Posts Tagged ‘tips’

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


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.


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


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


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?


Where to Go: Timing
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Timing plays a big part in deciding where to go.  Some factors to consider include weather, holidays & festivals, and the value of the dollar.


What time of year are you traveling and what will the weather be like in your destination? Summer in the northern hemisphere means winter most points south of the equator. And some destinations don’t experience our traditional four seasons but rather two – wet and dry. But whatever time of year you travel, there are benefits to the different types of weather you may encounter.


A Travelers Guide to Watching TV Shows & Movies Abroad
Thursday, March 28th, 2013

With access to the internet in many parts of the globe, it’s easier to stay connected with friends, family, . . . and your favorite TV shows.  Unfortunately, blocked content (due to licensing agreements) is a common problem for travelers when out of their home country.  Luckily, I found a little known site, called, which allows me to access TV shows without having to deal with blocked content problems.  There is also a trick with Amazon Instant Video to watch a movie when away from wifi.  I admit, sometimes I skirt legalities by unblocking content with the use of a web proxy, because having the ability to watch my favorite TV shows and various movies is a small luxury to have while on the road.

Ready for a career break?
Ready for a career break?
Join us in New York on September 20

Best site for TV shows is my favorite streaming content site.  On my last count, they offered 780 TV shows; everything from drama, comedy, action, sci-fi, reality, and animation – even old, discontinued shows!   Not only do they provide unblocked content, but has the best pricing with a non-expiring, pay-as-you go membership instead of a monthly fee; perfect for those on a limited budget.  Their website is a bit unorthodox with the process of purchasing ‘F$’ credits and then exchanging them for points to be used to watch shows, but otherwise pretty simple to use. only offers TV shows, so you’ll have to find other options if you want to watch movies during your travels.

Best site for movies

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has also jumped onto the streaming content bandwagon.  Amazon Instant Video does offer TV show episodes, but it is my ‘go-to’ source for renting premium movie titles.  Movie rentals cost approximately $2.99 – $4.99 US and will stay active up to 30 days; however, once you start the movie you’ll have 48-hours to finish it.  Amazon allows you to download your rental onto certain mobile devices so that they can be watched without the need for internet access.  I’ve used this trick to load my Kindle with movies to enjoy during long flights and train rides.  If you travel out of your home country and wish to watch your rental on your computer, you may need to use a web proxy as the video might be blocked.

Using a web proxy

The use of a web proxy is simply to tell the internet that your computer is located in a particular country/location.  Using a web proxy to access blocked content from your own home country for your private viewing is one thing, but using a proxy to watch videos licensed in a different country than your own is bordering on illegal, so please be mindful.

There are oodles of proxy options available. The service I use is Hide My Ass (seriously, that’s their name) as they offer a free proxy to hide my computers actual location as well as encrypt my browsing history.  HMA’s web proxy can show my computer as home and allow me to watch my Netflix movies, documentaries, and special events without running into content blocking problems.  Read more about web proxies towards the end of this FoxNomad article.

More and more streaming content options continue to become available, such as Hulu, Crackle, Slingbox, even sites for sporting events! With the use of a web proxy, ‘internet-free’ movies from Amazon, or pay-as-you-go TV shows from, travelers have ways to kill time during a layover or reconnect with a bit of home.

Jannell Howell recently returned from an around-the-world journey that took her through many countries including Thailand, India, the U.A.E., and Europe. Before she left, Jannell discovered a love of researching travel-related gear & services and shared her favorite finds on her blog, Traveljunkie’s World Tour. Jannell will soon relocate to New York City and continue to pursue a location independent lifestyle.

Turning a Travel Passion into a Business
Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

It’s early April 2005.  I am on a boat on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica with my husband, Dave, our 16 year old son, Steven, and our guide, Javier, tooling towards the San Pedrillo station of Corcovado National Park.  The water is a brilliant blue-green, the sun is shining, I’m incredibly relaxed and completely mesmerized by the nearly untouched coast line that is the gateway to one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world.  Javier instructs the boat captain to stop near a small cluster of volcanic rocks in order to get a closer look at the Brown Boobies and Magnificent Frigate birds. At that moment, I turn to Dave and say, “I am in love.”

Back in Chicago, life was good, so good.  I was married to a wonderful man, had two great children, and was part of a close extended family.  My consulting business provided a steady income stream, the opportunity to do work I loved, and professional growth and excitement.  I lived and thrived in one of the greatest cities in the world.

