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

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.

Deciphering the RTW Airfare Puzzle
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

If a career break is something you’re in the midst of planning, then you have no doubt come across the maddening puzzle that is multi-stop, or around the world, airfare.

There is plenty of information out there about the costliest part of long-term travel – some of it good, some of it bad, most of it contradictory and difficult to decipher.

Fortunately BootsnAll simplified the matter with their latest version of the Around the World Airfare Report (which is totally free!).

Anyone who has planned (or is planning) a career break trip has had to read about or research air travel. It’s not a fun endeavor.

And after spending hours traipsing the interwebs, people often end up with more questions than they started with:

  • How many options are out there?
  • Why are airline alliance tickets so complicated?
  • Why are there so many rules?
  • Is there a way to get around those rules?
  • What is the process for changing tickets?
  • Is there anyone I can actually talk to who can help me?
  • Is there a way to estimate a price for my airfare before committing?
  • Are there any companies who specialize in this type of ticket?

The Fall 2014 version of the Around the World Airfare Report helps answer all the above questions, and then some.

The goal of this report is to help make it easier for you to decide which option is right for your trip.

This 33 page report suggests which companies to search depending on what type of traveler you are, whether you’re experienced, inexperienced, a family, or a traveler with airline miles – the airfare report will have something for you to learn.

Everyone has different needs when it comes to their trip, and we realize that, which is why we encourage anyone planning a big trip like this to learn as much as they can about their options and search across multiple companies until you find the right fit for your route.

What the airfare report does is teach you, in an easy-to-understand way, about the various options available and cuts down on that learning time.

Setting aside some time to read this report will save you hours of research.

We’ve been researching and putting this report together for months. We’ve done the homework for you, creating 3 different traveler personas to secret shop 3 multi-stop routes across nine different companies and airline alliances. Our goal was to simulate a real customer experience, then we took that data and everything we’ve learned from being in the long-term travel game for 15+ years to create this report.

We searched each route based on three factors, two of which can be measured by data:

  • Cost: How much does the ticket cost?
  • Service Speed>: How quickly can you receive a bookable price on your route?

The third factor is more difficult to measure because it there is no data behind it:

  • Frustration Factor: How frustrating is the process of building and pricing a multi-stop route?

In regards to Frustration Factor, we explain all the rules, terms, and conditions of each company and airline in the simplest manner possible, so you can know what you’re getting into before shopping and purchasing with whatever company you choose.

If you want to learn more about all things multi-stop air travel, like costs, search options, how to change a ticket (and what it costs to do so), and all the ins and outs of shopping for and purchasing flights for your trip, then this report is for you!

This is the 4th version of this report, and we’ll be researching and updating again in 2015, so we’d love to hear your feedback after reading it. Feel free to comment below or leave a review here

Adam Seper is the editor at the BootsnAll Travel Network and primary researcher and author of the Around the World Airfare Report. Adam and his wife, Megan, took a career break in 2008-2009, traveling for a year through South America, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and India. Adam was also the host for Meet, Plan, Go St. Louis in 2011.

Photo credits: Jaroslav Franicsko

To Plan Or Not To Plan Your Career Break – 5 Factors
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

So you’re planning your career break… guidebooks, blog posts, forums and websites. All those years of seeing someone else’s photographs and thinking “I’ll go there one day,” and suddenly you might have the opportunity. So on the itinerary it goes, but if you’re not careful, then you’ve planned every day of your time away from your armchair.

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But life has a way of being unexpected, and besides, for a lot of us (well, me!), a careerbreak is about shaking things up a little, and my plans changed a lot.

1) Round the world or point-to-point airfare

Careerbreak version #1 involved hiking around Eastern Europe, before heading to South East Asia, having a wander about for 8 months or so, and then going to New Zealand via Japan. Not much planned, just move on as and when.

And then we saw the cost of the tickets.

As New Zealand was non-negotiable, the cost of the point-to-point tickets were astronomical, and we realised it was a lot cheaper – almost half the price! – to do a round the world plane ticket instead.

It’s not always more cost effective with a round the world, but once you start looking at Australia and New Zealand, and South America, it often is.

So Careerbreak version #2 was born, and suddenly we had fixed points: London – Rio de Janeiro; then Santiago – Auckland – Sydney – Bangkok; and finally Singapore – Helsinki – London, with most of our time spent in Asia.

That was the first concession we made to planning our time away. It wasn’t the last, but it was probably the most important as now we had a framework to build on.

All the bits in between – like getting from one side of South America to the other – we still made up as we went along, travelling mostly by bus but also by plane once we got to Asia and its plentiful budget airlines. It worked well as the round the world ticket stops were often quite far apart (e.g. there were nearly 8 months between the flight into Bangkok and the one out from Singapore) so we still had lots of manoeuvrability.

