Posts Tagged ‘personal experience’

In the Career Break Closet
Thursday, October 16th, 2014


Are you stuck in the closet – afraid to come out and act like you really want to? I bet you are. In fact – I bet about 90% of you are. You are lurking in the dark, afraid to declare your secret desires, but willing to watch; from a safe place.

You are in the career break closet.

Research shows that about 90% of the people who read online media do not actually participate in the conversation; consumption vs. production. That’s fine, I understand, communicating online isn’t for everyone.

However I’m willing to believe that a percentage of that 90% are not lurking because they want to, but because they feel like they have to. They are staying in the closet because they can’t yet let people know about their career break plans. They must stay in the closet in order to remain at their jobs and while they quietly plan their getaway.

Keith and Amy Sutter from Green Around the Globe share their time in the career break closet:

Keith & Amy Sutter in Jordan In January of 2009 Amy and I made the big decision, to travel the world for a year. And with all of the excitement and anxiety that comes with such a big decision there was one unpleasant aspect that regularly kept us up at night. We now had a huge secret to keep from everyone we knew. There are practical elements to keeping your decision a secret initially. What if you decide not to do it? What happens if something comes up? A family member gets ill, you get ill. There are any number of potential events that could change your plans. So Amy and I went into the “traveler closet” for 6 months. This meant that as we were doing our initial research, reading books, blogs and anything else we could get our hands on, we had to be sure to keep it all under wraps. When friends came over for dinner we had to spend 10 minutes scanning the condo to make sure an incriminating book was not left laying out.

When we did start telling people, starting with close family we had to bring them into our “circle of trust”. We had to make sure we controlled who knew when. Practically it was to make sure we handled giving notice at our respective workplaces on our terms and in a professional manner. We could not afford, either financially or professional, for word of our plans to leak back to our companies before we were ready. The other reason to control the information is so that we would be the ones to personally tell every one of our family and friends. That reason was selfish, we wanted to be there to see or hear their unfiltered initial reactions. One of the best parts of planning the trip is telling the people you are closest to and getting their reactions.

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Taking a Break From Your Career Break
Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Many of us leave our jobs to go travel the world thinking it will be the best thing ever. What could be better than not having to go into work every day AND having the freedom to experience foreign countries? I was one of those people too. I wanted to take a round the world trip for so long, and when I finally found a way to make it happen, I couldn’t have been more excited (ok, maybe a little nervous too).

My situation was a little different in that I quit my job in Atlanta in order to move to Germany after getting married. I decided this was the perfect time for my career break trip, even though my new husband Andy couldn’t come with me. I planned out a five month itinerary, used miles for a round the world ticket, and hit the road a few months after moving to Germany. Andy even booked a flight to travel with me through New Zealand for two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s.

I stayed in touch with friends and family back in the United States, and I Skyped with Andy as often as possible. I missed him, but that was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was to be so overwhelmed after a month in Southeast Asia by homesickness that I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Andy and I had spent the entire first year of our relationship long distance, why was this so much harder? I had dreamed of this adventure for years, why wasn’t I enjoying it more? I tried to brush it off as just your average culture shock, but after a couple weeks, I knew this dark cloud wasn’t leaving me anytime soon.

Finally, I decided the best thing I could do was take a break and go home to Germany to see Andy. It was a hard decision, and even though I knew I’d be back on the road two weeks later, I felt like I was giving up on my dream trip. But I also knew that I was missing sights and experiences due to my homesickness, and trying to keep going when I was feeling that way wasn’t fulfilling my dream either. So I booked a ticket to Germany and spent two weeks mentally patching myself together.

I spent three more months traveling after that break. My husband joined me for two weeks in New Zealand as planned, and I still missed him when I was on my own again. But I felt refreshed and better able to handle the rest of my round the world trip. My expectations were more realistic, and I was having fun again. Taking a break from my trip was the best decision I could’ve made.

Most round the world travelers don’t plan on going home until it’s all over, and sometimes that works just fine. But I learned that my travel dreams didn’t look the way I hoped they would, and that it’s hard to be away from those who are most important to me. And that it’s ok to feel that way. Maybe being with your family for the holidays is something you want to go home for, or maybe your sister is having a baby while you’re gone. Maybe you just need a little down time with your friends. Flying back home for a week or two doesn’t mean you’re giving up or doing it wrong.