Yet, I struggled. My new found love was Costa Rica, and it was more than a casual fling.  Could I figure out a way to continue to explore Costa Rica through deep, meaningful and affordable travel while continuing to honor my familial and professional passions, relationships and responsibilities?  Answering this question was the moment I began my mid-life journey: to find a way to marry my already exceptional everyday life with my passion for Costa Rica.

Ten months later, in February 2006, I led my first small group women’s adventure trip in Costa Rica.  Since then, I:

♦ have been to Costa Rica almost 25 times, averaging 3 to 4 trips annually.

♦ am in the midst of marketing my 8th annual women’s trip (February 2013).

♦ am at ease with conversational Spanish, a language I only began to learn three years ago. I recently led my second annual co-ed Spanish/Cultural Immersion Trip in Costa Rica and am planning the third.

♦ have strategically downsized my consulting portfolio. I remain passionate, intellectually challenged, and energized by the everyday work I do.

What have I learned about this part of my life journey?

1. Define and remain focused on the vision.  When I realized I wanted to take my Costa Rica fling to the next level, I began exploring ways to make traveling there more than a vacation—a regular occurrence.  I identified quickly that marrying my professional expertise and personal priorities with my love of Costa Rica and experiential travel was for me and made strategic choices accordingly.  I only lead two annual small group trips with an occasional customized third, if the spirit moves me and Dave is ready for his periodic Costa Rica “fix.” Family and clients are as important to me as Costa Rica, and I work hard to “be present” for both, giving each the quality time, attention, and energy that each deserves.  This is what I need, too.

2. Play to your strengths.  It’s important to know what you’re good at, what brings you joy, and embed them into your plan. Meeting planning and group dynamics have always been at the core of my business.  As part of my work, I had developed expertise in creative program design, logistics, and marketing and sales. I have been able to deploy these skills into developing itineraries and facilitating small group experiential adventures in a place I love.

3. Enjoy being in the moment. Seven years later I’m just as enamored of Costa Rica as I was on that day we stopped by those volcanic rocks near the Corcovado entrance.  My backpack/briefcase combo continues to serve me well in this phase of my life. It doesn’t require long-term strategic planning, a full-time staff to manage, or a requirement to grow the business in order to survive.  I don’t spend much time trying to figure out what or when is around the corner.  When the time comes for a change, I’ll know it.  So, I’m focused on making the most of and enjoying the now.

As the Costa Ricans say, “Pura Vida.”

Ann Becker has more than 35 years of business and professional experience in organizational and program development, comprehensive meeting design and management, and strategic consulting.  Through her small group experiential travel adventures, Ann has combined her love of Costa Rica with her business expertise.  In addition, Ann loves international travel with her husband; bird watching; and Chicago neighborhoods, arts, and family outings to cheer on the Cubs.  She is diligently trying to master her Pilates’ short spine and cat stretch.

First Class Service on an Economy Budget
Monday, July 23rd, 2012

You are at the airport, with time before your flight.

You want to check your email, but after wandering around the airport terminal you can’t seem to find wi-fi or even an electrical outlet.  Wouldn’t it be nice to find both of these in a comfortable setting AND a cup of coffee or snack?  Well . . . you can!

Just before I left for my around-the-world journey, I discovered Priority Pass, an independent airport lounge service with access to 600 lounges worldwide.  Regardless of what class of service or airline you fly, you’ll have a quiet space from the hustle and bustle of an airport departure terminal to either catch up on a bit of work or just relax.  Lounge services vary, but they typically have comfortable seating, refreshments, snacks, a TV, clean bathrooms, flight boarding information, complimentary wi-fi and . . . yes . . . plenty of power outlets.

So far on my journey, I’ve visited lounges in Atlanta, Honolulu, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Delhi, Dubai, London and Venice.  Being able to walk through the crowds and into a private lounge makes me feel like a rock star.  Of course, I love the access to wi-fi, but I’m also a big fan of the food and bottles of water included as part of my membership as they help me avoid the high prices in the airport terminal.

My travels have been in the ‘budget’ category and it’s really nice to treat myself to some ‘first class’ – even for just a few hours.  I’ve had no problems using the membership, except for the Kolkata airport where the lounge was no longer affiliated with Priority Pass – but they did allow me to sit in the room.  The nicest lounge I visited was in Hong Kong where guests are presented with a full food buffet, several choices of seating, hourly sleeping rooms, showers and spa facilities!