If I could have my time over, would I still pick a round the world ticket?

Maybe, maybe not. The penalties for changing it were quite harsh (a lot more than we were led to believe when we bought it), so we only altered one segment, but I’d have liked to re-route a few times. That said, it was a bargain (leaving more money for more places), and I got to go back to Australia and visit some new South American countries.

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2) Proof of onward travel

 

Most governments around the world just don’t like you arriving without some scheduled exit – especially flying in. There’s a lot written about this online, and I’m not going to re-hash it here, but just so you know, we had to prove onward travel at the following airports at check in. And we couldn’t often use our Round-The-World ticket as proof as the gaps between flights were too big. We were never asked for it at a land crossing or by immigration officials.

  • Auckland before flying to Sydney
  • Ho Chi Minh before flying to Manila
  • Manila before flying to Kota Kinabalu
  • Taipei before flying to Tokyo
  • Tokyo before flying to Busan
  • Seoul before flying to Kuala Lumpur

We were also asked for it in Sydney (quite aggressively too!) before our Bangkok flight, but we successfully argued that we didn’t need it as we had acquired visas. A lot more of the airlines we flew with could have asked for it but didn’t.

All of this meant that if we were flying in somewhere, then we normally knew when we’d be leaving, even if we didn’t quite know what we’d be doing in the intervening weeks!

3) Accommodation

Put away those visions of traipsing round guesthouses and hotels weighed down by your backpack looking for vacancies. It’s 2014, and there are online deals to be had!

I estimate we pre-booked 95℅ of our accommodation, but that doesn’t mean we lost flexibility – often it was only a day in advance, sometimes just a few hours.

In some countries – like Laos – it was cheaper to go around to guesthouses, but in a lot of countries, it wasn’t. And anyway is it really worth the hassle? Wandering from door to door with your backpack, looking needy and subsequently being subjected to outrageous rates far in excess of what was being offered online (Calafate, Argentina, was the worst for this, followed by just about every Thai island we visited. In several places they wanted 50% more than the price I was able to get online).

I’ve found this year that 9 times out of 10, it either cost the same – or less – to book online as it did to just show up. So we typically booked a night or two online first, and then if we liked it we’d stay longer and try to negotiate a discount. And several times – Malaysia and Korea were big on this – the receptionist would tell you to book the extra nights online as well or it would cost more.

In Sydney and Santiago, we also rented apartments, and needless to say they needed a bit more planning.

Finally, watch out for other people’s holidays – finding somewhere to stay in Thailand at New Year was the stuff of nightmares, as was generally doing anything in Indonesia over Eid!

4) Transport

The Philippines neatly sums this up. First off we got stung massively because we didn’t book our internal flights to Palawan far enough in advance at Easter – the cost literally doubled in two days. But once we got to El Nido we suddenly found all these modern speedboats running between there and Coron that weren’t in the guidebooks, and we needn’t have bought flights back at all!

The moral of the story? While most hotels and guesthouses now have some form of online presence, a lot of the bus and boat companies do not. Sometimes it pays to not have an exit strategy as you won’t be able to see what the connections are until you arrive.

5) Times when plans have to go out the window

Things will not work out quite as you planned, so there’s no point in being OCD when it comes to your itinerary.

In Brazil my tooth broke, meaning I ended up spending 9 days in Lima that I hadn’t foreseen getting a root canal and crown! In Bolivia I had chronic food poisoning and hightailed it for the Chilean border and more sanitary cooking methods. And then in Chile the ferry route into Patagonia ceased operations, so we were forced into an overland crossing into Argentina and then zigzagging back.

And then there was the flip side – properly being able to catch up with my friends in Lima and crossing into Argentina so early we found the utterly gorgeous Bariloche and its surrounding Lake District.

But the biggest itinerary change was in Asia. We grew tired of the backpacker trail of people in their late teens / early 20s with the same dreadlocks and the same ukeleles strumming out the same Jason Mraz song.. I actually thought we might come home early. So we overhauled our itinerary and went to Taiwan, Japan and Korea. And Japan is my new found favourite place. I adored it and can’t wait to return!

How it ended up

So from all those plans back in the UK, this ended up being my careerbreak around the planet.

UK – Brazil – Peru – Bolivia – Chile – Argentina – Chile (again!) – Argentina (again!) – Chile (yes, a third time!) – New Zealand – Australia – Thailand – Cambodia – Laos – Vietnam – Philippines – Malaysia (Borneo) – Taiwan – Japan – Korea – Malaysia (peninsular) – Indonesia – Singapore – Finland – Estonia – Finland – UK

Ever so slightly different from New Zealand and back via Romania! So plan your career break as much as you dare, just remember to leave some wriggle room and see where you end up…

Grant Winborn had always had a bit of a love affair with his backpack, but decided to properly go for it in 2013 when he quit his well paid job back in the UK and set off on a year-long careerbreak in South America, New Zealand and Asia (with a well-earned week-long party catching up with Aussie friends in Sydney whilst in the neighbourhood). Some may call it a mid life crisis – especially when he just happened to cross the Dateline fifteen minutes before his 40th birthday, missing that particular day entirely – but he just likes to call it an adventure. You can read his blog at Rice Bowls and Rucksacks or follow Grant on Twitter. 

