Circumstances

Ready or Not? Pulling the Trigger on a Career Break
Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

I have been connected to Meet Plan Go since what I think were its earliest days. And by that I do not mean that I was one of the founders. Somehow, someway, in one of countless travel-related Internet searches, I read about it. I vaguely remember thinking, “You can do that?” and something got sparked in me. I got on the MPG web site, then called Briefcase to Backpack, and eventually found my way to what I think was the first big MPG event in New York City in the fall of 2010.

Travel in My Youth

Me (second from right) and my twin sister (second from left) with school friends in Paris, age 7

Me (second from right) and my twin sister (second from left) with school friends in Paris, age 7

I have been drawn to travel and exploration my entire life. As a young girl, our family moved to Paris for six months. I lived in Glasgow, Scotland, for a year of college. I had traveled in parts of Europe and Asia and made a trip to southern Africa. I had explored many parts of the U.S. and Canada. My mind often swam in what or where the next adventure would be. But other than the many moves I made in the U.S. when I was in my 20s, my explorations were usually at the most two and a half week vacations from work. I had never traveled for much longer than that or seriously considered it. It soon became something that floated often in my mind.

As an Adult I took Small Steps

After attending the first big MPG event, I continued to go to smaller meet-up groups. I listened to people talk about budgeting, planning, volunteering and their favorite gear. On my own, I found travel blogs I liked and read them regularly. I was inspired and always curious to learn more, but I was never sure I would do it myself. Somewhere along the way, though, I started taking small actions. One Friday after work, I went to my bank and set up a separate savings account to automatically deduct a certain amount from my primary account on the first of each month. I figured it could never hurt to have savings. I researched the places I was interested in going.

The two areas that came up the most were Africa and the Middle East. At one MPG event they had us write on our name tags the places we most wanted to travel. I think I was the only person who had written down Africa and the Middle East.

Surrounded by travelers at Meet Plan Go events

Surrounded by travelers at Meet Plan Go events

So I researched. And considered. And talked on and on with my friends about all the reasons why I should leave New York and my job. Yet, I did not go. Why? Many reasons.

Some of them were practical–I needed to save more money. And many of them simply came down to fear. As much as my mind was awash in travel dreams, it was also awash in constant doubt.

In particular, for me, I worried about how I would handle being alone on the road. I have had issues with depression and addiction that I have been treating for many years. Would I be okay away from my usual support systems? I had talked about wanting to leave my job and New York City for a long time, but was I giving both enough of a chance, or would I simply find that I was not happy on the road either?

While I listened at MPG gatherings to others’ stories of going to an MPG event and quitting their job the next day, I worried these questions inside out. Occasionally, well-meaning fellow travelers would tell me to “just do it,” but every time I thought about it I would get this tick under my eye that happens when I am very tired or stressed. While some may get their own version of the “tick” and need to move ahead anyway, I know for me it is a sign that I need to wait. It was not time for me yet.

Attend our MPG Workshop April 17th
Attend our MPG Workshop April 17th
Two weeks of vacation is not enough! Learn how you can take a career break & plan a big trip - we'll teach you how 4/17 at our NYC Meet Plan Go career break workshop.

It Took 5 Years to Book a Ticket

 Namibia has the most beautiful skies of any place I have been. This photo was taken on the dunes in Sossusvlei, Namibia, one of the highlights of my time there.


Namibia has the most beautiful skies of any place I have been. This photo was taken on the dunes in Sossusvlei, Namibia, one of the highlights of my time there.

It was about five years after first learning about MPG that I finally booked my ticket to leave. Five years of saving (I have needed every penny!). Five years of researching. Five years of considering. You often hear that there is no perfect time to go, so you just need to do it. There is truth in that. I wonder sometimes if I should have gone sooner, that maybe I made things harder on myself by waiting. I cannot say for sure, but I needed to get to a place where I felt in my gut that it was time.

