Career Break Doesn’t Equal Career Suicide
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

In the post “Lisa Lubin’s New Business Card” Lisa shared with us how her career break didn’t hurt her career. It in fact enhanced it and has now opened up more career opportunities.

And this is one of the topics that came up when the New York City panel for Meet, Plan, Go! got together to brainstorm what we would discuss at our recent event. We wanted to touch on “Why don’t more people take career breaks?” and in our encounters one of those reasons is career related.

MPGNYC Panelists

So what did our panel have to say about career fears?

Brook Silva-Braga (A Map for Saturday) – More Broadly Educated
First off, there WILL be job openings when you come home and your trip can certainly be positioned as a resume builder (which may or may not be BS) but without doubt the trip will make you a more broadly educated person, someone who can hold an intelligent conversation on more topics. Your geography will be better, your understanding of foreign markets will improve, your ability to relate to people of diverse backgrounds will be developed. In short, you will be a better, more attractive employee in virtually any field.


Lisa Lubin’s New Business Card
Monday, September 20th, 2010

Worried that taking a career break to travel can hurt your career? It can actually help enhance it. Just look at Lisa Lubin’s new business card.

[singlepic=1878,250,,,right]As summer rapidly comes to a close, I am reminded that it was four years ago now that I quit my full time job and, in essence, my full-time career in television. Since university, I’d worked in broadcast television, starting after my sophomore year with my first internships, including one at “Late Night with David Letterman.” I graduated college and worked full time ever since, at three different television stations – directing, editing, writing and producing. I built a ‘career.’ I was stable and secure. I was saving my pennies and hard earned money…for ‘something.’ I had a bi-weekly direct deposit check, a really good health insurance package, a retirement plan that I funded generously, and some stock shares in my parent company: Disney.

Then in the summer of 2006, I quit. I gave it all up. And I don’t regret it one bit.

Networking on the Road
I didn’t know what I would do when I ‘returned.’ I wasn’t sure, but I was open to new things and willing to just see what happened. I suppose I’ve always been lucky to feel confident in my resourcefulness and abilities and that I would always find ‘something.’ So I really didn’t worry all that much. I remember back in college learning about something called “networking.” Yuck. It seemed so phony or uncomfortable. Now networking is all I do. But I don’t think of it like that. I love talking to people – learning what they do and how they got there. When I traveled, that’s all I did – meet people and ‘network’ in a sense, which landed me random opportunities from working for Turkey’s largest media conglomerate, the Dogan Group, (I just proofread some presentations, but it was still amazing to just ‘fall’ into that from chatting with people) to doing research at the University of Cologne (through a friend) to landing a year-long freelance gig (which basically funded all my travels from then on, allowing me to break even) doing publicity for an English Immersion program based in Madrid.

Many people asked me, “What about the economy?”

Bottom line, I make much less than I did previously, but it frankly doesn’t matter and hasn’t changed my quality of life at all.


Top Benefits of a Career Break
Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I’m happy to report that the term ‘Career Break’ seems to be popping up all over these days! I hope that has a little to do with our upcoming Meet, Plan, Go! event. Regardless of why – we are happy to see people talking, writing, and reporting about them. However, this month’s career break news seems to be a mixed bag of positive and negative! What is a career breaker to believe?!

Let’s start with the disturbing headlines. I woke up and saw this headline in my inbox one day:

Women told to forget about babies if they want to scale career heights
Headhunters’ survey suggests that taking even a few months’ career break for the sake of children will harm prospects of winning a top executive job.
– That’s the message from a new survey, conducted by InterExec, which showed that 53% of those questioned said that women who want a big business post should give up all thoughts of maternity leave – or what they prefer to call a “career break”.

Sure – I know they are talking about a maternity leave career break as opposed to a sabbatical/travel career break – but they are both breaks in your career. If motherhood isn’t an acceptable reason to take a break in your career then it’s going to be darn hard to sell breaking from your career to travel the world. Therefore I put this in the category of disturbing.

However as you consider taking a career break – consider the other point of view – the progressive point of view. Think about how a career break can actually build your skills to find an even better career upon returning. Regardless of why you put your career on pause, the benefits are still the same – you get some time to step away from the rat race and replenish.


Reflecting: How Travel Reawakens Your Passions
Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Extended travel offers an inspiring break for more than just those stuck in a rut in their career. It is also great for those who need to recharge their lives – like Teresa Gotay and Mike Tieso from Art of Backpacking. They share with us how travel reawakened their passions and set them on their life paths.


Teresa Gotay

Teresa in Peru

When life give you lemons, you don’t always have to make lemonade. What if you’re in the mood for iced tea? You envision your life to go one way, and it ends up another. All my life, I envisioned a cookie cutter lifestyle of going to school, starting my career and getting married before the age of 25. As my 24th birthday recently passed, I have yet to complete any of the three.

In early 2008, in my Senior year at St. John’s University, I lacked financial aid, decent credit and the motivation to finish school. For years, I was surrounded by the notion that you had to finish school as soon as possible before the rat race began. After working countless 9-5 jobs, bartending in between, moving in and out of many apartments in New York City, my life battery needed a recharge.

