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

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?

 

Packing Tips from Career Breakers
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

There are endless packing lists and tips on the Internet – and they are a great place to start – but we find that no matter how much advice you are given or receive, it will really come down to personal choice.

So you won’t find any lists here, but but you will hear tips on what worked for us and some of our career break vets.

Minimalist Packing Advice

For career breakers, one of the hardest things to do is imagine what life is like living out of a single suitcase for an extended period of time. This means leaving behind many things. So we asked Francine Jay, aka Miss Minimalist, to provide some ‘minimalist’ packing advice.

  • Bring a travel clothesline, and travel packets of laundry detergent. These two simple items will save you tons of space in your suitcase. The more often you wash, the less clothing you’ll need to lug around!
  • Use packing cubes. Life on the road is much easier (and more organized) when you don’t have loose stuff rolling around in your suitcase. I think of my packing cubes as “drawers,” and use them to keep like items together. If space is at a premium, you may want to consider compression bags.
  • Don’t pack stuff you can buy on the road. For example, bring only small quantities of toiletries, and simply buy more when you run out. I have fond memories of shopping for toothpaste in Tokyo!
  • When it comes to clothing, versatility is key. Pack items that go from daytime to dinner, or can be dressed up with accessories (like a scarf or necklace). Favor items that can be layered, so they’ll work in a variety of climates. And choose your shoes wisely, so that you can get by with one pair (or two at the most!).
  • For winter travel or colder climates, pack silk long johns. They’re extremely lightweight, take up next to no space, and eliminate the need for bulkier clothing. You can even wear them as pajamas in a pinch!

Career Breaker Must-Haves

No matter how many times we say “no really, you don’t need to pack everything!” people don’t seem to listen. So we asked some of our career break vets to tell us what things they can’t travel without. You might find some surprising items!

MICHAELA POTTER

Michaela shares why carabiners, a head lamp, and her journal are the three things she never leaves home without.

KIRK HORSTED 

Ever think a frisbee was an essential item to pack? It is for Kirk, and you may become a believer too! Hear why he loves packing a frisbee, plus ear plugs and his Swiss Army knife.

LILLIE MARSHALL

If you are packing something that only has one use – leave it behind. Hear why from Lillie.

SHERRY OTT

Sherry shares some of her packing tips along with the items she doesn’t leave home without.

LISA LUBIN

Lisa shares her profound love for her laptop and the other items she doesn’t leave home without, including a raincoat, watch, and packing cubes.

What items do you think you can’t leave home without?

 

What Happens to Your Stuff When You’re Traveling?
Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

What do you do with your all of your stuff when you take a career break and travel?  It’s a fair question, and one a lot of career breakers leave until the last moment. But if you put a little bit of planning into what you leave behind, your trip can be far more rewarding and your budget a little bit fatter.

The last thing you want to worry about when you’re climbing a mountain in South America, cruising to Antarctica, or visiting the temples in Southeast Asia, is your stuff back home. The whole point of your career break is to cut your ties and explore something new, and that can’t happen – at least not the full immersion you’re seeking – if you don’t have things at home under control.

The easiest method is the one we chose for our career break back in 2010. We sold everything over the course of 2 years, and along the way we became accidental experts at this whole decluttering thing.

Whether you choose to get rid of it all or save some of it for when you come back, what we know for sure is you’ll need a strategy for your stuff.

Declutter Your Space

No matter how long you plan to be gone, getting rid of the things you don’t need now will save you money, time, and worry later on. You’ll have less to store, less to maintain, and less to move when you get back.

Think about what you’ll need when you return and what you own but haven’t used in a very long time. As you go about rethinking your career and life, it’s a great time to do the same with your possessions. When you cut out the excess from your life, you can more easily see the opportunities around you.

Decluttering also helps prepare your mindset for your journey. You’ll likely be traveling light, and practicing that method now with your belongings will teach you to think about what you really need and want in this world, which is part of the reason you’re doing this whole career break thing anyway.

Sell the Excess

The added bonus is that you can sell most of what you no longer want now and use it to help fund your career break. Think about how your old phones, computers, exercise equipment, kitchen supplies, and even software and games can help fund your adventures around the world. This is much better than hauling them into a storage building that you’ll pay $1200 for while you’re gone.

In the months leading up to your career break, list a few things for sale each week on Craigslist, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly it adds up in your bank account and what a difference it makes in your home.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to do this each week, and over time you’ll appreciate this small effort.

Rent Your Space

Now that your home is decluttered and you’ve sold all the excess to help fund your trip, you have a clean space to rent. Depending on your location, you may even be able to leave your furniture and belongings in place and rent it to someone on a temporary relocation or a visiting professor or student. Use your social network to find trustworthy friends of friends in need of a place to live.

