Preparation

We know that realizing a career break takes a lot of planning. We'll provide the tools and resources to assist you in making your career break decisions - from Where to Go, to Letting Go, to actually Going! The Briefcase to Backpack community will cover destination ideas, how to leave your job and commitments behind and putting your 'regular life' on hold. During your preparation we'll help educate you on travel safety, packing tips, language barriers, booking flights, choosing insurance, as well as helping you through the struggles and anxieties of taking the 'big leap'.

Check out articles in the following categories:
Where to Go | What to Do | Let's Go | Letting Go


Recent Posts

Saving for a Life of Travel
Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Kayaking Milford Sound“Are you guys millionaires or something?” That’s often the response when we tell people we’ve been traveling the world for the past four years on our HoneyTrek. We aren’t rich, but we are diligent savers and big dreamers. After working in New York for ten years and putting away as much money as possible, we decided life was short, the world is big, and there would never be a better time to travel than now. Averaging under $40 per person per day, we’ve explored 44 countries (and counting) across 7 continents. Here is our strategy and a few tips you can employ when saving and planning for your own lifetime of unforgettable travel.

Outline Your Itinerary

Determining where you’d like to go and for how long will largely determine your budget. Remember, there are plenty of extremely beautiful and affordable regions of the world (Southeast Asia, Central America, Eastern Europe, etc), and you don’t need to visit them all in one shot. Laying a linear path from one place to the next will reduce your transportation costs and stress level. To help figure out your required budget, based on your travel speed and destinations, check out this handy RTW Country-Cost Calculator we built.

Evaluate Your Funds

Now that you have a ballpark cost for your dream RTW, you need to compare that number to the balance in your savings. If your bank account is a bit light you can swap out some of those expensive countries, travel slower, and start an intense savings plan until you reach your goal. Follow our small-dose savings strategy in the next section and you’ll be on the road in no time.

1-3how do we budget

Small-dose Saving

If you save just $10 a day for two years you will have enough money for a 6-month RTW. Save $13 a day for three years and you can globe-trot for an entire year. To help yourself stay on track and keep your hand out of the cookie jar, open a separate travel savings account ASAP. If you don’t have a steady paycheck and financial flow, check out DigIt.co which will automatically fill your travel savings account when you have extra cash, and scale back your contributions when times are tight. And if you have complex questions on saving, you can always reach out to the financial planning pros for some advice.

Ways to Cut Expenses

First, you will need some basic self-restraint, like going out less and avoiding impulse buys (yes, that cappuccino counts). Go through your monthly expenses and see where you can cut or switch to cheaper services. Swap your $150 cable bill for a $0/month digital antenna, switch to a cheaper phone plan (ours went from $100 to $40 a month with AT&T’s Go Phone Plan), and find more ways to trim your bills.

Make Extra Cash

Make money using the skills and the things you already have. AirBnB the extra room in your home, sell excess stuff on Ebay, rent your car on a peer-to-peer sharing site like GetAround, pick up part-time gigs like babysitting, dog walking, or driving for Uber and LYFT. Check out CompareAndShare.com for more opportunities in the sharing economy. Be diligent and get creative!

Budgeting on the Road

Prices vary greatly between countries so you will have to adjust your daily budget accordingly. Just because a place is cheaper, doesn’t mean you should splash out. Be as frugal as possible on expenses (food, lodging, transportation) so you are able to splurge on the things that are unique to the region (a base camp trek, scuba trip, safari, cultural outting, etc.) and the occasional treat. Always bargain. Before you start negotiating, learn the local prices on typical goods and services so that you have a benchmark to work from. Vendors in developing countries usually start 2-3 times higher than the price they are willing to accept. Remember to save where you can and spend when it counts.

Mike & Anne from HoneyTrek

Becoming a Life-Long Saver

Managing a finite amount of money for an extended period of time is similar to that of retirement. Getting this practice earlier in life, teaches you to be creative, resourceful, and prioritize your spending for unforgettable experiences. We realized we didn’t need a million dollars to explore the world and that we won’t need a fortune to retire…travel has taught us how to live a simpler and richer life and that you don’t need much to be happy.
By Mike & Anne Howard, Founders of HoneyTrek & RTW Packing List
Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

 

Disclosure:  This post was brought to you via Fisher Investments, however all opinions expressed here are the author’s own.

Top 10 Reasons to Try Experteering
Monday, February 22nd, 2016

When you look back on your life will you regale your friends and grandchildren with “that month you were slightly more productive at your corporate job”…or that time you “helped a Brazilian non-profit save a virgin rainforest from a logging company”?

Are you an engineer, lawyer, graphical designer, or IT professional thinking about taking a Career Break? Now you can finally volunteer in your area of expertise around the world!  Experteering allows you to make the most of your career skills by volunteering for causes that matter to you, while exploring exotic places in ways most travelers could only dream.

Enter our Experteering Contest
Enter our Experteering Contest
Use your professional skills on your career break! Sign up to win a MovingWorlds.org membership in partnership with Meet Plan Go, and Experteer around the world for FREE. Make your career break count.

Here are ten of the many reasons you should seriously consider Experteering for your next adventure.

1. Travel the world

experteering volunteering

See Experteering Opportunities around the world.

Finding a project in one of your bucket list countries will allow you to combine two of the best experiences: travel and making a difference in the world. Experteering gives you the reason and road to get the places you’ve dreamt of exploring.

2. No donation required

While volunteer opportunities like building a house or volunteering at an orphanage can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, Experteering rarely costs any money at all, and some even provide travel stipends. MovingWorlds’ organizations desire your skills and passion much more than your money and connects you to immersive local experiences in exchange for your skills.