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

Quit Your Job With Confidence
Thursday, August 21st, 2014

How can you just quit your job?

Kind of a tough question right? I think it is easier than some might believe.

Why do we work anyway? Is it to pass the day by and get some income, or is it to challenge ourselves and create ourselves? And if you knew you could leave your job for a year to come back to it, would you do it?

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I would think most people would say yes. So why not work towards doing that? If we worked smart enough to create a unique position for ourselves highlighting our strengths, we would create high value for ourselves. Being more valuable in your job will allow you to leave and give you options when you come back.

The decision to quit

My wife and I decided to quit our jobs and travel the world about two and a half years ago. We both graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2008 and found jobs in Oklahoma City. She decided to go to graduate school and take two years to get her nurse practitioner degree in August 2011. At that time I decided to get another job in the Energy industry in Oklahoma City as an Engineer. We both agreed that after Katie finished her masters degree, we would take off. I worked two years with my new company doing well, Katie finished her masters program, and we knew it was time to quit. We quit in May 2014 and have just started our RTW trip.

So far we traveled around the US for two months, went to the World Cup in Brazil, and now are in Portugal. We plan on traveling through Europe, New Zealand, Asia, Central America, and Africa for about a year and a half, hitting warm weather destinations the whole time. We also came up with a rule of for every four countries we spend time in, one of those will be devoted to volunteering for our whole stay.

Passing up the big offer

I had performed well with my company and made a good impression with my engineering role. After being there two years, I created a niche role for myself and started to have options open up for me to move up in the organization. Even though I was leaving to travel, I had the option to be welcomed back if we came back to Oklahoma City after a year of traveling.

However, this wasn’t my only option for re-entry employment. Two months before I was going to quit, another company approached me and asked me to start in five months time with a really good offer. Five months vacation and then a for sure job to come back to. Sounds pretty good and secure right? However, my passion for taking the trip we wanted to take exceeded my passion for traveling for 5 months and committing to something else.

Everything in life is not about money

It was a tough decision, but I believe you should do what you are passionate about. So I decided to go against ALL advice I received and declined the offer.

I decided to travel with open ends, realizing that there could be something I find along the way that could be more meaningful than creating lots of business for a company. In the end it is your life, and you have to live it, not by a company’s plan and standard for you, but by your own. After declining the offer, the company came back and said ok, we will extend this offer for 2015. Take your time and you have something to come back to if you want it.

How did I get all of these opportunities?

I think of work differently. Instead of coasting through work to retire after thirty-five years, I’d like to “retire” every fifth year with the ability to have a job for us when we come back from taking breaks.

Let’s work to be truly valued so that we can demand a career break and get it. You can become more valuable by doing these things in your career:

  • Work smarter to make a big impact with your group
  • Be positive, happy, and enjoyable to be around
  • Do more research on a specialty problem and uncover the unknown
  • Come up with an innovative idea to solve that problem or create another section of business
  • Take charge, execute, and grow your new idea or business section, doing it with no instruction from your boss, just informing your boss of your actions along the way
  • Realize you are now in demand and valued at your company
  • Have the confidence to demand more from your work, and negotiate leave with the ability to be hired back
  • You are in demand, be confident

Some are already in demand at work or valued and just don’t know the power they hold. Your company knows you can do a great job. They know you are doing a good job now, and know that you can do a good job when and if you come back. You are a sure bet to them and not a risky hire.

Telling my boss about quitting to go travel made me realize that if you have ambitions outside of work, whether that is taking care of your dad who has cancer, retiring, taking time off to travel, your company does not see that as a negative or a threat. They can relate with life choices a lot easier than leaving for another job.

Don’t hide your passions, but work them into your life and job and take risks to do so. If you have the passion to quit your job and travel then you also have the passion to stand up to others plans/advice and be happy doing it. Your good at what you do, so be confident about negotiating leave.

Just as much as you are scared to leave your paycheck, your bosses are scared to loose you. It’s not a one way relationship. If you have a good relationship with your company, then through that relationship they will be open to hiring you when you come back. If you can’t talk to your boss and colleagues about these things, then there isn’t much of a relationship, and you might have to depend on your connections outside of your current job. For me, regardless if I go back to my old job or take the other opportunity, the one thing I know is that my number one priority is to travel, and I won’t settle to pursue that dream right now.