There are three types of annual memberships to Priority Pass.  The Standard membership is $99 with a $27 fee for each VIP lounge visit.  The Standard Plus membership is $249 and includes access to 10 lounges, then $27 for each additional visit.   The Prestige membership is $399 and all lounge visits are included.  Click here for a 10% discount on new memberships.

Aside from being an affiliate, I can honestly say that membership to Priority Pass can be a great value if you’ll be traveling through many airports throughout the year and will utilize the features.   New lounges are regularly added to the program and special discounts on other airport services are often offered to members.  I, like many other travelers, may not be able to afford flying first class, but I can at least start my trip that way.

Jannell Howell is just over half-way through her first around-the-world journey that started last January. After exploring parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, and India, she is now hopping around Europe. In 2010, Jannell started Traveljunkie’s World Tour to blog about her trip preparations and in the process became a self-confessed travel gearologist.

You can read about other travel-related products  Jannell has studied and/or find out what other travelers use at Traveljunkie’s World Tour. 

The ABCs of Travel Planning
Monday, June 25th, 2012

Like many career-breakers, I spent 8 years paying my dues in Corporate America.  And while I’m probably one of the few who can truly say that I loved my job, I dreamed of something more. After months of thinking, researching, and intensely detailed planning, I was ready to embark on my new “adventure career,” in pursuit of extended around-the-world travels with a purpose.

Following countless hours of research for my own travels, I compiled this A-B-C list of travel-related websites, specifically geared towards long-term international travel.  Whether you plan to go to one country for one week or 20 countries for 6 months, these resources will get you going:

A – ALERTS & Warnings

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – sign up to receive the latest Travel Warnings and Alerts about the countr(ies) where you will be traveling or living

B – BUS Transportation

Eurolines – Europe

Megabus – the United Kingdom

StrayBus – New Zealand and Asia

C – COUNTRY Information/Facts

Rick Steves – helpful information about transport, city “must-sees”, sample itineraries, accommodation and restaurant recommendations, lots of little maps, and great walking tours.

Let’s Go – world travel guides written entirely by students who roam the globe in search of travel bargains.

D – DISTANCE between 2 cities anywhere in the world

Distance Calculator


Computer – Want to be able to access, update, and save all of your computer files, pictures, videos, etc. from any of your computers anywhere in the world without memory chips?  Check out Dropbox.

Phones – Don’t want to pay an arm & a leg for calling or texting while traveling?  Try Ekit.

Converter/Adapter – Not only are wall outlets different around the globe but some electronic devices may not be compatible with the voltage in other countries. (For example, the USA operates on 110/120V whereas Europe, uses 220V).  Get a World Travel Voltage Converter Adapter Kit.


Meet, Plan, Go! Trip Planner powered by AirTreks – round-the-world tickets.

Kayak – flight search engine.

Sky Scanner – flights with a “flexible destination.”

Ryan Air or Easy Jet – budget inter-Europe flights.

G – “GLOBAL” Credit/Debit cards

Foreign transaction fees and ATM fees can add up quickly, but here are a couple fee-free cards to try:

Capital One – offers a no annual fee, no-foreign transaction fee VISA credit card.

Charles Schwab – offers a debit card with no ATM fees anywhere in the world, linked to a high-interest checking account with no minimum balance or monthly service fees.

*Always remember to notify your credit/debit card company of upcoming travel, or they may put a hold on your card at the least opportune time.


Meet, Plan, Go!/GoMio- book hostels and connect with fellow travelers at the same time.

Hostel Zoo – search site that compares hostel prices/availability from the major hostel booking sites.

Euro Cheapo – search for cheap European hotels.


For expert personal assistance in evaluating your travel insurance needs,  check out Meet, Plan, Go!‘s new insurance hotline.

J – JUDGE how well-traveled you are. . .here are some fun quizzes:

The Travel List Challenge – how well traveled are you?

Lufthansa Virtual Pilot – how well do you know European geography?

K – KNOW about Diseases and Vaccinations

Centers for Disease Control  – know what vaccinations are necessary and what diseases might exist in your destination

L – LANGUAGE Translators

Google Translate

M – METRIC Converter

Metric Units Converter

N – No-No’s of International Travel

NO expensive jewelry, NO purses over the shoulder—wear a money belt, NO clothes with writing on it, DON’T overpack, DON’T travel on a passport with less than 6 months of validity, DON’T leave belongings unattended on an overnight train or at the beach, DON’T forget to validate your train ticket or rail pass before boarding—the fines are hefty!

