5 Things to Expect When Returning Home
Monday, July 9th, 2012

Nothing can prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster of returning home after a sabbatical or career break. Even those of you who have done the research, reading the posts and the warnings, will be in for a surprise. You tell yourself that everything will be peachy-keen on the way home. And, for your sake, I hope you are right.

For those of us who have a less-than-peachy homecoming, I give you the following: A few realistic things to expect when returning home.

1. Travel Depression

It starts off as a nagging feeling in your head and heart, telling you that you are missing out on adventures while you are back at home. Your day-to-day falls back into a routine, lacking the discovery of yourself, new people, and new places. You’re adrenaline isn’t pumping like it did before- but all of this can be overcome.

One of the things that we found imperative to combat this is to give yourself a few days to hide out when you get home. Life went on while you are gone, a few extra days is not going to be the end of the world for your family and friends.

This time allows for decompression, de-stressing, and time to sort out the feelings you have about being home already. We sequestered ourselves in with our best friends in Phoenix, Arizona. This time was a “No Judgement” time filled with movies, video games, and beer. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, find what makes you happy and participate in it. The buffer will help you adjust for what is next.

2. Reverse Culture Shock

After being gone so long you would not believe how much you have accepted the terms and customs of the cultures you have visited. If you have spent a lot of time in third world countries, it can be especially bad.

Shaun and I had spent a year traveling through Central and South America. Towards the end of the trip we spend 6 weeks in Bolivia – one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere – and grew to love it. We learned how to navigate through outdoor markets and really started to connect with the community aspect of shopping for food.

When we returned to the States we were in shock and awe the first time we went into our neighborhood supermarket. Not only was it MASSIVE but I almost had a small panic attack when looking for butter as I was barraged by a wall of 25 different kinds. I sat there for a good 5 minutes trying to make up my mind. It was only when my husband came to find me to tell me he couldn’t pick a box of macaroni and cheese because there were 17 types that I realized what a predicament we were in.

3. Not everyone wants to hear your stories

The instinctual icebreaker when someone sees you for the first time after your return is almost always “How was your trip?” But many of those people are really looking for simple, one word answers. Although, it is usually quite apparent when someone actually wants to hear about your experience.

Needless to say, I was a bit surprised that very few people really wanted to hear about my life changing career break/sabbatical. I found that it helps to either come up with an intriguing one word answer to get them to ask more questions or make sure you have a support group that is willing to listen to you. Going to travel tweetups and local Couchsurfing events definitely cures this issue. Surround yourself with like minded people that do want to know and understand that family and friends sometimes just don’t understand what you went through.

4. People will have moved on with their lives without you

You are going to have to expect it. While you spent some length of your life volunteering in orphanages or walking through Patagonian glaciers, they kept living their lives at home.

Keep in mind that while you have changed, so have many of them. I think that was the hardest one for me to realize. People have had children, gotten promotions, turned vegetarian, bought new houses, etc. They won’t always be able to instantly make time in their lives for you again. It takes a bit to figure out where you fit in the big picture. This adds to the travel depression mentioned above.

5. It takes time to get used to things again

This is especially prevalent if you were in different cultures without access to the same things you had at home. You will revel in air conditioning, feel awkward about carrying a cell phone, stress out over how quickly things move back home, or like me, take weeks to stop deciding whether or not I should throw the toilet paper in the trash can or the toilet.

Luckily this one passes the quickest and you will be surprised how grateful you are about the small things in your lives – like dryers. I love hot, dry clothes. Apparently the rest of the world doesn’t use them. Who knew?

Not this girl.

The sooner you realize what emotions you are feeling when you return, the easier the transition will be back into your life at home. While the road is definitely not going to be an easy one, be assured by the fact that your recent experiences have helped prepare you for everything life can throw at you – even this.

Erica Kushel is 1/2 of the team at Over Yonderlust. After a year of backpacking and taking part in photographic delights in Central and South America, they are currently planning their next adventure: Iceland and Europe.

Travel Makes Better Executives
Monday, May 14th, 2012

As a long term traveler on sabbatical, I am occasionally asked, “Are you concerned about coming back to work?  How will you explain the large gap in your resume?

Each time this question is posed, I calmly reply “of course not.” As the months have passed, some of the lessons I’ve learned are easier to articulate than others. Nevertheless, here are five skills that I have tuned while traveling. I am sure that these skills will make me a more confident executive leader and apply to other travelers as well.

Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

At some point every executive has had to make a decision with less information than would be considered prudent. In a complex business environment, executives need strong analytical skills for sure, but the best leaders regularly listen to their intuition. As Malcom Gladwell describes in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, we do that by “thin-slicing,” using limited information to come to our conclusion.

In what Gladwell contends is an age of information overload, he finds that experts often make better decisions with snap judgments than they do with volumes of analysis. He also mentions that sometimes having too much information can interfere with the accuracy of a judgment, or a doctor’s diagnosis. This is commonly called Analysis paralysis.