3. You will make lasting change

No matter what your skill set, from accounting to graphic design to finance to copywriting to social media to engineering to blogging, you can help make an organization stronger than you found it. MovingWorlds has a multi-pronged approach to help you make the most of your Experteering opportunity, and removes any unnecessary stress from the process.

4. Cultural immersion

experteering volunteering

Integrate with the local community! Photo by MovingWorlds.org

Unlike a traditional vacation or even a backpacking trip, you will be fully immersed in your destination. You will get to know your local grocer, barista, bus driver, and co-workers and undoubtedly be welcomed into the community. It’s the fast track to truly “live like a local!”

5. Build your resume

Anyone who has been on a job interview in the last 10 years knows that it’s all about differentiating yourself from the other candidates. Come to the table with a unique and memorable story…and what better story than your experience Experteering half-way around the world, making a positive change while honing your various skills.

6. Make wonderful friends

Experteering and volunteering are naturally self selecting, so you will be interacting with like-minded folks who love travel, altruism, and thinking outside of the traditional social confines.

7. Change things up at work/life

Sometimes a little stir of the pot will bring out a bunch of new flavors, and life is no different. If you are going to work thinking “what am I really achieving here, am I making anyone’s life better selling more X, Y or Z?” then maybe it’s time to try something fresh and fulfilling.

8. The gift that keeps on giving

experteering volunteering

Work with business peers in other countries. Photo by MovingWorlds.org

When you realize that your skills can make a supremely positive change on an organization, and you get to explore a fascinating region of the world, you will want to repeat the experience. The good news is MovingWorlds allows you to sign up for unlimited future projects, without any extra admin fees.

9. Learn a language

You will have the opportunity to practice the region’s language as much or as little as you wish, and undoubtedly come away with improved communication skills.

10. Life is short. Carpe Diem. You only live once. Follow your dreams.

The list of clichés could go on and on…and you could share them all on your Facebook wall, pin them to your Pinterest inspiration board…or you could put a plan in motion to make your dreams your reality.

 

*CONTEST* Meet Plan Go is giving away a MovingWorlds membership to someone who would like to try Experteering in 2016. If you are interested you can enter the contest here.
Meet Plan Go & MovingWorlds March Giveaway

If you would like to learn about the opportunities available for career breakers, simply visit the MovingWorlds website, enter your skills and the regions of your world you would like to visit. There is no cost to browse the website and review the numerous opportunities, and the projects do not require any monetary donation. The only cost is a one-time administration fee when you decide to start an application so that the MovingWorlds team can guide you through the Experteering process and provide you personal support as you need it (and even that is discounted for MPG members at checkout). If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me!

– Mike Howard, Mike@MovingWorlds.org
Ambassador, MovingWorlds.org
Founder, HoneyTrek & RTW Packing List

 

Need help planning your career break trip? Check out the following articles and resources:

MovingWorlds March Giveaway
Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Enter to win a lifetime membership to a network of free, life-changing volunteer opportunities

Meet Plan Go & MovingWorlds March Giveaway
What is MovingWorlds? If you’re looking to make a real difference on your next trip, and you don’t like the idea of having to pay to “volunteer,” then it’s the perfect time to check out MovingWorlds.org. MovingWorlds connects people who want to travel and volunteer, with social impact organizations around the world. They selectively source and qualify social impact organizations working in the field so you can be confident your skills will make the most impact. “Experteers” have access to MovingWorlds exclusive training, resources, and planning guide to help ensure safe, high-impact engagements.

See our Top 10 Reasons Career Breakers Should Include Experteering in their Itinerary

What is this giveaway? Meet Plan Go has partnered with MovingWorlds.org to share the awesome work they are doing in the volunteering space around the world. They have given us one Full Membership (with unlimited phone support) to giveaway to the Meet Plan Go family. See Terms and Conditions

Explore MovingWorlds.org: If you would like to check out the various opportunities on MovingWorlds, they have provided us a link that allows you to review the complete details on every single opportunity they have available (and if you don’t see the perfect opportunity, they will reach out to their global partners and find one that fits your criteria). Follow this link, http://MovingWorlds.org/MeetPlanGo, click “Join Now” on the top right, and you will have unfettered access to the site, and never be asked to pay a thing until you find the perfect opportunity (and when you do find that perfect opportunity MPG members simply pay an administration fee of $112).

volunteer experteer

How to enter this giveaway:

  • Meet Plan Go will be giving away one full MovingWorlds Membership PLUS additional support to someone who is interested in volunteering in 2016 (value: $300)
  • Everyone who would like to enter should email Mike@MovingWorlds.org with the following:
    – Your First Name, Home Country & the Email you used in your MovingWorlds profile
    – Link to your favorite 1 (or) 2 MovingWorlds “Experteering” opportunities
    – A few sentences telling us why you would like to volunteer for this organization in 2016
    – Confirm that, if you win, you are willing to share your experience with the Meet Plan Go audience via a few blog posts
    The email you send will earn one entry in the contest, and is mandatory for anyone who wishes to enter
  • Optional: If you would like to earn a second entry in this giveaway, post a tweet with a link to the MovingWorlds opportunity you are interested in. You can say whatever you wish, simply include the link to the project and mention @MeetPlanGo & @Experteering in your tweet.
  • Optional: If you would like to earn a third entry in the giveaway, head over to this Facebook Post, and leave a comment that includes a link to your favorite MovingWorlds opportunity, along with a few sentences about why you want to Experteer there.

Deadline: On March 31st 11:59 PM EST . We will add each entry that meets the criteria (including each Twitter & Facebook entries) on their own row in an excel file, and use Random.org to randomly choose the winner. Winner will be notified by email (via the email address that was used to make the first submission) within five (5) days following selection of Winner.  Once the winner accepts, we will mention the winner on social media for both Moving Worlds and Meet Plan Go.