It might just be the thing you need to keep going and enjoy your career break even more.

Ali Garland is an American expat living in Germany. Her travel addiction led her to visit all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She recently returned from a round the world trip and is now fumbling her way through life in Germany. She is currently searching for the perfect salsa recipe. Ali writes at Ali’s Adventures, and you can follow her on Twitter, @aliadventures7. She also just launched a new travel-related website, Travel Made Simple.

Preparing for Long-Term Travel with Your Partner
Friday, July 19th, 2013

Adam Seper and his wife Megan have embraced travel throughout their decade long relationship. And after getting married, they decided that instead of pursuing the “American Dream” of buying a house and starting a family, they wanted to travel the world instead. So in October of 2008 they set off on a 358-day adventure, visiting 4 continents, 11 countries, and nearly 90 cities. Since they’ve returned, Megan is back being an attorney and Adam has switched careers – from a high school English teacher prior to the trip to editor of BootsnAll.

For other couples preparing for an adventure of their own, here are some important insights and tips they learned.

If you’ve never taken an extended trip before, you’re bound to have tons of questions. How do we begin planning for something like this? Do we just up and quit our jobs? Is a sabbatical possible? How do we choose where to go? What do we pack? What about visas? Certainly all important questions. But what some fail to think about is what it will actually be like out on the road, especially in regards to traveling with your partner.

THE JUDGEMENT AND QUESTIONS

“Are you sure you know what you’re getting yourselves into?”

“Aren’t you afraid you’re going to hate one another after an entire year together?”

“Oh my God! We could never do that! We’d literally kill each other!”

We heard all the above statements when telling people our plan to take a year-long trip around the world together. We initially dismissed those questions as ludicrous, having confidence in our relationship and previous travels that this whole venture would be a walk in the park.

Our trip did indeed include many walks in many parks, but it was hardly the same as the metaphorical meaning of that statement. Something so many people fail to realize about extended travel is that it is really hard work at times. It’s not all puppies, rainbows, and unicorns.

Adam and Megan in Mumbai

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TRIP AND A VACATION

We all love vacations. They’re great. Whether it’s lounging on the beach, taking a road trip, or renting a cabin in the woods, vacations give us a chance to get away from the daily grind of life, to forget about our worries for a while, and just relax and unwind. When on vacation, we feel as though we could stay forever.

Let’s set the record straight before we delve any further. A career break, RTW (round the world) trip, or taking off on an open-ended adventure is NOT the same as a vacation. We learned quickly that there is a HUGE discrepancy between a vacation and a trip. There are so many things to know, learn, and consider, particularly if you are traveling with your significant other.

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Mourning the Loss of the Journey
Thursday, July 11th, 2013

I walk through the arrivals gate at the airport late one evening, a practice I have completed time and again over the past year, but this time it’s entirely different.  This time there isn’t another destination close in my future or a hostel to find in the middle of the night.  This time the airport is entirely familiar:  the art installations, the signage, the advertisements showing off familiar products with new labels and updated logos…  After 15 months, there should be some elation that comes with my re-entry. I should feel excited to be home.  I feel jittery and nervous… oddly lost.  Everything feels comfortably familiar and alarmingly foreign at once.  Welcome back.  This is home.  I live here.

Fifteen months ago I left on an extended trip with my husband.   We had a rough idea of the direction we were going to travel and an even rougher timeline. We had estimated our trip solely on the size of our savings account, with the help of an online travel calculator.  We’d been planning to give this a go for years, never knowing if we’d be able to save enough or be willing to take the plunge and actually go for it.  But against all the adversity that arises in a monolithic adventure like this, we were able to pull it together.  The easiest part was jumping on that first plane.

Perhaps the hardest part was coming home.

Nevertheless, our trip was the single best thing I could have done. Now that we’re home, things are a bit confusing and we haven’t quite pulled our lives back together.  It takes more time than I anticipated.  We’re living with family, working side jobs while seeking more permanent employment, and catching up with old friends.  We laugh, we adjust, and we worry sometimes.  But nothing can take away what we’ve accomplished.  You won’t find us regretting a thing about our decision to travel.