The challenge is to sift through and focus on only the most critical information to make a decision. The other information may be irrelevant and confusing to the decision maker. Collecting more and more information, in most cases, just reinforces our judgment but does not help to make it more accurate.”

The book argues that intuitive judgment is developed by experience, training, and knowledge. Travelers thin-slice every time they choose to hire a tuk-tuk, accept a gift from a local, or share a drink with new friends.

Mystic Connection with Nature

Steven R. Covey wrote that “[e]very human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” Further, he shares that “[t]he way we see the problem is the problem.”

It follows then that with an awareness of the true nature of universal timeless principles, we can alter reality. As a traveler, you are frequently vulnerable. We can choose to see power in this vulnerability or we can find weakness. Specifically, vulnerability exposes us to scams, theft, and crime. Vulnerability also inspires a heightened sense of awareness and curiosity that helps us embody true “presence” or appreciation or our surroundings.

Super Human Hops

As a traveler you are often faced with unique situations leaving few resources at your disposal. Even the best planned itinerary can result in flight cancellations, unexpected bus delays, or an unforeseen arrival during a regional celebration or workforce strike.

Finding solutions to travel surprises expands confidence in out-of-the-box thinking, and reinforces creative problem solving skills.

Having the confidence to hurdle over unexpected challenges makes the difference between an average worker and an exceptional team contributor.

Stomp Out Insecurity

Until your team feels trusted, understood, valued, and enabled, synergistic results will remain elusive.

Insecurity is that feeling inside us that prevents us from becoming deeply empathic listeners. If we are to cultivate empowered teams which operate over the foundation of high trust relationships, deliver passionate contributions, and produce synergistic results – insecurity must be at a minimum.

Through an exposure to foreign religions, manners, and cultural norms we naturally gain an appreciation for varied cultural views. This appreciation shifts the fulcrum allowing increased understanding and reduced fear. By eliminating fear we can stomp out insecurity.

Multiple Perspectives

As mentioned earlier, empathic listening is critical to success in an interdependent reality. To achieve empathic communication at least one party must be engaged in seeing reality from multiple perspectives. It is only by reflecting content and feeling, accurately and completely, that communication barriers are replaced with profound understanding. Having awareness and being centered in compassion are the first two requirements for such understanding.

Travel long enough and you will eventually find yourself a sleep-deprived, under-fed traveler whose fate depends on the services of an under-paid, under-appreciated, and under-educated world citizen. In these scenarios, empathic communication will often make the difference between a seat on a train, a room in a hostel, or a bite to eat and utter frustration. Through necessity travelers develop empathic listening skills.

In the end, travel creates executives equipped to achieve synergistic results through heightened awareness, empathic communication, and out-of-the-box thinking. With practice, these individuals can be shown to make quality decisions given limited information. Now that’s a leader worth hiring!

Matthew K. Sharp is the co-founder of Inertia Interrupted and is currently trekking, volunteering, diving and photographing the world with his wife, Luz.  You can connect with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

How to Account for a Career Break on Your Resume
Monday, April 16th, 2012

You arrive home at the end of a life-changing travel experience and one of the biggest questions facing you likely will be how to find work again. Whether you traveled as part of a career break, gap year, or sabbatical, you will need to figure out how to best represent the time and experiences on your resume.

Where should it go on my resume?

It depends. Do you think the experiences you had traveling apply to you finding a new job in your field?  If so, then place it in the main part of your resume. If you don’t feel like it applies, then it probably belongs in a section reserved for Additional Information or Hobbies.

Kristin Zibell of is a frequent career breaker and she keeps her resume flexible saying,

I found the recruiters and hiring managers were looking for the professional story in my resume. Every statement on my resume needed to support this story and show a situation, action, and results.  If my travels and experiences had a direct relationship to the position, like my blogging or volunteering abroad, then I listed it like a position. Most of the time, I found that travel was an interesting fact about me and explained the time gaps, but not directly related to the positions. In this case, I placed my travel experiences at the bottom in an ‘Additional Activities’ section that colored who I was and what I had done.

Kristin’s resume highlights her travels as international experience:

? Ten months of travel to India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, Middle East, and Europe from October 2008 to May 2010.

? Activities included volunteer work at Mother Teresa Mission Charities in Kolkata with disabled women and teaching English to street children in Jaipur.

? Designed and authored three travel blogs during multi-month these solo trips. Currently editor of

What type of information should I share about my travels?

It’s probably NOT a good idea to put that you were a beach bum for 12 months, or that you traveled the full moon party circuit. Instead, think about what you did on your travels that had to do with education, skill building, volunteering, and business skills and highlight them in a professional manner. But there are some other skills you might want to consider:

One should always represent any volunteering done while traveling on their resume. It demonstrates a commitment to education, giving back to other cultures, and global experience. You should always include where your volunteering took place, what your responsibilities were, and if there was any end result. The end results could be tangible things such as building a house, cleaning up after a natural disaster, or restoring wetlands.