Please read all Terms and Conditions prior to entering.

Questions: If you have any questions about MovingWorlds or this contest please email Mike Howard, Mike@MovingWorlds.org

Traveling the World With Teenagers
Monday, December 7th, 2015

family travel

Loving the family adventure in Cappadocia, Turkey

Nine weeks ago we left our home to travel the world for several months with our two teenage children – Ian 19 and Lily 16. During the four year planning and saving process, we came across many different opinions about our decision to undertake such an adventure ranging from fascination to jealousy to disdain, but what surprised us the most was how many people responded with reasons why they could never take a trip like this. The “I would love to do that, but…” responses were varied and perplexing to us. If we could do it, surely ANYONE could, right? And so, we developed this series of articles to tackle what we call the “myths” of family travel – all of those reasons why you “can’t” take a trip like ours are about to go right down the drain. Here we go!!

FAMILY TRAVEL MYTH #1

You have to sell your house and all of your belongings or be loaded with cash to undertake a round the world trip.

That would be FALSE, my friends!

This idea first came about several years ago when I read a book called “One Year Off” by David Elliot Cohen. It tells the story of two parents who take their three children on a one year trip around the globe. It was mesmerizing and inspirational and at once I decided we needed to do it.

But here is the thing – we had less than $1000 in savings. We were renting our home. How could we ever come up with the capital to undertake a journey like that?!? And that was the pivotal moment. We could have defeated ourselves right there and moved on to the next seemingly unattainable dream. Or we could get real about what we wanted to teach our kids about big dreams and how to go about making them happen. And so we came up with a plan to cut back on our spending and start saving with an end goal of 9 months abroad.

We did all of the standard things that people do – we cut back on eating out, family vacations and movies. Instead we cooked at home, took weekend getaways and watched Netflix. We sold all of the junk in the house and garage that we weren’t using anymore and stopped buying stuff we didn’t need. At one point in time, all three of our cars didn’t total $10,000 in value because we refused to take on a car payment.

WHEN PLANS GO AWRY:

travelign with teenagers

This is what the kids look like all loaded up with their bags on our travel days.

We had hoped it would take us three years to save the money we needed and that because we were renting month by month, we could just terminate our lease and hit the road. And then the unthinkable happened. The perfect little house fell into our laps. It was “just right” for our family in a fairytale kind of way and we fell in love with it immediately, but the clincher was the price. It was CHEAP. And there was no way we would ever be able to find a home we loved as much in the price range we were looking at. I said no. NO NO NO. And my husband, who clearly knows me far too well, took me by the hand and said “I can see growing old with you here”. And so we bought a house.
Now we had to decide if we were going to rent it out while we were gone. We were hoping for 9 months away, but our plan had always been to travel until the money runs out and then come home and that is NOT conducive to renting out a home. And so we had to figure a mortgage and basic utility costs into our budget. And three years turned into four.

YOU DID WHAT?!?!?

We knew pretty early on that in addition to cutting back and building our savings that we would also be taking some of our retirement money to pay for this trip. It kinda cracks me up how freaked out people get about this. It was a no-brainer for us. First of all, we are young. We have 27 years left to work and can quickly recover those funds. Secondly, we beefed up our contributions when we decided to take the trip so that we were padding those accounts and getting the most out of our employer contributions. And most of all, it was more important to us to use that money now to travel with our kids than to wait until we are retired and travel without them. The future is not guaranteed and there is no telling if either of us will even be in any condition physically to travel at all in 25 years. Why risk it? Why miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime to spend this amazing time with our kids exploring the world? Why indeed!! We are 42 years old. My husband’s mother died unexpectedly at the age of 47. Her death is like a bright star in the night sky reminding us to live in the moment and not take for granted that the future will be what we expect it to be.

We were an unlikely family to take a trip such as this. We had little in savings and no equity when we made the decision to chase this dream. Many of our family and friends thought it would never happen. And yet, here we are, in Thailand, having the time of our lives. I love proving people wrong!

travel with teenagers

At the Red Fort in Delhi, India.

But the bottom line is this – if we can get our nonsense together and save the money to take this adventure, then you can, your best friend can, your co-workers can and that weird neighbor down the road can. It’s a choice you make every moment of every day to prioritize the dream. I can have the Starbucks or I can pay for a meal in Thailand. I can buy these concert tickets or I can pay for a week’s lodging in Cambodia. Every time you chose the dream, you are that much closer to attaining it. It really is just that simple.

About Staci Schwarz

staciStaci and her family are currently traveling the world for several months enjoying good food, incredible sites and the best of company. You can follow their madness on www.blameitonmywildheart.com or on Facebook at Blame My Wild Heart.

Next month Staci will explore family travel myth #2 by interviewing her children to assure you that they were actually totally excited about this trip and are not being held hostage by their super mean parents who tore them away from their friends to go on a stupid trip around the world.

Valuable Skills to Learn Before Hitting the Road on a Career Break
Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Haggling is part of everyday life in some countries, such as India, Vietnam, and Egypt. Vendors are known to inflate prices for tourists and are very skilled in getting foreigners to pay more than they would charge other locals. This goes for everything from backpacks to t-shirts to fruit to tuk tuk rates. Knowing how to successfully negotiate prices will help ensure you aren’t taken advantage of and overcharged.

Creating a backup plan or two before you start haggling is important in case your first strategy doesn’t work. Plan A could be basic price negotiation. Should that fail, you enact plan B, which could be walking away or threatening to go to a competitor. Plan C could be more creative, like having a travel partner step in or offering to buy multiple items at a set price.

You can haggle for a good deal at the Luang Prabang night market.