Our travels through 22 countries, including a boat ride over the Atlantic, were extraordinary.  People at home thought we were crazy.  The feelings of freedom, self-discovery and empowerment were astounding.  We discovered new foods in Cambodia, dove the barrier reefs in Australia and Belize, stayed in tiny thatched huts in Malaysia, and learned native dance in Guatemala.  We worked at an Italian cooking school in New Zealand, surfed the infamous waves in Bali, and tasted prosciutto in Spain.

Every day was about new experiences, brilliant colors, and laughable moments. Now that I’m back, sometimes life just feels like everything went to beige after a year in a rainbow. My experiences abroad broke down both personal and cultural barriers for me.  I learned how to communicate without using language, how to let go of my need to control things, how to quickly adapt, and how to thrive in unfamiliar territory.  In many ways it was the perfect preparation for coming home; I am stronger, more willing to adapt, and seem to take things as they come.  I worry, but not all that much.  We know ourselves well enough now to know that we’ll land on our feet.  More than anything, I just miss being out in the world.  I miss the adventure, the confusion, the uncertainty, the mind-boggling views and the tiny villages… In a way I feel more at home out in the midst of it than when sitting in a familiar living room.  That realization is weird to me.

My initial re-entry was so much less shocking than I had thought it would be.  That first night at home didn’t bring on the stress of reverse culture shock in the way many had warned me about.  Things felt almost normal, oddly normal.  It started out with general observations more than anything else. We scooped up magazines we hadn’t seen in a year, ate citrus from the farmer’s market, and drank coffee from the little place on a corner we use to frequent.  The sidewalks seemed impeccably clean, a 6-lane freeway looked enormous, drinking water from the tap was a luxury, and finding that every house and business had plumbing came as a shock.  Grocery stores were a maze of new products and old standbys.  We were thrilled at seeing our favorite local cheese, and we devoured tacos from the best cart in downtown. Throughout our first few weeks back, it was the little things that got us the most: no food was spicy enough; public transportation ran on an actual schedule, ice cream flavors were so ‘normal’… These insights are comedy; they offer little smiles throughout the day, they are mementos from our travels that sneak up on us daily.

The knowledge I come away from this trip with personifies everything I wish for humanity—everything I wish we understood about each other and everything I strive to understand myself.  Lately I feel like I have been mourning the loss of my journey.  Many people will say that to travel long term is to become desensitized to what you see or what you experience, but for me this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I was aware of the sanctity of every hour of my trip—the long bus rides, the frustrating travel days, the language confusion and the angered border crossings—even in the most aggressive of situations I was still elated to be in that moment. I now harbor experiences that few can completely comprehend and fewer make effort to understand.  It is something I strain to find the words for, but my soul has grown wiser because of it.

Seeing the world has become my muse, and the brilliance is that no matter how much I try, I will never run out of it.  The world is too big, to dense, and too varied to ever be fully discovered.  For us, there is peace-of-mind in that, because no matter how life changes here, there will always be an adventure out there waiting.

To learn more about re-entry, check out the following articles:

 

Stacey Rapp and Dave Roberts love hiking, scuba diving, cooking, and of course, traveling.  They decided to take a career break after years of planning imaginary trips on a world map taped up on their living room wall. Now back in the US, they have relocated to San Jose, California from Portland, Oregon for work.  They are busy unpacking boxes and getting reacquainted with their cat, Baja.  The couple documented their travels on their blog, Breakfast on Earth, and they look forward to adding more posts whenever the next adventure comes around.

Quality of Life Priority Number One
Friday, June 7th, 2013

After his five month career break with his now wife, Matt Goudreau sees how that time helped them set both their life and work priorities.

Matt Goudreau

It all started on New Years Day 2009. After two months of dating, my ladyfriend Shara and I made an impromptu decision to celebrate our upcoming birthdays in London and Paris, which would be my first big international trip.

So, one month later, we went. We ate, drank, saw the sights – loving every second of it. You could say we caught the “travel bug.” At that point we had a similar revelation: we were merely content with our jobs; the word “happy” was never used. She being 29, me 31, and both kid-free, we thought it was the ideal time to take a leap. Like many other dreamers, we wanted to leave our jobs and travel the world. Easy decision, tougher reality.