If not covered somewhere else in your resume, also consider including any resume building intangible results such as improved leadership skills, proven ability to take initiative, as well as listening and communication skills. Finally, if your volunteering was for an extended period of time such as 6 months to a year, then consider putting this experience in your work or education history.

More and more people are working while they travel. Work that is relevant to your field is important to highlight. Did you do any freelance work, consulting, working at a hostel, or teaching ESL?  If so, this can belong in your work history.

Meet, Plan, Go! co-founder Sherry Ott highlighted her various work experiences as international work experience:

ESL Instructor: ILA Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City

?  Teaching adults English as a Second Language (ESL).

Consultant:  CAMENAE, Singapore

?  Delivered a usability analysis of the e-commerce site and led subsequent redesign.
?  Conducted tests and created a regression test plan.
?  Consult with owners on their business vision and ensure that it can be supported on the site.  Offer guidance on short and long term business plans and their technical implementation.

Did you blog, write for publications, or do photography; all of these things illustrate that you took your travels seriously. Think about the new skills you learned when maintaining your blog. Did you increase your knowledge about Search Engine Optimization, marketing/sales of affiliate programs, coding, and social media tools?

Laura Keller did a career break with her husband Ryan and blogged about it at She represented her blogging in the following way:

Digital Entrepreneur, Travel Blogger & World Explorer

? Expanded economic and cultural views while exploring 20 countries in 14 months of extensive travel across six continents
? Created, launched and hosted the travel website, attracting 10,000 unique monthly visitors
? Governed online traffic, social media and SEO to create advertising and sponsorship revenue for
? Contributed travel articles to leading lifestyle and travel Web sites and blogs

Talking about the soft skills

Even if all you did was lounge around a beach all day and drink beer, you picked up some business skills while traveling around the world.  It’s hard to think about the mundane day-to-day experiences as skill building, but they are. There are a lot of business skills you can learn without actually having gone to business school. In fact, these “business skills” are simply important life skills that can give you an edge:

Negotiation skills – All that time spent in markets haggling over the cost of a magnet was beneficial.  You were exposed to and employed various negotiation tactics that can be highlighted. Businesses want people who are sharp negotiators and can make deals not people who are push overs.
? Budgeting and Planning – You most likely had to plan and save for your career break.  In addition, you continue to monitor your budget and assess any financial risks.
? Adaptability – When you travel, things go wrong, plans change, there are mudslides that you can’t predict.  As a traveler you are forced to change plans constantly.  You handle the issues that are hurdled your way quickly after a few months on the road. In the ever changing world of business, the ability to adapt is important.
? Communication  – When trying to converse in foreign cultures every verbal and non-verbal communication is necessary to overcome language and cultural barriers. This skill is helps you deal with people which is an important aspect of any job. Workers with good communication skills are the ones who rise fast.

All of these new skills belong on your resume. And when you are asked about them in an interview, you’ll be able to share an amazing story about “that time in Vietnam…” when a skill came in handy and how it can help you in your job.

Bottom Line

Use your travel to make you stand out. Keep in mind that many of these experiences, if described in a professional manner, will make you stand out from other candidates.

Don’t hide your travel when searching for a job; embrace it!


How to Make Processing Part of the Re-Entry Process
Monday, March 19th, 2012

You’re probably familiar with the terms re-entry and reverse culture shock. While some people sail through re-entry problem-free, most say they feel more lost upon returning home than they ever did abroad.

This actually makes a lot of sense. When we go abroad we’re constantly in the “new.” We’re seeing new things, having new adventures, hearing new languages, trying new food, considering new perspectives.

It’s exhilarating. Euphoric. It’s why we travel!

Back home, we’re no longer in the “new.” Back home, we are the new.

On one hand, we’re happy to be home with family and friends, speaking our native language, eating our favorite foods, and even sleeping in our own bed.

But we also feel like something is a bit off. It’s not necessarily bad, just…off.

I’m convinced that what really gets us in re-entry isn’t reverse culture-shock (I can order my favorite coffee without pantomiming! Do we really need 1,000 types of cereal to choose from?), but rather the on-going, subtler reverse culture-fatigue (Why do I feel out of synch? Do I really want to stay in this career? Why am I so bored?).

After a career break abroad we know we’ve changed. But we often can’t articulate how (much) we’ve changed. Just as the majority of culture is invisible to us, so are the nuanced ways our travels have transformed us.

In my experience, travelers often react to the feelings and questions that surface in re-entry in one of two ways:

1. We hop the next plane abroad without even unpacking our backpack. (I’m bored here! Gotta get back in the new!)

2. As we settle into our pre-travel lives our adventures become compartmentalized. (I had an amazing experience abroad…but (*sigh*) what does that have to do with my life now that I’m back home?)

Whether you choose to go abroad again or stay put isn’t the issue. My reaction to re-entry was to immediately plan my next trip abroad. My husband? He dove into finding a new job in his field.