While walking down a small side street in Fethiye, Turkey, we came across a table set up with bottles of perfume and cologne. There was a wide variety, like you would find in an airport duty free shop. Mike stopped to look at the selection while Tara stood uninterested a few feet away. The Turkish vendor manning the table came up to Mike and offered cologne suggestions and prices. His initial offer started high, as street negotiations do, and Mike showed hesitation upon hearing the price. This caused the vendor to lower the initial price without Mike having to say a word. He landed at 50 lira, which was still too high for Mike since he knew they were knock-off products. Mike counter-offered with 10 lira. Of course that’s a laughably low number, but the key to agreeing on a price you want to pay is to start low to bring the seller’s offer price down (this was plan A: plain negotiation). After a couple minutes, Mike got him down to 25 lira, but it didn’t seem like the seller was willing to drop below that. That’s when plan B kicked in, and Tara stepped in to the conversation and offered to buy two bottles for 30 lira. Sold!

As Americans who never haggle for goods at home, we went through trial and error until we got used to negotiating. It’s a skill we wished we had developed or even researched a little before leaving for our 14-month RTW trip. As we traveled, we discovered many other skills that also fell into the “wish we knew about that” category. It’s easy to overlook or not even consider learning these skills when you’re planning your career break. After all, you become consumed by figuring out how to save more money, sell your possessions, and plan a smooth transition from working 9-to-5 to a life of full-time travel. That’s why we included a whole chapter on these skills in the travel-planning book we just published, called Create Your Escape: A Practical Guide for Planning Long-Term Travel – because you don’t have time to think of everything yourself when you’re planning your big trip.

There are a lot of skills you can and should learn before leaving, but we’ll focus on a few other important ones here.

First Aid

Accidents happen even if you aren’t the clumsy type. You might wipe out on a bicycle or trip and scrape your knee while hiking. Knowing how to properly clean and bandage wounds will help ensure you don’t get an infection. And, just as important, you should know which first-aid items you should pack in the first place. Sure, you can purchase antiseptic and bandages on the road, but it’s a good idea to have a starter kit in case you need it in a remote area or after hours when shops aren’t open.

Drive a Manual Car and Motorbike

learn to drive a motorbike

Tara not really driving a motorbike in Kampot, Cambodia (more like posing). She never learned before the trip so Mike was the driver – just to be safe!

You don’t want your skills (or lack thereof) to hold you back from cool experiences while traveling. You might have an opportunity to rent a car or motorbike for a day trip or coastal drive, and you shouldn’t attempt to drive either vehicle if you don’t know how.

When we were in Southeast Asia, a local said to us, “You see all the foreigners with bandages or casts? Those are likely the result of a motorbike accident.” It’s true that many people underestimate motorbikes and scooters and think they can drive them with ease. Fully automatic motorbikes might be easier to drive, but many rental companies only offer semi-automatic and manual options. You have to be skilled in driving this type of vehicle to be successful, otherwise you risk endangering yourself and others on the road.

Likewise, many rental cars around the world are manual, and it takes practice to understand how to drive these vehicles. You could ruin the engine if you incorrectly use the clutch and don’t know how to properly shift gears, and that might cost you a pretty penny to replace. Plus, stalling out in the middle of a street (at a light or stop sign) could cause a traffic jam or even an accident depending on the flow of traffic.

A new country with different road rules than your own is not where you should learn to drive a motorbike or manual car. Sign up for a class at home so you feel confident using the vehicle and learn how to be a defensive driver. Doing this will not only ensure you don’t have to pass up an opportunity to rent a vehicle, but it may also help you in an emergency situation where you have no choice but to get behind the wheel.

Learn to Swim

Tara swimming in the Mediterranean off the coast of Turkey.

The underwater world is incredibly beautiful with its colorful coral and curious fish. You’ll likely have at least a few opportunities to snorkel or even become SCUBA certified if you want. You could see the majestic Great Barrier Reef or even watch manta rays swim inches below you. Even though you could use a life jacket or inflatable tubes to help you stay afloat, you really should be confident in the water and know basic water safety if you’re going to splash around in it.

Being a skilled swimmer isn’t just important for water-based experiences, but it could also save your life in the event of an emergency. If you’re not comfortable in the water, take lessons before you leave until you feel confident enough to float, tread water, hold your breath under water, and swim to safety.

Be an Exceptional Photographer

Mike taking photographs in Iceland.

You’ve probably perfected your selfies, but leave the selfie stick at home and turn the camera around to capture the incredible and inexplicable moments of your trip. These are images you’ll be showing others and looking at for the rest of your life, so you should know how to take a sharp, well-framed, and interesting shot, as well as edit the files to enhance them even more.

The first step is learning to take great photos, which you can do through an online course or by reading a book and then practicing every chance you get. Then take it one step further and learn the basics of Photoshop or another photo editing program so you can make your images look even better. You’ll want to understand resizing, color correction, and working with shadows, midtones and highlights. Those are very basic concepts, but they’ll help you create a more vibrant image than your camera may have captured if the lighting was poor when you snapped the shot.

To know what else you should learn before hitting the road, check out chapter 6 in Create Your Escape. It’ll give you good ideas of what to expect in foreign countries and make you an even savvier traveler.

About Tara and Mike

Career Break for CouplesTara and Mike are the original Two Travelaholics. In 2012, they quit their jobs to travel the world on their extended honeymoon, racking up 40,000+ miles in their first year and a half of marriage. When they aren’t traveling, they’re on the lookout for pugs, craft beer, and great bands. They are the authors of Create Your Escape: A Practical Guide for Planning Long-Term Travel, which teaches other travelaholics how to prepare for extended travel. Check it out at http://createyourescape.today

Get Help Planning your Career Break
Friday, July 10th, 2015

career break petra

Russ career breaking in Petra based on tips from other career break veterans

Starting in 2006, I started taking all of my vacation time in a big chunk from Thanksgiving to New Years. That’s not only what worked in my business, but it was also a wonderful way to travel. When I was on the road, it normally took about 10 days to shed the office and then, about 10 days before heading home, thinking about work started to creep in again. But, that middle part – that was bliss. I wanted to get to that place again, but for longer, so I started to consider taking a career break.