There are also professional housesitters all over the world looking for great places to stay. If you don’t need the cash or have pets you want to be loved and cared for in your absence, look for someone to stay in your home for free in exchange for pet care and maintenance. There are many housesitters who take long-term assignments. Check out TrustedHousesitters.com if you want to list your home (use our discount code “married” for 25% off).

If you are renting your space, use a property management company or a trusted local friend to manage any small repairs or emergencies at your home. You don’t want to have to worry about a busted hot water heater when you’re rafting down the Amazon.

The more you let go of the responsibilities of home, the more you’ll enjoy and benefit from your career break. In the end, it’s all just stuff, and none of it is more important than the experiences you’ll forever have from this grand adventure.

Minimize your stuff and maximize your experience.

About the Authors: Warren and Betsy Talbot have been traveling the world since 2010. Their first book, Getting Rid of It: Eliminate the Clutter in Your Life, is now a full blown multimedia course for people who are making big changes in their lives…people like you. Find out how to get rid of your stuff and make some serious cash toward your career break at www.DeclutterClinic.com. Click here to view more details

The Art of Negotiating a Sabbatical: How to Quit Your Job Temporarily
Thursday, November 7th, 2013

In the midst of the economic meltdown of 2009, my career was at a standstill.  I worked as a recruiter at an IT management consulting firm and as expected, hiring wasn’t exactly at an all-time high.  I had taken on other projects in order to supplement my workload but I felt an existential crisis was looming.  Simply put, this was not how I had envisioned myself upon graduating five years earlier.

Around this time, and perhaps fortuitously, our HR leader sent a message to all consultants that encouraged them to take career breaks of up to six weeks.  Personally I thought this was a fine idea; instead of decimating the workforce due to declining revenue, our leadership decided to cut costs through a practical program that would appear attractive to its staff and more importantly, benefit the business at large.

Wanna learn how to plan your own career break? Meet, Plan, Go has teamed up with BootsnAll to offer a free 30-day planning course – Plan Your Career Break in 30 Days. Sign up today and start receiving emails tomorrow!

I should highlight that the communication wasn’t actually directed at me because I’m not a consultant, though I have learned over the years that it is far more difficult for management to tell you “no” when someone else already has heard “yes.”  So I sat down with a pen and paper and began to list my achievements from the prior five years.  I had advanced considerably since being hired as a post-college grad, and intended to illustrate that when I finally conjured up the courage to broach this so-called “break” with my manager.  I also realized how significant it was to repeatedly reinforce that I was not quitting, but instead sought to undergo a physical and mental recharge while evaluating the direction of my career.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t at least somewhat apprehensive.  Would my manager view this as a lack of dedication to her team?  Would I have a position upon my return?  If not, how would I sustain myself, and more importantly, how would prospective employers view my decision at a time when the unemployment rate was approaching a twenty-five year high?  But I collected myself and repeated what I tell my candidates whenever they ask for more money – the worst someone can tell you is “no.”

Once I had a convincing case, I scheduled a meeting with my manager at a time when I knew I would have her full attention.  I started by expressly stating that I had no intention to part ways with the firm – I had worked with some amazing talent over those five years and felt as though it was an organization in which I could grow for years to come. I delineated my accomplishments, underscoring that my previous production level had been quite high and most recently, I had to take on additional responsibilities to reach a forty-hour workweek.  Then I dropped the bomb – I’d like to take off for a few months.  There was likely a bit of stammering on my behalf so I immediately launched into how this extended holiday would potentially benefit the business.

First and foremost, the leave would be unpaid; at a time when all companies were keen on cutting costs, this was paramount. Second, while I hoped that my role would be available upon return, I acknowledged that it was solely up to my employer as to whether or not I would have a position at the end of this leave.  I found this to be particularly important because when making a request, I believe that others appreciate if you recognize the risk involved, especially when you’re the one who has initiated it.  Ultimately, the discussion transpired over no more than 15 minutes; my manager was receptive to my reasoning and said that while we needed further approvals, I had her undivided support.

As I mentioned, six weeks had been prescribed but I knew that I’d require more time for the travel I had in mind.   I decided a more diplomatic approach would work best so I asked my manager for her input – How much time could I take without negatively impacting the team and others’ workloads?  Fortunately that wasn’t a dilemma in 2009, but not everyone requests time off during a recession.  In that case, I’d recommend raising the discussion sufficiently in advance, e.g. if it’s September, ask if you can leave in January, or perhaps opt for a time of year when business is slower than usual.  The project I’d been working on was slated to go-live in early January; I made sure my departure date coincided seamlessly with the portion for which I was responsible.