Even though we had different reactions to re-entry, we discovered that we held the same concern. Traveling made us feel alive, adventurous, and empowered. We discovered new aspects of ourselves that we really liked. But we both felt like we had to choose between being the person we’d become while abroad or go back to being the person we were before we left. And we didn’t want to choose.

What I’ve learned in the course of several re-entry experiences is how important it is to take time to process the emotions, questions, and concerns that come up after a career break abroad. Meeting this challenge head-on is one of the best gifts you can give yourself because no matter what you decide to do in the future, you’ll bring your true self.

Even if you go abroad again, the career break that transformed you is over. Any new adventure will bring different challenges, emotions, and transformation. If you don’t make a point to process these experiences, you run the risk of letting fear make the decisions, which prevents you from being fully present in your post-career break life.

After the heightened experience of travel, some people feel they’ll never be completely happy unless they’re on the road. Others wonder how to replicate the thrill of being abroad into their daily lives at home. Travel is often a vehicle through which we develop  new interests, talents, and skills. Therefore, one way to integrate the new you into your old life is by asking yourself which aspects of my travels made me feel the most alive, engaged, and empowered?

Was it being physically active every day? Meeting new people? Photography? Blogging? Volunteering? Music? Trying new food? Speaking new languages? Solving travel challenges in creative ways? Participating in an extreme sport? Relaxing?

When you discover what fueled you during your career break, you can more easily integrate that aspect of the new you into your old life. If you go abroad again, you can be more intentional in creating future travel experiences.

Re-entry isn’t an event that happens on one specific day. It’s an on-going part of the travel journey. To be honest, you may never feel perfectly satisfied “at home” again. On the flip-side, you more than likely now feel fairly “at home” anywhere in the world.

Which aspects of your career break abroad made you feel the most alive, engaged, and empowered?


Cate Brubaker helps all kinds of travelers navigate intercultural, personal, and re-entry experiences in her work with TrekDek,, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Cate is currently planning her next career break.

Travel & Your Entrepreneurial Side
Monday, February 20th, 2012

It was over 4 years in the making, but my girlfriend and I had done it. We had saved $50,000, quit our jobs, sold all of our stuff and bought a 1-way ticket to Hong Kong. It was time for a career break to spend a year in Asia just traveling and enjoying life.

Why was I traveling?

Many people travel to “find themselves” or “figure out what they want with life”. This was never my intention. I thought I had it figured out already. I liked my job (enough), I liked the area that I lived in and I liked the career path I was heading down. I had worked for a large company for over 4-years. I had steadily gained responsibility and earned promotions. When I was finished traveling, I assumed I would join another company and continue down my path. How wrong I was.

The Entrepreneurial Bug

My entrepreneurial bug started as I researched long-term travel. The research led me to people who showed there was a different way to live life. There was Chris Guilleabeau, Brian Armstrong, Kirsty Henderson, Nora Dunn and this was just the beginning. I started exploring what it meant to be an entrepreneur and became fascinated with Andrew Warner’s Mixergy interviews, 37 Signals, Jason Cohen, Dharmesh Shah & This Week in Startups. I was hooked.

My girlfriend and I were seeing new cities, meeting new people and doing a lot of fun things. I was trying to enjoy my time off, but it’s funny – when you no longer have a job, a commute, chores, and obligations, you end up with a lot of free time to think. I couldn’t shut my brain off.

Within a couple months I had an itchy mind (yup, I just made that term up…think itchy feet) and I started looking for problems that I could solve. I realized one of the biggest problems I could solve was one that I was experiencing every day. Figuring out what to do and how to get around in the new cities I was visiting was a huge pain!

Wikitravel gives a nice overview, but after that it was pretty much downhill. I wanted someone to tell me what the best things in the city were and how to specifically get around. I wanted something cheap. I wanted to see the city like a local and I still wanted to do it on my own. Thus spawned Unanchor.

Building Unanchor

The idea was simple. Local experts from around the world would be able to write travel guides and sell them on our site. What I particularly loved about this idea was that if it took off, the writers and the community would keep most of the money. I’d be helping the community of writers while making travelers’ lives easier and more enjoyable. The only question was ‘how do I build it’?

In high school I had built websites and in college I had taken some programming classes. Things had changed a lot since then – that was quite a few years ago. From the interviews I was listening to and the blogs I was reading, I knew the best way to start was to build it myself. So I decided to teach myself to code. I downloaded and read every page of “Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites“. At this point we were settled down in South Korea, giving me more time to learn. Within a couple months I had built the first version. It wasn’t pretty, but it did the trick. I started getting some interest and eventually found a partner who could help me improve it.

What Happened?

Fast forward almost a year and a half. We now have almost 100 itineraries for 75 different cities around the world. Travelers are using the itineraries and saying great things about them.