Career Break Hurdles

But this was 2010 and the recession was still in full swing and quitting a job to travel was lunacy. My friends and family all responded the same: “Are you mad? Why would you quit your job when the economy is in the toilet?” No one could understand where I was coming from or what I was feeling.

And then I stumbled across Meet, Plan, Go. There was an event in Boston when I’d be there and I couldn’t wait. There was a panel with half a dozen career break veterans sharing their experience. I soaked it up. It was the first time I’d spoken with anyone about taking a career break and they didn’t think I was crazy. I peppered the career breakers with questions and connected with a number of them after the event was over. It was exactly what I’d needed to pull the trigger and to make sure I got the most out of my trip.  Planning my trip by talking to others who’ve ‘been there, done that’ ending up being the best motivation there was to get me over the hurdles of taking a career break.

Are Guidebooks Dead?

On my career break – I traveled 11 amazing months around the world – I continued to reach out to bloggers, writers and other travelers to get advice and recommendations as I visited each country. I soon ditched the guidebooks and relied on word of mouth recommendations. Frankly, there wasn’t any resource as valuable, and that got me thinking.

Last week, I launched a new startup that’s designed to help you do the same, it’s called Exploring.is.  The idea behind Exploring.is, is to connect travelers directly with professional writers, bloggers and others who are experts on a specific place or an activity.

Travel Tips

If you are in the process of contemplating a career break or sabbatical, there are a number of career break experts that you can chat with about:

  • How to negotiate for a sabbatical or leave of absence
  • What to do if you have a mortgage
  • How to plan and save for an epic round the world trip
  • What to possibly pack for such a trip

Or our experts can help you with:

  • Where to go
  • Budget travel tips
  • Volunteering ideas
  • How to market your travels back into your job hunt

We even have Meet Plan Go Co-Founder, Sherry Ott as part of our expert travel curators.  Whatever it is, you have specific needs and questions about your career break and you don’t want to miss the best of what’s out there.

How it Works

Exploring.is lets you book time (via chat, phone or video) with us so we can give you insider advice, answer your questions and help you plan your ideal vacation. Time can be booked in 15 minute blocks, with most people buying 30 minutes for $50.

My team and I launched our Beta last week and I’m really excited to be able to help out other prospective career breakers since it had such an impact on my life. Sign up today and we’ll make sure to get you scheduled for an appointment.

We’re looking forward to helping you plan your big trip! Start Here!

Blog post image option 1

Russ Brooks is the founder of Urbanful.org and Exploring.is. An avid motorcyclist, scuba diver and photographer, Russ has visited 40 states and 40 countries since taking his first trip to Mexico at age 13. He’s lived in Japan, Costa Rica and Ecuador and is always dreaming of the next place he wants to go.

How to Set a Travel Budget and Stick to it
Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Earlier this month was my first-ever travel-related speaking gig at the first Meet, Plan, Go! New York City meetup of 2015, and the topic was how to set a travel budget and stick to it when you’re on the road.

Here are the questions I was asked, along with my answers – most focus on the lessons I learned while planning my fall 2014 trip to Southeast Asia.

1) What was your original budget? What were your final expenditures? And how long were you traveling?

My goal was to keep my total trip under $4,000 for two months in Southeast Asia – approx. $2,000 in hard costs (including trip insurance, flights, a tour and visas) and $2,000 in spending money (including lodging, food and activities). I know that sounds high for the destination, but that included all of my prep expenses – including a new iPad and camera, shots/medication at a travel clinic, and even getting copies of keys and documents made. And I actually used only a little more than $1,000 of my spending money, so – fortunately – there were no real surprises, and I stuck to my budget.

2) What determined/influenced your initial budget thought-processes?

I’ve traveled extensively, and always on a tight budget, so I know many tricks to making my travel dollars stretch pretty far. I knew, of course, that Southeast Asia is pretty cheap, so I was even able to jump on an Intrepid Tour for the Cambodia leg (which was definitely worth it!), since it still fell within my budget. I also ended up taking flights within Vietnam, instead of long-haul buses or trains, because they were only a few dollars more and saved a lot of time. Sometimes I decide to pay for convenience and then make up the cost elsewhere (usually by limiting food/alcohol and choosing cheaper lodging).

Visas are also an important consideration – I eliminated China as a destination because of the $150 fee.

IMG_3063 - Version 2

Local dishes are often just a fraction of the cost of Western dishes, and often push you out of your comfort zone (This is fish amok in Cambodia).

3) What tools did you use to help determine your budget?

I consulted various blog posts for suggestions and searched various sites for average costs for hotels/hostels, food, transportation, etc.

4) What were some of your unique budget “line items”?

I decided to purchase a refurbished iPad2 before traveling, and I also upgraded my camera, which I found on eBay for around $300 (a savings of about $700). I also visited a travel clinic, and that was way more expensive than I thought it would be – it came to $230 for the visit and the shots/medication (Insurance didn’t cover anything).

5) What is the most important piece of advice you would give in determining a budget for a large goal such as career-break travel?

Location, location, location! Also – an important learning for me – you need to factor in how much time you will be traveling solo vs. with a friend or significant other vs. in a group. I discovered that meeting up with friends at different points during my trip killed my budget. I did WAY more eating and drinking!

6) Once your budget was determined, how did you go about saving?

