Editor’s note: guest post by Alexis Grant.

When I was 27, I left my reporting job to backpack through Africa.

The trip itself was amazing. I rode a camel in Timbuktu, discovered the howling lemur in Madagascar and bonded with a polygamous family in Cameroon. Those six months changed how I see the world.

But the coolest result of my career break was totally unrelated to travel: it catapulted me into a Life of Awesome.

Successfully taking that one big risk helped me realize I should take more. So I decided to write a book, a travel memoir. Then, two months ago, I left my day job to pursue my business full time. Now I’m launching an e-guide called How to Take a Career Break to Travel, daring to make my project public. I probably wouldn’t have made any of those moves if I hadn’t gone on my solo backpacking trip. Because of that trip, I now know the potential that lies behind each (scary) risk.

What I’m getting at is this: Once you’ve taken one leap, you’ll itch to take another. And another. And another. Once you’ve followed your dream once, you will want to do it again. You might even recognize or create big opportunities you wouldn’t have seen before.

That means that whether your next big goal is changing careers or seeing the world or crossing some other daunting item off your bucket list, taking the first step toward what you want is even more important. Because the effects of that leap will multiply over time, lasting far beyond the experience itself.

Unfortunately, taking a big risk will probably be most difficult the first time, which is why many people never take it at all.

In the case of a taking a career break to travel, one of the big risks is leaving your job. Some travelers are able to negotiate a sabbatical with their employer, but if you want to spend more than three months seeing the world, you’ll likely need to leave your job.

That’s risky because it means you’ll have to find another job when you get back. And who’s to say you’ll be able to do that, especially in this not-so-great economy?

Here’s the key to taking that risk successfully: use your travels to enhance your resume, making yourself a catch no employer would give up. And weave a financial safety net to give yourself a little wiggle room in case you need it.

On the resume front, think strategically about what skills and experiences you can gain while traveling that will make you a stand-out job applicant when you return home. Of course, you don’t want your entire trip to be about this goal–you want time to explore and reflect–but put enough time and effort into learning Spanish or working as a freelance writer or volunteering at a school so you can show how your year away from the traditional workforce makes you more valuable as an employee. Or sets you up to work for yourself, if that’s your long-term goal.

No matter how well you do that, you’ll still need a savings account to hold you over upon your return home until you land a new job. Start growing that savings now, even if you’re only thinking about traveling, so it will be there when you need it.

One great way to save–which is often more effective than minimizing your expenses–is to use your skills to make money on the side of your day job. Are you good at web design? Tutoring? Cooking? Social media? Identify your strengths and figure out how to make money off them as a coach or consultant.

And then, once you’ve accumulated the money you need and set out a plan that will turn your travel into a career booster, make the commitment to your trip. Don’t wait until you feel totally ready.

That nervousness in your stomach? It’s normal. In fact, it’s probably good that you feel some anxiety before making room in your life for a new priority. Most of us have to leap over a few nuggets of doubt when it comes to committing, have to push ourselves a bit. So once you’ve planned and prepared and put the pieces in place, once you’re almost ready to commit to your goal, go ahead and do it.

For soon-to-be world travelers, committing means choosing a departure date. For wannabe consultants, it means making the push to land that first paying client. What does committing mean for your goal?

So if you have a big dream–and I imagine most readers of this blog do–remember that accomplishing it is about more than that one goal. It’s about opening yourself to opportunities in the long term. Taking one (calculated and smart) risk will change how you approach risks in the future–and before you know it, you’ll be riding a camel in Timbuktu.

Alexis Grant is a journalist, social media strategist and author of new guide How to Take a Career Break to Travel. She also offers a free newsletter that provides inspiration and practical tips for taking your next Leap in life. She tweets as@alexisgrant.