While I wish I could say that Unanchor took off and it now makes enough money to support me and my wife, that is unfortunately not the case. No matter what anyone says, starting a business is hard and takes a lot of time. Unanchor has grown and I’m proud of how far we’ve come, but it hasn’t grown fast enough. Once again I’ve found myself at a cross-roads trying to figure out what’s next. We’ve decided to move back to the Bay Area and I’m looking for a job now. I now know I want to work for a small company with a big goal. I won’t give up on Unanchor, though, and I’ll continue to work on it during nights and weekends.

It’s funny how things worked out. I never thought I’d be the type of person to “find themselves while traveling”, but that’s exactly what ended up happening.

Unanchor Contest Giveaway!

I’ve worked with the MPG team to create an Unanchor contest giveaway. Just leave a comment below, stating which Unanchor itinerary you’d be interested in having. And at the end of the day February 22nd, we’ll randomly select 2 people and give the itinerary away. Good luck!

Jason Demant finds Will Ferrell to be hilarious, hates the feeling of velvet and has a strange phobia of touching his own belly button. He grew up in Northern California and didn’t really leave. At 23 he got his first passport stamps and has been hooked on travel ever since. Jason and his wife were able to save for 2 years and in October 2009, they quit their Silicon Valley jobs to travel around Asia for a year. It was during that year abroad that he discovered the need for, and launched, Unanchor.

Volunteering Vision
Monday, January 30th, 2012

Bart SkorupaAfter an epic five-day journey including 4×4, bus, truck, ox cart, wading through rivers, trudging through bogs, and a blissful speedboat, I finally arrived in Andavaodak, Madagascar. I would spend my next three months here, diving, researching, and working in a remote paradise. This was the farthest point on the planet I have ever been, away from civilization and, as I was soon to find out, far away from proper medical care. The trip started out wonderful, diving or boat marshaling in the morning, studying in the early afternoon, capped off by football games on the sandy white beaches.

It was that trip though that changed my life. While I was enjoying that paradise, I was diagnosed with a corneal ulcer, I was to be administered antibiotic eye drops and given Codeine for the pain. However, things got worse, much worse, very quickly. Faced with the very real possibility of going blind, I had to orchestrate an emergency evacuation – in the middle of a hurricane.

Nothing prepares you for watching your own eye be cut open.

Nothing prepares you for an operation in a dinghy room in the third world.

And nothing prepares you for having it done by a doctor partially paralyzed by a stroke.

The only unfortunate thing in all this is that it took the loss of my vision to begin to see this more clearly.

Bart Skorupa recovered from the third world surgery and can now see fine, but that experience changed the trajectory of Bart’s life and career. He had to rely upon locals and missionaries for help. He only had the supplies that the locals had available and from that experience he decided that he wanted to help communities like the one that helped him.

He and Kyle Maclaren Miller founded a 501c3 charity working to create a world beyond poverty by investing in groundbreaking ideas, empowering local leaders, and engaging communities.

Groundwork Opportunities (GO) identifies and partners with local leaders in the developing world who have designed sustainable programs to address community-based issues, such as a lack of clean water, healthcare, or education. Once a partnership is established, GO provides the community with the start-up capital and guidance needed to turn their vision for a better world into a reality that will scale across multiple countries.

We first learned of GO thanks to a friend introducing us to GO’s volunteering opportunities in Africa. Then we found out that not only were Bart and Kyle offering some great opportunities for people to help and get involved, but they were offering volunteering for free. This is rare, and we are very excited to introduce GO to our Meet, Plan, Go! audience.

GO’s No Volunteer Fees

In Rwanda, there is a parable that says “You give what you have”. Our partners on the ground give their time and ideas. You can help them by giving your support as a volunteer. In fact we want to make it so easy for you to give your support that we don’t charge for volunteering. Not even a cent. Our partnerships with grassroots healthcare, education, and environmental projects are open to people of all ages of all backgrounds. All we ask is that you pay your own travel expenses and our partners will welcome you with open arms. Just like mom and dad.

Volunteer Voices

We asked some of GO’s past volunteers to tell us about their experiences, and how it changed their perspective as well as how it made them stand out from a career standpoint.

Heather Grabowski
raised enough money to fund 50 beehives for the Uganda Project. She will be traveling there this summer to see the impact of her project. Read more about how volunteering has been a rewarding experience both socially and professionally for Heather.

Peter Prato, a professional photographer, traveled to Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania during early summer 2011. As a fundraiser for many years, it was the first time he’d be visiting the people whose lives he’s helped change. Read more about his visit here.

Volunteer Meetups

Volunteering is one of the most rewarding and important things you can do as part of your career break travels. It teaches you skills, it gives a trip meaning, it gives you perspective, and it can even help your career. It’s so important that we are focusing on volunteering during our local meetups in February and March. We want people to get access to volunteering resources and meet people who have volunteered as part of their career break travels.

We are kicking off volunteering meet-ups with Bart and the Groundwork Opportunities team, including some of their past volunteers, in San Francisco on Feb. 7th. Spencer Spellman, Kristin Zielbel, and Sherry Ott will be hosting this free event and Sports Basement is once again providing a great, comfortable space, drinks, food, and shopping discounts to prepare for your upcoming travels and volunteering.