I cancelled my gym membership and Netflix, downgraded my cable and my cell phone plan, and discovered I could actually freeze my cell phone plan while overseas (saving about $200!). These were all pretty easy/painless decisions, although more challenging now upon re-entry (I miss cable!). I also opened a new checking account with no ATM fees and a new credit card with a chip and no foreign transaction fees. (See my Tips page for more details.)

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Public transportation is a great way to save money while interacting with locals (Here is the “lady car” I rode to Batu Caves in Malaysia).

7) Did you simply cut back or take on another job?

I took on an extra freelance project that provided some extra cash, and I rented my condo out on AirBnB for five weekends leading up to my departure. I also found a renter to cover a portion of my mortgage.

8) Was it a drastic undertaking? Minimal?

As my financial planner says, I “run a really tight ship,” so budgeting and saving is a way of life for me. Traveling always has been how I choose to spend my disposable income, so I maintain a very simple lifestyle and have worked hard (taking on second jobs) over the years to pay off school loans and my car loan, so my only overhead is my mortgage. Also, I started early – I had known I had wanted to take this trip for about two years – so it did not seem like a drastic undertaking.

9) What tools did you use to assist in saving?

I use the Mint app to regularly track my overall financial picture. I also maintained a very detailed spreadsheet with every expense incurred during the planning process, as well as estimated expenses for the trip.

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I did splurge on a one-night cruise of Halong Bay during my time in Vietnam, which was definitely worth it.

10) Did you build in a cushion for emergencies?

Not really, but I did purchase emergency medical insurance for the first time (which really made me feel like an adult).

11) What is the most important piece of advice you would give re: saving for a large goal such as career-break travel?

Start early and start small – every little bit helps! If travel is important to you, you need to make investing in your passion a priority and sacrifice, if necessary, to make it happen. It really all boils down to choices – I have always equated every purchase I make to how much travel it could buy me (i.e., that new coat is ¼ of a ticket to Europe).

BioBrianne’s first trip overseas was to China at the age of 13, and in the years since, she has been to 40+ countries – mostly solo. She recently returned to her home base of Boston from five months on the road – first traveling throughout Southeast Asia and then working in India for an adventure travel company, The Travel Scientists. She coordinates Meet, Plan, Go! Boston meet ups, and enjoys sharing travel tips, photos and stories on her website, A Traveling Life. Social Links: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Recharge Your Soul with a Career Break
Monday, February 16th, 2015

When I quit my job in 2013, my soul was pretty dried up. I had become a cog in the machine and needed something to remind me my heart was still beating.

Travel filled that void in the past when I’d take my two-week vacations, but I was looking for something more. I wanted to… brace yourself for the ultimate cliché… make a difference. Or maybe it was more selfish than that and I just wanted to smile at myself in the mirror again.

I’d been a Kiva lender for a few years and absolutely love the organization. In fact, it took me about 20 seconds to run back to my office and look for my first borrower after initially hearing about them from a co-worker. I later learned they also have a volunteer fellowship program. That changed everything.

Who is Kiva?

If you’re not familiar with Kiva, it’s a non-profit whose mission is to alleviate poverty through lending. You select a borrower from the website and lend as little as $25 (also known as a microloan). Over the course of a year, your money is paid back. While you don’t earn interest, you are empowering people to create a better life. Putting your faith in another person gives them a vote of confidence, an added incentive to succeed. This endorsement contributes to Kiva’s astonishing 99% loan repayment rate. Ask any bank what theirs is!

Learn more about how Kiva works.

What’s a Kiva fellow?

Kiva Fellows

The Fellows Program started in 2007 as a way for volunteers to be Kiva’s “eyes and ears” on the ground. Because they are non-profit and their network of partners around the world continues to grow, they simply can’t visit each of them as often as they’d like. Instead, they send carefully selected fellows who are interested in using their skills in exchange for a unique learning opportunity. Each fellowship is different, but you’re essentially a liaison between Kiva and their global network. You may help train a new partner, perform borrower verifications in the field, scale-up new initiatives, or fill any number of needs.

My fellowship experience

In April 2013 I was poking around the Kiva website while planning my corporate escape. It was there I discovered the fellowship program and was instantly sold, so I applied. I didn’t have experience in international development, but I did teach English in Japan and traveled in developing countries. Over the next three months I had two Skype interviews and ultimately an offer to go to India. It felt like the process took forever, but once the wheels were in motion, it all happened very quickly.

Instead of working five days a week for a paycheck, I worked six days a week for free. BJS was a brand new Kiva partner, so I trained them on Kiva processes and procedures and helped them write compelling borrower profiles for posting on the website. I had the opportunity to meet loan recipients in rural areas and attend presentations on financial literacy with them, which is one of the services BJS provides. Watching women huddled together in colorful saris, absorbed in learning about saving money in a bank and how insurance works, was transformative.

My brain could barely absorb everything I was experiencing while the empty part of me was quickly filling up. On my last day the staff of about 15 gathered for a good-bye party where they each went around the room sharing a special moment or something they learned from me.

I sobbed. And sobbed. Soul successfully recharged.

Post-fellowship I traveled around Asia and Latin America with a newfound focus on contributing locally. There are a number of social enterprises that support communities, from village artisans to at-risk youth. I have Kiva to thank for changing the way I travel and interact with locals. Now I work as a location-independent marketing consultant and freelance writer.

While my break wasn’t temporary, you don’t necessarily need to quit to have a life-changing travel experience.

Who is a fellowship good for?

  • People looking for a break from corporate life and can take a four-month sabbatical
  • Grad school students before or after their program
  • Career-changers
  • Job quitters (like me) or the unemployed

What are the requirements of a Kiva fellow?