In the meantime, I made the most of those years, and the experiences I had helped me to grow and feel more confident about the idea of traveling on my own. I had special time with my father while he was sick and gave myself time to go through the initial grief of losing him–the love of my life. I cared for my sick cat and eventually said goodbye to her. I considered other work possibilities within my company. I moved into Manhattan, something I had wanted to experience before I left New York City. I went through a yoga teacher training process for nine months. I learned new health and spiritual practices that I use on the road to help anchor me no matter where I am in the world. Meanwhile, my work and other parts of my life in New York continued to feel stagnant, and it got clearer that those pieces were not going to change “someday.”

When I finally booked a one-way flight from Washington, D.C. to Windhoek, Namibia, I cried. Some of the tears were sadness–I would miss my family–but most of them were something else. I had done it! After all this time. And I had done it for myself. I had already told my boss that I would be leaving. I gave six months’ notice, knowing I needed to commit to the plan and also wanting to be able to talk freely about it at work. That helped me be able to leave on excellent terms.

Crossing Over to Career Breaker

I went to the annual MPG event that fall. This time, when they asked who was going to take a career break to travel, I was one of the people who raised my hand. It was exciting to finally know inside myself that it was time. There was no tick under my eye. I was confident and ready. I left the event that day on a high. In listening to others talk about their experiences, I felt like I had seen the world, and it felt limitless.

I went to one last MPG meet-up shortly before I left. People asked me about my plans, hugged me and said they wanted to hear about my travels as I went along. It was a wonderful feeling to have so much support. And it was an interesting feeling–suddenly I was one of “them.” I had listened to people talk about their career breaks and always saw them as different from me. Somehow, I thought they were more able to do the things I wanted to do. I realized that night that the only difference between me and them was that they had done it. I had not done it yet, but I was on the verge, and suddenly “they” included me.

Traveling with Confidence

Iran is a fascinating and rich culture that I still want to explore more. As anyone will tell you, the warm and welcoming people are a huge part of what makes it so special.

Iran is a fascinating and rich culture that I still want to explore more. As anyone will tell you, the warm and welcoming people are a huge part of what makes it so special.

What I see now as I write this is that my mind often has to question everything. Doubt seems to be a constant companion, always alerting me to every possibility. I have to laugh at how earnest and serious it is. Funnily enough, the doubts often do not extend to the places I choose to travel. And one of the things I love about travel is the confidence I gain as I move through the world. I have been on the road more than one year now. I spent the first 4-1/2 months traveling solo through various countries in Africa, followed by six weeks in France and five months in the Middle East. When people ask whether I have had any problems, I love being able to tell them about all the help I have gotten along the way and to let people know that the world is a friendly place.

I have good days and bad days on the road, times where I feel light and times where I feel lonely or question my direction. I sometimes need to recalibrate to find ways of travel that work best for my body and my spirit. Still, this huge life change has been the right move for me. I love exploring new places. I love being around people from other cultures. I have gotten more comfortable with talking to strangers, as well as more comfortable in my own skin. I am sharing more of myself with others and sharing more of what I have with others–talents and stories. I continue to grow in listening to myself and what is best for me. I am using the travel as a vehicle for creative pursuits I could not seem to make time for before I left. And I see more and more how much of travel for me is about the people and having a sensory experience of life. I connect both to people and to that sensory experience when I move slowly. It seems to be my rhythm.

 

About Bridget DeMouy

bridget headshotBridget DeMouy left her corporate job and home in New York City more than one year ago to explore the world and its people. She loves trekking enough to carry her heavy boots with her wherever she goes and is deeply loyal to any restaurant with friendly people and tasty, flavorful food. You can follow her travel adventures on her blog called Out of This World or on Instagram at @bdemouy.

Beware Boom Doom & Gloom!
Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Be afraid. Be very afraid. The Baby Boomers (Americans 50-68 years young) have embarked on a precarious journey toward retirement. And though you may not care if you’re, say, younger than 50, you should. Because if Boomers can’t pay for their foodstuffs and hip swaps, we all will.

It could get expensive. Already, the U.S. government has a debt problem. Healthcare costs are making us chronically sick. And the 1/99 formula bodes ill for the 99%. All to say: A stinky financial fart may be brewing. And it’s not only going to redefine retirement, it may in turn jeopardize countless career-break dreams. 