In the end, I was granted four months and I spent three of them traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Japan.  I’ll refrain from the trite testimonials – “It was the best experience of my life” (it was) or “I’m incredibly grateful for having the opportunity” (indescribably so).  What I can tell you is that upon my return, my position was indeed eliminated.  Instead, I was offered a role within our Executive Recruiting group, arguably a better position than my previous role, and where I still am today.  Six months following the break, I was asked to travel to India to train our Offshore team on various recruiting methods.  I’m certain my penchant for travel played an integral part in the invitation.

I realize that some consider the notion of a career break as completely frivolous, but I also think it’s telling that a quarter of the companies on CNN’s list of America’s best firms not only offer sabbaticals, but paid ones at that.  Employers are growing increasingly aware that people sometimes need time off and a ten-day jaunt to Costa Rica won’t always suffice.  This obviously isn’t a dialogue to have within the first six months of your tenure, but if you’re confident of your merit and feel like you could use some time to revitalize, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to open the floodgates and have the conversation.  At worst, the request will be denied.  If not, however, there are few endeavors in life as gratifying as quitting your job temporarily.

Paul Fusco is an avid traveler who works as an Executive Recruiter at an international management consulting firm in Manhattan.  He took his first career break in early 2010 and recently achieved a personal objective of visiting thirty countries by the age of thirty, celebrating in both Israel and Jordan.  In his spare time Paul writes, maps out future destinations, and enjoys New York City for all it has to offer.

Create a Travel Communication Plan
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

When you are traveling for an extended time on a career break, communication is important. It can help ease any home sickness, provide peace of mind to your worrying mother, make you the envy of your co-workers and friends, and it can help you do travel planning while on the road.

It wasn’t that long ago the process of communication while on the road was difficult and expensive; wow how things have changed! We have highlighted a few of the ‘new modern’ ways to stay in touch while on the road – but keep in mind with new phone apps and programs constantly coming out – this stuff can be out of date quickly. Some of you may prefer to not be ‘plugged in’ – but I think you’ll find that at some time or another, you will need to find a way to communicate; so here are some ideas on how to make that happen.

Setting up your communication plan is an important thing to do BEFORE you leave. Make sure you have accounts/apps, make sure your friends/family have accounts/apps, make sure everyone knows how to use it all (give them test runs), make sure you have talked to your family about how often you will be checking in and what to do if they don’t hear from you for a while. Handling these things before you leave will allow you to get the most out of your time and ensure that people aren’t back home worrying about you!

EMAIL:

This is pretty obvious, and nearly everyone has email already! It’s still the best way to stay in touch. You can find internet cafes and wifi connections all over the world to check your email and send messages.

TRAVEL CARD:

Think business card, but more fun! I would consider making a cheap set of ‘travel cards’ before you leave. Just a card with your name and your email is great. You can create these really cheaply these days and even put some cool travel photos on it! You might want to include your Skype id, Twitter handle, and Google Voice number too if you use those applications to communicate. When you are traveling you’ll meet so many new people, and the easiest thing to do is to hand someone a card with information on how they can get in touch with you for the future. It’s less likely to be lost or misplaced!

 SOCIAL NETWORKS:

This includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – or whatever else you may use. These are fabulous ways to stay in touch with family, friends, and co-workers. You can post pictures of your travels, link to blog posts or websites; it can really bring your travel experience alive for the people back home. Many people chose not to blog, and instead put all of their photography and short updates on Facebook. In addition, you will be adding so many new friends as you travel; this is also how you can stay in touch with them.

Or, if you’d like to remain more private, you can also create a private Facebook group and simply invite close family and friends to it and provide updates there regarding your whereabouts.

SKYPE:

Skype is the holy grail of communication! If you don’t have Skype, I suggest you research it before you leave and set up a login. It is a free downloadable application you can log into on a computer and make phone calls (with video), chat, conference calls, or text message over the internet. However, if you don’t intend to take a laptop, please know that 99% of internet cafés have Skype loaded on their machines as well as headsets. In addition, Skype offers a smart phone application and you are able to take calls via your smart phone if you have a wireless internet connection available.

How does it work? If the person you are calling also has Skype, then the calls are free. If they don’t have Skype, then the cost of calls is minimal and you’ll need to add credit to your Skype account to make those calls. So – the lesson here is to get your family and friends to also get on Skype. Since my parents are older and some of my siblings aren’t really tech savvy, I always suggest to people to set this stuff up BEFORE you go. Help them download it on their computers or phones; then set up an account for them and make sure they know how to use it. You don’t want to be on the road trying to teach your parents how to use Skype; I’ve done that, and it’s not fun.

Download and learn more about Skype.

Other alternative to skype is Google Hangouts or if the people you want to communicate with are on a Apple product, you can also use Facetime.

CELL PHONE:

There are many options for cell phones but once again, research this before you go. If you are positive you want to keep your phone and current provider, then make sure you look into international roaming and texting plans. This is definitely the expensive option as American carriers used internationally are costly.