We spent March and April figuring out how we could actually do this (i.e. budget), where we would potentially go, length of trip, and what would we do when we returned. After much research, we decided with great excitement to make the leap; however, we figured we’d need the next 8 months to work the details out.

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Travel: Finding a New Future
Thursday, April 25th, 2013

As former workaholics it had taken decades for us to find ourselves in a fairly unique position. We were financially quite well-off, we both enjoyed successful and rewarding careers with the free added bonus of exhaustion and stress. We weren’t millionaires, but as quite a frugal couple, we’d never squandered our hard earned cash on opulent apparel, but we did splash out on vacations and new cars now and again.

 

We’d paid off the mortgage on our main home, purchased a vacation property overseas, we dined out most evenings of the week, and had all the latest gadgets and gizmos.  We had everything that the world associates with a happy, successful couple. There was one big problem; it really didn’t satisfy us.

We wanted to travel the world, and we were in our late 30s and early 40s, so the clock was ticking.  We were far too young to afford to retire for life, but could we turn our back on everything we’d worked so hard to accumulate and give it a go for a while?

Planning to take a Career Break Took Too Long

We spent over three years researching and looking into the possibility of how to make this a reality. Logically (that’s the logic of our past consumer world) said it just didn’t make sense for us to walk away from our high income jobs. The economy was in freefall, and getting back into the market after the trip would be near impossible. Then a whole series of further doubts and reasons not to make the jump came.

What about family and friends? Could we leave them for so long would we miss them too much?

What if we couldn’t live out of a backpack for months on end?

Would we miss our home comforts?

What if we get ill?

What if we get robbed?

These are just a small sample of the endless questions and doubts we wrestled with while holding firmly on to our dream of traveling long term.  In the end we found answers to all of these questions on sites like this and from other travel bloggers who had already made the leap and were sharing their experiences.

Travel Risks Vs Rewards

So we took the risk, quit our jobs in 2011, and started de-cluttering of our lives.

Clearing the house and our lives of possessions was liberating and at times a little sad. After 20 years together, some of the things we had to say farewell triggered fond memories. But in a way we now know we were just making lots of room for the countless new memories that would replace them on our trip.

We sold the cars and other things that we no longer needed, sorted all our files and paperwork, and made them available on-line so that we could access everything on the road.  We rented our home out and finally wrote a will (just in case).  We then said an emotional goodbye to family, friends, and work colleagues.  There was no turning back now, and we were excited (and also a little apprehensive) as we departed, in December 2011, to catch a flight to Australia.

We’ve been traveling ever since, and the trip has been the most amazing and fulfilling experience we have had together.  Experiencing so much each week, it’s difficult to express everything we’ve learned about us as a couple and individually, as we are still learning and changing.

Freedom to Travel Long-Term

Currently we’re living off our savings and rental income from our home, and plan to do so for a good while yet as we travel on a low-cost ‘flashpacking’ budget.  We will begin to think about working to fund our travels in the future, though not just yet.

We no longer measure success in terms of monetary wealth. We appreciate that there are few certainties in life (other than birth and death), so we are doing the best we can to fill the space between these with new experiences.  We have no regrets about what we have done. There are things and comforts from home we miss occasionally, but those emotions are fleeting as another experience smacks us in the face and reminds us how truly lucky we are.

Regrets About Leaving Our Home Behind?

We wish we’d started this journey sooner and not spent so many years trying to analyze the consequences. We initially intended to spend just a couple of years traveling around the world; however, our long-term plan is now to live a location independent life, picking up work when and where we can find it. Do we know how we are going to do that?  Not yet, but we have plenty of ideas, and we will look at them in more detail soon.

There is so much more we want to explore that we no longer want to return to the lives we once had, and also realize that you don’t need to win the lottery to do this. We’ve met many people of all ages and backgrounds who have very little in either savings or income, yet they still manage to fulfill their desire to travel by working temporarily in all manner of jobs around the world, and then using this cash to pay for their next adventure.

We have learned as the trip has progressed that things often work out better if you don’t rush them. The future comes every day, so if you miss today’s opportunity, another will be along tomorrow.