2010 became the year of travel and self-discovery. I spent 5 months traveling through South America getting a taste of the backpacking experience. It left me with a craving for more and the appreciation of people, culture and travel.


Reflection: Morgan’s Tale
Monday, July 26th, 2010

[singlepic=1854,250,,,right]In August of 2008, the Cooney Family set off on their year-long travels. Together with their three teenage sons, Mike & Catrell wanted their children to have a unique experience. “Our theory was to give our three sons a way to see the world, experience other cultures and appreciate what all of us tend to take for granted before they go to college.  That experience, coupled with a good education, will almost assuredly put them on the road to success, regardless of the vocation they choose.”

Were they successful? Ask their son Morgan.

In the months leading up to the trip that would take our family across six continents and through 23 countries, we could not have imagined the things we would do, the people we would meet, or the places we would see. No book, TV show, movie, or story could have taught us what we would learn in the months of travel through Central and South America, Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.

A textbook would never give you the experience of watching the sunrise a top a Mayan pyramid set deep in a jungle or teach you how to make coconut curry while overlooking the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. There is absolutely no substitute for travel and having those experiences firsthand.

“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”  – John Hope Franklin

[singlepic=1853,250,,,right]When my brothers and I were younger, our dad would show us a map and would teach us about other countries. We would always ask if we would ever go to these exotic places in Africa or the Inca ruins in Peru and he would say, “Yes, one day we will go.” When my parents first told me about a trip around the world it was as if my dreams came true. The mysteries of other countries have always held my thoughts.

I have always dreamt of learning about other cultures and new places. Even at a young age, I realized that watching the Travel or Discovery Channels would never fulfill my need to explore. The burning desire to wander to new lands cannot be quenched by anything other than through travel itself.

[singlepic=1851,250,,,right]A day does not go by without me thinking about my family’s yearlong trek around the world. Smells, sights, and sounds bring my mind away from where I am, and back to where I have been; the billabongs of Australia, the bushland in Africa, the beaches of Brazil. The trip I took with my family was the best time of my life, we followed our dreams of travel and I encourage everyone to do the same! In fact, the dream is still alive and kicking inside of us. My twin brother and I are leaving in September for a three month expedition to Costa Rica and perhaps will visit a few adjacent countries as well.

As my mom and dad like to say, “Travel is the ultimate education.”, and my brothers and I are living proof that this statement is true.

Morgan, 19 years old, has now graduated from HS and is attending college in between traveling. His future plans are to work with animals and he has spent years volunteering at the Central Florida Zoo and Gatorland.

You can meet Morgan and the Cooney Family at Meet, Plan, Go! in Orlando on September 14, 2010. Be inspired by their world adventures and learn how you can follow your own dreams.

Meet, Plan, Go! Orlando

Reflecting Through Mandalas
Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

[singlepic=1836,175,,,right]In my recent post Gap Year to Career Breaker I highlighted the differences in travel during 1995 vs 2010. For the most part the differences are logistical & technical, but the experiences are always magical.

And as a photographer, I’ve been surprisingly delighted in the transition from film to digital. No longer do I have to lug around dozens of rolls of film, worry about them getting damaged in multiple x-ray machines, having them developed, then scan them in to edit (I was a big fan of shooting chrome [slides] because of the vibrancy in color it offered). And when digital was first introduced, I was a bit slow in making the transition more so because of cost than convenience.

[singlepic=1831,175,,,right]Either way, images are a great way for sharing your travels with others. However, as an artist, I wanted viewers to take away more than just “oh that’s beautiful”. Rather than just showing these images and how I see them, I wanted to find a way for others to have their own contemplative journey of my experiences – and for them to walk away with a little piece of what I felt at that moment. I struggled with how to go about doing that.

Then I reflected back on the time I spent in Nepal during my 2001 career break, where I was introduced to mandalas. Mandala is an ancient word for circle. They represent wholeness and have been used for millennia in cultures worldwide as a tool for self-expression, spiritual transformation and personal growth.

[singlepic=1828,175,,,right]Over a period of time and experiments, I finally figured out a way to create my own mandalas. These digital images are created with photos from my world travels and each one represents the emotional and spiritual essence I experienced on my various trips and invite the viewer to have their own contemplative experience of my journeys.

What creative outlets have you used to share your travel experiences?

Gap Year to Career Breaker
Monday, June 28th, 2010

It was 15 years ago this week I was wrapping up my first six-month journey. Here’s how it brought me to where I am today.

[singlepic=1823,225,,,right]Location: Somewhere over the Pacific

Date: February 7

Well, here we go. It’s so hard to imagine that after all this time of planning we are finally on our way to New Zealand and Australia. It’s just unimaginable what adventures we are going to come across. I haven’t even allowed myself to think about it because I know from past experience that it is impossible to do so. I just hope that I will figure out what direction life should take me, at least temporarily. I’m just living for the moment and will make the most out of everything.