Barbara from Hole in the Donut created this useful post: “Using your iphone while traveling internationally without breaking the bank”

However, a cheaper option is to purchase a cheap, unlocked (not associated with any US carrier) phone and simply purchase an international SIM card that can be used everywhere. Or you can purchase a SIM card from a local provider in the country you are traveling in (good if you are going to be in that country for a while). Personally – I’ve done both and much prefer just getting a SIM when I enter a country and using the pay as you go plans. This means your phone number changes all of the time, but there are ways around that (see Google Voice below). However; if you have a Skype id to communicate with people back home, then the only reason you may need a cell phone is to call local places (hotels, hostels, tour companies, etc); so it’s not a big deal if your number changes in each country.

With a smart phone then this means that you can also pretty easily communicate with less tech savvy family/friends back home too via texting.  You don’t even need a SIM card to text these days with smart phone apps like What’s App and Viber.  These apps are a super solution for free international texting and sending photos while on the road.   They both offer free texting via a wifi connection.  Note that the person you are texting must also have the app on their phone, so make sure you tell your friends/family to get it set up on their devices before you go and test it out.

Download and learn more about What’s App

Downoad and learn more about Viber

GOOGLE VOICE:

A free service from Google where you to pick a new Google ‘phone’ number and when anyone calls this number, it will ring all of your phones, or specified phones.

  • Use one number to manage all your phones; your Google Voice number is tied to you, not to a particular device or location.
  • Voicemail is like email: Save voicemail messages for as long as you’d like, star important ones, and search through them.
  • Voicemail transcription: Voicemail messages will be automatically transcribed to text and sent to you via email and/or SMS.
  • Works with mobile phones, desk phones, and work phones. There’s nothing to download, upload, or install, and you don’t have to make or take calls using a computer.
  • You can also text from Google Voice
  • International calling: Make low priced international calls from the web or from your phone.

Definitely look into this option – it’s growing rapidly in popularity and a super option for travel. Additional info and videos on the functionality: Google Voice

The interesting thing is that you can make all of these communications work together for you at the same time to save money and stay in touch. It’s a bit complicated – but if you want to learn more – then check out this great article by A Chick With Baggage – it’s the best article I’ve found for how to integrate your smart phone, Skype, and Google Voice: 5 steps for using your iPhone while traveling for less than $7 a month

POSTCARDS:

If you need to stay in touch with elderly parents/grandparents who just aren’t tech savvy at all – then send a postcard!  Check out the smart phone postcard apps such as Postagram where you can create and send postcards right from your smartphone photo gallery!  A physical post card with your message get’s mailed automatically!

More information on Postagram App
What other suggestions do you have for staying touch on the road?

Global Health and Travel Insurance for Career Breakers
Monday, September 16th, 2013

TIPS AND INSIGHT thanks to  Insure My Trip and Erin Fish of EMF Insurance Agency, Inc 

Having the right policy and understanding the benefits and limitations of your coverage is an essential step in setting your mind at ease so that you can truly enjoy your trip.

So how does one navigate the labyrinth of red tape and fine print that surrounds travel insurance? Just thinking about it is enough to raise the blood pressure of many would-be career breakers, but fear not! We’ve got your back…and we’ve called in an expert.

When it comes to getting the right Global Health and Travel insurance to meet your unique needs, Insure My Trip is our career break insurance experts. They have years of experience assessing the unique needs of each of their globetrotting clients and can help you find the policy that is perfect for you, your trip, and your needs.

It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to insurance, but we have provided the following:

But first – a disclaimer! Insurance solutions are very dependent on a person’s situation, tolerance, and budget; we certainly couldn’t represent all of them here! Our aim is to give you a good start and then you can follow up with Erin or through our other online resources we’ve provided. In addition, this information is more specific to American travelers, as it tends to be the most complicated.

DEFINITIONS:

  • Domestic (America) Health Insurance: Domestic health insurance plans are designed to benefit the member when services are needed inside the USA. This leaves many gaps in benefits for people who are traveling abroad. For Americans traveling abroad, health care services occurring outside of the USA can be covered under the insured’s domestic health insurance policy once the insured has met their out-of-network deductible. This could mean an exposure of thousands of dollars.Examples – your corporate coverage such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, etc.