To find out more about people who left their jobs to travel, check out the following articles:

In 2011 Craig and John sold off most of their belongings, quit their jobs, and set off around the world.  They bought a one way ticket to Australia and have been heading west across the globe ever since. Their blog features destination travel advice and tips for the older long term traveler.  They travel in what they call the flashpacking style, avoiding shared dorms and bathrooms at all costs.  Their posts are accompanied with some great travel photography featuring the architecture, cultural treats, and people they meet on their travels.  They blog about their journey at flashpackatforty, or you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter

3 Women, 3 Trips Inspired by Meet, Plan, Go
Monday, February 25th, 2013

Back in the fall of 2010, three future career breakers’ lives converged.  Shortly after attending Meet, Plan, Go! events in September 2010, Katie Aune, Val Bromann and Jannell Howell signed up for our Career Break Basic Training course and set the gears in motion for nearly simultaneous trips around the world.

Each woman’s trip was sparked by a strong desire to travel and see more of the world than they had in the past, with major birthday milestones factoring in as well: Val bought her one way ticket on her 30th birthday, Katie hopped a one-way flight to Helsinki on her 35th birthday and Jannell wanted to travel as a way to celebrate turning 40.

Val departed in July 2011 and traveled for 15 months before heading back home to Chicago in October 2012. Starting in Berlin, she stopped in Poland, Belgium, Spain and Turkey before moving on to Southeast Asia, where she spent the bulk of her trip exploring Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. The highlight of her trip was learning to surf in Bali. “I fell every single time, banged my knee, and could hardly even stand up on the board,” says Val. “But at the same time, I was having an amazing time. Surfing was something I had always wanted to do, and it was so much fun…even when I was falling.

Jannell traveled from January to November 2012, making a few stops in the United States before heading to Tokyo, Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Dubai, London, Rome, Spain and then back to the U.S. She counts among her trip highlights walking around the Taj Mahal at dawn, riding a camel in the desert, eating Momos made with buffalo meat, looking out from the world’s tallest building and finding complete bliss in the English countryside.

Katie took an unusual route on her trip, focusing on the 15 countries of the former Soviet Union. Departing in August 2011, she spent the next 13 months visiting Finland, Russia, the Baltics, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, the Caucasus, Italy, Turkey, Central Asia and Spain, before finally returning to the United States at the end of September 2012. Her favorite moments included running a marathon in Estonia, hiking in Siberia, teaching English in Tajikistan, camping among Silk Road ruins in Turkmenistan and joining a pilgrimage to an underground mosque in Kazakhstan.

None of the three trips was without its struggles, although most were limited to fleeting feelings of homesickness or exhaustion from being on the move too quickly. Jannell explains, “[a]fter being on the go for about two months, with no stay longer than 4 nights and often being in transit overnight, I felt exhausted. I was able to rejuvenate by staying put for a while, being alone with sightseeing kept to a minimum.”  For Katie, her lowest point may have been at the beginning of her trip when she started a volunteer homestay program in Russia, living in difficult conditions with a family that didn’t seem to care she was there.  Val’s low point came when her hostel in the Philippines was robbed:

All of mine that was taken was the charger to my laptop (luckily the computer itself was locked up, I had just neglected the chord), but some new friends had lost phones or their laptops. It made me feel so vulnerable and unsafe. For the next few days none of us could shake it. Luckily, with the help of some tracking software he’d installed, one of my friends was able to track down the thief and got his stuff back.

All three women credit Meet, Plan, Go! with making their trips possible.  “Before attending Meet, Plan, Go, I didn’t know anyone who had traveled long-term,” says Katie. “All of a sudden here were all these people who had done it and it became so much more real. Within six months of attending that first event, I had set my departure date.

Likewise, Jannell says “Meet, Plan, Go introduced me to many different travelers – both those in the planning stages of their first journey and those that had been traveling for years.  Before making those connections, I felt alone in my travel goals and less confident about my plans.

For Val, Meet, Plan, Go! provided both inspiration and resources, inspiring her to expand her original Europe-focused itinerary to include Asia and offering much-needed information on tricky topics like health insurance.

So what’s next for these world travelers?

Katie has settled back in Chicago, working in her previous field of alumni relations and development and enjoying the opportunity to rediscover a city she loves. She continues to write about her trip and re-entry experience at Katie Going Global. Val also landed back in Chicago, but only temporarily. She will hit the road again in mid-March, this time heading to Central America to learn Spanish and continue her career break for at least another six months. You can follow her adventures on ValBromann.com. Jannell has relocated to New York City, where she is working on launching a new business, Your Digital Marketer, pursuing a location independent lifestyle and continuing to blog at Travel Junkie’s World Tour.