O – ORGANIZED-Tour Companies

Intrepid Travel – for adventurous travelers who want to get off the beaten path.

Visit Meet, Plan, Go! Adventures for ideas on choosing your career break adventure.


For travelers, especially those backpacking.

For camping/hiking.

Q – QUALITY Travel Blogs/Sites

I really enjoy these travel bloggers’ sites because they are full of lots of information and inspiration:

Katie Going Global – on a journey through the former Soviet Union.

Nomadic Matt – “travel better, cheaper, longer.”

Round We Go: A Journey Around the World – “a couple’s journey around the world.”

Women on the Road  – “inspiration & advice for women who love to travel solo.”

YTravel Blog – “family travel with young kids.”


Post Career-break Resume – how to reflect long-term travel on your resume

S – SOCIAL-Networking for Travelers

Faith Travels – a place to network with other Christian travelers, talk about destinations, find a travel partner, etc.

Tripping – a way to connect with locals while traveling, this site matches up travelers with local hosts.

T – TRAIN tickets/schedules

Rail Europe – see fares and buy European train tickets.

European Train Schedule – view all European train schedules & connections.

Budget Europe Travel Service (B.E.T.S.) – personalized service from experts in European rail travel.

U – U.S. GOVERNMENT GUIDE to U.S. Citizens Traveling/Living Abroad

International Travel A-Z Index of Topics

V – VISA requirements

Official Travel Documents – general info & forms for visas, passports, and expediting services.

Visa HQ – quick-check of visa requirements by country.

Passport Visa Express – visa & passport expediting services.

W – WORLD-Trip Travel Guides

Travel Independent – “everything you need to know about independent budget travel”

BootsnAll – “one stop indie travel guide.”


World Currency Converter

 Y – YOUR story!

Share your own travel experiences with others!  Create your own blog using WordPress or BlogSpot. And don’t forget to share your story with Meet, Plan, Go!

Z – ZERO-cost (or low-cost) Travel


International House Sitting




Sarah Schauer began her career break in June 2012 with a domestic seasonal opportunity before heading to Europe, Africa, South America, and New Zealand. She’s a financial analyst by career, but also plays beach volleyball, volunteers with foreign exchange students, and enjoys hiking & the outdoors.  She’s a Christian who feels blessed to be able to experience this adventure of a lifetime participating in international volunteer opportunities, all out of the desire to make a difference in the lives of others and experience cultural immersion.  You can follow Sarah during her experiences at her website, Travels With a Purpose.


Set Your Daily Number
Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

How much will my trip around the world cost? What started as a dream crashes into reality when you dive in and start trying to determine how much money you’ll need to make it a reality. The thought of all the research and budgeting can easily overwhelm you. However, setting this number should not become an obstacle to taking off on your adventure.

Like many of you, when we decided in September 2008 to embark on a trip around the world we had absolutely no idea how much something like this would cost. The one thing assumed is that a trip like this would be outrageously expensive. Our first wild-ass-guess was that a year on the road would cost us $75,000. We used no research or information to get to this number, but since we both arrived at this number separately it seemed as good a place to start as any. This became our very first goal number, and was the first step towards our savings target.

From there we dove head first into planning mode, consuming information from a broad set of websites, blogs, and forums to glean information from those who had done it before. The information that did exist was all over the map and added even more confusion to the process. We found figures as high as $125,000 for a year to as low as $15,000. After a few days of pouring over reports we were only marginally closer to having a better figure for own adventure. There were just so many variables that it seemed the more research we did the more paralyzed we became.

Avoiding Analysis Paralysis

After exploring the problem in depth we discovered a far more useful budgeting technique – the “daily number”. This is the overall average amount you will spend each day on the road. It is inclusive of all expenses you will incur (hotel, flights, trains, meals, alcohol (yikes), entertainment, visas, etc). By coming up with an overall average, you can establish a simple figure to use for calculating your total savings goal and setting a baseline for your journey. It’s a hell of a lot easier to estimate a single day on the road instead of trying to calculate different regional costs, estimate the different flights, food for a year, and what visas you may need. By picking a daily number you also have a great guide you can carry with you when you hit the road and start managing against your budget figure.

We ended up with the figure of $100/day for the two of us, which seemed like a reasonable figure that we could live within based on our style of travel.

Set your daily number early and stick to it as you begin saving towards your dream.

Know You Can Adjust Later On

We have seen over and over people letting the research get in the way of actually taking off. They keep trying to adjust their budget, figure out every single expense to ensure the final figure is 100% correct. The time and stress spent worrying about getting it right becomes more important than the dream itself.

