Meet, Plan, Go!

Taking the Next Step
Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

If you attended one of our 10 events across North America, you likely heard some inspiring stories from veteran career breakers. And we hope you met other like-minded individuals who share your aspirations to take a career break and travel!

Above all, we hope you realized that it is 100% possible to make a career break happen for yourself. But…what is the next step?

Start Planning

You don’t have to go any further than the Meet, Plan, Go! to kick your planning into high gear! We have the resources you need to book round-the-world flights, secure travel insurance, book hostels through GoMio, get destination inspiration, and read reviews on other helpful web sites and books. All of the trip planning tools you need are at your finger tips.

And once you have the trip planning under control, what about the life planning?

Do you quit your job or negotiate a sabbatical? Rent/sublet your home or sell it? How do you save for your career break and set a budget that won’t drain your savings? And of course – how do you prepare for your return before you even leave?

Career Break Basic Training provides everything you need to get started!

From contemplation and preparation to life on the road and re-entry, this private network offers a supportive peer community and access to career break travel experts to guide you throughout the process – whether you’re leaving in a month or a year!

Each section includes video interviews, valuable travel tips, resources, discussion groups, and concrete steps to follow towards your escape. In addition, all members receive a $75 AirTreks flight coupon and we are talking about a great value to the $149 membership fee.

Get your plans rolling and sign-up today!

Keep Meeting

Whether you head to one of our local meet-ups throughout the year or connect with other travelers online, continue building your support network!  Here’s how:

Facebook Pages
Get the latest news and join the conversations on our national Meet, Plan, Go! page and connect with local travelers on these city pages: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and  Washington, D.C.

Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter to get an added dose of inspiration every two weeks. Plus, if you can’t stay up to date on our content, we give you a recap of what you may have missed. And as an added bonus, subscribers are the first to know about special news, exclusive deals, and announcements about upcoming webinars.

Share Your Story

We love to share stories from career breakers through every stage of their break: from Contemplation and Preparation to On-the-Road and Re-Entry. You may have already been inspired by some of their voices. Why not share your own? View our editorial guidelines.

Register Your Break

Are you now planning your break – or even better – experiencing it? Then please register with us! We’d love to hear where you’re going and what you plan to do. We also love to highlight event attendees who were brave enough to follow their dreams. And who knows – maybe you will return to inspire others by joining an event panel or even hosting! Register Now!

Twitter

Follow @MeetPlanGo on Twitter to get the latest news from us – and some of the best career break and travel-related information from around the web!

Everyone’s Talking About Career Breaks!
Monday, October 15th, 2012

People may think you would be crazy to leave your full-time job to travel the world…but we think you’d be crazy NOT to attend the Meet, Plan, Go! national event tomorrow night to learn how to make your travel dreams a reality.

 
It can be done – and you’re NOT crazy.

 
The dozens of experienced career breakers and travel experts who will be leading the events in ten cities across North America tomorrow are proof of that.
 
Even actor-turned-travel writer Andrew McCarthy is on board with taking a career break to travel:

The career break craze may not quite be sweeping the nation, but it is drawing a lot of attention. Everyone seems to be talking about Meet, Plan, Go! and we couldn’t be more excited!

Seminar Inspires People to Take a Career Break and Travel the World – BudgetTravel.com

Nationwide Events Help you Plan a Career Break – Fodors.com

Meet, Plan, Go! helps you trade a desk for the open road – USAToday.com

Introducing Your Career Break Role Model – AFAR.com

How to Make Your Travel Dreams a Reality – Meet, Plan, Go! – LandLopers.com

Meet Plan Go Event Kick Off Your Travel Sabbatical – AirTreks.com

Planes, trains and marshrutkas – White Bear Press (White Bear Lake, MN)

Meet, Plan, Go! is hitting the airwaves too:

Check out Chicago host Lusa Lubin talking affordable long-term travel and Meet, Plan, Go! with WGN:

And watch Minneapolis host Katie Aune on KSTC-TV discussing what you can learn when you attend Meet, Plan, Go!:

And what did last year’s attendees have to say?

“Life-inspiring event – covering an amazing amount of relevant material. I would definitely attend another and another until I go!” — San Francisco attendee

“After this event, the excitement for traveling was high for everyone. The panelists were helpful, gave excellent examples of things to do and not to do, plus lots of encouragement. Everyone with this dream should go to see how it is possible.” — Chicago attendee

“This was a fantastic event! It made me realize that long term travel is a completely realistic goal and that I have amazing company also doing the same” — Seattle attendee

Join us on October 16, 2012

for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

MPG 2012 New York Host: Sherry Ott
Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

All of our local Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the months leading up to our National Event on October 16, we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet Our New York Host: Sherry Ott

Taking the Leap

There are 2 ways to jump off a cliff:

  1. Stand at the edge, look down and tentatively step off
  2. Take a running leap into the abyss

But the fact is – most people never jump off.

They go to the edge, look down, get a case of vertigo, freak out, and take a step back – still stretching their neck to see over the edge, but never feeling like they have the guts to do it themselves. 

We started Meet, Plan, Go  because we wanted to provide those people who were considering the leap off the edge with support.  Support in the form of advice and inspiration.