On the Road Recap 2012
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

From the thrill of fulfilling a life-long dream to work with elephants to the dismay of a disappointing homestay to the joys of traveling as a family, our career breakers have experienced a lot this year! As 2012 winds down, we wanted to recap some of our favorite posts about life on the road.

Crewing in the South Pacific

Kelly Wetherington has been traveling since she first escaped her cubicle in 2007. Her insatiable curiosity for the world and thirst for adventure have led her to trek, dive, sail, zip, surf, climb, and paddle her way through 25 countries across Central America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. Last spring, she shared the story of landing her first crewing job:

As I knock, knock, knocked on the window of a sleek catamaran with a shiny teak deck, I wondered, is this appropriate behavior? Had I been visiting a house, I would have knocked on the front door, but climbing aboard seemed intrusive. No one emerged from below deck. Maybe they were out, or sleeping, or simply don’t open the door for strangers?

I scribbled the boat’s name, Summer Sol, in my notebook, under the column “try again later,” next to growing list of boats that did not need crew. Surrounded by hundreds of masts from around the world, Thomas and I were hopeful we could find a Captain to take us with them to the South Pacific. Continue…

Homestay Hits & Misses

Katie Aune spent her 13-month career break traveling through the former Soviet Union. Along the way, she stayed with several host families and shared her thoughts on the ups and downs, as well as advice on what to consider if you’re planning to do a homestay.

As I prepared for my career break and considered the different things I would do along the way, staying in a home stay was high on my list. Everything I read indicated that homestays would be a great way to connect with locals and immerse myself in a different culture – exactly what I was hoping to do on my travels. I imagined a homestay as being a true cultural exchange.

I did my first homestay almost right off the bat, just two weeks into my journey through the former Soviet Union. It was part of a volunteer program that had me living with a family in St. Petersburg, Russia and tutoring the children in English. Unfortunately, the situation was a huge disappointment. Not only were the living conditions not as had been represented to me, the family didn’t even seem to want me there. The children had no interest in being tutored and during the entire four weeks I was there, no one in the family asked me a single thing about myself or opened up anything to me about their lives. I just felt like I was in the way. Continue…

Regrouping on the Road

Leora Krause is a travel addict who started circling the globe when she was old enough to vote.  Recently downsized from corporate America, she enjoyed her second career break in 2012, traveling through Thailand, Vietnam, India and Nepal. She wrote about having to regroup after an airline she was supposed to fly went out of business.

Everyone knows the first rule of traveling abroad, especially in developing countries, is to expect the unexpected.  But when the unexpected happens, what do you do? I was a few days away from my flight from Delhi to Cochin, India, casually discussing my plans with a fellow traveler, when she said, “I hope you’re not flying Kingfisher.”

I was.

“You’d better check your flight, they’re about to go bankrupt.”

I jumped online as soon as I returned to the hotel.  Sure enough, my destination was no longer listed, but I could not find any other information.  I asked the hotel staff if they had any news about the situation, and all they could tell me was that it was bad and passengers were getting stranded.  Flights were not taking off if the airline couldn’t pay for fuel, and no one was extending credit to them.   There is no Chapter 11 here, no consumer protection, no other airline willing to offer an alternate flight, you are just plain out of luck. Continue…

Career Breaks: They’re Not Just for Backpackers

Larissa & Michael Milne turned 50, sold everything and embarked on a 1+ year round-the-world trip in August 2011. In this post, they shared how they made their career break work with rolling suitcases and apartment rentals.

When we first started telling people about planning our round-the-world trip we often got the comment: “You two are going to backpack?

The short answer was “no.” We’re in our fifties, so this didn’t seem like a good time to start teaching our old spines new tricks. Yet this is often the image of a round-the-world journey: people with overloaded backpacks trudging through airports and train stations. But there are alternatives. Continue…

Pachyderm Dreams

After leaving her job as an associate with a large law firm, Robin Devaux spent approximately eleven months traveling the world with her husband, Pierre, visiting five continents and 24 countries. She also got to finally fulfill her life-long dream of working with elephants.