Taking the step of quitting is something that seems pretty hard to do, but it all depends on what we want to do in life.  Like most change in life, the hardest part is within your own mind. Once I actually did it, I realized that I can achieve whatever I want to, I just had to go for it. If I can do it, you can do it, too!

Katie and Wes decided to quit their jobs in Oklahaoma City April 2014 and take some time to explore the world and slow down. Their lives were career oriented and too routine. They thrived for a big change that would let them experience actual value in their lives. They plan to travel for about 18 months to South and Central America, Europe, New Zealand, Asia and Africa. They want to travel around one month per country and try and do four countries per continent; volunteering in one country for every four that they travel to. Follow them on their blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

Enrich Your Travels Through Language
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

You’ve saved up some money, bought the guidebooks, tweeted out to friends and family for off-the-beaten-track restaurant recommendations. Your flight across the world leaves tomorrow, and you have felt nothing but pure elation upon leaving the office for the last time today.

The only problem is you don’t speak the country’s language.

And no amount of Rosetta Stone can get you fluent overnight.

But before you cancel your plans and regift your airline miles to someone who may know Mandarin or Tagalog, I’d suggest you reconsider the whole issue.

Language shouldn’t deter you from travel.

It isn’t a barrier.

Language is a distinct vantage point from which to view your new surroundings.

It may sound crazy, and I’ll admit, it’s taken me a while to believe my own words. But hear me out.

Language is a snapshot into a culture, offering unique insight that you don’t get by visiting museums or touring old churches. You travel with your five senses, and language provides the auditory experience. What pierogies or fresh pasta is for your tongue, Polish or Italian is for your ears. And much like photographs or food, the language of a country can enrich your travels and help you remember them long after you’re gone.

When I look back on my trip to Italy, I remember the espresso—who doesn’t—but also the elaborate hand dance Italians do to get their point across. I’m not sure which moves more in Italian, the lips or the palms, but the gestures instill an image of Italy that’s sharper than an Instagram.

When I think about my year spent studying in southern Spain, it’s not the Flamenco or the white-washed houses I recall: It’s the strong Andalucian accent, nearly unintelligible to fledgling speakers, but ultimately a beautifully rhythmic marker of the region and its colorful people.

More than anything else about my time in Spain, hearing Andaluz transports me back to my year abroad.

I remember the signs and graffiti in Arabic as its own art form throughout Marrakech and the Moroccan desert towns. I had no idea what any words meant, but the scripts represent the country for me, as they were the backdrops of my adventure. The beauty of Morocco is not only found in the shimmering Saharan dunes, but in the writing on the walls. Language isn’t just auditory—it’s art.

That being said, I’m not immune to the difficulties language presents in world travel. Its rewards don’t come without a bit of a struggle.

While you cannot become fluent in Japanese or Hindi overnight, here are five tips to assuage potential language issues:

1. Study up before you go

At the very least, learn the basics of the language. I wouldn’t invest much time learning complex sentences like “How long has this street food been sitting out?” because chances are, you won’t understand the answer (and won’t want to, either). But learn the basics: Hello, Goodbye, Thank you, How Much, and especially important, Do you speak English?

A bare minimum in the target language shows respect for the people and their culture and also might work wonders to ensure that you don’t get immediately ripped off as a tourist.

2. Part of language is unspoken

Do a bit of research about gestures—some countries have very inventive ways to flip people off. The thumbs up sign in Greece and the Middle East is offensive, equivalent to giving the middle finger in the States. Pointing with the index finger is a huge no-no in many countries. Even in English, there can be issues cross-culturally: Ex-president George W. Bush once waved a peace sign at an event in Australia, but with his palm facing inwards it meant that the crowd should go screw themselves.

3. Approach the younger generation

I have absolutely no background in Slavic languages, and in Poland I couldn’t even make an educated guess as to what those 20-consonant-long words meant. At the beginning of my stay, I would approach anyone who walked by to ask for help. Once I was almost driven to tears when I asked an elderly woman for help finding a hostel. She gave me a brisk shake of the head, a harsh “no!” and stormed off. Not the warmest reception.

Then I realized I was searching for silver in a copper mine. English hasn’t been taught internationally since the beginning of time—it’s the younger generation who has grown up learning it in schools, and it’s the younger generation you should approach for directions or advice on the street.

4. Write down the most essential terms for your travel in the target language

Think: the street name of your hotel, a food allergy, or “public toilet.” This is especially pertinent if you’re traveling to a country that uses characters, like South Korea, or script, like Egypt. By copying the words down, you can easily point to them. Even if you attempt to spell out a word using English phonics, like “may yaw-mow Jenny” [Spanish: me llamo Jenny], a local may not necessarily understand you, given prominent pronunciation differences.

Take my word for it—it’s easier to point to a notebook than develop the tongue muscles required to correctly pronounce most sounds of the world’s languages.