Guess what? Regardless of how much effort you expend determining your budget figure, you are going to get it wrong. And that is ok. The reason is you cannot predict how your trip will unfold. If all goes well, your trip is going to take some amazing and unexpected twists and you’ll find yourself in situations, and possibly places, you never expected. It is this type of adventure that got your excitement going in the first place and makes trying to plan every expense simply impossible.

But there is good news to this state of the unknown. You are still in complete control of your trip because this is YOUR dream. When you hit the road you have a number of levers you can use to change how much you are spending each and every day.

♦ Head to somewhere cheaper – is SE Asia calling your name after 2 months in Europe?

Cut back on meals – while you still need to eat, you can embrace the wonderful world of street carts. Warning: this can become addictive.

Adjust the duration of your trip – who said your trip has to be 12 months? If you are having the time of your life for 11 months is that a terrible outcome?

Buy beer at the grocery store and not the bar- you will be shocked at how much bars get away with marking up your bottle of beer.

By focusing your spending only what is most important to you at the time, you can shift your daily spending around to allow you enjoy the more expensive areas of the globe and then making up for it when you get that great house-sitting gig. The key is watching your daily number over time and managing it to suit your dream, but not letting it control your dream.

After 20 months on the road I’m surprised at just how much our “daily number” has stayed with us. After all this time our overall spending (yes, we’ve tracked every penny) today sits at $63/day, well below over average and it feels great.

Your budget is a guide to your trip around the world, but is should not be an obstacle that keeps you from taking the leap. Instead, take the another step towards your dream today and select your daily number.

If you have a daily spending number you are using, or have used, please share it in the comments. It would be great to provide more information to anyone beginning to put together their own daily number.

In 2010, Warren Talbot and his wife Betsy took off on an around-the-world journey. A year later, they revealed their financial and mental strategies in Dream Save Do, the definitive guide to funding any big dream. You can find out more about Living the Good Life on their website, Married with Luggage. He can currently be found on a train, bus, or camel crossing the vast expanse of Asia and Europe during their 18,000km journey from Thailand to Portugal.

Staying Alive: A Vegetarian’s Travel Manifesto
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

I guess you could call me the original hipster. I was a vegetarian before it was even cool – in fact, I’ve never eaten a bite of meat in my life (and yes, that includes fish. Those who eat fish are known as pescatarians). But that dietary restriction has not stopped me from a lifetime of travel, racking up more than 15 countries in 21 years and anticipating at least 20 new ones in my post-graduation trip volunteering around the world.

Since I intend on staying true to my meatless ways, I’ve concocted countless methods of avoiding what is often the basis of entire country’s cuisines. Take it from me, a bonafide vegetarian expert: Traveling doesn’t have to mean abandoning your eating habits. Though it might be hard, with these seven tips, you can continue to embrace the vegetarian lifestyle without sacrificing your culture experience.

1.  Buy locally, think globally.

Even if the stench of fish and meat smother the air, farmer’s markets are often the best places to find fresh produce at reasonable and equitable prices. Often there will be a decent selection of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and the country’s particular type of bread – the perfect vegetarian food staple that still showcases that region’s unique tastes. In every country I visit, for any length of time, I always make sure to visit a local market – it provides a cultural snapshot of daily life and highlights that nation’s handicrafts all while offering hundreds of opportunities to practice your language skills. When studying abroad in Cambridge last summer, I often skipped the quick and easy supermarket, Sainsbury’s, in favor of the adorable semi-permanent town market – I not only found a variety of vegetables and breads, but also fudges, candies, flowers, phone chargers, Rastafarian paraphernalia, and a staggering number of Banksy-inspired clothing.

2. “Gotta keep them separated.”

Though it may not always be immediately recognizable to someone who has never eaten meat, learning to identify foreign meat dishes helps to avoid unclear situations and gives time to think up alternative options without offending the cook by (politely) rejecting their work. If the way to a country’s heart is through its stomach, understanding the average cuisine gives a glimpse into the surrounding agriculture, the typical industries, and the way of life. In practice, this often entails looking up the country’s cuisine and recognizing the words for different meats in foreign languages. Before traveling to Russia, a land where animal fat is almost a necessity to survive the cold winters, I learned how to read and write in Cyrillic, and was able to use that knowledge to steer clear of the ever-present beef stews – and entertain my Russian friends by ordering my own meals (particularly those featuring “kartoshka” or potato) and responding to catcalls.