I felt a bit panicky when I realized, while speaking with the bed and breakfast owner in India, that I might never work with elephants.

My husband and I were staying in the woman’s home in a rural part of Kerala, chatting with her about the wild elephants that had wreaked havoc on her banana trees the year before, when the thought of elephants caused my heart to sink. I began to tune out what she was telling us as I recalled my myriad childhood career aspirations – elephant caretaker, and also naturalist, park ranger, veterinarian, journalist, jockey, novelist. In my mind, I watched these varied and utterly incompatible aspirations fall to my sides like leaves. It struck me then as it never had previously: There was so much I had wanted to do, and so little time. Continue…

Around the World as a Family

The Van Loen family left their “normal” life in July 2012 to spend a year slow traveling around the world. Here, they share their rationale for hitting the road as a family.

Most folks travel in their twenties when they have few responsibilities or in their retirement when they have fulfilled them. We thought we’d try splitting the difference.  As a family we value experiences — learning by doing — which is why we chose an alternative school for our children that used the Expeditionary Learning (ELOB) approach. Our concept for our around-the-world (RTW) trip emerged primarily from that core value.  We talked a lot about whether we wanted to travel in between school years, or take the kids out of school for the whole year. This decision was made a bit easier by the fact that Anne is a teacher, and we can home school the kids for the year without major impacts to their overall school journey. Continue…

Want to read more?

You can find all of our guest posts from career breakers on the road HERE.

Housesitting: The Last Frontier in Budget Travel
Monday, November 5th, 2012

MeetPlan….Go ahead and extend your travels for a few months longer.

Or, Go ahead and cut your travel budget in half.

Either way, we’re about to make your travels a whole lot better.

Picture this: Living for several months in a beach-side bungalow on a Caribbean island, filling your days with scuba diving and sipping cocktails on your patio while the fresh ocean breeze washes over you. Or how about spending a few months bouncing around Europe, wandering mouth agape through the streets of Rome and then cycling through the quaint French countryside, returning each night to a cozy residence filled with all the comforts of home.

Now, imagine doing this all for free.

It’s called house-sitting, and it may just be the last frontier in budget travel. House-sitting is essentially an exchange of services – you take care of a property (and often pets) in exchange for free accommodations while the home-owner is away.

Not only can you travel on a much slimmer budget (or, enjoy a much longer period of travel), but you can gain an experience like none other. Forget racing on and off tourist buses to see the big sights – instead, immerse yourself in a local neighborhood and really get a feel for life in another land. Enjoy a slower pace of travel and your own space to relax in after a long day of exploring.

We’re currently on our eleventh house-sitting job in three years, and it is our favorite way to see the world!

We’ve been able to explore nine different countries from one week to six months, and have easily saved over $30,000 in the process. We’ve strolled on that Caribbean island, taken care of a 10th century manor in Ireland, and immersed ourselves in a remote corner of Turkey. And even though there are moments when it isn’t all that glamorous – when we’re chasing other people’s pets through muddy fields or cleaning up after a tropical storm – it has given us authentic local experiences that are impossible to beat.

From taking a two week vacation, to a year long career break, to a perpetual life of travel, there are house-sits for everyone, and they are all guaranteed to give you a truly unique travel experience.

Learn how to get started today!

We’ve put our extensive house-sitting experience into How to Become a House-Sitter and See the World – an eBook jam-packed with information on how to become a house-sitter. It includes:

♦ A thorough analysis of the house-sitting websites to help you decide which to join;

Recommendations on how to write a successful profile and application letter, including examples;

Tips on how to be a good house-sitter;

Plenty of resources to help you plan for your house-sitting gig;

A discount to one of the major house-sitting sites that almost covers the cost of the book!

And much more!

Click here to buy How to Become a House-Sitter and See the World for just $19.99.

Dalene and Pete Heck are a Canadian couple who sold everything in 2009 to travel the world. They have spent over half of the last three years house-sitting in places like Ireland, Belgium, Turkey, Spain, Honduras, Canada, London and New York.You can follow their travels at hecktictravels.com, and find them on Facebook  and Twitter.

Making a Permanent Escape
Monday, October 29th, 2012

For months, people asked me, “what will this do to your career?