Don’t believe me. Oh sure, I boast a few degrees, aced prob and stats, and hold several certifications, including the BISS (Because I Said So) and WMWY (What Me Worry? Yes!). But, hey, you do the research.

In this case, let’s break it down with 3 lowlights from the 2014 annual Insured Retirement Institute report. 

The percentage of Boomers who are confident they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement has dropped to 33%. 

Okay. That means about 2/3 of our current and future retirees don’t have a clue. Apparently, they still believe in Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, or the Grateful Dead, who sing, “I need a miracle every day.”

80% of Boomers report having savings for retirement. Of those, about half have $250,000 or more.

Hmmm. Let’s calculate:

Half of 80% (or 40%) have more than a quarter-mil. So 60% have less.

Any financial advisor worth his fancy glasses suggests you’d like 20 years worth of living expenses to retire smartly. Today, U.S. median income exceeds $50,000. Multiply by 20, and that’s a cool $1,000,000 in savings for most folks to get out of bed comfortably post paycheck.

43% of Boomers expect Social Security to be a major source of retirement income; 46% expect it to be a minor source. 

In other words, Boomers are counting on SS. Bigtime. Now, that’s not all bad, because (one good source says) SS provides about half of the income for 65% of Americans over age 65. And yet, everyone knows SS is at risk of spending too much while taking in too little (sound familiar?). So prudent pensioners-to-be must ask: Will SS still love me tomorrow?

One solution: Make more; work less

 

To be sure, we can’t all develop ulcers worrying about other people’s golden years. But we might want to take their medicine by not getting ourselves into the same sick jam.

That starts by taking money—and planning—seriously. Planning pays because, after all, nobody ever took a career break without earning a master’s in Planning first. And the “work less” subhead above reminds us that sabbaticals take time—as in, time away from work (income).

To this Boomer, retirement is not something you delay until your senior moments. Maybe it starts here, now, with what I dub the Retire Now and Then philosophy. Consider taking 5% of retirement along the way, even if it means working 5% longer at the end. You agree, right? Or else you wouldn’t be on this site. 

How to do that? It’s not so hard. Try to live by these oh-so terse 11 Commandments of Fiscal Fitness.

For starters, #1 is: “Live within your means, no matter what that means.”

Good luck. We’ll need it. And happy sails…

 Kirk Horsted blogs at MakeYourBreakAway.com and offers speeches and seminars too. Since 1990, he’s taken five sabbaticals ranging from 35 to 355 days, from Grandma’s farm (SD) to Waiheke (NZ). He’s embarked alone, with partner, and with his perfect children. When he must, he works as a writer, creative consultant, and college teacher.

Photo credits: 401(K) 2012, Shutterstock

Career Break Travel Myths
Monday, March 10th, 2014

Career Break Myths

Excuses, excuses, we’ve heard them all. And they are all there to rationalize your fear and result in keeping you cemented to the life you think you have to live.

Myth #1: “It’s too expensive, you must be rich”

You don’t have to have a trust fund; it is possible to take a break if you don’t have much money saved. And it’s certainly possible to save money in order to take a career break no matter what your circumstances. In fact, it’s never too early to start.

Some people plan and save for several years and you can also get travel costs from those who have come before you. A key place to start is to determine roughly how much you will need to travel around the world. You may realize that you may have to change some of your spending habits, but if you really want the career break bad enough, you will find a way to start saving. It’s about priorities.

If you are ready to hit the road sooner than later but don’t quite have the budget you’d like, you may want to consider working and living abroad as part of the adventure. Just ask Lisa Lubin who worked her way around the world while she was taking a break from her television producer job. Though keep in mind it is a break – so don’t let the work aspect consume all your time!

Myth #2: “A gap on my resume will ruin my career”

A career break doesn’t equal career suicide. In fact, it will even help your career. You will build skills you can put on your resume such as confidence, patience and smart risk-taking. And a break will allow you the time to reflect on where your career is to date, how it may have gotten off track, and how to refocus on what it is you really want to do. Just read what Michael Bontempi had to say about his three month break and how it improved his career.