Be sure to check in as other cities schedule volunteer-themed meetups. And feel free to share your volunteering experiences and outcomes by submitting your story to us.

Listen to Bart’s complete eye ulcer story in full in this NPR interview – Blood and Faith.

And don’t find yourself in a situation like Bart’s without insurance. See how World Nomads can get you covered.

Heather Grabowski – GO Volunteer
Monday, January 30th, 2012

Learn more about Groundwork Opportunities and volunteering in our post “Volunteering Vision“.

I have been an avid supporter of Groundwork Opportunities (GO) since it was founded in 2008. I had just moved to San Francisco and I wanted to get involved in the community by volunteering for a local non-profit. I was first introduced to GO because a close friend of mine, Jennifer O’Connor, had just started working as their Development Director.

Heather's fundraising supported building beehives for a Ugandan village

She invited me to attend their first fundraising event and I instantly was attracted to their mission to create a world beyond poverty by investing in groundbreaking ideas, empowering local leaders, and engaging communities. The more I learned about GO’s mission and all of the diverse community led projects they were involved in, the more passionate I became about this organization. GO’s 100% to cause donation model and transparency was so inspiring that I wanted to do more than just donate or attend their events; I wanted to volunteer, fundraise, engage my network of friends/colleagues, and leverage my professional skills to increase the scope of its operations.

This past June, I joined GO’s racing team and became a GO champion. I chose to run the San Francisco Half Marathon on July 31, 2011 (my first race to date) and individually fundraise on behalf of GO. GO supports a model development farm in Masaka, Uganda that teaches other farmers and communities how to bring lasting food security to their homes, businesses and organizations. The model farm is used both as a training center and a community center for all program participants and gives farmers the skills they need to get out of poverty PERMANENTLY.

In an effort to build 30 beehives that would help 10 farmers to grow honey and get out of poverty forever, I focused my campaign to raise $1,000 to do just that. The support I received during my fundraising was remarkable! I was so humbled by everyone’s generosity and I ended up raising over $2,100, which ended up being enough to build 50+ beehives. Despite a foot injury during my training, I was able to cross the finish line with a smile on my face and know that I specifically ran those miles for the lives in Uganda that would be impacted forever.

Volunteers helped construct the beehives

Volunteering for GO has been an amazing and rewarding experience on both a social and professional level. I have strengthened my communication, negotiation, marketing and event planning skills. Volunteering has enabled me to be more connected with the local San Francisco philanthropic community and various business networks, while building lasting relationships that share my positivity and passion with my coworkers and customers.

As a result of my philanthropy efforts, I was recognized by many of my colleagues at Thomson Reuters, as well as the CEO, who presented me with a company Community Champion Award this past October. The best part was the award was a grant donation for GO! Through my ongoing volunteer work at GO, I have learned the phrase “You Give What You Have” which, in my view, means that whether someone only has a $1 to spare, advice to give, or volunteers their time, it all really makes a difference in helping those in need. With GO, I have learned we can demonstrate the power of how just one person can make a difference and help change the world.

Heather will be visiting Uganda this summer to see the impact of her project

Peter Prato – GO Volunteer
Monday, January 30th, 2012

Learn more about Groundwork Opportunities and volunteering in our post “Volunteering Vision“.

I first started fundraising with Groundwork Opportunities (GO) in the summer of 2008. The first fundraiser, actually. Over a beer and a couple of bar napkins, Bart showed me his and Kyle’s idea for what they were trying to accomplish. It wasn’t going to take much to convince me. I’d come from a background of organizing, was working in education, and was just getting my photography career going. We decided to throw a party at One Rincon Hill. Our goal was a few thousand dollars. It was going to change people’s lives.

Over the years I helped coordinate events. Throw more fundraisers. I auctioned off photos to help raise money and it gave me confidence to continue to work at building this career while working a full-time job. I watched Bart give himself to this thing entirely and that helped me keep going when I had no idea where I was headed.

We talked about my going into the field at some point. I really wanted to make that happen. Not just because I love to shoot and travel, but because I thought I was missing something fundamental by living my life on this side of the planet and helping to change someone else’s life on the other side. I believed whole-heartedly in what GO was doing, and what I was helping them to do, but it felt unfinished for me, personally. I knew that I was never going to truly understand what kept these people going day after day after day if I didn’t go out there into the world to see what this is really about. And to see who it’s about.

It was in a conversation about something unrelated that Kyle made a passing comment about making a trip to East Africa. That was in the spring of 2011. He ended up not making that trip. But, after eight weeks of planning, I had enough gear and enough time off to do it.

To explain what it was like to arrive in places that are war torn and filled with joy, it just doesn’t work in formats like this. Imagine the most moving moments of your life. The times when you realized that there was simply no way you could possibly exist, the you who you are, without other people. It was something like that. When I arrived home I had a difficult time understanding what was happening, or how the streets could be so clean, and calm, or how they could even exist at all.