5. Change your outlook

View languages as an opportunity to broaden your horizons. Going to restaurants where they don’t have an English menu most likely means you’re getting a more authentic experience, better prices, and local specialties. This could be a perfect opportunity to blindly guess and maybe end up with a new favorite food (or a great story to tell). You didn’t go all the way to Istanbul to try a hamburger. Branch out—that’s what travel is for, and foreign language, while scary at times, is a cleverly disguised tool to help you do so.

When you plan a trip to a country with malaria, you’d pick up the necessary pills. When you travel to a more conservative place, you’d pack long pants and a shawl.

Languages are like any other component of travel—they should be planned for, but not feared. And the payoff is well worth it: World languages are the most present form of culture that you can find. The songs, signs, calls and cries of a country is a culture alive.

Bio: Jenny Marshall is a language and culture fanatic. She’s based in Spain, where she teaches English to rowdy middle-schoolers and attempts that sexy Spanish lisp. She can’t decide which is more fun, travel or grammar, so she frequently jaunts around Europe and picks up cool new words from each destination. Read and participate in a life translated by travel at her blog, A Thing For Wor(l)ds, To miss none of the fun, follow her on Twitter @AThingForWords, and like her Facebook page.

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

Camper Van Relocation: Cost Comparison
Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Earlier in the week Amelia Tockston wrote a post about her experience with Camper Van Relocation in Australia. The following is a detailed breakdown and cost comparison for anyone interested in doing the same on their career break trip.

Details and itinerary

  • I had a Britz Hi-Top, 3 person sleeper — all to myself!
  • Van amenities included: stove, fridge, microwave, kettle, utensils, cups/bowls/plates, table, bed, linens/pillows/sleeping bags, sound system, sink, electrical plugs, window screens, storage bins and lights.
  • I could extend my contract for $75 day (max 2 days). But in my case, I could extend for one day only, since paying customers needed the van on Dec 29 in Hobart.
  • My schedule: Depart Melbourne Dec 24, arrive Hobart Dec 28.
  • My US car insurance did not provide coverage for camper vans, nor did my credit card company, so I purchased insurance through the rental company:
    • $12/day to reduce damage expenses to maximum $500 out-of-pocket, in the event of an accident.
    • Important noteIf relocation driver rolls the van, rental insurance does not apply and driver is responsible for full cost of vehicle damage. And since rolling a vehicle generally totals a car, the driver would be responsible for the cost of entire van! Horror story, a tourist from China, with no insurance of her own, rolled her luxury camper van and subsequently owed the rental company $170,000 AUD. Lesson here: DO NOT roll your camper van, take corners cautiously and slowly.
  • Bond requirement: My credit card was charged $1,000 AUD. This would be refunded to my credit card upon arrival to Hobart Airport, but given two contingents:
    • No damage to vehicle and I arrive ON TIME. If vehicle is returned damaged, I would forfeit up to $500 AUD. If I failed to return the van by 3 pm on December 28, I would forfeit the entire $1,000 AUD. Not a good day to be late!
  • I was receiving $350 AUD towards fuel and ferry crossing. The least expensive ticket for a Melbourne to Devonport, Tasmania on Christmas Eve is $369 AUD. And this is for a recliner! Part of the pros and cons of traveling over the holidays.

My 4-day camper van itinerary

December 25 - Arrival to Devonport / Drive to Cradle Mountain National Park / Afternoon hike / Christmas dinner in camper van / Overnight at Cradle Mountain Holiday Park

December 26 - Morning hike around Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain National Park / Drive to Ross / Overnight Ross Inn Caravan Park

December 27 - Drive to Freycinet National Park / Hike to Wineglass Bay / Swim at Honeymoon Bay / Drive south to Triabuna / Overnight at Triabuna Caravan Park

December 28 - Drive Richmond / Drive to Hobart Int’l Airport, fill up petrol and clean out van / Return van to Britz office before 3 pm – don’t be late!

Additional Information

  • US driver’s license and passport were sufficient for the rental (I do not have an international license).
  • Relocation driver must be 21+ years of age.
  • Extra Kilometer Charge: $0.55AUD
    • This is the amount charged per kilometre if you exceed the kilometre allowance. This did not apply to me.
  • Imoova.com charges a $25 service fee. To avoid this charge in the future, book directly through rental company, thl (www.thlonline.com).

Cost breakdown

Typical van rental expenses:

  • $770 AUD – Regular daily van rental ($154 AUD/day)*
  • $280 AUD – One-way fee
  • $60 AUD – Van insurance through rental company
  • $369.00 AUD – Ferry Crossing
  • $88.27 AUD – Groceries
  • $57.00 AUD – Caravan Parks
  • $40.50 AUD – National Park Entrance Fees
  • $102.32 AUD – Petrol

Total: $1,767.09

*Over the Christmas period, the minimum hire period is 10 days; so a normal 5-day hire is not possible unless driver is relocating the vehicle. Above $770 AUD quote is based on 5 days; a 10-day trip would be $1,540 AUD just in daily rental fees!

