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

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

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

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

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

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

Language shouldn’t deter you from travel.

It isn’t a barrier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Study up before you go

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

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

2. Part of language is unspoken

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

3. Approach the younger generation

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

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

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

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

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

5. Change your outlook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Details and itinerary

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

My 4-day camper van itinerary

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

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

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

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

Additional Information

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

Cost breakdown

Typical van rental expenses:

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

Total: $1,767.09

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

Relocation expenses:

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

Total: $500.27 AUD

Total savings: $1,266.82

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

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

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

What Calls You

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

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

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

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

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

Timing

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

What will the weather be like? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loy Krathong - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Comfort Level

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

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

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

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

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

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

A BLOG’S LIFE – Part 1

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

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

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

A BLOG’S LIFE – Part 2

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

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

Resources Referenced by David Lee:

 

Traveling with Purpose
Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more and enter the contest here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can enter the Rickshaw Run Travel Raffle Here

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

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

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

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

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

Be Realistic and Ask Yourself the Right Questions

 

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

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

 

Where to Begin

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

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

 

Start Saving

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

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

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

ADDITIONAL INSPIRATION

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

Are you ready to start focusing on your number?

 

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.

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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?

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Career Break Guide Table of Contents