she had applied for, even though she had not worked for almost a year. “It was interpreted more as assertiveness, perseverance, as strength,” she says.

Even later, many business partners reacted surprisingly positively to their announcement that they would be taking a sabbatical. The conversations suddenly became more personal. A customer told her about his own trip to Australia as a young man and even gave her an appointment that she had previously fought over for months.

In her private environment, however, not everyone was enthusiastic about her plans. She observed a phenomenon: “I have had the experience: Those who are satisfied with their life reacted positively and encouragingly to my plans. But anyone who was unhappy with their own situation, whether professionally or privately, tended to advise me against it. ”

Thürmer believes that she is holding the mirror up to people who are dissatisfied with their lives because they are actually changing something. Anyone who consults with others about such a decision should therefore always take into account the situation in which the other person is currently.

Social contacts also change if you are constantly on the move and no longer spontaneously available for an after-work beer. Not every friendship can take it. But others would have deepened for it, she says: “I’m one of the few people on God’s earth who can be called from sunrise to sunset – and I have all the time in the world to listen to job problems or lovesickness.”

More time and freedom to let your thoughts wander

Even clearing her head is one of the things she enjoys most about her new life. On the way on her tours, she has enough time and freedom to think about life and the world, as she last did as a student: “I really missed that a lot while working, although I really enjoyed my job. But what you think about is always dictated to from the outside. ”As a result, she has the ability to concentrate on other people again without having to worry about everyday worries in the back of her head.

She has never regretted her decision. To this day, she never runs out of ideas for new tours. “Everyone has wishes and dreams, their personal glossy catalog, where they leaf through it and say: Oh, I would like to do that one day. I have that in common with everyone. The big difference is: Most people say: I will never make it, it is out of reach. And I leaf through my glossy intellectual catalog and think: Wow, log cabin in Alaska, paddling on the Danube and hiking through Europe – what do I do first? ”Says Thürmer.


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