I meet and hear from people every day about how they have this desire to travel and take the leap, but they look at the edge and wonder – “Can I do it?”  They feel dizzy, fearful and back away from the ledge trying to push those travel desires to the back of their minds.  They deny the desires and instead throw themselves into the routines of gathering up and accumulating the ‘shoulds’ in their life.

At a recent Meet, Plan, Go meetup in New York City I listened to a woman talk about how her family isn’t supportive of her ‘crazy’ travel desires and she wonders why she just can’t shake the desire and be ‘normal’ like everyone else.  I thought to myself – does that mean I’m abnormal – because I did take a break and traveled?

I suppose I am.  But taking the break was the best thing I ever did. 

Finally getting the guts to take the leap and the joy of floating through this world on my own terms  and landing on my feet was just what I needed to re-evaluate my career and life.  I learned I was more capable than I ever thought.  That initial leap into a year long career break helped me realize that I could take other leaps and make career changes.   That’s the beauty of jumping over the edge, when you reach the bottom you want to turn around and go again.

But for those of you standing at the ledge looking over into the canyon wondering if you can do it, then I hope you have a ticket to a Meet, Plan, Go event Oct. 16th.  The act of going out and meeting others who are standing at a similar ledge can fuel the fire enough to get you over that ledge.   When you meet others who have taken that leap and survived, the jump doesn’t seem that scary any longer.   In fact – it may just look like fun.

I feel like Meet, Plan, Go is like throwing gasoline onto a smoldering fire…in a huge blast of light and heat you realize that your smoldering spark can turn into something big, real, hot, and energetic….it can turn your travel dreams into reality.

The leap isn’t easy – we know that. 

But it is easier when you are surrounded by a cheering section.  It gives you a place to turn when your friends, family, and co-workers think you are crazy.    Our cheering section of career break veterans will also provide you all the resources you will need in order to jump – information about money, preparation, packing, safety, and itinerary ideas.  As much as we can pack into a Tuesday evening to get you started and closer to that ledge.

We hope to see many of you on October 16th at the ledge with us.

Sherry Ott is a Co-Founder of Meet Plan Go! and is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger and photographer.  Sherry has been blogging about her travels on Ottsworld: Travel and Life Experiences of a Corporate America Runaway since 2006. It was named one of the Best Around the World Travel Blogs on BootsnAll travel website.

While on a career break she traveled around the world to over 23 countries primarily solo armed with her camera. Since her career break she has spent a year living and working in Vietnam, wrote an ebook about her hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal with her father, traveled the globe house-sitting, volunteered in India and Nepal,  participated in cultural exchange programs in the Middle East, drove 10,000 miles from London to Mongolia for the Mongol Rally, walked 550 miles across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, co-created Career Break Basic Training online class & community, and organizes Meet, Plan, Go! events across North America. Sherry’s latest adventures will be to travel with her father to Antarctica this December.

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

MPG 2012 Toronto Host: Janice Waugh
Monday, October 8th, 2012

All of our local Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the months leading up to our National Event on October 16, we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet Our 2012 Toronto Host: Janice Waugh

We’re thrilled to have Janice Waugh hosting Meet, Plan, Go! in Toronto for the third year in a row. Janice has enjoyed many forms of travel at different times in her life – twenty-something travel, family travel, career break travel and most recently, solo travel.

In August 2001, Janice left on a ten-month career break with her husband and youngest son (age 10 at the time). Her other sons joined them at times along the way. Janice wrote about their decision to stay or to go, saying,

“We could finally see our way clear to living our dream of long-term travel. Having sold our business and with two sons out the door, one entering his last year of high school and the youngest going into grade six, it all seemed possible.

To others, it may have made more sense to wait, at least a year, but we planned and went. We bet on the present over the future and, as you’ll see, we won.”

Janice is grateful for taking her career break when she did; just a few years after returning from their trip, she lost her husband to a rare illness known as Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP).

“While our choice to take an extended trip at that particular time of life may have seemed odd to some, it made sense to us. At least, we made it make sense. We put our present and our future on a scale and chose to live in the present for that year. And, at the time, we had no idea that it was our last chance to do so.”

Today, Janice travels solo and devotes a lot of her time to inspiring others to discover the world as they discover themselves.  She publishes Solo Traveler and recently launched a book, The Solo Traveler’s Handbook. She has spoken at The Smithsonian on solo travel and has been quoted in many media outlets including CNN, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, LA Times and USA Today. She is a strong proponent of career break travel and eager to help others pursue their career break dreams.

Last year, Janice wrote about the 18 loves she discovered during her 10-month career break. Today, she shares some practical advice about renting out your home before traveling long-term:

Is renting your home right for you?

Renting out your home is not for everyone. You need to decide if it is right for you. Do you get stressed by the idea of someone living in your home and using your stuff? Then it’s not for you. Are you easygoing about your things? If you will travel and not worry about your home, go for it. Are you allowed to rent your home? If you rent or live in a co-op, you need to ensure that you can legally sublet.

How to find the right tenant

To take the work off your shoulders completely, you can hire a property manager to handle the renting and maintenance of your home. They’ll collect the rent and pay the bills and do the occasional drop-by… whatever you want. But it will cost you. I am more a DIY gal. I do things myself whenever I can. If you want to do it yourself, here are some of the steps to follow.

♦ Identify the type of person or people you want to rent your home.