I found myself in awe of what, before I left, was common-place. Literally staring, blank-faced, in the middle of streets. I also found myself in elevators with people not talking, or looking at one another. I found myself slipping back into craving things. The best that I can sum up volunteering in the field is that I think of my life now in two pieces. I think of my life before I went into the field with GO, and I think of everything I want it to be after that experience.



2011 Recap: Re-Entry
Monday, December 12th, 2011

These experienced career breakers are doing everything from planning another & becoming an expat to settling down in a new city and writing a book. We know you don’t want to think about your re-entry, but these stories will make you feel better about it.

So You Want to Write a Travel Memoir

Alexis Grant - MadaYou’ve just returned from an inspiring career break and are inspired by the experience to write a book. Think it’s not possible? Alexis Grant offers tips on how you can make it happen.

When travelers hear I’m writing a book about backpacking solo through Africa, they often confess that they, too, have dreamed about telling their travel story. “But I don’t really know how to go about it,” the traveler says. “How should I get started?”

Indeed, a book-length work can be daunting. But if you have a blog – and many travelers do – you’re already ahead of the pack. Blogging gets you in the habit of writing regularly and gives you an outlet for feedback, so you can get a sense for which stories resonate with readers.

So what’s the best way to turn your ideas into a book? Here’s how to get started on your travel memoir: Continue…

Travel and the Rewards of Your Goals

Rewards of your GoalsFor Richard Yang, it’s not about the destination – it’s the journey that matters most. And he now applies the lessons he’s learned from travel to his life and career goals.

Traveling is a passion for me and I’m fortunate to be working on launching my own travel related startup. However, this is only the beginning of the journey and I look forward to the challenges. But what I want to share is not about travel related entrepreneurship; but instead the “process” from where I was to where I am.

In 2000, I graduated college and entered the world of consulting. In 2005, I decided to take a sabbatical to travel. After returning to my job and working for 3 additional years, I moved to Spain for my MBA at IE Business School. But what does all of this have to do with traveling or anything at all? It turns out everything. Continue…

Manali & Terry: Content, Relaxed Yet Energized

Manali & Terry in SantoriniNow that you have returned from your career break and extended honeymoon, how would you describe yourselves?

Content, relaxed yet energized! We would definitely also add the word “appreciative” to how we describe ourselves. We appreciate that we took the time off to explore the world and yet we appreciate even more the opportunities that we have back home compared to some of the places we visited. We are so glad that we were able to take the leap and take full advantage of an extended career break, leave all our worries behind and be a part of this strong traveler community! Continue…

Living Life Differently

Sarah in VietnamI always feel more lost upon returning home. It probably doesn’t help that my husband and I live in a camp trailer, but to us wheels are freedom.

Our first trip in 2009 was the trip to begin all trips. We quit our jobs, sold our home on 80 acres, and leapt off the American grid for seven months around the world. When we came home we were faced with culture shock as well as a desire to live differently. I wanted to reduce my footprint, but see more places; live simply, but pick up more recipes and hobbies.

We had already accomplished the “art of non-conformity” in one sense, but we were ready to scare our friends and relatives just a bit more. Hey Mom and Dad, if you thought we were crazy then, wait until you see the camper we bought – to live in. Continue…

5 Tips for Career Break Re-Entry

Day-to-day cubicle doldrums didn’t motivate me to take my career break, instead it was an inspiring interview for a travel-related job. While I didn’t get the position I still remember what the interviewer said to me: “If you want to travel, then travel.”

I can’t picture being where I would be today if I had not taken the leap and simply booked a flight to New Zealand. While smart financial decisions and pre-entry planning made returning easier, it was ultimately a positive attitude and helpful support from others that prepped me for the adventures that have followed. Continue…

From Career Breaker to Expat

Having spent the majority of my twenties studying for my international business degree and climbing my way up the career ladder in a London marketing agency, my opportunities for ‘real travel’ had been limited to a few, weeks in Thailand, India and Morocco with the rest of my trips abroad taking the form of long weekends escaping London to visit European locations like France and Spain.

Like many people I had always been torn between two lives; my career ambitions and longing for stability and a comfortable life was constantly battling against my love of travel, living life to the full and breaking the mold. I decided last winter, aged 29, that it was now I never. I needed to stop fighting the latter and give my adventurous side a chance to explore. So, I agreed to a six month sabbatical with the director of the marketing agency and headed to South America, planning to travel for three months, (and here’s where my sensible side refused to totally give up the fight!) and put the rest of my time to gain a skill, trying to learn Spanish in Buenos Aires. Continue…

Planning Another Career Break

Sand Dunes in NamibiaJim & Rhonda Delameter reflect on their previous career break as they begin planning for another.

