Michaela Potter

[singlepic=50,170,210,,right]Two things that I am known for the most amongst my friends, family and peers are my love for travel and photography. The two go hand-in-hand. In the past 15 years I have traveled to six continents and over 30 countries, documenting each journey through the lens of my camera.

Experiencing new cultures and placing myself outside of my comfort zone pushes me in new directions.  And I feel a responsibility to learn more about my place in the world and how that affects others outside my immediate circle.  Not everyone gets to experience that, so through my photography and artwork I try to bring that to others and hopefully open up their minds to the world we live in – and now I hope to do the same through Briefcase to Backpack.

I was fortunate to have been exposed to international travel at a very young age, spending several summer holidays back in my mother’s homeland of England.  But it wasn’t until I backpacked through Europe before studying in London for a semester that I was truly struck by the travel bug.

While my peers were preparing for the expected path at the end of college – graduation, career, marriage, mini-vans – I knew my education wasn’t quite over.  And I also knew that it wasn’t going to continue in a classroom but rather on the road.  So a few months after graduation, I headed Down Under with my great friend Holly for six months of backpacking through Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

[singlepic=51,270,179,,left]That adventure was in 1995 before the prevalence of ATMs, cell phones and even the internet.  It still amazes me that without those resources we easily got around without much planning and were still able to connect with friends and family back home on a regular basis.

That adventure also set off a pattern in my life that I have continued today – every five years or so I take a mini-career break to travel.  After working for five years as an Event & Marketing Manager for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, I decided to move in a new career direction.  But before doing so, I headed over to Asia where I experienced the magic of the Himalayas trekking through Nepal as well as the vibrant countries of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Upon my return, I began my next five years working in corporate video production as an editor and graphic designer.  And in 2006 decided to take another break – but this time I wanted to really get to know a culture.  So rather than traveling around, I planted myself outside of Cusco, Peru to volunteer for the summer.  That amazing experience led me to my next job at Cross-Cultural Solutions, where I was able to prepare participants for their very own international volunteer experience in Thailand.  For many of them, this was the first time they would be traveling internationally and I was able to use my real-life experiences to help guide them through the process.

[singlepic=52,195,300,,right]Of course I continued to travel for a week or two in between these breaks, visiting Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Galapagos, Mexico, as well as Spain, France, Italy and Scotland.  But it’s the extended travel that really allows me to get in touch with a culture and its people.  And when Michael decided to leave his corporate job after 14 years, I was excited to share with him my passion for travel and was thrilled that he was up for the challenge.  And it was another opportunity for me to personally guide someone through this life-changing event – but this time I would be able to go along for the ride.

Now that we’ve returned I’ve begun a new adventure at pursuing a freelance career as well as focusing on my artwork– two things I was always afraid to do but am now ready to take a chance at it.  And of course I am excited to inspire more Americans in the importance of taking a cultural career break.

View Michaela Potter’s travel photos 
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