  • Long-Term International (HIPAA-Compliant) plans resemble domestic health insurance plans, but apply to a worldwide and a nationwide network of doctors, hospitals, clinics, etc. They carry annual deductibles, annual out-of-pocket limits, maternity coverage (usually after 12 months of enrollment), and all of the perks of the travel insurance plans. Such plans are most appropriate for travelers who plan to spend 6 months or more abroad and for Ex-Pats planning to live in other countries for extended periods of time.This is the most comprehensive coverage for travel and can be used anywhere in the world, including when you return back to America. Examples – HTH Worldwide, 7 Corners
  • Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is designed to bridge the gap in benefits that the domestic plans present…and more. Credible and reliable travel insurance carriers have a worldwide and a nationwide network of doctors, hospitals, clinics, etc. There are two main types – travel medical insurance and trip cancellation insurance. Examples – IMG, Travelex and many, many more!
    • 1. Travel Medical Insurance: Offers medical benefits when a traveler is overseas. These plans typically pay for hospitalization, surgery, doctor office visits, prescription drugs, ground ambulance and emergency medical evacuation. These plans tend to be relatively inexpensive; however, they do not provide any other travel benefits beyond medical coverage. This type of insurance can be purchased on a per-trip basis (up to 180 days and renewable once) or annually (covering any and all trips less than 70 days each). *Coverage can be purchased for travelers who do not have a domestic health insurance plan. However, such plans do not cover pre-existing conditions.
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance: Usually includes all the benefits of travel medical insurance, as well as other travel benefits such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage loss, travel delay and more. These plans are designed to insure the investment of your trip. These plans offer the broadest coverage and are more expensive than travel medical policies because the rates are partly dependent on the cost of the insured’s trip. (This type of insurance can also be purchased without the medical benefits included.)

FAQ’S FOR CAREER BREAKERS

  • What will these plans cover? Travel Medical insurance plans will cover:- Medical Services (Doctor office visits, surgery, anesthesia, labs & radiology, inpatient & outpatient hospital expenses, and more.- Dental Care required to an injury or for relief of pain- Prescription Drugs (outside of the USA)- Medical Evacuation to the nearest adequate facility (then home, if necessary) *This is often the most crucial aspect of Travel Medical plans- Bedside Visit (for one person to your place of hospital confinement)

    - Accidental Death & Dismemberment (like Life Insurance)

    - Repatriation of Remains

  • For ‘career breakers’ (middle aged as opposed to student travelers,) what should we be getting?

Age isn’t necessarily the most important factor in deciding which type of travel insurance to buy. Buying the most appropriate type of travel insurance plan depends on the length of the trip, cost of the trip, risk tolerance, and travel budget. Trip Cancellation insurance is a good choice for expensive trips because of the financial protection features of these plans. Travel Medical insurance is a good choice for lower priced trips or longer trips (especially those trips exceeding 30 days

  • If we get Travel Insurance, what coverage do we have when we return back to the US (either after our trip OR if we have to return because of an emergency)?
  • Trip Cancellation insurance and Travel Medical insurance policies are designed to cover travelers while on a covered trip. These plans are considered limited duration plans and are not HIPAA compliant. Once the customer returns home, their benefits are exhausted. In some cases coverage can continue if the illness or injury sustained while on the covered trip persists.
  • Will insurance companies look at travel insurance as ‘continuous coverage’ or by traveling for a year under travel insurance – will it appear that we have a ‘break in coverage’? More importantly, is a break in coverage bad? Short term travel insurance would not be considered credible ‘continuous coverage’ since it is a short term accident/sickness policy. This means there would be a ‘break in coverage’ if this was a persons only form of insurance. If they are planning to travel 6 months or longer; travelers should consider a Long-Term International health insurance plan, such as HTH Global Citizen. Global Citizen is considered creditable coverage and is administered using HIPAA guidelines.
  • What happens when you return home to the US and need insurance coverage after traveling? Should this be considered when you are choosing travel insurance? You definitely need to consider what your return to the US looks like. When you are done traveling, the travel insurance runs out. It will normally not cover you once you get back to the US. Therefore you will need a plan for how you will be covered with you return home. Getting approved for a domestic health insurance plan is not easy in the USA. All health insurance applications are medically underwritten, and an applicant can be approved, declined, or approved with surcharges. If you are planning on traveling for a few months, and you already have a domestic health plan, it is suggested that you keep your domestic plan and purchase a travel insurance plan to supplement your coverage. This will often give you better benefits in the travel insurance plan and it will prevent any lapses in coverage.When planning to travel for an extended amount of time it may be worth it to buy a long term international plan, enabling a continuation in coverage indefinitely when you return home to the United States. However, Long-Term International plans are also medically underwritten.
  • What do I do when I come return to the US? Getting approved for a domestic underwritten plan in the USA is not a guarantee. It can often include a lot of obstacles and may result in heavy surcharges or a declination, depending on the applicant’s medical history. If an illness or injury occurred during travel, the chances of approval become even more difficult. If you hold onto your domestic plan while traveling, or if you purchase a long-term HIPAA-compliant plan for your travels, you can avoid these complications upon your return. Your options when you return home and your Travel Insurance coverage has ended: Group-sponsored health plans (if you can secure a job that provides benefits)- Pre-existing Condition Insurance plan (government-subsidized plan)
  • Purchase an individual domestic policy (this process can vary greatly depending on where you live, your past insurance coverage, age, and medical conditions).
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages to keeping my domestic plan? The main advantages you have by keeping your domestic plan:- You will not have a lapse in credible coverage- You will already be insured in the USA when you return- You can purchase a Travel Medical insurance policy that covers pre-existing condition. What disadvantages do I have in keeping my domestic plan? Keeping your domestic plan can be a lofty expense to maintain while you are traveling.
  • Other advice to take into consideration: When researching and purchasing travel insurance plans, it is important to purchase the plans from an admitted USA carrier (for example – HTH or 7 Corners). Such carriers are backed by the Department of Insurance and must abide by rules and regulations when upholding benefits and processing claims. Many travel insurance carriers are considered “off-shore” carriers, even though their offices are based in the USA (usually in Indiana). Such carriers can leave the insured exposed with little or no representation should benefits not be upheld or should claims not be processed or paid correctly.

