My response to a question on hacker news:
For us, it changed the trajectory of our lives.
My wife and I quit our jobs to travel Europe and work on farms (helpx.net). I set this personal blog to write about our experience and realized that, given ample free time, my mind gravitated towards writing, coding, and photography for fun.
When we returned home, I eventually returned to my old employer, but with a new perspective. I had already quit, knew what the world looked like outside the office, and was no longer afraid to get fired. Paradoxically, this made me more valuable to the company -- I acted bolder and spoke more truth. I took on a new role, coding again after a hiatus, writing professionally for our blog, and started speaking at tech conferences. This mix of activities led me to join Twilio as a developer Evangelist.
My starting salary at Twilio was double what I made just two years prior when we quit our jobs to travel.
I share the professional benefit first because the professional and financial consequences are most concerning when considering extended travel. But, in a way that never would have made sense on paper, that trip catalyzed a trajectory shift that significantly increased my earning potential and professional satisfaction. Far more so than where any "safe" path could have lead.
There were also a bunch personal benefits. We stayed with families who had young kids and realized that we'd probably enjoy being parents. We now have two of our own, and we do. In Barcelona, Paris, and Stuttgart we saw people raise families in small apartments and rethought the necessity of the large suburban homes we grew up in. We now live in Brooklyn. We worked on a thirty-cow organic dairy farm in the mountains of northern Spain where we drank milk still warm from the udder for breakfast and cooked dinner with ingredients we harvested from the field. We've approached food differently ever since. In Turkey, we accepted spontaneous invitations to have tea in people's homes and offers for rides while we walked dirt roads during rainstorms. The hospitality extended to us by Muslim strangers was unlike anything we'd experienced before. My wife and I were raised in conservative Christian homes.
We saw beautiful sights, experienced new cultures, challenged our perspectives, made lifelong friends, etc. All the cliches you think are going to happen when you travel the world. And we also saw tremendous professional growth, precisely because we took a break from our careers to gave our minds and hearts some space and time to explore.