Kiva fellows 2

Previous experience with international development or a background in finance will work in your favor, though not requirements. What they do want to see is time spent in developing countries, and ideally some international work experience. It’s not like a trip to Paris, so they want to be sure you’re comfortable in places where you can’t drink the water, living conditions may be sparse, and business etiquette is totally different. Naturally you need to be adaptable and willing to work outside your comfort zone. You’ll also need to show you’re able to fund your trip yourself or through fundraising. It is a volunteership, after all.

Kiva has recently expanded their program to include media fellows- those with a background in photography and/or videography to help build Kiva’s library of assets.

Read more about the requirements.

How much control do you have over your location, and what is housing like?

They ask for your preferences, but nothing is guaranteed. For each fellowship class, the Kiva team receives requests from the field, and those spots are filled based on the applicant pool. Language requirements can also narrow your options. You must speak Spanish for Latin America, and French for Francophone Africa, but there are a number of countries where English alone is sufficient. Of course additional languages are a bonus and may assist in placement, but not necessarily required.

You may have your own apartment, stay in a hotel or guesthouse, or have the opportunity to live with locals. The choice is yours based on what’s available.

How much does it cost?

The program itself has no fee, however you do need to cover your expenses for the entire fellowship. These include:

  • Travel to/from San Francisco and accommodations during training week (This is a requirement, regardless of where you live)
  • Flight to/from your assignment
  • Accommodations during your fellowship
  • Meals
  • Personal travel (weekend or holiday trips), shopping, and other expenses

Is there an “alumni” network?

Yes! There are private LinkedIn and Facebook groups, and alums will receive periodic email updates from the Kiva fellows team, including job opportunities throughout their network. Plus it’s not a bad addition to your resume!

How do you apply?

Visit the Kiva fellows page to apply. There are three classes per year, each lasting about four months, with approximately 25 fellows per class.

A Kiva fellowship is not a “voluntour” where you pay exorbitant fees for the privilege of working for free. Kiva invests a lot in training its fellows yet doesn’t charge for their program, so the application process is selective. If you’re looking for a fill-up in the soul department, have experience working, living, or traveling in developing countries and can commit to four months away, a Kiva fellowship might be for you.

Bio: Shelley Graner is a former Kiva fellow who likes to travel slowly and support local communities. She left the corporate world and now spends her days as a location-independent writer and marketing consultant. Read more about her travels and Kiva experience via her blog.

Preparation: Budget Concerns
Thursday, October 30th, 2014

A concern many career break-dreamers face is that they can’t afford to do it. But if you believe enough in your dream, you will find ways to make it happen.

It’s all about prioritizing and budgeting: even on a non-profit salary, you can make it happen.

See what some of our career break experts have to say about budgeting for long-term travel: 

Brook Silva-Braga (A Map for Saturday)
Travel requires savings but not much; you can travel for less than you pay on New York rent, and you can always save more by indulging less at home. Money and time are commodities with an inverse relationship, you can only acquire one by spending the other and travel taught me free time is more valuable than additional money.

Jennifer Baggett (The Lost Girls)
Since I made the decision to travel about a year and a half prior to departure, I was able to properly budget and save for the money I’d need in order to spend a year on the road.  And I was definitely not making that much money considering I was paying Manhattan rent and living expense (about $65K – I’m happy to be completely transparent) nor did I have financial help from anyone else.

The biggest money saver, honestly, was that I literally stopped purchasing anything frivolous (clothes, shoes, electronics, expensive dinners, etc.) and socked away a percentage of every pay check (including 100% of my annual bonus), cashed savings bonds from childhood, even sold books/CDs on Amazon and most of my furniture on Craig’s List. Amanda, Holly and I also chose to visit predominately third world and developing nations where you can easily live off of $20-$30 per day.  Of course traveling as a group definitely helped as everything from lodging, taxis, food and other items (travel guides/books, some toiletries, etc.) could be split up and shared. Other big ways we saved:  Round-the-world plane tickets (ours took us from Kenya to Australia – with multiple countries in between for only $2200), eliminating almost all bills/expenses back home (rent, cell phone, electric bills, cable, etc.) penning the occasional travel article while on the road, crashing at friend’s (or friends of friends) places overseas and keeping costs fixed by doing a structured volunteer program/staying in one location for multiple weeks.

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8 Tips For Preparing To Leave on a Career Break 
Friday, October 3rd, 2014

One can desire to take a career break, but often the act of actually beginning the process can undermine those dreams. I say, “Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door!

What makes one want to take a career break? Is it disinterest in your current career? A personal life change? Or a desire to shake things up as you enter a new phase of your life?

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For me, it was all three. I had an interior decorating business that wasn’t exciting me anymore, my mother had recently passed away from an aggressive cancer, and I had stepped over the that magic age of 50. I wasn’t getting any younger, and the realization that we can all “go” at any moment propelled me to seek change. It was time to take matters into my own hands. It began as a question: Could I get away with checking out of my complex life for a few months?

While trolling the internet, I happened upon Meet Plan Go and realized at that moment that I was not alone in this quest. I scoured the website for every tidbit of information on how others had made their career break a reality, and then I began to envision my own journey.

Tackle the career break process one step at a time.

Anyone with an established life in their own town or city knows it is not possible to just wake up one morning and announce that they are chucking it all and heading off to the airport.  Sure, we’ve all had that “Calgon take me away” moment, but honestly can we act on it? I have two children, a home, a small business, and a life rich with friends. I needed to go slow, be methodical, and break it down into manageable pieces so even I could process the concept of upheaving every aspect of my life.

So, I addressed each of these areas one at a time.

1. Budget planning

First things first, with little savings to speak of or a winning lottery ticket in my pocket, in order to finance the bulk of the trip, it was clear that I would have to put my one asset to work: rent out my house.