SCENARIOS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAREER BREAKS

  • I’m a career breaker and I am going to be traveling for 1-6 months. What should I be looking for with regards to travel insurance? You have a couple different option. If you have a domestic health insurance policy, it may be wisest to hold onto this policy and purchase a supplemental Travel Medical insurance policy to cover you at 100% and provide you with medical services and Emergency Medical Evacuation services while you are abroad. This way you will avoid having a lapse in credible coverage in your domestic health insurance plan. If your domestic plan is very expensive and you would like to keep your costs down, you can look into downgrading your domestic plan to secure a lower monthly premium. However, when you return from your trip it may be difficult to upgrade again.
  • I’m a career breaker and I am going to be traveling for 6-12 months. What should I be looking for with regards to travel insurance?  
    • Option 1: If you have a domestic health insurance policy it may be wisest to hold onto this policy and purchase a supplemental Travel Medical insurance policy to cover you at 100% and provide you with medical services and Emergency Medical Evacuation services while you are abroad. This way you will avoid having a lapse in credible coverage in your domestic health insurance plan. *Such a plan will cover pre-existing conditions since you also carry a domestic plan.
    • Option 2: Apply for a Long-Term HIPAA-compliant International Health Insurance plan to go into effect before you depart. (Whether you have a domestic insurance plan, or not.) Such a plan will act as a “global PPO health plan” and will serve as credible coverage. You can purchase such a plan to cover you worldwide or to cover you in all countries except for the USA. This is a commonly owned insurance policy for Ex-Patriots.
    • Option 3: If you do not have a domestic insurance plan, or if you would like to cancel such a plan, you can purchase a supplemental Travel Medical insurance policy to cover you at 100% and provide you with medical services and Emergency Medical Evacuation services while you are abroad. *Such a plan will not cover pre-existing conditions since you do not also carry a domestic plan. Note: If you are out of the USA for 6 or more continuous months it CAN leave your domestic policy VOID. If you are planning to keep your domestic health insurance plan, make sure to contact your insurance carrier to inform them of your travels and request that they keep your policy in-effect. Get their answer in writing.
  • I’m a career breaker and I am going to be traveling for 1 year or longer. What should I be looking for with regards to travel insurance? It is recommended that you apply for a Long-Term HIPAA-compliant International Health Insurance plan to go into effect before you depart. (Whether you have a domestic insurance plan or not.) Such a plan will act as a “global PPO health plan” and will serve as credible coverage. You can purchase such a plan to cover you worldwide or to cover you in all countries except for the USA. This is a commonly owned insurance policy for Ex-Patriots.

RESOURCES:

  • For expert advice and no obligation to purchase, contact out Career Break Insurance Hotline via Insure My Trip – 855-773-9375.  Their reps can lead you through a few questions to help you determine what may be right for your situation.
  • Get a quote by filling out this form on Meet Plan Go!

 

Tips for Negotiating a Sabbatical vs. Quitting
Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Abandon your career? Are you crazy?!

There was nothing scarier for me after the decision to travel around the world than the aspect of leaving my career.” — Warren Talbot of Married with Luggage

This is a frequent comment we hear from people contemplating career breaks.  People take career breaks for different reasons – are you taking a break to change careers or explore new careers – or do you simply need a break? Granted, it’s not necessarily that simple, but you will need to examine deep down whether you want to leave your job behind or try to simply put it on hold while you take a career break.

There are endless possiblities on what can happen with your career when you take a break, but before you leave, you have to normally consider one of two things – quitting your job or trying to negotiate extended time off.  We’ve pulled together some resources on both options and tips on how to handle them.