My husband, Jim, and I have always loved travel and adventure. He held various exciting jobs before we met from working ski lifts on Mt. Hood to being a crew member on a fish processing boat in Alaska. I grew up taking near yearly road trips around the United States with my family as well as living in four different states by the time I was 13 years old.

When we got married in 1990 we knew we wanted to explore the world but had a normal “American” preconceived notion of how holidays work. I started working in the travel industry and, in fact, we did start seeing the world in one to two week intervals. In 2003 we had been to 20 countries on five continents but we felt like we weren’t truly experiencing the places we were merely visiting. One or two weeks at a time were simply not sufficient. Continue…

Planning Another Career Break
Monday, November 14th, 2011

Jim & Rhonda Delameter reflect on their previous career break as they begin planning for another.

My husband, Jim, and I have always loved travel and adventure. He held various exciting jobs before we met from working ski lifts on Mt. Hood to being a crew member on a fish processing boat in Alaska. I grew up taking near yearly road trips around the United States with my family as well as living in four different states by the time I was 13 years old.

When we got married in 1990 we knew we wanted to explore the world but had a normal “American” preconceived notion of how holidays work. I started working in the travel industry and, in fact, we did start seeing the world in one to two week intervals. In 2003 we had been to 20 countries on five continents but we felt like we weren’t truly experiencing the places we were merely visiting. One or two weeks at a time were simply not sufficient.

Around that time I was searching for airline tickets and found the website that would alter the course of our lives… BootsnAll. Sean Keener and the crew were some of the first ones out there promoting extended travel and had some fantastic resources. We started reading other travelers blogs and stories, researching where we’d like to go and starting to think this was something we really wanted to do.

We, very fortunately, sold our house in spring 2007, right before the markets crashed, and embarked on an amazing, exotic, frustrating, fascinating, challenging trip. We covered 19 countries over the course of 14 months, exploring at our leisure, moving on when we were ready instead of rushing to see as much as possible in a limited amount of time.


We had a year of superlatives…birthdays on the Great Barrier Reef and floating the Nile. Thanksgiving on the beach in Bali. Christmas with tens of thousands of Vietnamese dressed as Santa in Hanoi. New Years Eve on the shore of the Mekong and Valentines Day watching the sunrise at the Taj Mahal. The highlight was getting up long before dawn to hike the worlds highest sand dunes in Namibia on our 18th anniversary to watch the sun come up over Africa.

But, more important than the “events” in exotic locations, we really found our true selves once again. We had a great life prior to leaving on our Round the World adventure, but somewhere in the pursuit of more and bigger we had lost what really made us come alive and that was spending time together, discovering new things, and immersing ourselves in new cultures and ways of doing things.

Our bodies, no longer required to wake to an alarm, adjusted to our natural sleeping and waking times. We ate well, walked miles every day, slept great, lost weight and felt better than we had in years. We were no longer stuck in our cubicles dreaming of exploring the world. We WERE exploring the world.


When we returned from our travels it was wonderful to see friends and family…for about five days! Within two weeks we were having serious reverse culture shock and longing to be back on the road. We craved to be in a place where no one spoke English, where restaurant meals weren’t large enough to feed a family of 12, and were people actually waved hello as you went by. This was summer 2008, the economy was racing into recession, and my job that I thought I was coming back to was not available. Jim had been laid off right before our departure and he had a couple of months of unemployment left and so, we took the only reasonable option: We loaded up our car with camping equipment and hit the road!

We spent nine weeks driving around the United States, most of which I hadn’t seen since I was a child and which Jim had never seen. We slowly acclimated to life back in the US while still traveling. Many travelers do the US portion of their trip at the beginning but we heartily recommend doing it at the end, when you really need the time to re-adjust to being back in the country while still also continuing to travel.


We’ve now been back an unbelievable three years. Almost immediately we realized that we had to do it again. And, not just on a career break, but as location independent road warriors and global citizens. We’ve decided to drive the Pan American highway to South America and Antarctica – our last two undiscovered continents. We will circle South America and then…who knows. Ship the truck to Africa? Sell the truck and put our backpacks and head back to SE Asia? Head back to India, the most intriguing place on the planet? How the story will go remains to be seen.

Right now we are in plotting and planning mode. We are just setting up our own website, while continuing to update our blog through Bootsnall that served us so well on our RTW. We have already purchased the truck and camper we’ll be living in and are making modifications as we can. We’re once again paying off debt, hoping the housing market turns around so we’ll make money off our latest house, and inhaling the information on the blogs of those who are currently on the road. We’re also researching traveling with dogs because next time, Maddy comes along!

This journey has been a remarkable one. We have grown as people, grown as a couple, and grown as citizens of the world. There is so much life out there and I fear too many people are “someday planners”, waiting for retirement, for the perfect moment, for…something. When the truth is, none of us know what will happen to us tomorrow much less in the future. The time to live is NOW.

Rhonda & Jim Delameter are back in Portland, Oregon planning their next adventure. You can follow along at The Adventures of Jim & Rhonda.

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go