I contacted a real estate agent friend of mine who educated me on the rental market. Then armed with that information, I slept on it…for weeks! I mulled over it and chewed on it and debated the possibility of being able to travel long term. It took me about 4 months to get the courage to take this step forward.

In anticipation of making the leap, I also began to be more mindful of how I spent my money and seriously cut back on unnecessary expenditures, so I could pay down debt instead.

2. Downsizing

Start purging NOW! – closets first then paring back your living areas.

The nervous excitement I felt while arriving at my decision I put to good use. I began to clear out closets…I figured even if I couldn’t make the break, I would have clean closets, and if it did happen, I would have less to deal with as moving day drew near.

Downsizing our stuff is no small task when living in a society that encourages acquisition. As I cleaned out each cupboard and closet, I asked these questions:

  • Have I used it in the last 2 years?
  • Do I like it?
  • Can I take it on the trip (that was almost always a no!)?
  • Do I want to see and deal with it when I come back?

If the item in question didn’t have a yes attached to it, I jettisoned it. (See, even my stuff got to take a trip!) Craig’s List, friends, Goodwill, and the local recycling center were all great places to relieve me of my things. Be ruthless in this process, you will be happy you did later.

Once I had finally decided to rent out the house, I had to make it “viewing” ready for prospective tenants. Real estate agents prefer showing a house devoid of personal items, so in preparation for the open house, I packed up photos and artwork and pared down the furnishings. Within 3 days of the open house, I had a tenant. Yikes! Now I really needed to get in gear. I had six weeks to completely pack up and vacate…better get organized.

3. Make a to-do list and revise it regularly

I love To-Do lists. In my work life they have always been effective in aiding me in getting the job done. I prefer using a legal pad when I am making major lists. Each page has a topic and I begin by organizing the seemingly endless tasks onto those pages. Each item – large and small – gets a neat little checkable box next to it. When the task is completed, I check it off – at the end of the day I can see the progress I made (or didn’t make).

For preparing my career break, I did a “data dump” almost daily and revised these lists often, and gradually the To-Do’s began to shrink. As moving approached, these lists gave me a sense of control and helped keep me focused on my end goal of taking off on my solo journey.

I was lucky enough to be able to store my things in half of my basement. I could move things down there as I packed them up, which gave me a real sense of accomplishment as well.

4. Keep your loved ones informed before and after you go

Concurrent with packing up, I regularly discussed my career break with my children to help prepare them for my absence. My daughter would be away at college during the period I had allotted, and my son would be taking a semester at a boarding school. I could be available anytime to them with FaceTime and Skype, and I would have a SIM card for my phone so I wouldn’t have to rely on crappy wifi. It was important to me that they did not feel that I had fallen off the face of the earth. Facebook was perfect for staying in touch with old friends and new ones that I met on the road.

5. Pay down your debt

I was extremely attached to my home, and what it represented in my life. To move out was one of the bigger decisions I have grappled with in recent years. I knew that if I jumped on a plane the day I handed over the keys, I would not enjoy the first few weeks on the road as I would still be “letting go” of my old life.

Therefore, to make the initial departure easier, I decamped for a few weeks to a friend’s home in my old hometown and took a breather before I began working on the next phase of my career break planning. I wanted to be mostly debt free when I began the journey, so I further curbed my spending and put every cent I made into paying off credit cards. Suddenly, my goals were actually becoming attainable..

Putting the final part of the plan together

After that little period of adjustment, I went back to Brooklyn, rented two rooms from a friend of mine and spent four months completing my decorating projects. Thanks to a couple of last minute jobs, I cleared my credit card debt, too.

6. Know yourself and what makes you comfortable to go

Planning a solo trip is like being a kid in a candy shop; I could go anywhere I wanted to because this was solely my trip!

When you unburden yourself of your possessions, free yourself of debt, and open your eyes to a world of possibility, there is no looking back, and suddenly what you want becomes quite clear.

For me it was, “Who am I? and What do I really want out of the next phase of my life?” Those were the driving force in my pre-trip planning.

I created a framework for where I wanted to go, but also kept things loose enough to be open to any fun opportunity that might arise. Ultimately, other than a fully planned 5 weeks in Africa and my first 3 nights in Bali, I was open to where the journey would take me.

7. Plan your departure during a quiet time of year

I waited to depart just after the holidays. That way I didn’t miss out on the usual end of year celebrations with family and friends, and I had something to look forward to in the new year. I would be leaving for Africa just as the cold of winter settled onto the city.

8. Say YES!

I traveled with an open mind and an open heart, and in so doing I had countless experiences that I never dreamed of during the whole planning process. Among many experiences, by saying “Yes!” I found myself on a surf charter boat in Sumatra for 13 days making wonderful friends and experiencing a part of the world that is rarely seen by humans.

I ate foods I had never heard of, but when coaxed by a local, you most certainly cannot say no!  I saw temples and world heritage sites I would have skipped save for a great recommendation by fellow travelers.

I met so many wonderful people along the way, and the best thing through all of it was that I felt truly alive and present in my surroundings.

Going slow and preparing in a thoughtful manner enabled me to get the most out of my career break. The experiences were plentiful, the memories are abundant, and my life is richer now than I could have ever imagined.  So, what are you waiting for?

Tamara made the career break leap this past January (2014) and has just returned to New York City after having the opportunity to visit 15 countries, experiencing the wilds of Africa, the tropical landscapes of Indonesia, the rolling hills of Tuscany, the beautiful coastline of Cornwall, and the archipelago of Sweden. Traveling solo for most of the adventure gave Tamara an excellent opportunity to spend time with herself and to really think about and shape the next chapter in her life as she re-enters the work force. You can connect with Tamara through her website and on Twitter.

Photo credits: Thinglass, trekandshoot, Jenn Hulls, Lisa S., Marin Veraja, elephant photo courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go