QUITTING

If you think you want to cut ties with your current job, then go about it carefully. Consider how much notice you need to give, and always keep in mind that burning bridges is never a good solution. We’ve met career breakers who actually quit their jobs to travel for a year and then were actually hired back by the company when they returned.   Even though you may not want to work for your company or your boss again, you may need their assistance when you return in building up your network, contacts, and references when looking for a new job. You know your company culture the best, so really think about how much notice you need to give, and how you will explain to them why you are leaving. Always try to put a positive spin to why you are leaving.

What’s the best way to go about quitting – here’s a few tips from how Warren on how to leave your job gracefully.

  1. When you give notice, provide your boss with recommendations for how you will spend your remaining time. Let them know you will remain motivated to work hard. Talk about helping to recruit your replacement and get them trained and up to speed before you leave.
  2. Make sure to focus the discussion about your desire to explore the world. Do not turn this into your opportunity to explain all the ways they have disappointed you in your career. Remember, you may want to get back together with this partner.
  3. Read your situation – every scenario is different, so be sure to have an idea at how your boss will take the news. Be prepared for the worst case scenario (walked to the parking lot and start your trip earlier than expected), but plan for the best. Provide you employer with reasons why keeping you on is going to be good for them.
  4. Always keep the door open to the future. For most people, this is a “career break”, and as such there is at least a “plan” to return to the corporate world. Keeping your options open and remaining flexible is generally a good strategy. Make sure that you could return to the company if possible.
  5. Not everyone will understand – this is something I faced immediately after giving notice. People simply could not grasp why I would even consider doing “something this stupid”. It is inevitable you will come across this at work and will spend many hours trying to explain. This is normal. What you are doing is odd (sadly), but you are following your dream and your heart. Explain why you came to the decision, and remember why it is so important to you. Your career will likely be there if/when you return.

Read about what happened to Warren a year after being on the road.

Even the best-laid plans of giving notice don’t always go as anticipated and you may have to adapt your plan quickly. Watch what happened to career breaker Val Bromann when she decided to give notice.

Want to see where Val ended up…well…she’s still traveling and now doing freelance work – check out her website here!

SABBATICALS OR UNPAID LEAVE

A sabbatical is simply getting an extended leave from work to pursue a break. The first thing to do if you think you want to take a sabbatical is to do your research. Find out if your company offers any type of sabbatical or leave program. Many times companies offer these, but they aren’t necessarily publicized, so don’t be afraid to dig into your HR manual or sit and have a talk with your HR rep to learn exactly what the options may be.

Granted, your company might not have a formal sabbatical program, but consider the fact that you can lead the way in requesting a sabbatical and having them start such a program. You get nothing if you don’t ask.

Sherry Ott interviewed Barbara Pagano, who wrote the ebook  Negotiating Your Sabbatical, to get some tips on the steps to approaching your employer about taking a break. In addition she shares advice on deciding quit vs. sabbatical, and tips for job hunting when you return.

BARBARA PAGANO INTERVIEW (Part 1 Runtime – 14:23)

Interview transcript:

  • 1:00 – Barbara took her own sabbatical – what did she learn?– Reset the ‘challenge meter’; found that challenges in business seemed to be less of a challenge any longer.– Improved decision making skills – they are extraordinary now!– Need to have confidence in selling your career break experience.
  • 3:53 – How can you decide whether to quit your job vs. asking for a sabbatical from your job?– You need to look at your long-term career goals.– In this economy it’s the best time to negotiate a sabbatical.
  • 5:55 – Why do some companies offer sabbaticals?– More are ‘getting it’ – Large and small companies are looking at sabbatical programs as a way to develop the talent of their employees.– The company benefits by seeing just what kind of leadership they have in the pipeline and it develops your employers further. More and more companies area looking at it as talent development.
  • 8:03 – What are some tips for negotiating a sabbatical at a company who doesn’t normally offer one?– Understand the pre-work you need to do before you go in and talk to your boss.– Know who else is giving sabbaticals and why they are doing it. It allows you to talk intelligently about sabbatical programs. Arm yourself with knowledge.– Understand what you are good at and what you need to strengthen. Determine this before you decide what you want to do on sabbatical.– Treat it seriously and formulate your business proposition. It’s not about you, it’s about the company and how they can benefit.– You have to educate people! In addition, put it all in writing so that you can talk intelligently about it with your boss.
  • 12:14 – How long of a sabbatical should/can you try to ask for?– The average sabbatical occurs about every 5 years for a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks. The average sabbatical is 1 to 3 months in length.– It also depends on how long you’ve been with the company. Know that a sabbatical should not be a one shot experience; they should be interspersed throughout your career.