♦ Specify your criteria regarding smoking, pets and any other detail that is important to you.

♦ Decide what you will include in your rental. What utilities and technology?

Once you know the type of person you want to rent your home:

♦ Create a mini website that shows off your home. Google “make a free website” and you’ll find that you can do this yourself at no cost.

♦ Let friends and family know that you are looking to rent your home. Let them know your criteria and share your website with them.

♦ Use an online service like SabbaticalHomes.com to list your home. If you want to stay in one place, consider trading places with a service like Home Exchange.

If you’re not having success or are not comfortable managing the process yourself, find a real estate agent to do the job for you.  Unfortunately, they’ll make more from the sale of a house than from renting yours, so they are not going to work at it very hard.

When you’ve found a prospective tenant, check them out thoroughly. You’re going away. You don’t want any headaches. You need financial, business and personal references.

This is an excerpt of a post that originally appeared on the Solo Traveler on September 12, 2012.  To read more of Janice’s advice on finding and preparing for a tenant, see the full article here.

Join us on October 16 at one of our 10 Meet, Plan, Go! events across North America:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

RTW Chat Recap: All About Career Breaks
Thursday, October 4th, 2012


We hope you joined us yesterday on Twitter for RTW Chat with BootsnAll.com. RTW Chat is a weekly conversation on Twitter that brings extended travel lovers together from all around the world to discuss everything there is to know about round the world (rtw) travel.

In case you missed it, this week was all about career break travel! Here are some of our favorite responses:

Q1: Where did/do you dream about being when you are at your desk?

@TravelMermaid: Shipwrecked on a desert island with a) King Neptune, b) George Clooney and c) the US Men’s Water Polo team.

@DestnUnknown: Somewhere where I feel like I am living life instead of killing time until I die. Too melodramatic?! If so..Antarctica!!

@Thedelhiway: Always dream about being far far away from bosses, on an island where they cant get to me & mobiles don’t work 🙂

Q2: What scared/scares you most about taking a career break and traveling?

@SherpaKeith: being able to get a job when I returned, but it really wasn’t that hard – urban myth

@OurOwnPath: Thinking that finishing traveling I wouldn’t find work. I’m finding the opposite – the world is more open for me to find work

@traveling9to5: I was terrified of squat toilets in Asia – Now I prefer them!

@llworldtour: The unknown & being lonely. Both fears went away pretty quick as i learned I was rarely alone.

Q3: What is/was the hardest part of planning your career break travels?

@VolunteerSarah: Figuring out where to go–too many amazing places!

@HeckticTravels: We never really planned! Kinda threw a dart at a map, and booked our first three nights accommodations only. 🙂

@DestnUnknown: Getting the balance right between ‘planned’ and ‘unplanned’ – wanting to make the most of my time, but leave it flexible too

@KatkaTravels: tying up loose-ends. Finding a subleaser, home for my dog, closing accounts, etc

Q4: What is/was the easiest part of planning your career break travels?

@travelshus: I thought the easiest part was decided where to go. Easiest ended up being quitting the job and packing the stuff

@katieaune: surprisingly, renting out my condo was one of the easiest – great rental market in Chicago!

@DestnUnknown: Decision to do it was easy, it felt so right. Planning phase was fun, it felt easy because it was fun

@greentravelgrl: Surprisingly easy to sell my car. And also sell all of my furniture and move out of my townhouse to become essentially homeless

Q5: Should your career break travels include working? What kind?

@GirlUnmapped: My year working in Oz was definitely helpful upon returning (got better work experience than I would’ve in US!)

@llworldtour: Didn’t plan it, but mine did. I fell into random jobs & loved it. Became more local, met new people that weren’t travelers.

@travelitach: I would love to work on farms in every country I visit – that’s how you really get into the local knowledge

Q6: If you’ve taken a career break, what was the most important lesson you learned?

@DestnUnknown: That you can replenish your bank account, but you can’t reclaim time – make each second in life count!

@tweetthemap: That it can be done! And if we, a family of 4, can do it, anyone can!

@katieaune: that no matter how much i stressed or worried, things always had a way of working themselves out.

@anishahbbc: That despite our differences we”re all trying to make it in this world; humans & animals. Philanthropy.

Q7: Why do we need a career break/gap year in America?

@GirlUnmapped: There’s more to life than work & climbing the ladder – realize there’s more to the world & appreciating the diverse ppl in it.

@HeckticTravels: To broaden one’s perspective outside of their own borders. To break down barriers, stereotypes, and prejudices. TO GROW!

@greentravelgrl: Broader perspectives on the really important issues in life. Not everyone has water from a tap or garbage pickup, etc

@wanderbelly: To end pervasive American ignorance that the rest of the world is a ‘scary’ place.

Q8: Do you think a career break will help your career? Why?

@traveling9to5: My career break is the start of my new career and my freedom to control my own life again!

@llworldtour: YES! It changed my career & my life. Went from TV producer to full time travel writer & traveler. Less Money. MORE happy.

@riorimontitours: Yes, you will become more aware of how many differences and cultures surround you, and of how vast the world is

@OutlanderAbroad: Have a great career by US standards. Want to discover what I’m truly passionate about, maybe discover a new career!

