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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Aid

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

Drive a Manual Car and Motorbike

learn to drive a motorbike

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

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

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

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

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

Learn to Swim

Tara swimming in the Mediterranean off the coast of Turkey.

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

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

Be an Exceptional Photographer

Mike taking photographs in Iceland.

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

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

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

About Tara and Mike

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

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

career break petra

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

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

Career Break Hurdles

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

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

Are Guidebooks Dead?

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

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

Travel Tips

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

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

Or our experts can help you with:

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

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

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

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

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

Blog post image option 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3063 - Version 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

8) Was it a drastic undertaking? Minimal?

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

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

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


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

10) Did you build in a cushion for emergencies?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Kiva?

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

Learn more about how Kiva works.

What’s a Kiva fellow?

Kiva Fellows

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

My fellowship experience

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

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

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

I sobbed. And sobbed. Soul successfully recharged.

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

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

Who is a fellowship good for?

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

What are the requirements of a Kiva fellow?

Kiva fellows 2

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

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

Read more about the requirements.

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

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

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

How much does it cost?

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

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

Is there an “alumni” network?

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

How do you apply?

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

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

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

Preparation: Budget Concerns
Thursday, October 30th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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