Brian Peters advises that “It’s also important not to burn any bridges as you leave one job or career for another. The same people you work with now will be your best points of contact if you decide to come home and look for work. If they like you and trust you, they will keep their eyes and ears open.” That is exactly what helped Bill Peterson find a job in two short months in the Semiconductor industry that he left for his 14 month career break. During those months, he kept up on industry news and worked to keep his network alive.

Myth #3: “It’s not safe to travel abroad”

The reality is that we live in a society that focuses so heavily on the negative (especially in the news), so safety is a valid concern when traveling abroad for any length of time. But most places are only as dangerous as the situations you place yourself in. “Like many places in the States, as long as you keep your wits about you and make smart, common sense decisions (keep an eye on your stuff, don’t wander off down a dark alley alone or go to notoriously bad neighborhoods at night), you’re likely going to be just as safe abroad as you are at home,” says Jennifer Baggett.

For many women, safety may be their biggest concern. But just look at all of the women traveling, like Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut, Janice Waugh of Solo Traveler, Marie Elena Martinez of Marie’s World, The Lost Girls, and Sherry Ott of OttsWorld. Of course it’s not a bad idea to reference the US Department of State International Travel Information, but note that if you look at the US Travel Warnings, be sure to compare them to warnings from the UK, and Australia for other world perspectives.

Myth #4: “I can’t travel because I have a family”

We can tell you without wavering that it is possible to travel with family. It’s just that you may not personally know anyone who has taken a career break with their family and traveled the world. Let us introduce you to Rainer Jenss who took his family around the world. Or the Cooney’s who pulled their 3 sons out of high school for homeschool and an education of world travel. Or Family on Bikes who took the ultimate biking trip on the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina with their 2 boys.

Remember, for every myth out there, there is someone who has dispelled them. You may not know them personally, but know you are in amazing company.

Travel Is Not As Expensive As You Think
Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Think Good Thoughts

Think Good Thoughts – Travel isn’t as expensive as you think!

“Travel is too expensive, I can’t do it.” Sound familiar?

Tripping yourself up with the “travel is expensive” myth is a sure-fire way to defeat the dream before you even give it a chance to breathe.

Before you defeat your dream consider this: A vacation is different from traveling. Maybe up to this point you’ve only taken a vacation, a one to two week trip you saved up for and enjoyed thoroughly. On average – a vacation that includes a flight, hotel stays, and eating out for every meal can cost anywhere form $1,000 to $2,000 per person per week. Plus when you go on vacation, all of your other monthly expenses don’t go away. You still have to pay for your mortgage or rent, car, electricity, water, magazine subscriptions – this all continues while you are on vacation.

Time is on Your Side

When you travel for an extended time this scenario of costs change because time is on your side.

Airfare

First you buy a plane ticket – but you stay longer, much longer in a region. The cost of your $1000 plane ticket overseas is now spread out across 4 weeks instead of 1 week potentially. Plus – once in that country, you have a myriad of transportation options to get from place to place in the region. You may get around the country or region by local transportation now since time is now on your side. No need to maximize every second of your vacation; slow down and relax – by doing so you spend less money.

Lodging/Food

You will also most likely not stay in high priced hotels or resorts for a long term lodging solution. You will start to be introduced to the world of guest houses, couchsurfing, and hostels; or simply more budget style hotels. You’ll find accommodation with access to a kitchen and can cook some of your own meals. You won’t be dining out for every meal; going out to eat all the time can get tiresome not to mention costly.

Monthly Expenses

Here’s where the real money savings happens…your monthly expenses go away. Maybe not all of them – but a good majority of them no longer are expenses while you travel. Consider this list (below) of typical monthly expenses for people. The ones in red will, or can, disappear while you travel.

To begin with, you can sublet or sell your home. We know that may be a big step for some, but by doing this you remove many monthly expenses! You potentially don’t have to pay to put your items in storage. No more electricity/gas/water bills. In addition, when you travel, you no longer have to supply your home with stuff like toilet paper or cleaning supplies, these normal day-to-day expenses go away while you’re on the road.

You can also get rid of your car or simply store it while you are gone and reap the benefits of no insurance payment, maintenance, or fuel charges. You no longer have to commute to work, or dry clean work clothes!