@KatkaTravels: I think it would help ME more than my career. You can work anywhere but working where you are happy is the best

Q9: Would you include a career break and travel on your resume? If so, how?

@travelshus: yes, and currently do. I put it under skills. Its also clearly a talking pt due to the time gap. #rtwchat.

@insuremytrip: If you wouldn’t, you should! Place it proudly in the appropriate spot under “relevant experience.” List countries. Show pix.

@greentravelgrl: Write a list of skills that you learned on the road such as networking, nonverbal communication, problem solving, photography

@OutlanderAbroad: YES. Show you can plan, budget, execute a massive-scale ‘project’, plus all the lessons learned & new experiences along the way

Q10: What is the biggest benefit of taking a career break that includes travel?

@SherpaKeith: you appreciate life and what you have so much more imho

@traveling9to5: Your opportunites are opened and your mindset drastically changes on what success is

@DestnUnknown: Learn that work is not just sitting in an office. Many different ways to earn money around the world, find what you love doing

@GirlUnmapped: We are an increasingly global society. Cross-cultural communication skills, int’l exper & a global perspective are important.

 
And our favorite response of all? From @HeckticTravels: “‘I wish I had NEVER gone traveling.’ Said no one. EVER.”
 
You can also follow along on YouTube with BootsnAll CEO Sean Keener and Meet, Plan, Go! co-founder Sherry Ott as they participated in the RTW Chat:
 

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

Photo: West McGowan

Talking Travel with Andrew McCarthy
Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

I’ve never understood the derision that sometimes accompanies the idea of “finding oneself.” I’ve also had problems understanding the notion that some people have that taking off to travel the world, especially for an extended period of time, is somehow an escape or “not facing reality.”

In my opinion, and experience, nothing could be further from the truth. For what, I ask you, is more important in this one journey of life that we have, than discovering who we are, down deep in our core, and what our place in the world is? Is that not the essential meaning of life, and perhaps exactly what we are put here to discover?

Andrew McCarthy gets it. The actor and director turned travel writer has just released a travel memoir called The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down, and that title accurately sums up the roundabout path he has taken in life, across the globe, to figure out the answers to these questions for himself before he takes on a new life with his fiancee. The book jacket states:

Unable to commit to his fiancee of nearly four years—and with no clear understanding of what’s holding him back—Andrew McCarthy finds himself at a crossroads, plagued by doubts that have clung to him for a lifetime. So before he loses everything he cares about, Andrew sets out looking for answers.

In case you’re thinking that perhaps this is just another “soul-searching” journal from a self-absorbed guy who can’t commit, let me set those thoughts at ease. The Longest Way Home is anything but that. It’s really a love story to travel: the way it helps us discover our truest and best selves, the way it can expand our minds and souls and shape us into different people, and the way in which we must do these things in our own selves before we can possibly hope to fully share that self with another.

McCarthy, who is perhaps best known for his “Brat Pack” roles in movies such as Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire and Weekend at Bernie’s, is an extremely gifted writer. Both his passion for travel and his second career as a travel writer came about by accident. He grabbed a book that had sat on his bookshelf for months, to read on a routine flight. The book was about one of travel’s classic pilgrimages, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and it inspired McCarthy to make the trek.

For the first part of the walk, he was “miserable, lonely and anxious.” But then something happened. His fear began to melt, he started to feel at home in himself. “Every step took me deeper into the landscape of my own being,” he wrote. McCarthy documented this and other journeys just for himself, for a decade before he met up for drinks in New York with National Geographic editor Keith Bellows, who finally agreed to look at his writing after a year of cajoling.

I talked with McCarthy about his book and his philosophy on travel.

Can you recall an early travel experience that fueled your passion for travel?

AM: When I walked the Santiago in Spain, you know that changed my whole life, and really got me hooked on travel.

What has the path from actor to travel writer been like for you?

AM: It’s been a parallel career for me; I’m still acting, I just finished acting in a film up in Canada, a television movie that’ll be out at Christmas [Christmas Dance]. It’s sort of become a shadow career, a parallel one, and it’s something that happened completely by accident. I drank the travel kool-aid, as you well know, and it changed my place in the world. I found I was a better version of myself on the road, I was alive in a different way when I was traveling. It really became very important to me.

It was the same with acting, when I was a kid—that became important to me because I located myself, in a way that I didn’t with other things, and that was a surprise to me. It’s been an impractical passion that I’ve followed, in the same way that acting was.

In the book, you express that by nature you are a very solitary person. How does that work when you travel—do you prefer to travel alone, or choose to interact with others on the road or not? Does it hinder you?

AM: By nature I am a solitary traveler; I prefer to go alone, although I have kids now and traveling with them is a whole other experience. It’s great—I take my kids sometimes when I’m working. I did a story on the Sahara and I took my son and I had a big experience with him there.

But I do prefer what happens when you’re alone in the world. I could go places and not hear the sound of my voice for days, and have no problem with that. If I’m writing a story it’s different; if I’m traveling alone for personal reasons, I will probably talk to less people. But when you’re writing, you of course need quotes, and so I’m forced to come out of myself and interact with people in a way that I wouldn’t were I traveling just for myself.

If we’re traveling together, we’re having the experience of each other in a place; if you’re traveling alone, you’re intimate with yourself in the place and that’s a very different experience. I think traveling alone is a really important thing in life and I think people don’t do it for only one reason: because they’re afraid. And I think that’s unfortunate.

