But, take a year off at 32? Leave my career and rent-controlled apartment?
While leaving for a year is much easier at 20, it turns out it's not so hard later in life if you can handle certain elements like money and mail.
Here are some things to consider:
Depending on where you're going, this could actually be the least of your worries. If you have saved and are not in debt, you can live off very little. The Thai baht's exchange rate right now is .028USD. A nice resort on Koh Samui island in southern Thailand could run as low as $10USD per night (or lower if you look around). The NZ dollar is at its lowest point since 2003. I've been paying $13USD per night at a nice hostel in Wellington!
Any money that you have in the bank while traveling should be earning maximum interest . A bank account like ING's Orange Account or Etrade's Complete Savings Account will earn you 2%. It's not as good as a few years ago, but better than nothing.
2. Your Place and Stuff
If you leave for a month, you can rent or sublet your place. If you leave for a year, it gets a little more complicated, but it's still not bad if you're organized. We put everything in storage and gave up the rent controlled apartment in San Francisco. It only took about a month to get everything packed and organized.
3. Postal Mail
It was weird to think postal mail was high on my list of things I worried about, but it was. For some reason, I was uncomfortable having my parents' address as my "permanent address" and I wanted to be able to read it all myself. There's a service called Earth Class Mail http://earthclassmail.com/ that scans the front of all your postal mail. If you decide you want any item opened, they'll scan and email it to you. I've been able to get bills, deposit (very overdue) checks from consulting, and even read letters from my grandmother. It's a must-have for the overseas traveler!
4. Travel and Health Insurance
This is a one-time, absolutely necessary expense. The health insurance we got is good for the US (for 6 months upon return) and abroad (not just helicoptering you out of a country!). It's called Citizen Secure http://www.overseashealth.com.
It's easier to travel than you think! Don't let the recession stop you from traveling — it can be cheaper than staying in the U.S.