Relocation expenses:

  • $20 AUD – Daily Rental Fee ($5/day)
  • $75 AUD – Extra rental day
  • $60 AUD – Van insurance through rental company
  • $25 AUD – Imoova service fee
  • $32.18 AUD – Ferry Crossing (difference from reimbursement from rental company)
  • $88.27 AUD – Groceries
  • $57.00 AUD – Caravan Parks
  • $40.50 AUD – National Park Entrance Fees
  • $102.32 AUD – Petrol

Total: $500.27 AUD

Total savings: $1,266.82

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.

The Big Career Break Question: Where to Go?
Friday, June 20th, 2014

One of the most important – and fun – aspects of planning a career break is deciding where to go. With so many choices out there, though, it can easily become daunting. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you debate South America versus Southeast Asia, Europe versus Africa or Australia versus the Middle East.

What Calls You

First things first – think about what calls to you. For many travelers, their favorite destinations have been places that have spoken to them in some way before they have even visited.

For example, Meet, Plan, Go! co-founder Michaela Potter became fascinated with Vietnam and Cambodia after studying the war and Pol Pot’s regime in the 1970s. So when she decided to take a three-month career break in 2001, she centered her travels on those destinations.

Ready to go? Need help planning? Sign up for our free 30-day planning e-course! 

Meet, Plan, Go! editor Katie Aune read a biography about Catherine the Great of Russia when she was in high school, which led to majoring in Russian & East European Studies and taking Russian language classes in college. When she started thinking about a career break, Russia was at the very top of her list.

So think about places or cultures that might call you. They don’t have to be steeped in history – perhaps there is a cuisine that you love, a language that you want to learn or an aspect of your family background that you want to explore. Think about some of your favorite movies or books – do they tend to take place in the same destinations or center on similar themes? Inspiration is all around you and you may not even realize it.

Timing

Once you come up with a short list of the destinations you want to visit, think about when the best time is to travel to those countries.

What will the weather be like? 

What kind of weather do you prefer and what types of activities are you likely to engage in?

And are there any major events taking place that you might want to witness or participate in?

For example, the months of September – November in the southern part of Thailand is monsoon season, so you won’t be able to enjoy the beaches. However, this time of year also sees some unique local festivals, so you will be able to experience part of the culture most travelers don’t.

December – January are the summer months in Australia and New Zealand, making for a nice escape from winter in the northern hemisphere. However, this is also the time of year when students are on break so most Aussies and Kiwis will vacation during this time, creating competition for lodging and activities.

Some people follow the warm weather so they can avoid experiencing cold, harsh winter climates during their career break, but that doesn’t mean you have to. If you’re an avid skier, spending February in the snow-covered mountains of Europe may be just your thing!

Participating in local holidays and festivals offers a unique cultural experience, but it can also offer some challenges. During countrywide holidays, such as the Thai New Year (Songkran Festival), most locals travel, making it difficult to book transportation or accommodation. This is also the case during the Hindu celebration of Diwali in India. Don’t let that deter you, but do your best to be prepared and stay patient.

It’s also important to understand the significance of the holiday or festival and try to act as respectful as possible. During Ramadan in Islamic countries, non-Muslims and visitors are not expected to observe the fast, but it is respectful to be discrete when consuming food or water during the day. Learning about the customs of the countries you plan to travel to is a great way to understand their holidays as well as their cultures. And if you happen to “stumble upon” a holiday, don’t be afraid to ask a local more about it and find out how you can participate.

Loy Krathong - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Comfort Level

Finally, think about your comfort level with respect to the places you plan to visit. Travel is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, but only you know how far you are willing to go.

Before hitting the road, you do want to have the peace of mind that where you are going is safe – not just for your own comfort but that of your friends and family staying behind. The U.S. State Department’s website offers tips for safely traveling internationally (including registering with the local US Embassies) and posts warnings and alerts for countries all around the world.

Before you leave, try to get a handle on local issues in the countries you may visit by following the websites of international papers, signing up for Google Alerts or check out message boards and forums. While a lot of news stories tend to focus on the negative, locals or fellow travelers may be able to give you a more balanced perspective. Try the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum, BootsnAll forums or Couchsurfing message boards for up to date information from people on the ground in your chosen destinations.

While Americans often assume that we are viewed negatively overseas and that it is not safe to travel abroad as an American, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most people can differentiate between the individual and one’s government, especially when it comes to Americans. And most of the time, people don’t even care where you are from. As long as you respect their cultures, refrain from illegal activities, and keep an open mind, you will be fine.

Have you taken a career break? How did you choose your destinations?