Are there people you’ve met on your travels who stayed with you, whom you’ve thought about frequently?

AM: I don’t think we ever know what effect we have on people. Seemingly meaningless encounters are life-changing for some people, and we have no idea how we impact others. I walked the Camino because I happened to pick up this guy’s book randomly in a bookstore. I’ve never spoken to him again, but nothing has ever been the same since I read his book.

What is your travel philosophy?

AM: I do believe that Paul Theroux theory about ‘Go, go long, go far, don’t come back for a long time.’ I think sometimes the more out of touch we can be, the better because I think we cling to our handheld devices the second we get uncomfortable and if we can unplug them, I think that’s a great thing.

Best travel tip?

AM: Asking for help. I try to ask for help even when I don’t need it, when I’m in a foreign place. It opens me up to a connection with the people there; the minute you ask for help, you’re saying to the person, ‘I’m making myself vulnerable before you.’ That’s always been received on my part, I’ve never had anyone say no.

I’m the guy at home, I’ll never ask for help. ‘I know where we’re going, don’t put on the GPS. We’re fine, I know where it is.’ But on the road, it’s the first thing I do. ‘Hi, can you help me?’ When you do that, you open yourself up in a way that makes us sort of right-sized.

In The Longest Way Home, McCarthy shares a strange phenomenon that I’ve often experienced from the non-traveler. “Tough life,” or “must be nice,” they often say, as if it’s some unreachable thing they can never attain. McCarthy writes, “[t]ravel—especially by people who rarely do it—is often dismissed as a luxury and an indulgence, not a practical or useful way to spend one’s time. People complain, ‘I wish I could afford to go away.’ Even when I did the math and showed that I often spent less money while on the road than staying at home, they looked at me with skepticism.

He adds that the reasons people give for not traveling are complex and varied justifications. “Perhaps people feel this way about travel because of how it’s so often perceived and presented. They anticipate and expect escape, from jobs and worries, from routines and families, but mostly, I think, from themselves—the sunny beach with life’s burdens left behind. For me, travel has rarely been about escape; it’s often not even about a particular destination. The motivation is to go—to meet life, and myself, head-on along the road. Often, the farther afield I go, the more at home I feel.”

You can purchase The Longest Way Home via Amazon.com

Meet, Plan, Go! Austin co-host Shelley Seale has been traveling since right out of high school 25 years ago. For the last 10 years she’s been a full time professional writer, doing about 50% travel writing. She travels about 8-10 times a year domestically, and 3-6 times a year internationally – often for weeks or months at a time. Along with co-host Keith Hajovsky, she wrote a book about traveling as close to free as possible, and has made her lifestyle and business all about travel and writing. She’s authored or contributed to six books, and has written for National Geographic, Globe Pequot Press, Andrew Harper Traveler, BootsnAll, Intrepid Travel, Matador Network and many others.

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

We will be giving away a copy of The Longest Way Home to one lucky attendee at each Meet, Plan, Go! event!

MPG 2012 Seattle Host: Lori Stone
Monday, October 1st, 2012

All of our local Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the months leading up to our National Event on October 16, we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet Our Host: Lori Stone

I’m a collector.

I collect things and experiences and daydreams. I collect cool things in jars like sea glass and sand from my travels and I have boxes of old family photos lining shelves with travel books and souvenirs and weird figurines that mean nothing to the average onlooker. I have list after list of brilliant ideas, new inventions, and places I long to be. I love finding things—dropped shopping lists, coins, and other ephemera. I look lovingly at the passport vacation stamps I’ve amassed over the years and with a recent romp through Montana, I’ve been to more US States than not. Not too shabby.

So imagine my surprise when last summer I sat down and realized that my “someday” list had outgrown itself. Someday I will _______ (fill in the blank with anything and everything that I wasn’t doing by August of 2011). By age 40 (which unimaginably happens THIS November!) I had vowed to learn my new accordion, tour Vietnam, launch my dream freelance business, clean out my wicked, wicked garage, start selling my photography, buy a boat, and take a vintage silver Airstream RV, completely restored by hand, across the good ol’ US of A.

Someday. Why does it always have to be “someday?”

Someday…a hopeful word that came to finally represent the height of my inaction. All of the things I had claimed to wish for were sitting on a little slip of paper and my desires were in complete contrast to my daily actions and work.

You see, I’d spent the last 8+ years doing work that I really, really liked but that never truly fulfilled me. And, over the last 20+ years, I had—albeit proudly—turned my career into something very lucrative…a comfortable life, basic needs met, and potential to continue with great success on that trajectory. And like a second-grader procrastinating long division while staring out the window at the playground set, I often thought of so many places I’d rather be than answering even one more business email.

Couple that with the whammy news I got in late 2006 and you have the makings of a truly restless life. It was just over five years ago that I heard the words “it’s cancer.” I was diagnosed with endocervical adenocarcinoma, or invasive cervical cancer, at just 34, at the heart of this lucrative existence I had carved out for myself. I think this is what they mean when they say “stopped in your tracks.” I will jump ahead to happily report that I am in full remission. My treatment was successful and I can now add survivor-turned-advocate to my resume.