BARBARA PAGANO INTERVIEW (Part 2 Runtime – 13:45)

Interview transcript:

  • 1:00 – If you are looking for a job change, then look for companies who value the idea of breaks/sabbaticals.– Look on YourSabbatical.com for a list of companies that support sabbaticals.
  • 2:00 – Can anyone ask for a sabbatical no matter what their position? Is it more difficult if you are not a company leader?- Try to link your sabbatical to your company’s values. Alignment is key.– Consider how the current conversation in the company potentially applies to the break you want to take. Find ways to benefit the company – no matter what level you are at.
  • 4:25 – If you do want to actually leave your job and take a break (as opposed to a sabbatical), then you can still use all of the research you’ve done and incorporate it into your resume when looking for a new job.
  • 5:40 – Should you hide the fact that you left your job to take a break? No!
  • 6:05 – Tips for job hunting: Make sure you negotiate a sabbatical into your new job if you are changing jobs.
  • 6:50 – Can you negotiate unpaid sabbaticals or with other perks?– If you are willing to take an unpaid sabbatical, then negotiate benefits and securing your position when you return.– Some companies use unpaid sabbaticals to alleviate costs.
  • 9:52 – Look at your sabbatical as a standard negotiation – start high and know how low you are willing to go.
  • 10:15 – What do you do if it doesn’t work? You have planted the seed and let people know that it’s important to you as an employee.
  • 11:28 – Don’t look at your sabbatical as a gift that the company gives you. Instead look at it as a company developing and keeping talent in a company therefore making the company successful in the future.

What is your plan?  Quit vs. Negotiate Time off?  Have any tips to share?

 

 

Resources to Help You Learn about Teaching English Abroad
Friday, September 6th, 2013

Teaching English in Cambodia

 From China and Cambodia to Costa Rica and Chile, teaching English abroad provides hundreds of thousands of opportunities for English speakers from all backgrounds to work and get paid to live overseas, making the field ideal for those who truly want to become part of a local community in a foreign country.  Because demand for English teachers worldwide is so high, it also provides a viable means of income for those who want to engage in extended career break travel, but who don’t have the $10,000 – $20,000 in the bank that may be required to undertake a 6-12 month foreign adventure.  And guess what?  You don’t have to have a background in education, professional teaching experience or even a college degree to get hired, though a TEFL certification provides the training and qualifications most language schools around the world seek when hiring English teachers.

That said, if you are considering teaching English abroad, there are numerous questions and variables you will need to consider, including (to name a few):

  • Where can I teach English abroad based on my own personal background?
  • What kinds of schools will hire me and who will my students be?
  • If I want to teach English in Mexico, China or Japan, do I need to have a college degree?
  • What are salaries and benefits for English teachers in different countries?
  • How do I actually find jobs and get hired – do I need to line up a job prior to my departure, or can I find jobs in my destination country upon arrival?

The answers to such questions will vary from country to country and getting a job to teach English in Costa Rica will be a very different process and experience than teaching English in South Korea, Russia or Spain.  To help you sort out your options, answer your questions, and assist you in learning more about opportunities for you to teach English around the globe, here are some great resources worth checking out.

  1. Check out this Country Chart, which compares teaching English in more than 50 countries worldwide by salaries, hiring requirements, interview procedures, hiring seasons, visa regulations and more.
  2. Major ESL job boards like www.daveseslcafe.com,  www.eslemployment.com and www.eslbase.com feature job listings for teaching English in dozens of countries around the globe and feature forums where English teachers around  the globe share their experiences and insights.
  3. For more in-depth personal accounts and insights check out this index of more than 100 blogs, interviews and articles from actual people teaching English around the globe. You can also find many great videos like this one on YouTube and through Google or any search engine that provide informative and often colorful perspectives on what it is like to actually teach English abroad.

  1.  There are a number of good books about teaching English overseas, but the tops is probably Susan Griffith’s Teaching English Abroad, which features hundreds of pages of country profiles, listings for schools and other potential employers and tips for teaching English in all regions of the world.
  2. The International TEFL Academy website features an index of more than 150 articles and FAQs about all aspects of teaching English abroad and TEFL certification, from salaries and hiring procedures to visas and housing arrangements.
  3. You can also call International TEFL Academy, which certifies nearly 1,500 people a year to teach English abroad, at 773-634-9900 to speak for free with an expert advisor who will answer your questions about teaching around the world.

These are just some of the resources you can use to research opportunities to teach English abroad and to learn how teaching overseas can help you achieve your goal of traveling and living abroad.  To learn more, request a 30-page eBook about teaching English abroad from the International TEFL Academy or call 773-634-9900 to learn more about teaching English abroad and TEFL Certification around the world.

 

About the author: John Bentley is a Senior Admissions Advisor at the International TEFL Academy, which trains and certifies 1,500 people a year to teach English abroad and provides lifetime job search guidance to all students and graduates.  John wrote for the Egypt-Israel edition of the famous Let’s Go! travel guide series and he has worked in the field of international travel and education throughout his career.  He also grew up in Egypt and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe.

 

 

 

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