How to Get Started Blogging on Your Career Break
Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

A BLOG’S LIFE – Part 1

Sherry Ott talks with David Lee of GoBackpacking.com & Travel Blog Success on why you should blog about your travels & other useful tips on how to get started. (Runtime – 13:14)

A formal apology for the audio quality of this interview! We conducted this interview between Colombia and Belgium and the Skype internet Gods were not with us that day! We’ve tried to transcribe the main points below!

  • 1:05 – What should people consider when they want to blog about the travels- For family and friends – still post on a regular basis
  • 1:55 – Making money from the experience requires more effort. Recommend start 1 year before you leave if possible.
  • 2:30 – What’s the difference between blogging for fun and blogging for money?- Fun = Can be less formal and go with the flow, consistency not as important- Money = Very important to establish a schedule and stick to it
  • 4:30 – What’s the best time to start a blog?- Dave started his 11 months before he left home. It helped him find his voice and style. The more time the better.
  • 5:14 – The readers like to read about the preparation. It’s important to document the steps you are taking so people can use it as a resource.
  • 6:10 – What do you need to start a blog- Access to computer and internet connection!- For casual bloggers you don’t need to bring your own laptop- WordPress software is free and can be found at www.wordpress.org- Dave’s recommendation!- Buy your own domain name. This is important if you want to blog for money.
  • 8:29 – How do you build a cohesive blog?- Think about what your niche or topic is. This helps you build an audience.- Incorporate photography. Provides an easy visual experience. Breaks up the writing and helps expand your audience.
  • 10:12 – What would have you done differently?- Spend a bit more money in the beginning to start out with a professional theme (frontend to wordpress). People will take you more seriously with a theme and it helps to attract advertisers. $75- Spend money on a domain name $10- Spend money to host your blog $75

A BLOG’S LIFE – Part 2

David Lee shares with Sherry some of his favorite travel blogs as well as some skills you can learn in advance of your journey that will enhance your blog. (Runtime – 9:13)

  • :56 – What are the elements of a good blog- Everything Everywhere is very honest and open about what he writes. Posts a Photo of the Day also. Good at forecasting trends that are happening.- Two Backpackers include HD video into their blog regularly (not an easy task!). Honest writing – they tell it like it is.- Backpack with Brock – Film student who blogged solely in HD Video. (If you want to do this – make sure you have some experience editing.)
  • 4:06 – Content is the most important. Being honest, using photography or video.
  • 4:52 – What do you recommend to do before you go to prepare?- Photography lessons- Travel Writing class
  • 6:12 – Travel Writing/photography tip – Take pictures of small moments you come across when you are traveling and not only the landmarks.
  • 7:45 – Don’t be intimidated, it’s not highly technical.

Resources Referenced by David Lee:

 

Traveling with Purpose
Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Why Water? Because unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.

I am revisiting one of my favorite countries from my initial career break – colorful, loud, sense-tingling India. India is a country which was pivotal to leading me on the path to creating Meet Plan Go along with Michaela Potter. It was also a country where I had my first experience of volunteering and giving back to the world for what it gave me during my career break.

One of the most exciting and difficult parts of planning a career break is deciding where to go and what to do. After all, it may be the first time in your life where the world is really your oyster! At Meet Plan Go we talk often about planning itineraries with purpose and your career in mind. How will you decide to enhance your career value while on your career break?

Traveling with a purpose can bring focus to your trip and add new skill sets to your career break resume – for example:

“I spearheaded negotiations with tribal chief and facilitated a young couple’s marriage with the chief’s blessing and a roast goat for the whole village.” –Charlie Grosso

Even though this is a bit tongue and cheek, there are many ways to add purpose to your career break – volunteering, learning a language, enhancing a skill, photography projects, immersion in a country that is important to your career, working in natural disaster areas, teaching, or fundraising for a cause.

I’m in India for a purpose. The aforementioned Charlie Grosso and I are participating in the Rickshaw Run. This is not an actual run, but a transportation adventure in the most massive sense; a two week adventure driving a motorized rickshaw 2000 miles the length of India for two purposes.

To raise $15,000 for charity: water – a charity I believe deeply in and have witnessed the repercussions of contaminated water around the world.
• To experience India close to the ground on a massive adventure that is unique and will test my communication, decision making, and driving skills.

This is a way I can infuse unique adventure into my travel itinerary as well as participate in a worthy career-enhancing cause AND do good.  After traveling the world for 7+ years and starting Meet Plan Go as well as Ottsworld.com – I think it’s important to give something back to this world that we live, travel, and operate in. I’m happy to be taking on this fundraising mission for everything the world and its cultures has given to me.

If Meet Plan Go has ever inspired you to travel, then we’d love your support towards our fundraising mission, but we’d also like to give you something in return – the chance to win a few great travel prizes you can use on your career break travels.