It was from this potentially tragic future that I began to actively take back my life to be what I desired it to be.

What I desired was this: a life lived fully, on my terms, spending my days both contributing to my local community and setting pace to leave a great legacy of someone who embraces all things joyful. I reflected back on all of the great places I had traveled in my life and it was always then that I truly felt most alive…from my romantic wanderings through Paris to my kayaking in Honduras to my meditation on humor and irony while sitting through a rogue cyclone on the Sunshine Coast of Australia.

So then in December of 2011—at the height of a wary economy and my consulting success – I reclaimed my procrastinated journey by finally saying “no” to a tempting work contract renewal and thereby saying “yes” to my wanderlust. I went on sabbatical for a year and I grinned from ear-to-ear as I drove home on my last day of work and realized what lay before me. For the first time in years, I had no clue as to what came next. I still don’t. Five year plan? No clue.

My days of meticulous racing are over and I have traded the frenetic energy of corporate life for one of wonder, adventure, and fun. What used to worry me now challenges me and I trust completely in the idea that my desires will carve the perfect path for where I need to be. Not to be confused with a lack of caring for where I am or my personal and long-term career success…I would argue that I now care MORE by owning how I spend my time and the quality of my life vs. the quantity and raw acclamation of money and goods.

Like many of us, my garage still desperately needs cleaning and my mortgage still needs paying and my life still has certain grown-up obligations. The biggest myth that we tell ourselves is that life and desire are mutually exclusive. I’ve discovered that this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve simply changed the way I view opportunity.

My official sabbatical will be wrapping up in a few months and I look forward to seeing what my next career turn has in store for me. In the meantime, I’m trading in my normally gloomy Pacific Northwest winter for a sunny, summer beach in New Zealand…#17 on my someday list.

Someday is now.

Lori Stone spent the last 20 years in the corporate, non-profit, and technology sectors and today specializes in communications and program management. In 2007, she started The Joy Guild, a side business at the time that incorporated her love of the arts, photography, teaching, and travel safaris from Paris, France to Moab, Utah to Melbourne, Australia. However, her full time commitment to corporate technology consulting over the last nine years kept her from fully launching her dream business.

2011 marked the beginning of Lori’s research sabbatical and career break. She is taking time off from contract management work and exploring the world around her by leading creative art retreats, traveling, writing, learning, continuing outreach as a cancer survivor-turned-advocate, building communities, and—most important—having fun. She continues to envision a world where people increasingly find play AND work that brings them joy and looks forward to her official business launch in 2013. You can find Lori on Twitter as @thejoyguild or on Facebook.

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

MPG 2012 Minneapolis Host: Katie Aune
Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

All of our local Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the months leading up to our National Event on October 16, we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet Our 2012 Minneapolis Host: Katie Aune

My biggest mistake in taking my career break?

I waited too long.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty and, looking back, the perfect time for my career break would have been 2006. I had just sold my condominium in Chicago in an attempt to downsize and prepare myself to change careers from being an attorney to being…something else.

That was back when the economy was still doing okay and I walked away from that condo with a nice chunk of change in the bank. I entertained faint visions of taking time off to travel but the idea seemed so far out there to me, I didn’t even really seriously think about it. It just didn’t seem possible.

Instead, I rented for a year, changed careers and then promptly bought a new condo.

Two years later, I started dreaming of travel again.

This time, the idea hovered in my mind a bit longer but it still seemed like a pipe dream. I didn’t know anyone who had traveled for an extended period of time and I just didn’t know how I would make it work. I had a condo, I had a job, I had cats. Nonetheless, I spent nearly all of my free time dreaming about possible routes and itineraries. Slowly but surely, the idea morphed into a very loose plan. I started actually telling people what I wanted to do, but it sounded crazy coming out of my mouth.

I don’t know that anyone really believed I would actually go through with it.

Months passed and I bought up every guidebook I could find and made list after list of online resources. I started reading travel blogs and started my own. I joined Twitter and started following travel folks, which is how I am pretty sure I first heard of Meet, Plan, Go!

However it happened, I found myself sitting in a room at REI in Chicago in September, 2010. I was surrounded by people who loved to travel. I listened to the host, Lisa Lubin, explain how she left her career to travel and ended up being gone nearly three years and making a new career out of it. I soaked up information about insurance and packing and itinerary planning. And when the event ended, I practically ran over to panelist Megan Kearney, who had traveled solo through Central Asia – the exact area that I wanted to visit.

Suddenly, it all seemed possible.

A year later, I was part of that panel – via Skype from Veliky Novgorod, Russia.

Two years later, I am thrilled to be hosting the Meet, Plan, Go! event in Minneapolis.

How did I get here?

After that inaugural Meet, Plan, Go! event in Chicago, I joined the online Basic Training course, where I was able to find even more practical information, inspiration and community. I went to local meet-ups and got to know Lisa and Megan better, while also connecting with others planning to hit the road as well. I put my condo on the market and when it didn’t sell after six months, I came up with a Plan B. I figured out a way to make things work financially while renting it out instead. I started listing things to sell on Craigslist, increased my monthly bank transfers to savings and picked up some freelance work through Elance to make extra money. In February 2011, I announced to friends and family I would leave on my 35th birthday, just six months later.