I was tired of answering the question. I knew there was another path for me. But I was scared of removing the proverbial golden handcuffs. In 2009, I was a seventh year associate on partnership track at the largest law firm in the world. After a severe bout of tendonitis, all thanks to what is known as “document review” in the legal biz, I was sure I needed a change.

At the time, though, I felt lost. I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I wasn’t sure that I could walk away from the title that was almost within my reach. My husband, Eric, and I considered putting all of our belongings in a few suitcases and moving to Spain or Italy to live life more slowly, to savor food and wine, to enjoy each other and our life together. At the time, though, we weren’t ready for so permanent a change. And so the decision to travel the world for a year evolved. Our friends termed it the “Master Plan.” Little did we know then what our Master Plan would ultimately become.

Making the decision was the easy part. Telling my boss about the Master Plan? Not so fun. Still, I found the courage and waltzed into his office one morning and asked him if I could take a leave of absence. He was pretty stunned and requested that I stay until the end of a big project. Let me translate that. The big project could have delayed me for 18 to 24 months. I considered this option, knowing that 24 months could turn into four years, knowing that there would always be some reason to stay.

It was time to jump, to take a risk. After months of discussion and negotiation I was told I could take a leave of absence, with qualifications. I quit my job with an understanding that I was leaving on good terms and would need to reapply if I wanted to return in a year. My job was not waiting for me when I returned. Although some partners continue to sell my leave to naive young law students as a “sabbatical,” they’ve got it all wrong. I had to quit, remember?

After 14 months of traveling through Australia, New Zealand, Asia, South America, and Europe, I emailed my boss and expressed my interest in returning to the firm, my interest in willingly putting the golden handcuffs back on. I was good at my job. I thought this would be easy. I was wrong. I was forced to run the gamut, interviewing with over 20 different attorneys, many of whom I knew intimately.

Although they ultimately made me an offer, I was “punished” for taking time off. They decreased my associate class year and salary. But on the bright side, I was back on partner track, and, most importantly, was employed after 14 months out of the game. The “sabbatical” seemed to have little effect on my “long term” career. They would still allow me to practice law for another 20 or 30 years. Lucky me! In just one month, I was sailing back into my “normal” life. Or so I thought.

[W]e always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.” – Paulo Coelho

In the end, my biggest problem was readjusting to the monotony of my day-to-day – taking the Metro, sitting at the same desk every day, eating at the same boring restaurants in my “faux urban” neighborhood, and dealing with friends who just did not understand my fascination with seeing the world, with pursuing a different life, the right life for me. I had only been to 40 countries. There was so much more to see and experience!

Another Escape? Already?

Eric and I realized quickly that we were unhappy – call it Life ADD. We started to save our money and live more simply. My hope was to make partner and stay for another 5 years. But I lasted just a little over two. I was thirty days from making partner and still walked away. Why? Because I was working crazy hours, counting days until I found the courage to quit or collapsed from the exhaustion and stress. What’s worse, I was bored. And so I did quit.

Today, Eric and I are off on the road again, having just started our second round-the-world (RTW) adventure. This time it is a permanent one. Our first trip whet our appetite for adventure – a more simple life, with new and unique experiences every day. It also made it blatantly clear that we are free spirits, destined to settle somewhere outside of the United States and outside of the predictable life. Most importantly, it helped me to discover that I don’t belong in an office.

When I left the firm for the second time, my boss, management, and HR told me that I could return whenever I pleased. I am not sure quite how sincere that was, but it is nice to know that it was offered. Will I ever go back to the rat race? I doubt it. We have a nest egg and wanderlust, and we will keep traveling until we find someplace where Life ADD is a farfetched proposition. We are not on the “Master Plan 2.” This time, it’s a “Life Plan.” I am certain of one thing. I never want to sit in a sterile office under fluorescent lights for 60 or 70 hours a week again!

After 10 years as an attorney, Amber Hoffman left her job at the largest law firm in the world and decided to start living her life. She is now a recovering tax lawyer, traveling the world with her husband, exploring Europe, Latin America, and ultimately settling into a happy existence somewhere in Asia, where her passion really lies, outside the law. You can read more about her travels on With Husband in Tow or follow her on Twitter as @ashworldtravel.

Career Break Guide Table of Contents