Learn more and enter the contest here

The raffle runs through the time frame of our Rickshaw Run, April 1st through April 22nd. We will choose 4 winners from the entries for the 4 prizes.

Increase your chances of winning by making a donation to charity: water

Here’s the travel prizes you could win by entering:

Urban Adventures Voucher for 2 – The day tour with a difference! In just a few hours you can get under the skin of the city you’re visiting – so you know it like a local. Urban Adventures will open up a whole new dimension on many of your favorite cities around the world. Destinations worldwide – Bangkok, Sydney, Delhi, Hanoi, Rio, Hong Kong, Istanbul and MANY more!

Telecom Square Mobile Internet Voucher – Get reliable, and hassle free internet while you travel abroad! Save money on data while traveling by using TelecomSquare mobile internet hotspot devices for your career break. You’ll enjoy unlimited wireless internet access for up to 5 devices, everywhere you go. We are using our Mifi device to stay connected during the Rickshaw Run!

London’s Small Car Bit City Voucher – smallcarBIGCITY have a fleet of beautifully restored vintage Mini Coopers to take you down all of the little back streets and show off London’s hidden gems for the ultimate guided tour of London!

AFAR Magazine Subscription – Get inspired with beautifully told travel stories and photography in this award winning travel magazine.

You can enter the Rickshaw Run Travel Raffle Here

And if you are considering infusing some adventure into your career break itinerary like the Rickshaw Run or Mongol Rally, you can follow #RickshawRun in Twitter or my Ottsworld social media to follow us live across India and see if it’s something you’d like to do!

No donations or purchases necessary…but of course we’d love it if you do donate something AND it increases your chances of winning by 10 times!

How to Track and Save for Career Break
Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Deciding to go on a career break is difficult enough, but the tough decisions don’t end once you finally take that plunge and decide to do it. After making the decision to go, the first question most people ask is, “How much is this whole venture going to cost?”

The good news is that you’re going to have plenty of time to practice budgeting. The budget and money-saving doesn’t begin the day you leave. It starts right now. The minute you decide to go on an adventure like this is the minute you need to start focusing on money.

Be Realistic and Ask Yourself the Right Questions

 

Before you open your first spreadsheet, start an account on Mint, or think about anything money related, you need to be 100% honest with yourself about you, your spending habits, and what type of traveler you are. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you OK with hostel dorms (cheap, shared accommodations)?
  • Do you think you’ll want a private room most of the time (hostels have these, too)?
  • Are hotels more your style?
  • Are you OK with cooking a lot of your meals in hostel kitchens?
  • Are you OK with eating street or market food?
  • What type of big activities do you want to participate in?
  • Is overland travel the way you want to get around?
  • How many continents do you plan on visiting (the more you go to, the more expensive it will be)?

 

Where to Begin

Sometimes the most overwhelming part of the budget is figuring out where to begin. If you don’t already track your spending, then start now!

  • Open an account on Mint.com and start figuring out where your money is going.
  • Break down your income vs. your expenses. (see Monthly vs. Travel expenses)
  • If your expenses exceed your income, then you need to make changes.
    • Cut back on things like eating out and drinking at bars.
    • Stop buying new stuff. Chances are high that you are going to want to get rid of a lot of   you clutter before leaving, so why buy new items now?
    • Consider getting a second (or third) job.
    • Think about selling off a lot of your stuff. You will most likely come home from your career break and realize that you have way too much clutter. Get rid of it now – sell it on ebay, Craig’s List, or have a garage or yard sale.

 

Start Saving

Once you get to the point where you are bringing in more than you are spending, then it’s time to go into saving mode. Open up a savings account somewhere. Research banks that offer high starting interest rates or specials for the first year. Any extra little bit helps. Then start paying that savings account, otherwise known as your career break travel fund, as you would your normal bills. Figure out how much you can start putting away each month, and pay it as soon you receive a paycheck.

Any little extra bit you earn or save, put it in the travel fund. Start getting into travel mode. Saving for a trip of this magnitude is difficult. You will have to turn down a lot of fun events before leaving on your career break. Going out to bars, dinners with friends, movies, shopping trips with the girls-all are things you are just going to have to say no to much of the time. It’s frustrating, and there will be times you question if what you’re doing is worth it. It is. It’s just all a manner of how you spin it in your mind.

Bypass a night out on the town with your buddies? Congratulations, you just bought yourself four extra days in Thailand. Turn down that shopping trip with your sister? Good job, now you can spend another week in Argentina. It’s all about priorities, and when you make the decision to take a career break and travel the world, it has to be the top priority in your life.

ADDITIONAL INSPIRATION

Warren and Betsy Talbot of Married with Luggage provide some video advice on how to think of your ‘number’ and stay focused on the goal:

Are you ready to start focusing on your number?

 

Career Break Guide Table of Contents