Two years ago, when many people were clinging to any job they could find, Lindsay Cole Wogstad took a leave from a job she loved.

A double major in sales and communications at St Catherine University, Wogstad had gone to work at Pacioli Companies, a finance and accounting placement firm, right out of college. She loved the company and realized that '"recruiting is my calling." Still, she felt that something was missing.

"I was looking out the window of my office at the TCF clock," she recalled. "I thought, 'I could be looking at this clock until I'm 55.' Professionally, things were going well, but I needed personal growth."

Wogstad told her boss she wanted to try something else for a year. She spent two months wrapping things up on the job, selling her car and renting out her condo. "I left on a good note," Wogstad said. "That's an important piece of advice about taking a break. It's different if you're running away versus looking for something."

Wogstad flew to Florida and took a week-long course in Standards of Training Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (or STCW), which is recognized in 154 countries. Then she signed on to the 12-person crew of a 180-foot private yacht.

"It's customer service work, so I kept my people skills up," Wogstad said. "It's also a great resource-builder. I know people all over the world."

In the end, Wogstad spent two years working on a total of three yachts, following the season from Southeast Asia to South America, Europe and the Caribbean. She lived in a swimsuit and flip-flops, met lots of celebrities and used her earnings to pay off student loans and pay down her mortgage. Still, she said, "My career was always in the back of my mind. I kept my network strong. I used LinkedIn. I started a blog that candidates and clients followed."

While she was gone, her previous work team moved on to other opportunities, but she kept in touch with an executive at Pacioli, who asked her to come back to manage the Twin Cities office. "It's what I always wanted to do," Wogstad said.

Since she returned to the job on May 29, Wogstad said she's worked at maintaining the best of what she learned: A better diet, more exercise and, most important, a commitment to "live in the moment," even while following a workaday routine. She's also booked another trip to Europe, on her own. "I don't want to lose that independence," she said.

What's the most important thing you learned during your time off?

When you remove yourself from everything that makes you comfortable, you learn about yourself. In a comfortable setting, you don't realize what you have to do to make yourself happy.

How do you know when you need a break?

It's the feeling, "There's a piece of me missing and I want to find it." I think 98 percent of people would feel that way. It doesn't need to be traveling. It could be going back to school. It doesn't need to be two years. It could be a month. You're never going to say, "Oh, I wish I hadn't gone back to school," but you would regret it if you didn't.

What's the most important factor for a successful return to work?

Keeping your network alive. If anything good is going to come to me, it's going to be through my network. Keeping your name alive takes work.