Sure – other new expenses are added when you travel – but not at the same rate as it takes to live day to day and maintain a dwelling and job.

Before you know it your monthly expenses disappear and the amount you will need to simply travel becomes ‘reasonable’ . So don’t think about your budget in terms of a vacation budget; extended travel is much different!

Download the Excel Sheet: What Can Disappear?

WHAT CAN DISAPPEAR? Current Expense Expense While Traveling
Rent/Mortgage  x
Rental/Home Insurance  x
Electricity  x
Water  x
Heating  x
Gas  x
Garbage Pickup  x
Telephone/Land Line  x
Mobile  x
Cable  x
Internet  x
Auto  x
Car Maintenance  x
Fuel  x
Car Insurance  x
Lease/Loan  x
Parking  x
Tolls  x
Warranty  x
Commuting Expenses  x
Medical Insurance  x
Gym Membership  x
Clothing  x
Dry Cleaning/Tailoring  x

What other expenses do you have that will disappear when you start your career break?

What is the American Dream?
Monday, January 31st, 2011

Mehdy Ghannad of The Hostel Life shares with us the journey his father took from Iran in order to pursue the American Dream and how he is now pursuing his own American Dream.

What is the American Dream? The first person that comes to mind in pursuit of my answer is my father.

Ghannad WeddingMy father immigrated to the United States in 1965 at age of 21 from Tehran, Iran with only two hundred dollars to his name. To my own surprise I only recently asked him this question, “Dad why did you take such a leap of faith with hardly any money in your bank account?” Before he could answer the question, my father had to put everything in context for me. In doing so, he had to begin by explaining the environment that he lived in at the time in Iran.

He began by saying, “Iran was a very different place than it is now. “ The government of Iran in the 1960’s was a constitutional monarchy and it had strong relationships with the western world. Iran was even seen as a top travel destination spot for many Europeans and Americans, because of its rich Persian history and for the skiing! Yes, Iran has pretty darn good skiing. However the education system was quite different than it was in the western world, more specifically different than in the United States (US).

Iran, much like the US has a college entrance exam, which helps determine which schools you can be accepted to. However, in Iran depending on what you scored, also determines what you could study. In addition to this, only 10% of applicants were admitted to Universities. This was a result of the lack of higher education offered after high school. For example, let’s say that you did score high marks on your exam; chances are that your career path will now be set for you. You were going to medical school to become a doctor IF space was available.

My father then got back to the answer of my original question. He said, “Son, the main reason I took that leap of faith, and came to America, was so I could figure out what I wanted to do and most importantly what I wanted to be”.

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Give Yourself a Break This Year
Monday, January 3rd, 2011

As we start off 2011, many people will have already failed on their resolutions. But here’s one resolution on CNN Money that caught our eye: New Year’s Resolution: I quit!

“Employers watch out: Your workers can’t wait to quit.

According to a recent survey by job-placement firm Manpower, 84% of employees plan to look for a new position in 2011. That’s up from just 60% last year.

Most employees have sat tight through the recession, not even considering other jobs because so few firms were hiring.

But after years of increased work and frozen compensation, ‘a lot of people will be looking because they’re disappointed with their current jobs,’ said Paul Bernard, a veteran executive coach and career management advisor who runs his own firm.”

Our advice? Take a break before jumping into a new job. After years of burnout and frustration, it will help to get rejuvenated and relax your mind for a bit. And you’ll be a much happier new employee.

Give Yourself a Break

In Notes from a Briefcase, Steve Bamberger, a self-described ‘Briefcase’ and workaholic, shared some insight on the power of taking a break – even if it’s for a week.

“It’s ok to unplug. No one knows better than I do how easy it is to skip vacations. But the office will function without you. I may be a business junkie and mild workaholic, but I still spent a week in a cave house on Santorini last year and a week traveling national parks last month.”

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Keith Savage – Breaking One Career to Build Another
Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Keith Savage of Traveling Savage is one person who has not allowed societal pressures to stop him from pursuing his career break dreams. He’s not afraid of the unconventional. In fact, his career break plans are quite unconventional! Over the next two years Keith plans to visit 8 countries for a month each (4 months total a year) while beginning a travel writing career. All with the support of his wife, who will remain at home working and taking care of their three cats.

