"I'd been going nonstop since I was 8 years old," the now 31-year-old tells People. "I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break."
A trio of schools (Harvard, Columbia and St. Andrew's University in Scotland) offered JTT exactly the respite he required. "To sit in a big library amongst books and students, that was pretty cool. It was a novel experience for me."
Thankfully his former TV dad, Tim Allen, convinced Thomas to return to television -- albeit in a one-off capacity -- for tonight's Last Man Standing. You can check out two clips from the hotly anticipated Home Improvement reunion above, which comes complete with winks to their original series.
Whether or not this gig signifies the start of Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Hollywood comeback remains to be seen, but don't expect the actor to suddenly reclaim his omnipresence. "I never took the fame too seriously," he says. "It was a great period in my life, but it doesn't define me. When I think back on the time, I look at it with a wink. I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers."