On-the-Road

We won't leave you stranded when you are on the road. You'll have a community of like-minded people to ease you through culture shock, how to stay in touch, and the realities of life on the road. Plus, you can share your stories and adventures with others providing inspiration for more Briefcase to Backpackers.

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Culture Shock | Life On-The-Road | Staying in Touch


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8 Secrets No One Tells You about Being an Expat
Thursday, September 25th, 2014

I have lived in the center of Amsterdam, in the rainforest of Puerto Rico,* and in my husband, David’s, hometown – a very small village outside of Barcelona. In total, I have lived (and worked) as an expat for over three years.

In these experiences, I learned plenty. One of the most profound observations was the shame I saw in expats when it comes to admittedly that, although living in a foreign land is one of life’s most worthwhile experiences, it has definite draw backs, which are rarely, if ever, discussed.

Here are the eight secrets I believe most expats would prefer not to tell you.

#1. Not all expats are awesome

A similarity between home and foreign lands? The people you meet on the road are exactly like the people you meet at home. Some you will click with, enjoy, trust and want to know better, and others will have you sprinting for the closest exit.

While the expat trail holds many wonderful people, there are others who didn’t quite fit in in their homeland and are attempting to give it a try elsewhere. Remember you do not need to participate in their social experiment.

#2. You will experience profound loneliness and feelings of complete incompetence

Every country has two versions: the citizen’s version and the traveler’s version.

The traveler’s version consists of people who speak your language, know how to deliver the comforts you expect, and are there to prevent interaction with uncomfortable situations citizens maneuver daily. Their patience is paid for (by you) and their livelihood is entirely dependent on your happiness – and as such they do their best to deliver it. (Yes, independent travelers, this applies to you, too.)

The citizen’s version consists of 100s of 1000s if not 100s of millions of people whose primary concern is – themselves.

What so many forget about living in another country is it is absolutely NOTHING like traveling in it. When living there, you are not just driving by, walking through, or snapping pictures of a foreign and beautiful place – you are attempting to navigate your life, your career, your personal relationships (most of which will be via a language you aren’t so fabulous at), your health, your finances, your Internet connection, your transport, and every aspect of your day to day life – in the deep catacombs of a culture you – no matter what you would like to tell yourself – don’t know anything about.

Combine this with leaving everyone and everything you know behind (and when I say everything – I mean – the way you buy toothpaste is about to drastically change and the WTF! moments increase substantially, and daily, from there).

All of this leads to countless feelings of incompetence, loneliness, and the ever present awareness of your outsider status. The consolation I can provide? Know that with time, it will pass (and when it does you will look back at what you accomplished and consider yourself the coolest person – you have ever known – ever).

#3. You will find your first real friend somewhere around the 12 – 18 month mark

Most expats decide to be so because they want to experience a completely different version of life. However, one of the lessons most learn is no matter where or how you live – some aspects of life just do not change – the process of finding good friends being an excellent example.

Yes, you will likely meet all kinds of interesting people, but for some reason I find that the true friends, the real ones, the friends that you will stay in touch with no matter where you are in the world, tend to show up around the 12 to 18 month mark. I am not sure why or how this is, perhaps it is because those who are most needy of friendships float to the surface first or because it takes time to figure out what you want and need, but know that it will take a while to find great friends, and committing to enjoying the process will make you that much happier when you find them.

#4. You are the punch line to a lot of jokes

My sister, David, and I were at a gas station outside of Denver shortly after arriving in the U.S. Although David does not have to pump petrol at the gas stations in Spain (they are all 100% full service), he jumped out of the car to pump ours.

But first, he had to decide how many gallons (he is accustomed to liters). Then, how to use a credit card (credit cards being something no one has in Spain) and lastly, what a zip code was. It involved a lot of trial and error with credit card insertions (at one point he tried cramming the Visa into where the receipt comes out), mad beeps, and transaction cancellations.

Inside the car, I was in uncontrollable and sobbing laughter, and my sister was repeatedly telling me I was being a jerk.
The moral of this story? The tiny differences are enormous differences, and what can you do about it? Expect a lot of laughs – in your direction.

#5.  Live in the biggest city you can

Small towns stay little, sweet, and charming for a reason – because people typically don’t move into them. On the flip side, people typically don’t move out of them either, and for the most part, nothing ever changes. That is why we love them. It is also why foreigners (and by foreigners I mean anyone from two cities over to eight countries away) do not fit too well within them.

I have written about the experiences of numerous expats with small town expat experiences and without fail the verdict is: “He who moves to a small town in a foreign land moves home quickly.” (This is from people who both spoke the local language prior to arriving and those who did not.)

Why?

Many people move to small towns because they want to experience the local culture.

The problem with this?

The local culture may very well not want to or know how to experience you.

My advice to expats? Start in a big city. There are a trillion (probably more) cultural norms which require adjustment, and no one gets an award for being the most culture shocked, the most overwhelmed, and the most uncomfortable.

Easing yourself into a country is the best way to guarantee you will stay in it. Utilize the “big city’s” expat groups, job possibilities, and general know how of working with foreigners to build your friend and professional base. Learn to speak the language, and if at the end of it all, a small town appeals to you, then by all means move to one! There are lots of small town success stories that used this approach.

#6. Find expat friends IMMEDIATELY

A friend who moved to Paris at the age of 18 told me that if I found expat friends, I would never learn the language. It was good advice for her, and I thought it was good advice for me.

Until after some months I learned this – learning a language, the culture, and customs of a new place are critical. Doing so at the expense of your sanity is just stupid. Friendships, especially those where you can have real conversations, are extremely important to the expat experience.

These expat friendships provide stability and normality to your not-at-all-normal life. They can also provide a much needed sense of “immersion empathy” which expats, and only expats, can give.

My advice? Find every friend, friend of a friend, and friend of a friend of a friend in and near where you live. Get over the discomfort of reaching out to them and set up time to go out for coffee, lunch, or dinner. Find Meet Ups, expat organizations, volunteer opportunities, and anything else you can come up with that gives you the opportunity to meet other expats. The 30 minutes of initial awkwardness is so worth the comfort, friendship, and love of your new country that will result from your efforts.

#7. Know the 2 for 10 or 10 for 2 rule

One difference between the U.S. and many other countries? In the U.S. you spend a few hours with a friend or two. In countries like Spain, you hang out with the entire high school graduating class for 10 hours a day – while, in my case at least, they were speaking Spanish and Catalan interchangeably.

I attempted this.

Consistently around hour eight (on the good days) I was melting down. After a few too many near emotional catastrophes, I implemented this rule: Two Friends for 10 hours or 10 Friends for Two Hours but never 10 (or 40) friends for 10 hours.

AND I highly suggest anyone who values their sanity do the same – starting the first day.

#8. You will have moments of desperately missing “normal” and home

 

And no matter what anyone tells you – that is ok.

*Puerto Rico is not another country (assuming you are American) but it is quite different from US mainland.

Bio: Linda Rubright is the founder of the delicious day. She has traveled throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, Central America, South America, the U.S., the Caribbean, and Canada. Linda sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with her dad in 2000 and has spent three years living as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean.

Read more about expat life:

Photo credits: Giedriusok, all other photos courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.

Adjusting to Life On a Budget
Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

The biggest misconception that people have about our travels is that we are vacationing, while in reality, we are traveling. It’s a lifestyle, not a break from life.

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By choosing to live this way, we’ve had to severely alter our routines. Before we started our career break journey, our vacations took us to glamorous cities in Europe, and during this week away from work and the routine, we would let ourselves indulge. We weren’t over the top and never spent more than we had, but pricey waterfront hotels, wallet-robbing rooftop cocktails, and exorbitant tickets to lookout points, boat rides, or whatever grabbed our fancy is how we vacationed.

The difference between vacation and long-term travel

The life of long-term travel is almost the exact opposite of that. It’s about researching, planning, and if we are going to have any chance of traveling long term, it’s about budgeting.

Our previous travels served as the perfect warm up in the researching and planning department, but we’ve never tried to keep a strict budget, and certainly not a detailed one. For our career break trip around the world, we’ve set our spending to an ambitious $100 per day…total…for both of us…combined.

This includes accommodations, food, drinks, local transportation, and any miscellaneous items that pop up. We count every dollar, peso, and franc that leaves our wallets and document the amount in a spreadsheet full of formulas. This, my friends, is a huge adjustment to our lifestyle.

Before we left, back when we still had an income, we spent money freely. We’ve never been drawn to materialistic things, but we’ve always been partial to the local, trendy restaurant and bar scene. Sure, we often hit happy hours and rarely went out during the work week, but when we did go out, we seldom factored in cost.

We were frugal in so many other areas of spending – I clipped coupons and drove a used Honda – that ending up with a hundred dollar Sunday Session bill was taken with a shrug of the shoulders and a shake of the head (How did we manage to do that again?!). We didn’t bat an eye at $30 weekday sushi lunches or the daily habit of an overpriced cup of Joe; it was simply our lifestyle. If we went back and calculated our spending before we left, even with our inexpensive apartment, the fact that we rarely went shopping and didn’t carry any outstanding balances on cars or credit cards, we would have, on average, still spent more than $100 per day.

Unfamiliar Territory

Only three months into our journey (and relying solely on our savings), we’ve had to completely shift gears, which has put us into unfamiliar territory. Adjusting to our new budget has us kicking old habits.

We can’t just swing into a seaside café and blindly order a bottle of wine. Now we look at the menu before we decide whether or not we can even afford to sit down. Actually, eating a meal in a restaurant has become practically non-existent. The few meals that we have had – less than 10 in the three months since we’ve been gone – were planned adventures in experiencing life as a local, and still, by most terms, budget options.

It isn’t just the dining experiences (or current lack thereof) that have been an adjustment; all frivolous spending has come to a halt, and we never spend on a whim. Before we even step foot in the grocery store we plan out each meal, make a complete list, and only buy what is necessary (chocolate is always necessary).

Recycling has taken on a whole new meaning as we refill our one bottle with tap water (we have a Steripen if water quality is in question). And if there is something we want to do or see, we calculate how the cost would impact our daily budget, research cheaper alternatives that would satisfy the same desire, and then modify our spending in other areas to weigh it out.

Assessing priorities

The most challenging part of this balancing act is ensuring that we are not sacrificing the experience for the budget; the journey is not a journey if we don’t allow ourselves to live it.

But the reality is that the two go hand-in-hand: Breaking the bank would force us to end our journey and get real jobs again (gasp!). Since the latter is pretty much a non-option for us at this point, we are focusing on getting more creative, and up to this point, we haven’t felt like we’ve missed out on anything. Rather, by altering our lifestyle and adhering to a budget, we’ve actually opened our eyes to new possibilities.

  • In Buenos Aires, watching tango is a must. The least expensive show option of $30 (although it did include a couple drinks) didn’t jive with our budget, so instead, we opted to watch couples dance in a square in San Telmo for free. 
  • We couldn’t pass on the balcony views from Icebergs Bar in Bondi Beach, but with a small draught beer costing nearly $10, we limited ourselves to just one…and sipped slowly. 
  • In Chile, I desperately wanted to take a winery tour, but the pricey tour packages would have thrown our budget for a loop. With a little research, we found an affordable option: A lesser-known (and much to our liking, less touristy) winery with small but beautiful grounds gave tours at a fraction of the price, and the local bus dropped us off at the front gate. 
  • And while it would have been impressive to walk across the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the cost of this one activity alone would have eaten up a fifth of our total monthly budget, and besides, the stellar views from the pylon didn’t require climbing gear.

So while the adjustments were at first difficult, often uncomfortable and occasionally argument-inducing, in most cases we are finding an upside to our new found frugality.

  • We eat healthier, waste less food, and litter the earth with fewer water bottles. 
  • When we do decide to splurge and take a seat at a café, it isn’t just another drink in another café in a string of many that is likely to be forgotten; it’s more memorable. 
  • In years to come, when we look back on our travels, I highly doubt we’ll be commiserating over the fact that we skipped a ride to the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland or passed on the overpriced you-might-see-one whale watching tour in Moorea.

Because what we have done, what we will see, and what we are experiencing is worth keeping the budget in check…and us on our journey.

Simply put, we love to travel! Kris’s position at a major airline allowed him to travel all over the world (for free!), and Sarah’s first trip to Europe in 2000 awakened her travel taste buds. Jet-setting has been part of our relationship since we first started dating in 2004 – traveling extensively in America and throughout Europe. In April 2014 we decided to put our careers on hold, sell everything we owned, and travel full time. We are documenting our journey at Jet Setting Fools, and you can find us on social media: TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Read more about budgeting for your career break trip:

Photo credits: All photos courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.

10 Tips for Staying Fit During Long-Term Travel
Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Are you planning a long-term trip and wondering how you’ll stay fit? Or maybe you’re already on the road and looking for a few new tips? 

I hate to break it to you, but it’s more challenging to stay fit while traveling than when you’re locked into a routine at home.

Just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

After 6 months on the road, here are my top 10 tips to staying fit while traveling.

1) Breakfast is for champions

You never skip breakfast right? Okay, good. It’s crucial to refuel your body with nutritious foods when you wake up. Don’t give your starving body junk food! It doesn’t like sugar, simple carbs, and bad fats. It’s easy to succumb to the “unhealthy convenient breakfast,” but you’re body will thank you if you put out a little effort in the morning.

Avoid: donuts, pastries, pancakes, cornflakes, sugar-filled fruit juice

Eat: Fresh fruit, muesli, sugar free yogurt, eggs, whole grains, fresh fruit juice

*For a well-balanced breakfast that’s easily available on the tourist trail (aka banana pancake trail) try “fruit muesli curd and honey” + two hard boiled eggs. Add a large glass of water and a cup of tea or coffee, and you’re good to go.

2) Practice seated meditation

If you already have a meditation practice, this should be a no brainer while traveling. If you haven’t tried before, don’t be intimidated. Meditation is not some weird new-age thing that only monks do in caves.

Simply sit comfortable with your eyes closed while focusing on your breath. Start with 5 mins each day. After one week, increase it to 6mins, then 7mins, with a goal of comfortably sitting for 15-20mins per day.

It can be hard to stay disciplined – I recommend committing to a 30-day challenge of daily meditation. Find an accountability partner, and try something new. You can do anything for 30 days! And if you hate it, you can stop knowing you gave it a fair shot. If you do see value – it may change your life. 

Typical results: Better sleep, less easily agitated, a general sense of well being, more control over emotions.

3) Limit your caffeine consumption

Caffeine is very accepted in western culture. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

When I was working my corporate sales job, I was a slave to caffeine. I used to down several large cups of coffee every day. I thought it helped me. After noticing some of the side affects (trouble sleeping, tension in back, unable to focus without caffeine) I decided to quit coffee cold turkey. While I did reintroduce tea into my diet, I haven’t had a cup of coffee in 7 months. I’ve been sleeping better, my concentration and creativity increased, and my mornings are enjoyable 

If you don’t want to completely cut caffeine, go for green or black tea.

4) Drink tons of water…

Especially right when you wake up. Aim for 1 liter within the first hour of being awake. This will help you wake up, jumpstart your metabolism, and assist with healthy bowel movements.

Drinking 4 liters of water per day is a reasonable goal. Aim for more if you’re in a hot climate, are really active, or you enjoy alcohol regularly.

Protip: Buy lemons from the local market and squeeze them into your water. I recommend 1-2 small lemons per day, best with warm water in the morning. Warm lemon water helps with digestion; it’s good for your skin and alkalizes your body.

5) Keep your workouts interesting!

Think swim one day, jog the next, yoga after that, and then a day of “weight training.” By changing up your exercises you can (hopefully) avoid getting burned out.

Protip: try online yoga videos. There are tons of free options available that cater to all skill levels. It’s a full body workout that supplements other forms of fitness. Here are few choices of yoga mats for travel.

6) Carry peanut butter for a healthy dessert!

Peanut butter is a perfect substitute for that chocolate banana pancake. It goes great on apples or eaten with a spoon (or finger) straight out of the jar. Just try to limit your PB to 2 tablespoons per day.

7) Read more books

I’m not talking about the news, reddit, professional journals related to your former career, or buzzfeed articles. I’m talking about FICTION. Good old-fashioned novels. Books that inspire you and challenge you to think differently. Besides, your career break is a perfect time to catch up on some of those books you’ve talked about reading.

8) Weight training doesn’t require a weight room

At home I enjoy spending a few hours each week lifting weights. Long-term travelers don’t have access to this convenience. Instead create a routine with what you have.

Plan on using your main backpack as the weight (resistance bands work too). You can wear your backpack for pushups, squats, etc. Or you can grip the top handle like a dumbbell for curls and shoulder raises. When you need to change the weight of your backpack, just increase or decrease the stuff inside. For added weight, fill your bag with 2L water bottles.

Here are some of my favorite “weight training” exercises:

  • Upper Body: wide-grip pushups, narrow-grip pushups, incline/decline pushups, triceps extensions, skull crushers (use your bed as the bench), lateral raises, shoulder raises, curls.
  • Lower Body: Single-leg squats, squats, lunges, calf raises,
  • Core: Planks, bicycle kicks, leg raises, crunches

9) Get enough sleep

This one is obvious, but for some reason we deprive ourselves all the time. Forget what they say, listen to your body. For me, I need 8 hours of solid sleep to function optimally. Maintain a regular bedtime whenever possible – our bodies like routine. James Clear summarized the science behind sleep – great read.

Protips: To maximize your sleep time… drink less alcohol, don’t eat before bed, no tv/computer before bed – turn the brightness down on screen if you MUST work late, exercise daily but NOT before bed.

10) Avoid convenience store snack benders

These little general stores carry very few things of nutritional value. Avoid buying chips/crisps or little manufactured sweets. As tempting and convenient as they are, they are made by replacing nutrients with nasty little additives and unwanted processed sugar. As a bonus you will save tons of money avoiding the convenience store snacks as they often cost the same as a local meal!

Protrip: substitute fresh fruit and vegetables from the market. Most places around the world sell cheap local fruit. If you’re looking for some good portable vegetables try cucumbers and carrots.

Your turn – what is your best tip to stay fit while traveling?

PS: If you’re looking for more tips, I asked 16 full-time travelers how to stay healthy on the road. Bonus: Sherry Ott from Meet, Plan, Go is on the list!

Brandon’s BIO: Former corporate sales rep turned nomadic entrepreneurial yogi. Street food ninja, avid outdoorsman, craft beer geek, and live music junkie. Co-founder of The Yoga Nomads – providing you the pulse on the international yoga scene. Come say hello on Facebook or Instragram!

Renting a Campervan on a Backpacker’s Budget
Monday, July 7th, 2014

As a world-traveling backpacker, I’m always on the lookout for best value, whether for quality cheap eats, comfortable budget accommodation, or transportation tips. Because I know the more money I save here and there adds up to more time—translating to a longer career break! 

Finding the best value; however, isn’t only about saving money, it’s also about creating more authentic and interesting adventures. Typically, the most obvious, convenient options result in more crowds, more cost, and an overall less personal experience. For example, would you rather sit down at an international restaurant in town center and order an overpriced burger and fries, or walk down an alley and join locals for a plate of traditional fare and spend one fourth the price? You might regret having that extra chilli, but at least it made for a good story, a lesson learned, and cleaned out the sinuses!

Learning the ins-and-outs of a new place can be time-consuming and challenging—and not without surprises—but in the end, rolling up my sleeves and diving in has been far more fun and rewarding. 

Camper van relocation?

While I discover many great finds through trial and error, I also love gathering recommendations from fellow travelers. One such travel tip came from a friend living in Melbourne and led to the highlight of my two and a half months in Australia, not to mention my most memorable Christmas to date: Camper van relocation in Tasmania.

I had heard from several Aussies that Tasmania, similar to New Zealand, is best explored by camper van (or rental car plus camping equipment). I initially shrugged at this idea. As a solo female traveler, I wasn’t keen to tent camp and knew from prior research that camper van rentals in this part of the world can cause serious cash hemorrhages. So the less-than-ideal compromise was to rent a small car and overnight in hostels, but I knew this option would restrict me from staying in remote wilderness areas.

Naturally, when my friend mentioned relocating a camper van for $1 a day my ears perked up like satellite dishes. Could this be true? I had never heard of such a deal! She had heard of a website providing a list of available routes in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA: www.imoova.com.

Sure enough, on the homepage was an advert for relocations, “one way, from $1 a day.”

I honed in on a route over the Christmas holidays: “Dec 24 – Dec 27, Melbourne to Hobart, $5 / day, $350 towards fuel and ferry crossing.” I couldn’t pick up the phone fast enough. By the end of the conversation, I had deposited and confirmed my reservation.

Merry Christmas to me!

At the Melbourne rental office, I was required to watch an instructional video on vehicle operation and features as well as review and sign a stack of paperwork. I’ll admit to my growing apprehension while signing the contract. Somehow, I had to get myself to the opposite end of town to board the Spirit of Tasmania with the following in mind: I had never driven a proper fully-equipped camper van, I was not accustomed to left-hand manually shifting, and it had been nine months since I had driven on the left! Luckily, I had given myself the entire afternoon for pick-up and orientation. Once all questions had been answered and documents reviewed, I had a good idea of what I had signed up for.

Amelia compiled a detailed cost comparison of doing a camper van relocation vs. a normal camper van rental that we’ll be posting on Thursday. Be sure to check back!

My experience

Before heading to the port, I completed several laps around the parking lot to get my bearings, then hit the grocery store to stock my new kitchen. Crossing the city at rush hour caused a few grey hairs, but once safely at the ferry terminal, I smiled at a setting sun and turned up my reggae tunes.

After a nine-hour ferry crossing and nearly no sleep, I stepped out on deck to the soft morning glow of Devonport, Tasmania and felt a sudden rush of adrenaline. It was 6am on Christmas Day. The entire town was still asleep except for the odd early-morning jogger and dog walker. I found a nice park overlooking the sea to enjoy my first camper van breakfast of instant oats, fruit and tea.

Normally, Christmas mornings consist of gift exchanges, mimosas, and my mom’s famous egg casserole, yet here I was sitting in a little house on wheels some 8,000 miles away on a former island penal colony! But, by design, this was no ordinary Christmas. I had intentionally scheduled my trip over the holidays to experience something different, and I couldn’t wait to see what Tasmania had in store for me.

I had nearly four days and three nights ahead of me and knew only where I’d spend my first overnight—Cradle Mountain National Park. The drive from Devonport to Cradle Mountain’s caravan park is about 80 km, but given my vehicle size and Tasmania’s winding roadways on top of getting lost a couple times, I arrived in about three and a half hours. The passing landscapes of cattle and sheep paddocks, poppies and trees were a refreshing change from Melbourne’s concrete and urban bustle. As I made my way towards the mountains, I couldn’t get over the fact that it was just me, my camper van and the open Tassie road. And literally “open road” since most locals were at home celebrating with family and friends.

In front of the caravan park office, I found an envelop with my name on it, inside containing a map and instructions. A modest gravel road led me deeper into the forest, passing secluded camp sites, curious wallabies and finally to site #9. Home sweet home. I clipped the tag from the envelop to my camp post as instructed and prepared for an afternoon hike. My camper van and I were like new best mates by now. I was equally as excited for an epic Christmas hike as I was about preparing a Malaysian curry dinner and glass of Australian Shiraz with my van.

As one of Tasmania’s iconic wilderness areas, Cradle Mountain National Park woos and enchants its visitors, myself being no exception. After bushwalking through stretches of unmaintained trail, the path opened up to golden blankets of button grass, craggy eucalyptus trees, and feeding wombats and wallabies. Dirt gave way to a wooden boardwalk that seemed like my own yellow-brick road. The air was fresh and slightly cooled by a gentle breeze. A trail runner passed me at one point, but other than her, I was alone in the woods—happily. And, it was blissfully quiet. I listened to the sound of my footsteps on the boardwalk and then of a wombat feasting on button grass. Leaving him to enjoy his dinner, I skipped down the wooden planks for several meters humming whatever melody came to mind. Back in the van, I covered the table with my Thai sarong, set my iPhone music to shuffle, poured a glass of wine, and started in on chopping veggies. A curry a never tasted so good.

A couple days later, once mobile reception and the time difference matched up, I phoned my parents back home to wish them a Merry belated Christmas from Freycinet National Park. They had just returned from visiting family in Canada and were exhausted from driving through heavy rains on I-5, our 12-lane interstate. I had just finished a hike to Wineglass Bay and a refreshing dip in Honeymoon Bay.

As I described my Tasmania adventures, I laid reclined on flat granite rocks with my toes dangling in aqua-blue waters. My day had included: breakfast tarts at the bakery in Ross (population approx. 270), rocking out to my music playlist in the van, road-side cheese tasting, an invigorating hike, and an afternoon swim. I now felt comfortable driving the van, plugging into an electrical supply, filling up the water tank, shifting with my left hand, and securing the inside doors and cabinets before driving (as to not have pots and groceries flying about). I felt so at ease in my little home, and I was falling in love with the beauty and energy of Tasmania. Knowing I had only one more night of camper van life was a sad realisation. I could have traveled around Tasmania like this for another month.

Post camper van trip, I stayed in Hobart for four days—just in time for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race—and had a ball exploring the area and meeting new friends.

In the end, there were no fender-benders and no roll-overs. I arrived an hour early to Hobart and was credited the $1,000 bond. Phew!

After comparing what I could have paid as a normal renter, I calculated a savings of $1,266.82 AUD. In a sense, I suppose, it’s unfair to call this a savings, because the regular cost of $1,767.09 AUD is frankly not within a backpacker’s budget.

However, I most definitely would pay $500.27 AUD again for this experience, and I would highly recommend it to other adventurous travellers.

Amelia Tockston has maintained a longterm love affair with travel. Since beginning her career break in January 2013, she has explored New Zealand’s north and south islands, eastern Australia, Chukotka Russia, Mexico City, Singapore, Palau in the South Pacific, Indonesia, and hopes to reach Nepal and India this coming fall. Prior to taking her career break, she worked for an expedition travel company for nearly eleven years directing the Marketing department. Amelia feels the most alive and present when traveling and has an eye to appreciate the boundless wonders that Mother Nature offers. She’s also realized, particularly while on sabbatical, that the people she’s encountered and their stories are equally as inspiring as the destinations discovered.

 

A Career Break One Second At a Time
Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Have you ever wondered what’s it really like to be traveling for a year? If you’ve only ever taken a 1 to 2 week vacation up to this point, but you desperately want to take a career break and do longer term travel, it can be hard to imagine.

Imagine no longer!

Career Breakers and Meet Plan Go attendees, Dave and Noelle, took off on a year long career break shortly after they got married.

“As a couple in our late twenties/early thirties, we made the decision to take the ‘now’ route of ‘now or never,’ and we haven’t looked back since!” –Noelle

Over the course of 12 months they visited 26 countries on 6 continents. Like many, they blogged about their experience at Best Kind of Lost, where you can read about their year long adventures.

However, they also went a step further and set out to capture their career break in 1 second video snippets using an app called 1 Second Every Day. It’s a super depiction of what a year of travel is really like – the exciting and the mundane.

Want to do this yourself? Then check out the apps.

Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis

Using Airbnb On a Career Break
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

When I took my first career break to New Zealand in 2003, a frayed Let’s Go, a pre-paid phone card, and word-of-mouth recommendations were my go-to resources for finding and booking budget accommodations on the road.

Oh, how the world has changed

Ten years later, my iPhone and the Airbnb app were my digital lifelines as I hopscotched around South America. During three months of travel in Brazil and Argentina between August-November 2013, roughly half of my nights were spent sleeping in Airbnb-booked apartments, homes, and even boats (yes boats!).

If you’re not already familiar with Airbnb, it’s Web-based service that makes it possible for travelers to rent out accommodations in the homes of everyday people, all around the world.

As a college student and even into my 30s, I was game to be scrappy and stay in 20-person-deep hostel dorm rooms. Those days are over. As a 40-something solo female traveler, I now value safety, quiet, a room of my own, and a delicious breakfast. I’m also more interested in meeting locals than consorting with other travelers. Airbnb helped me find all of these things in a one-stop shop.

Tips for using Airbnb

Getting up to speed with using Airbnb took some trial and error. As I navigated my way through the innards of researching and booking Airbnb accommodations, I adopted some hard-won strategies. Here’s my five cents:

All those satisfied customers can’t be wrong – Airbnb listings include the number and quality of reviews for each property. Pay attention. If dozens of people are saying “Run, don’t walk, and book this mountain yurt pronto. Avail yourself of host Yuri’s home-cooked breakfast sourced with eggs from his backyard hen house,” then do not delay.

I placed a premium on choosing places that many, many other travelers had liked. I learned this lesson after a few mediocre stays that were newer to the Airbnb marketplace. I encountered other travelers who’d adopted the opposite strategy. They were like Airbnb versions of urban pioneers who sought out listings with little to no reviews. They used this as a leveraging point for negotiating the listings rate which brings me to my second tip…

Yes, you can negotiate – If you see a place that’s out of your budgetary reach, consider inquiring with the host about a discount. It didn’t occur to me to do this until I actually met an Airbnb host who’d negotiated a steep discount on a newly-listed Airbnb apartment in Rio with a rooftop pool. The Rio host was more than amenable to reducing his rate and making what’s called a “special offer” in Airbnb parlance, so that he could attract more guests and slowly build a cache of positive reviews.

As my own travels progressed (and my travel budget slunk lower), I negotiated discounts with hosts on occasion. If you’re planning to stay in a particular Airbnb location for a week or longer (and the host hasn’t posted a weekly or monthly rate on the listings page), definitely inquire about a reduced rate for your longer-term stay.  

Airbnb reviews - It’s not like Amazon – Reviews are at the core of Airbnb. As a guest, you have the opportunity to pen a review during the 30 day window after you check out. Likewise, hosts can review you as a guest in this same window. So if you track in a pile of beach sand or dye your hair in the kitchen sink, you might see something about that in the host’s review of you.

My prior experience with reviews had been of the unidirectional Amazon variety where customers essentially have a platform to voice their love or loathing of particular product. It took me a little while to get accustomed to this dual review system. Also remember that you’re not just reviewing bricks and mortar. Your Airbnb review should be as much about the host (friendly, responsive, invited me out for dinner, showed me the best place to go tango dancing) as about the qualities of the room or apartment (quiet, comfortable bed, gorgeous views).

Look for experience-based accommodations – As my travels progressed, I sought out Airbnb listings that were a portal into unique adventures, above and beyond a place to sleep. In Paraty, Brazil, I spent two nights on a sailing yacht owned by a retired French expatriate (pictured above). This is the kind of experience that would have been cost prohibitive if I’d tried to arrange it independently. But thanks to Airbnb, it was accessible to me as a backpacker traveler. Moral of the story: as you check out different listings, consider the kinds of one-of-a-kind experiences they can offer.

More than a bed – Don’t just treat Airbnb as a bed and a roof over your head. When you stay with an Airbnb host (as opposed to renting your own private place through the service), a cross-cultural homestay experience is built into the DNA of the booking. If your host invites you to check out a local play or go to a music festival, do it! One of my hosts invited me to her capoeira (Brazilian martial arts) practice. That same day, we bought fish at a local market and made a delicious lunch (see picture at top of my Airbnb hosts). You can’t put a price tag on those encounters. It’s why I travel.

Nancy Rosenbaum is a ‘connector of people, stories, and ideas’ and a burgeoning a career break evangelist. In 2013, she decided to take a three month career break to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay where she pursued three of her great passions – dance, food, and talking to strangers. Prior to her career break, Nancy produced interviews and features at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul, Minnesota. Nancy’s blog, “This Meantime Place” chronicles stories about career and life transition and those periods in life when we’re figuring things out and don’t necessarily have ‘a plan.’ 

To read more about accommodation options during your travels, check out the following:

Whistle While You Work: Ways to Earn Money While Traveling
Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

You might be thinking of taking a career break, but going traveling doesn’t always mean you have to give up on the idea of work altogether. Often a great way to meet people, dip your toes into new career opportunities, and of course, fund your trip, there are many reasons to consider working while you are abroad.

Whether you’re off to explore Europe, Africa or Asia, consider the following options for working on the road:

A Teaching Job

A lot of people assume that to be able to teach abroad, you need to have teaching experience at home. However, this is a myth! Thanks to an ever increasing demand for English speakers abroad, you can learn to teach English with a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course. No previous experience is required: anyone who is a native English speaker can do it. In addition to being quite fulfilling, a teaching job while traveling could even lead to a new path in life. More importantly, it can be something you can pick up wherever you are!

TeacherHit.com focuses solely on teaching English in Europe. Though the most well-known opportunities seem to be in Asia, Europe is also a great spot for teachers.

A Social Job

If you’re more of a social butterfly, or are more interested in using traveling as a way of meeting new people, try finding a job tending bar or waiting tables. Although this type of job might mean becoming a bit of a night owl, it can free up your days for exploring the surrounding area. The great thing about bar or restaurant work is that it’s fairly easy to pick up and is always in demand – all you’ll need is enthusiasm, basic math and a friendly manner!

An Outdoor Job

If you’d prefer to earn money while enjoying some fresh air and exercise, there are plenty of opportunities for labor work abroad. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything too challenging; agricultural jobs can range from fruit picking, to peeling or even just packing. With farm owners constantly requiring people to help out, this type of job can even be quite lucrative. What better way to enjoy life in the great outdoors?

If you’re thinking of ways to make your money go further while abroad, another good tip is to look for discounted flights or accommodation; with a quick search you can easily find free vouchers for Hotels.com or other travel companies. Alternatively, looking for a job overseas needn’t mean you have to sacrifice time spent enjoying yourself – in fact, it could end up enhancing your travel experience!

This has been a guest post by Nikki Gilliland.

Taking a Break From Your Career Break
Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Many of us leave our jobs to go travel the world thinking it will be the best thing ever. What could be better than not having to go into work every day AND having the freedom to experience foreign countries? I was one of those people too. I wanted to take a round the world trip for so long, and when I finally found a way to make it happen, I couldn’t have been more excited (ok, maybe a little nervous too).

My situation was a little different in that I quit my job in Atlanta in order to move to Germany after getting married. I decided this was the perfect time for my career break trip, even though my new husband Andy couldn’t come with me. I planned out a five month itinerary, used miles for a round the world ticket, and hit the road a few months after moving to Germany. Andy even booked a flight to travel with me through New Zealand for two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s.

I stayed in touch with friends and family back in the United States, and I Skyped with Andy as often as possible. I missed him, but that was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was to be so overwhelmed after a month in Southeast Asia by homesickness that I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Andy and I had spent the entire first year of our relationship long distance, why was this so much harder? I had dreamed of this adventure for years, why wasn’t I enjoying it more? I tried to brush it off as just your average culture shock, but after a couple weeks, I knew this dark cloud wasn’t leaving me anytime soon.

Finally, I decided the best thing I could do was take a break and go home to Germany to see Andy. It was a hard decision, and even though I knew I’d be back on the road two weeks later, I felt like I was giving up on my dream trip. But I also knew that I was missing sights and experiences due to my homesickness, and trying to keep going when I was feeling that way wasn’t fulfilling my dream either. So I booked a ticket to Germany and spent two weeks mentally patching myself together.

I spent three more months traveling after that break. My husband joined me for two weeks in New Zealand as planned, and I still missed him when I was on my own again. But I felt refreshed and better able to handle the rest of my round the world trip. My expectations were more realistic, and I was having fun again. Taking a break from my trip was the best decision I could’ve made.

Most round the world travelers don’t plan on going home until it’s all over, and sometimes that works just fine. But I learned that my travel dreams didn’t look the way I hoped they would, and that it’s hard to be away from those who are most important to me. And that it’s ok to feel that way. Maybe being with your family for the holidays is something you want to go home for, or maybe your sister is having a baby while you’re gone. Maybe you just need a little down time with your friends. Flying back home for a week or two doesn’t mean you’re giving up or doing it wrong.

It might just be the thing you need to keep going and enjoy your career break even more.

Ali Garland is an American expat living in Germany. Her travel addiction led her to visit all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She recently returned from a round the world trip and is now fumbling her way through life in Germany. She is currently searching for the perfect salsa recipe. Ali writes at Ali’s Adventures, and you can follow her on Twitter, @aliadventures7. She also just launched a new travel-related website, Travel Made Simple.

Experiencing Culture Shock on Your Career Break
Monday, September 23rd, 2013

The first step is admitting you have a problem. That famous first step isn’t typically related to career breaks and long-term travel. But it is important for you to realize that you will experience culture shock at some point during your career break. It could be day one, it could be day ten, it could be day one hundred thirty seven. But at some point, you will be overwhelmed by your surroundings.

The key is preparing and dealing with it in a positive manner to get over it as quickly as possible and get on with your travels. You may go through different stages during your career break, and you never know when culture shock will strike. It might not necessarily happen right at the very beginning of your trip either, so it’s important to be prepared and know what to do when it happens.

Prepare Yourself Before You Go

There are several things you can do to help prepare yourself for culture shock before leaving. You already know that some things are going to be very different. In some places, everything will seem completely upside down, and you’ll feel like you’ve entered the bizarro world (India, anyone?). While you’ll never be able to replicate what’s going to happen on the road, there are certain things you can do to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

Learn some of the local language

Wherever you go first, it’s probably a good idea to learn some of the local language. If you start in Latin America, realize that English is still spoken quite a bit, but for the most part, you’re going to need some Spanish to get around. Taking a Spanish class before you leave will help tremendously in your adjustment upon arrival, and there are plenty of places to do it.

  • There are free online resources, including an awesome page on BBC’s site that offers free online courses in several languages.
  • Lenguajero is also a free language learning community where people meet to practice conversational Spanish and English.
  • Community colleges often offer pretty cheap travel related language classes.
  • Check out “lessons and tutoring” under “services offered” on Craig’s List – sometimes you can work out a language exchange with a tutor where you’ll meet with someone and help each other out.
  • At the very least, learning key phrases – hello, good bye, thank you, you’re welcome, how much does it cost, where is the bathroom, etc. – is always a good idea. You’d be amazed at the response you get from locals when you at least try to use their language.


Be brave in what you eat

Part of traveling is trying new, interesting, and sometimes really unique food. If you’re a picky eater, it’s time to change your habits. You will have to be open to new things, especially if you don’t want to spend 2-3 times more on food than you have to. Eating in western restaurants are usually much more expensive than eating locally.

Before you leave for your trip, you can start training yourself by going to new restaurants. Eat ethnic food you’ve never eaten before. Order something off the menu that you don’t recognize, and don’t ask the server what it is (the point and smile method of ordering is commonplace for many travelers in different areas of the world). Start getting in the habit of not really knowing what’s going to come out of the kitchen on your plate. It’s sometimes a scary yet exciting thing, and it’s going to be the norm when you’re out on your career break.

Read and research your destination as much as possible

You would think this is a common sense tip, but you’d be amazed at the amount of people who don’t read up on the culture and everyday life of the place they are visiting. You know those beginning parts of a guidebook that talk about the history, customs, and culture of a country or city? Read those! Knowing about the people, the customs, and what they’ve gone through is a huge part of trying to understand their culture. Understanding that putting your feet up in an Asian country can be highly offensive is a very important thing to know. In fact, voicing anything negative about the King in Thailand could land you in jail!

Reading about common scams and tips for not being taken advantage of is also a great idea. Anyone going to Bangkok should already know before touching down that tuk-tuk drivers are notorious scammers. When you want to go to one of the famous sites, the Grand Palace, chances are they will tell you it’s closed today, and they’ll instead take you on a ride (literally) all around Bangkok, seeing some temples but also to their buddies’ jewelry shops, rug shops, and any other shop a friend might own. The scam is mentioned in nearly everything written about Bangkok, yet unsuspecting travelers fall for it every single day. This would never happen if people just read up on a country before visiting.

Talk to people who have been there

It’s never been easier to obtain first-hand information about a place than it is today. With social media sites and blogs, getting instant feedback is the norm. Bloggers in particular are very forthright when it comes to helping people out and answering questions about a place. So if you’re reading a particular post about a country you’re going to and you have some questions, contact that person and ask. Chances are he or she would love to talk with you about your upcoming trip and answer any questions you may have. Getting the lay of the land before leaving, and knowing what to expect in certain situations will help keep you comfortable and will help tremendously so you don’t feel too out of place. And what better way to get that information than from someone who is there now?

What to Do On the Road to Combat Culture Shock

If you decide to uproot your life by taking a career break to travel the world, you will be going through a roller coaster of emotions upon your departure. Nervousness, fear, excitement, elation – all those emotions will be coursing through your body when you get on that first flight. Upon touching down, everything may be a bit overwhelming, crazy, and new, but chances are you will be so amped up and excited that the culture shock may not hit immediately.

This honeymoon period may last a few weeks, a month, or even more. Everything will be new, everything will be exciting, everything will be the best ever. When you have those feelings, even though you may be overwhelmed at times, that excitement and joy seems to overtake any culture shock you may feel. After a while on the road, though, those things that at first excited you may start to annoy you. That tuk-tuk driver who hassles you every morning when leaving your hostel is suddenly aggravating instead of funny. The fact that you can’t communicate starts to become a burden. The lack of a routine starts to get tiresome instead of fun and exhilarating. When these feelings start to pop up, it means the honeymoon is over. Time to readjust.

Learn the language

If you ignored the advice given in the pre-trip section, chances are you will change your tune once on the road. After a while, not being able to communicate becomes difficult and tiresome. Only being able to talk to other travelers or your traveling partner is annoying after a while, and not being able to ask simple questions becomes really difficult. In most countries, though, there are plenty of opportunities to learn the local language. Language schools about in many places, and full immersion classes are usually the way to go. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn in just a few weeks of language classes, and how much of a difference in will make.

If language classes don’t fit into your schedule, you should at least bring a phrase book with you, or check out the various language phrase apps by World Nomads.

Travel slowly

Traveling slowly is something you should do to avoid travel burnout and burning through your money quickly. The longer you stay in a particular place, the more you learn about the culture and customs, and the more comfortable you’ll feel there. Really getting to know a place is just as valuable (if not more) than ticking sites off your list. By traveling slowly, it’s a lot easier to deal with the differences in cultures and not suffer from culture shock. Moving often and quickly not only throws you into different cultural situations all the time, but it starts to become stressful. Constantly packing and unpacking, having to catch an early bus or train, traveling overnight – it all becomes tiresome after a while, and the more tired you are, the more prone to culture shock and burnout you become.

Know when to say “No!” and when to say “Yes!”

Part of travel, particularly in developing countries, is dealing with touts and people constantly asking you for things. At first, this can be cute and funny. After a while, it just becomes annoying. You don’t necessarily want to become jaded towards local people and always be stand-offish, but it’s important to find a balance between talking to everyone and shrugging everyone off. After a while, you start to develop a sixth sense for recognizing the touts who are only going to hassle you. Don’t be afraid to firmly say “No!” and keep going. Walk with an air of confidence, like you live there and know what’s going on. On the flip side, there are so many warm and inviting people you’ll meet while traveling, so it’s important not to dismiss everyone. You may miss out on an incredible opportunity by automatically thinking someone wants something from you. Trust your instincts.

Develop a slight routine

One of the main reasons people decide to take a career break is to get out of daily routines. Getting up and constantly doing the same things every day gets boring. So why would we suggest developing a routine on the road? We are creatures of habit, and after traveling for a few months, we start to get anxious without having any kind of routine. The “What do you want to do?” question and answer sessions if you’re traveling with someone else get infuriating after a while. You don’t have to do the same things every day, but just doing something simple, like getting up for a run or long walk each morning before breakfast can make all the difference in the world. Consider hunkering down in one city for a month or so, rent an apartment, unpack your bags, and live a somewhat normal life for a bit. This is a great way to really immerse yourself in a culture (and a perfect time to take some language classes), and the routine you develop, if only for a month, will re-energize you for what’s to come.

Never underestimate the importance of a big, hearty smile. Not only does it make you feel better, but it makes those around you get the warm and fuzzies. If you really aren’t clicking with a particular place or its people, offer up a warm smile the next time you encounter a local and chances are you’ll get one right back. A nice smile can really make you feel great, and when you’re feeling down and overwhelmed, it really can make a difference.

It’s important to know that you will experience culture shock and travel burnout at some point along the journey that is your career break. Even if you follow all these tips, it’s still going to happen. Whenever you take someone out of his or her comfort zones, no matter how much preparation that person has done, it’s inevitable he or she will feel overwhelmed at some point. You simply can’t prepare for every situation. What’s important is recognizing those feelings quickly and doing something about it.


Struggles On the Road

JoAnna Haugen shares how those “A-ha Moments” you experience on the road help you deal with the daily struggles you may be facing.

 

Photo credits: Shane Global Language Centres,

On the Road: Lessons in Long-Term Travel
Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

A Career Break is not necessarily a vacation

Extended travel is not a vacation. Some people think of long-term travel as an escape from everyday reality or a pleasant jaunt into a world of leisure and relaxation. These people know nothing. Long-term travel is hard work; the planning, budgeting and personal fortitude required for such an adventure is not for the faint of heart or the weak of will.

Yes, the many online travel agents and right-on 2014 holiday companies can offer everything from cabanas on beaches to mountain view ski chalets, but long-term travel typically means working with a strict budget and indulging some underlying desire to search inside oneself. The lessons learned on the road are practical, profound, sometimes surprising and assuredly not the stuff of package holiday getaways.

One of the most important lessons learned on the road is logistical in nature – a heavy bag is a serious hindrance. Many travel tips will include this helpful tidbit but until you’re on the road yourself, running for a train and missing it because of the excessive weight on your back, you won’t fully understand this one. Heavy bags break, they’re a pain to carry around, and they increase frustration exponentially. If there are things that can be taken out, take them out. Be ruthless. A lighter pack means you can wander the streets with ease instead of waiting in a bus station for hours because you can’t be bothered to lug it around.

Another significant lesson is less tactical and far more personal – volunteering is an incredible way to experience a place. Travel is fantastic and it undoubtedly broadens the mind, but truly immersing yourself in a culture is a challenge. Language barriers can be cumbersome, locals can be standoffish and the truly authentic pockets of the world can be near impossible to access on your own. Wwoofing is a fantastic way to save money (most room and board is free in exchange for labour), see incredible parts of the world and truly understand a culture. Volunteering is symbiotic in its most wonderful sense, you are helping others and by doing so, gaining authentic and memorable experiences which make you feel fantastic.

The last lesson is slightly more abstract – manage your expectations.

There are some places in the world that are so ubiquitous as a result of films, movies, history classes and cultural lore that it’s impossible not to have an idea about them before you arrive. In some cases these expectations can be met and even exceeded, but in many cases, they can lead to frustration and disappointment. Travel can become focused on how a place doesn’t match an idea rather than the immediate experience of being there in the moment. Travel teaches time and again that the most remarkable things are the ones we least expect. Shedding expectations and embracing the unknown will lead to an experiential immediacy that will allow you to be present in the moment, to soak in a place, to observe the local people and to consider something for what it actually is rather than what you thought it would be.

This post was written by travler Jasmine Williams who has been on the road as long as she can remember (well, about three years anyway). She carries a lightweight back and is amazed by something new every day.

Career Break Guide Table of Contents