He shares with us what led him to this point in life.

Keith & Sarah Savage in ScotlandCould you tell me more about what made you decide to take a career break?
The American system of moving from childhood to adulthood usually involves going to college and identifying your future professional pursuit. Going to college also involves far too many parties and tons of interesting “flavors” of coursework. I graduated from school with degrees in creative writing and psychology, but I failed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Actually, I think I secretly knew what I’m consciously aware of now: I simply don’t want to do the kind of work that has come to typically define the word.

With no aspirations of seeking higher education after graduation, my liberal arts degrees effectively became little more than proof that I successfully completed undergraduate studies. I was on my own for job hunting, but, by the grace of some long-forgotten god, I managed to land a job as a technical writer at an amazing software company after only a few months. By any estimation this was the best “first job” I could have gotten.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Have you ever asked ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ when contemplating your own career break travels? Janice Waugh of Solo Traveler shares with us how she and her family decided to go on their travels – and where she has arrived today.

How does one balance the importance of living in the present with the need to prepare for the future? Some people don’t contemplate this issue. They simply do what comes naturally – sometimes suffering the consequences of favoring one over the other.

But, if you are one who does consider how to balance the two, where does the answer lie. And, what is the question?  If you love travel, the question is: should I stay or should I go?

We chose to go.
Late in 2000 my husband and I decided to go.

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Starting a Career Break Movement
Monday, April 26th, 2010

I know that Beyonce is on a career break. I know this because I have a google alert set up for the term “Career Break” and get an email every day showing me recent activity on the internet which includes the phrase “Career Break”.

Other hotbeds of career break talk on the internet seem to be about mothers (expectant ones and especially those going back to the workforce), people who had a ‘big break’ in their career, and our global neighbors the Brits taking a gap year. It seems that in the UK the idea of a career break is a regular part of their vocabulary. What I’ve learned from my Google alert for ‘career break’ is actors, singers, mothers, and Brits can take them; it’s socially acceptable.

When I started researching the keyword “career break’ for our SEO plan for Briefcase to Backpack I knew we had a hard climb ahead of us. I learned Americans don’t really search for the word…ever. I tried the word ‘sabbatical’ and had a few more hits, but in general Americans don’t consider this extended time off concept really part of their vocabulary.

This made me sad and happy. Sad because as Americans we just don’t get it. There are people all over the world taking a break from their career and employers who support that idea. They find a break rewarding, invigorating, educational, and they actually enjoy going back to their job more productive; but not in America. Sad. However I’m happy because it does show the need for Briefcase to Backpack to exist. It shows there’s an opportunity to bring this concept to overworked and burnt out Americans.

One problem – there’s a need, but the people who need it don’t know about it. How do you get people to search for a phrase that they don’t really think exists? Actually, they know it exists because they follow Beyonce’s career break; but they don’t really think that it exists for them.

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Circumstances: What’s Stopping You?
Monday, March 29th, 2010

If you’ve only thought about taking a career break or sabbatical – what has stopped you from actually doing it? No matter the excuses that you come up with (or believe in) the only thing that is truly stopping you is yourself.

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Seth Godin talk at the Small Business Summit in New York City. (Godin is a bestselling author, entrepreneur, agent of change and overall inspiring speaker.) And although he was addressing an audience of small business owners and entrepreneurs, the messages he imparted can most certainly apply to you as well.

Following are a few of his “sound bites” that made a great impression on me and led to a few observations of my own. (Please note that they are paraphrased from my fastidious notetaking.)

Become a Misfit
“The reason they want you to fit in is that once you do, they can ignore you.” – Seth Godin

Growing up it always seemed so important to “fit in”. And as a grown-up, we’ve been led to believe that we must do what is “expected” of us. If we follow this expected path of least resistance, we are promised a metaphorical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – retirement. But the trick is on us once we get there to find out we won’t always have the health or wealth to enjoy it. In the meantime, we are serving other people’s goals and not our own.

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Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go