By late July, I secured a tenant for my condo, gave notice at work and found a new home for my cat.  I sold all my furniture and moved the rest of my belongings to my parents’ basement in Minnesota.

And on August 30, 2011, I boarded a plane to Helsinki, Finland.

In the last year, I ran a marathon in Estonia, taught English in Russia and Tajikistan, traveled the length of the Trans-Siberian Railway, studied Russian in St. Petersburg and Kiev, crossed the Black Sea by ferry from Ukraine to Georgia, volunteered with the national tourism board in Armenia, lived with local families in Azerbaijan and camped in the desert among ancient ruins in Turkmenistan.

I also picked up some freelance travel writing work and joined the Meet, Plan, Go! team as managing editor, which together have allowed me to extend what was going to be a ten-month trip into a thirteen-month journey.

The road has not always been smooth – I probably have experienced more bumps than most do, ranging from hellish homestays to horrid weather conditions (visiting Ukraine when it is -30C is not ideal!). And I still had things to deal with at home which sometimes put a damper on my feeling of complete freedom. But as much as I stressed and worried about things along the way, the biggest lesson I learned was that things always have a way of working out.

My only regret? That I didn’t do it sooner.

Katie is a Minnesota native and recent Chicago resident who started dreaming of traveling and seeing the world at a young age.  But aside from a church mission trip to Mexico when she was 14, she didn’t leave the country for the first time until she took a 23 day tour to Europe after finishing law school in 2001. She spent the next ten years making the most of her vacation time by taking short trips to Australia, Egypt, Peru, Norway and all over western Europe.

A self-professed “recovering attorney,” Katie left a job in educational fundraising and event planning last August to travel and volunteer in all 15 countries of the former Soviet Union. She returns home September 25 after a 13-month career break that included running a marathon in Estonia, teaching English in Russia and Tajikistan, volunteering with the national tourism board of Armenia, living with local families in Azerbaijan, and trying her best to speak Russian on a daily basis.  In addition to being obsessed with travel, Katie is a sports fanatic, running enthusiast and gluten-free since 2010. You can read more about her adventures on her blog, Katie Going Global, or follow her on Twitter at @katieaune.

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

MPG 2012 San Diego Host: Elaine Masters
Monday, September 17th, 2012

All of our local Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the months leading up to our National Event on October 16, we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet Our 2012 San Diego Host: Elaine Masters

Another lifetime ago, I opened the mailbox one afternoon, found an envelope and ran into the house to call and confirm that I’d won an award for a radio drama I’d produced. Then the reality set in. I had just returned to Portland, Oregon from an amazing 21 days of wandering in Thailand and was expected to be in New York City in two weeks. Turns out that I had a place to stay and frequent flier miles were even offered but I didn’t go! It was “just too much, just impossible,” I told myself and felt more responsible, more righteous for the decision.

But it wasn’t impossible. I stopped myself from going with false humility. It felt like just too much happiness! Fool that I am, I asked a friend who lived in New York to attend and pick up the award for me. My life might have taken a different turn if I’d gone and met the other recipients, the other producers and who knows who else. I turned away from the blessing and back to my safe, predictable world. I’ve regretted it ever since.

I think of it now and wonder about that momentary blip of short-sightedness in a life that’s full of long adventures. While living in Juneau, Alaska, my boyfriend came home resolved to convince me to join him on a 6 month sabbatical to wander the world. I resisted for a few days and then built my defense, made an appointment with my boss at the public radio station I was working at and stepped into possibility. Two friends agreed to job share my position and soon I was off to backpack though the world. Spending weeks driving around the English countryside in a rusted out van, camping throughout the chateau region of France, island-hopping through Greece and nearly a month combing through the wonders, waters and temples of Sri Lanka still fuels my wanderlust. At the end of the trip, I not only still had a job but because I had been gone and out of office politics, was offered a better position!

Since then I’ve managed to live modestly and find work that allows some freedom to travel, but still run into the juggling act between the desire to go, responsibility and finally just doing it.

Two years ago I was invited to join friends on a road trip through New Zealand’s South Island. I can’t say that it was on my bucket list but after poking around the internet couldn’t believe the beauty of the place. It again felt like too much! I couldn’t justify the time away from work, family, pets – the list went on.

This time, however, I stopped thinking and simply knew I had to go. It turned out that journey opened my life to new possibilities, new friendships and alliances that I could never have anticipated. They were there for the taking. The delight of long days wandering through astounding valleys (think ‘Lord of the Rings’ vistas), the fun of white water rafting, filming friends bungee jumping over canyon rivers, slipping out of the summer heat and toasting each other in an ice bar, the astounding Milford Sound and it’s staggering, primordial cliffs –only stoked my desire to explore more.

Another trip materialized a few months later! Again I couldn’t rationalize going but soon found myself teaching Flytime Yoga at 30,000 feet to a group of drowsy underwater photographers en route to Fiji. It was another unbelievable adventure – swimming with sharks, night diving, meeting other world travelers. Again my business and life were enhanced in dozens of surprising ways. The ripple effects continue to amaze me.

My usual gratitude practice centers on a day well lived; on health, friends, having a safe, quiet place to live and work that inspires me. I could never have anticipated the boon travel has given me and now that I’ve learned to say yes, new opportunities continue to sweep into this otherwise simple life. I’m still learning to open up and receive. My independent spirit is relinquishing its misguided, knotted resistance and unfolding.