3. If at first you don’t succeed, lie.

While I’m generally an advocate for honesty, there are always exceptions. Having to explain a hundred times to admittedly well-intentioned mothers that I choose not to eat meat (and yes, I know, I’ve been told that it is delicious, and yes, maybe I do need some “meat” on these bones) is surprisingly harder and more exhausting than one would think. And that’s in English; try that in another language, and it’s nearly impossible. To cultures that center their diets on meat, the thought that someone would deprive herself of it – optionally, no less – is a concept that for some reason is constantly questioned. In these circumstances, I suddenly develop a “religious reason” or an “allergic reaction” – universally, faith and health seem two free passes to getting away with unthinkable things.

4. Lost in translation? Find a guide.

Cozying up to the locals reaps three immediate benefits: an inside look into a culture through the eyes of a contemporary, a translator well versed with the colloquial speak, and an answer to every “what are friends for?” situation. Unless they’re trying to trick you, your new friends will know vegetarian-friendly meals and restaurants and can warn you if anything you’re about to eat is traditionally made with unmarked and unseen bits of meat or fish sauces. Had I not spoken Spanish, I might have made the mistake in Madrid of eating ham-covered mushrooms – luckily, I had befriended the wait-staff at the café near my hostel, and they recommended alternatives that weren’t on the menu. In most countries outside of the United States, meals are times for lengthy conversations and relaxation – there’s literally no better time to “break the bread” with someone new!

5. Location, location, location.

Generally, metropolitan areas can accommodate the vegetarian diet better than their rural counterparts, simply because there’s a higher likeliness of vegetarians in the midst. Though this might be regarded cheating, urban areas will invariably have more diversity in foreign cuisine as well, giving your taste buds a break when culture shock sets in. Something else to think about: generally, the higher in elevation, the sparser the vegetation. Though it’s possible, it’s more difficult to find suitable meals while you’re volunteering at the peak of the Andean mountains than it is in the foothills.

6. In case of emergencies…

This is possibly the most valuable advice anyone will ever tell you: always carry snacks. Unlike those extra socks or that GPS compass, food will be used, and you will always be glad when you find that pack of saltine crackers to satiate your stomach’s angry protests on a seven-hour bus ride through the countryside (see reason #5 for why this might be a problem). Being prepared never hurts, and having food often helps in the case that you get sea-sick, car-sick, or just sick, and need to take medication that requires you to have something in your system. Plus, self-reliance is a key skill of the vagabond lifestyle!

7. Just say no.

At the end of the day, your diet is up to you. Being a vegetarian is about more than just abstaining from meat for health purposes; for many, vegetarianism is an ideology that embodies how that person sees him or herself in the universal community. Though this might be a legitimate fear for some, in reality, no one is going to force-feed you something you don’t want to eat. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your beliefs to be able to experience a culture, even though meat is a significant part of many. As every traveler knows, where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Vidya Kaipa is a soon-to-be UC Berkeley graduate who will be departing her native California (and her beloved team at Go Overseas!) to embark upon a solo year-long RTW trip. She’s been told that this is crazy, which only makes her more eager to go. With a lifetime of travel, this adventure is the next step – read her blog, Pocket Gypsy, to see how she plans to do it!

How to Redeem Frequent Flier Miles
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

As discussed in Monday’s post, How to Accrue Frequent Flier Miles, earning and redeeming miles can be a great way to save money on your career break.

All frequent flyer mile (FFM) programs publish an awards table for the required miles needed for a flight redemption.  The exact number, of course, depends on your origin and destination countries.  For instance, at the time of this writing, U.S. Airways, a Star Alliance member, requires 60,000 miles to fly round trip from North America to North Asia while United Airlines, another Star Alliance airline, requires 65,000 miles for the same round trip flight.

Also, different frequent flyer mile programs group the same countries in different zones.  United Airlines categorizes South Korea and Singapore in North Asia and South Asia respectively.  Another frequent flyer mile program will group both countries in the same zone.  It helps to check with the redemption table to where your miles can take you.  Awards table changes are almost guaranteed to change for the worse, usually the required number mileage increases.  It’s always best to use your miles before such changes are imposed because I rather have memories from a trip far away than looking at a black and white number on my computer screen.

Once you have the required number of FFM in your account, it’s now time to search flights for the availability of seats open to folks redeeming miles or known as award seats.