When I can’t be on the road, I travel vicariously through the community of travelers that has been growing in San Diego. Meet, Plan, Go! has helped me be of greater service, to connect ever more deeply with my fellow humans and all the species we share this amazing planet with.

So go, just say Yes!

Elaine J. Masters grew up taking road trips and is a travel writer, international scuba diver, award-winning author of Drivetime Yoga and a Yoga teacher. She’s lived in many major cities (and a few smaller ones) along the west coast from Juneau, Alaska to San Diego, CA. Her podcast, The Gathering Road, airs on the WRN. Her stories and travel tips are at TripWellness.com and DrivetimeYoga.com.

Elaine’s been mentioned on NBC New York Go Healthy, Women’s Day Magazine, San Diego Living, Fox.com, Huffington Post, Meetings & Conventions Magazine & Passporter.com. She has spoken at NATJA, SYTAR, San Diego Meeting Planners, hospitals, hospice, businesses and networking groups helping commuters, business and recreational travelers stay happy, pain free and productive. One of her favorite memories is teaching Flytime Yoga at thirty thousand feet on a flight to Fiji!

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

Pachyderm Dreams
Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

I felt a bit panicky when I realized, while speaking with the bed and breakfast owner in India, that I might never work with elephants.

My husband and I were staying in the woman’s home in a rural part of Kerala, chatting with her about the wild elephants that had wreaked havoc on her banana trees the year before, when the thought of elephants caused my heart to sink. I began to tune out what she was telling us as I recalled my myriad childhood career aspirations – elephant caretaker, and also naturalist, park ranger, veterinarian, journalist, jockey, novelist. In my mind, I watched these varied and utterly incompatible aspirations fall to my sides like leaves. It struck me then as it never had previously:

There was so much I had wanted to do, and so little time.

In my actual life, I chose to be a lawyer, figuring that law school would be a good way to kill some time while I figured out if it was what I really wanted to do. And then, suddenly, I was 33 years old and I had spent seven years litigating with a large law firm – a job I quit so I could travel the world with my husband. How could I ever, at my age, suddenly decide to scrap my years of higher education and toil as an attorney to give elephant training a try (and still leave time for everything else I still wanted to do)? As I thought about this more deeply, an existential gloom settled in that I had a hard time shaking over the next several weeks.

That one of my dreams involved elephants made the thought of letting that dream go particularly bitter. Elephants have always struck a special chord for me; there is just something about the contrast of their immense size with their gentleness; their intelligence; their playfulness; their soulful eyes. Simply imagining spending my days working alongside them was enough to bring a smile to my face.

As our travels continued through India, I let some of my angst go and focused on enjoying our nomadic existence. By the time we returned home for Thanksgiving and began to ponder our next move, I had more or less forgotten about my crisis. As was my habit when we were in the planning process, I picked up the Lonely Planet guide for our next country – Thailand – and began to leaf through the first few pages. The photo that caught my eye right away was of a baby elephant, happily wallowing in a mud puddle, surrounded by the sturdy, protective legs of the herd. “Elephant Nature Park,” the caption read, going on to describe this sanctuary for rescued Asian elephants near Chiang Mai where visitors could spend a week or more volunteering with the elephants.

Though I was instantly sold on the idea of spending some time at the Park, it was not until my husband and I were actually there, spending our mornings shoveling elephant poo and our afternoons feeding the elephants bunches of small bananas and halved green pumpkins, that I realized what I was doing. I was working with elephants. It wasn’t my career, and the elephants were not exactly dependent on me for survival (the park had people who were paid for that), but here I was, fulfilling some idea I had had of myself as a child.

I felt slightly giddy every time I placed a piece of fruit on an elephant’s outstretched trunk and felt it wrap around the food, gentle yet so strong, twisting as it maneuvered the food into its mouth. And I still remember the thrilling terror I felt when I learned just how strong those appendages could be, when an ornery elephant grabbed my arm with her trunk and began pulling me – helpless, perplexed, and exhilarated – towards her. Fortunately, she lost interest after a few seconds and released me, leaving an enormous slobbery mud blotch on my bicep.

Looking back, I now see that it was only because we were traveling for so long and so extensively that I was able to achieve one of my many, possibly silly, childhood dreams. There is a sense of satisfaction I get just from having taken the trip; knowing that I truly seized the day and pursued a huge dream. But also knowing that I was able to do something I never thought I would do, and realizing that there is a way to at least try out some of the things I always thought I might do, is an added bonus.

To be sure, there is still much left untried. I will never be a veterinarian, having realized I can’t handle blood of any kind, not even animal blood. I am almost six feet tall, so my chances of giving jockeying a try are pretty slim. But it is a huge relief that after the moment of panic in India, when I saw my world closing in, came clarity in Thailand, when my world suddenly opened wide again.

After leaving her job as an associate with a large law firm, Robin Devaux spent approximately eleven months traveling the world with her husband, Pierre. They visited five continents and 24 countries, sampling the local beer in each one (except for the United Arab Emirates, where they were forced to drink Budweiser). You can read about their adventures at www.travelingbones.com or meet them in person when they speak at Meet, Plan, Go! San Francisco on October 16.

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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