Your first inclination may be to check the airline’s website for availability.  This isn’t wrong per se.  It’s the easiest to do and if the airline website search satisfies your needs on the first try, you’re done.  However, this will not be the case in nearly every circumstance.

Likewise with crediting miles from an alliance or partner airline, those miles can also be redeemed for flights on alliance and partner airlines.  Most online booking engines don’t display the availability of partner or alliance member airlines.  For instance, U.S. Airways, a Star Alliance member doesn’t display availability on Lufthansa or Austrian airline flights.  To find availability on flights for U.S. Airways, you’ll have to call the airline agent to get this information and ticket it.

Routing Rules

Each frequent flyer mile program has different rules when it comes to redeeming miles – some allow you to book a one-way ticket for half the required miles for a round trip flight while others frequent flyer miles programs don’t allow it.

Travelers may miss out on travel opportunities because they are unaware of the routing rules, stopovers, and open jaw rules of their frequent flyer mile program.  Most programs allow you to build in either one stop over or one open-jaw to an award ticket when you’re traveling from one zone to another, i.e. North America to Europe or North America to Asia.

A stopover is defined as a break in the middle of a journey before proceeding to your destination or origin.   An example would be if a traveler wanted to travel to Bangkok, Thailand from North America, they could book NYC to Bangkok via Europe.  Stopover in Europe for several weeks to several months, then proceed to their destination and return to NYC all for the same amount of miles as if the traveler booked a round trip NYC to Bangkok.  A stopover can be schedule for as long as the traveler wishes, but the entire round trip itinerary has to be completed within a year.

An “Open Jaw” ticket is when you fly into one city and fly out of another.  For example, let’s say a traveler booked a round trip from New York to London for X amount of miles.  If the traveler wishes to tour the main continent of Europe, the traveler would then have to book a round trip flight on a budget airline to the main continent.  Alternatively, for the same X amount of miles, a traveler could book an open jaw itinerary by booking a flight from NYC to London.  Then book a flight from to NYC from Madrid all for the same amount of miles.   All the traveler needs to book is a one-way ticket from London to Madrid versus a round trip ticket from London to Madrid on a budget airline.

Knowing these routing rules can be extremely valuable to get more travel as you would from the same amount of miles required for a round trip award ticket.

One-way tickets booked with miles don’t allow a stop over.  For these cases, if it’s an international itinerary, it’s possible to include a connection of less than 24 hours in a city because a connection time of less than 24 hour doesn’t count as a stop over.  It is technically considered a connection.  Having 22 hours on the ground is plenty of time to leave the airport and explore the city.

For instance, traveling from Singapore to Seoul one-way, you could include a connection in Hong Kong by arriving on 15:15 flight and departing on a 13:10 flight the next day.  This is a completely valid and legal connection that will not count as a stopover.

These short connections may not be conducive to career breakers traveling with children, but for those light packing travelers, it can provide an excellent way to experience a city.

With stopovers and open jaw itineraries on an award ticket, you’ll certainly make more stops along your journey, thus seeing more of the world we anxiously waited to take a career break for.

Things to Keep in Mind When Redeeming Miles

♦ Call the reservation agent of your airline to find availability of seats on other airlines.

♦ When booking an international award ticket, never ever book a round trip.  Build in stopovers or an open jaw to stretch those miles.

♦ If you’re willing to do so and your itinerary permits, add a connection of less than 24 hours to explore a city along the way to your destination.

Mike Choi is known as the resident world traveler in his office and blogs about his travels at With his knowledge of FFM, he runs a part time frequent flyer mile consulting shop at to help those with miles see the world. After reading books authored by Rolf Potts, Mike’s been inspired to take a career break to travel long term.

How to Accrue Frequent Flier Miles
Monday, April 30th, 2012

Frequent Flyer Miles (FFM) can be an excellent way to subsidize airfare costs during your career break.  For those unfamiliar with FFM, they are a unit of rewards earned through an airline’s loyalty program by flying.  The objective of these loyalty programs is to retain customers by rewarding customers with miles, which translate to free flights with enough accumulated miles.

Earning Miles

In the United States, aside from flying, there are numerous ways to earn FFM such as purchases with co-branded airline cards and a slew of other promotional offers.

Unless you have a lot of reimbursable expenses, purchases with a co-branded airline credit card will not generate enough miles for a flight in a timely manner.  This post will focus on flying, assuming there are some future career breakers who travel for work and are allowed to accumulate FFM for personal use.

With work related travels, we’re usually committed to a schedule that may not be conducive to flying our preferred airline, so we end up crediting the flown miles to another carrier.  The end result is multiple frequent flyer mile accounts with smaller balances.  This is not the most ideal situation because account balances in different frequent flyer miles programs cannot be combined. It’s best to have a single account with a large balance so that they can be redeemed for a flight, ideally an international flight.

To accrue miles in a single account, it’s helpful to know the alliance and partner airlines of your frequent flyer mile program.  The Star Alliance, One World, and Sky Team are the three alliances in existence today.  In most cases, alliance member and partner airlines can be credited to a single frequent flyer mile account within the alliance.  Most people don’t realize this and end up creating multiple frequent flyer mile accounts from different airlines.

For example, a few weeks ago a friend was looking to purchase a round trip ticket to Atlanta and preferred to fly U.S. Airways because it’s where he has the greatest amount of frequent flyer miles.  However, this time around, he wasn’t able to go with U.S. Airways as it didn’t allow an ample connection time. My friend has a small bank of frequent flyer miles with Delta, so he was going to pay more money to fly with Delta directly to Atlanta for the convenience and mileage accrual.

After consulting with me, I suggested he buy a United flight that was similarly priced to the U.S. Airways flight and allowed a sufficient connection time.  I explained that United flights could be credited to his U.S. Airways account since they are both Star Alliance members.  I showed him the following miles earnings table from the U.S. Airways site:

Since the airfare he was purchasing was one of the fare classes that aligned with the 100% accrual rate, he would earn all the flown miles on the United flight to his U.S. Airways account.

Airlines also have partner airlines that can accrue miles.  For example, I have an AAdvantage account from American Airlines and last year I booked a round trip flight to Kathmandu from New York City.  One of my flight options was to fly on Cathay Pacific to Kathmandu via Hong Kong.  Cathay Pacific and American Airlines are part of the One World Alliance so a flight on Cathay Pacific would earn miles on American Airlines.

However, since the airfare booking code I would have purchased (Class L) aligned with 0% mileage accrual according to American Airline’s website, I would have earned zero miles to my AAdvantage account for a 20,000 mile flight from NYC to Kathmandu, which was the deal breaker for me.

Another comparable priced option was a Gulf Air flight transiting through Europe and the Middle East to arrive in Kathmandu.

Since Gulf Air is a partner airline with American Airlines and the fare class I bought aligned with the 100% accrual rate of all flown miles, I earned all the miles for the flight.  You can’t assume that just because airlines are in the same alliance you’ll earn all the flown miles.  You have to pay attention to the airfare booking codes and the corresponding earning rates table to be sure.

Keeping Miles

Frequent Flier Miles have an all-inclusive expiration date, meaning that if there is no account activity for the specified duration as detailed by the FFM program, all your miles will expire, not just the older accrued miles.

The good news is that it’s very easy to keep miles from expiring.  All you need is to generate any kind of account activity, which includes: flying, redeeming miles for a flight, and crediting hotel/rental cars to your FFM account.  With the various ways to earn miles these days, the options are nearly endless.  The obvious key is to keep your out of pocket expenses low if you have to generate account activity to keep your miles from expiring.

For instance, nearly all FFM programs have online shopping portals such as the “AAdvantage eshopping” or the “U.S. Airways Dividend Sky Mall” where a single low cost purchase from these Online Malls will generate account activity to reset the expiration date.

Things to Keep in Mind

♦ Know the alliance and partner members of your FFM account.
♦ Check your FFM account earning rules to determine which fare classes on alliance and partner airlines will earn miles to your FFM account.
♦ Accumulate miles in a single account because miles across different airline programs cannot be combined. It’s always best to have a large balance in a single account to be redeemed for travel.
♦ Always give the gate or ticketing agent your FFM account number before your flight because it’s easier to receive miles rather than after the fact.
♦ Never let your miles expire.  It’s easy enough to keep them from expiring with all the ways to generate any kind of account activity.
♦ If you have large amounts of reimbursable expenses, credit card spending on a co-branded airline card may be a method to earning miles.

Mike Choi is known as the resident world traveler in his office and blogs about his travels at  With his knowledge of FFM, he runs a part time frequent flyer mile consulting shop at to help those with miles see the world.  After reading books authored by Rolf Potts, Mike’s been inspired to take a career break to travel long term.

Check back on Wednesday when Mike explains how to best redeem your hard-earned frequent flier miles.

Photo credit: Vox Efx

Career Break Guide Table of Contents