Year? 1995

This was my first journal entry at the beginning of my gap half-year, but it could easily have been an entry from the career break I took in 2001, the one in 2006, or even the one in 2007. And reflecting back on that time and experience, I am grateful that I was exposed to the wonders of extended travel early in my life (in fact, what led to this 6-month adventure was a summer of backpacking in Europe in 1992 followed by a study abroad program in London).

I’m grateful because it cemented in me a love for travel and the need to incorporate it into my life – not treat it as a one-time experience.

[singlepic=1825,275,,,right]And because of that a-ha moment, I’ve always looked at jobs and careers as more of a way to fuel my wanderlust. I wasn’t worried about climbing the corporate ladder – I was focused on earning money to climb the Inca Trail. Instead of saving for expensive heels that would give me blisters walking the cobblestone streets of Manhattan, I shopped for hiking boots that hopefully would keep blisters at bay as I hiked the Annapurna Circuit. And rather than acquire all of the latest labels, I am much prouder over the number of patches acquired on my backpack.

It’s been exactly 15 years since I returned from that trip and I’ve been making my way around the globe ever since, with breaks to fuel my funds as well as my need for a sense of home. Unlike many RTW travelers today, I don’t feel a need to trek around the world in one trip. Yes I want to see as much as possible, but I also like having a place to come home to. I like plotting my next adventure from my couch and the anticipation that builds up to that moment of departure.

For me extended travel isn’t a one time experience – it is one that lasts a lifetime. And I believe that those just discovering it for themselves will experience that as well.

HOW I TRAVELED IN 1995 vs. 2010

Planning Resources:
Travel Agent vs. Internet

Pay Phones vs. Cell Phones

Post Cards vs. Emails

Sharing the Experience:
Waited until we got home vs. Blogs

Travelers Checks vs. ATMs

Mixed Tapes (yes, tapes) vs. iPods

35mm vs. Digital

How we got around without the Internet, cell phones, emails, blogs, ATMs, iPods and Digital cameras? Just fine, if you can believe it.

The three things that are still the same?
My backpack – my travel journals – and my sense of adventure


How to Make Your Travels Part of Your Career Brand
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

For many career breakers, it would be a dream to continue to travel. But most do return to work, whether it’s a new career or back to the briefcase. Mario Schulzke, Creator of CareerSparx, shares with us “How to Make Your Travels Part of Your Career Brand”.

Your career brand is much more than the sum of your past work experience.  It is the aggregate of both who you are as an individual and why someone would want to work with you.  It is about taking various life experiences and showing how they have—or will—contribute to your career.

If you are contemplating taking some time off to travel or if you are returning to work from extended travel, be confident that it likely did not or will not hinder your long-term career goals.

Wherever travel comes into your life, it is there for a purpose; it satisfies a need and brings clarity to our often-convoluted worlds.  You experience new things, learn about new cultures and often return with a wisdom that informs how you see the world.

When it comes time to return to the workplace, you can communicate the value of your travel experience as part of your career brand.  Here’s how:

Understand how your travels contribute to who you are.
This may take some careful retrospection unless you keep a blog or journal—which is a great idea that I go into more detail about below—but it is important to understand what you learned and experienced while traveling.  Reflect on your time abroad and the qualities you developed as a result of your experiences.  Take the time to write this down and contribute to the list as more things come to mind.

Here are some questions for thought:

  • What spurred my travel ambitions in the first place?
  • What was the most memorable experience and why?
  • What were my most important revelations?
  • Did I think back on my life before travel in any particular way?  Was there anything negative I hoped to change?

Translate these experiences and qualities to work-related skills.
Now that you understand the positive ways in which travel affected your life, you need to communicate how this will help you professionally.  Again, write this down, using concrete examples from your travel to tell a story and make a point.  You can weave this information into your resume or use it during interviews.  Here are some questions to get started:

  • Have my life-long goals changed? Have my career goals changed? How?
  • What qualities have I strengthened that would make me an effective team player?
  • What have I learned from my interactions with strangers around the world that will help me be a better leader?

Demonstrate a better understanding of who you are and what you want.
After traveling, you will be returning with a much better idea of the type of job and workplace that is right for you.  This brings confidence to future employers because if you truly know what you want, what you can provide and how you fit into their company, you will be a reliable and motivated part of their team.  Communicate this.

Document your travels and experiences.
Listen, the Web is here to stay and it’s going to affect your professional career in some sort of way.  An interesting blog, for example, is something that you can do to set you apart from other job applicants.  Usually the hardest challenge about creating a blog is having something worthy to write about.  Well, guess what?  Unless your travels consisted of being holed up in a hotel room in Cincinnati, I bet you have some interesting stories to tell.  So, tell them.

Check out, or for easy ways to set up your own blog.

Wherever your career brand manifests itself—through a blog, resume, cover letter or your persona—know that your travel experience can be as valuable to a potential employer as it is to you.

Mario Schulzke was born and raised in Germany, and lived in France, Spain and England before coming to the U.S. as a high school exchange student.  He has traveled across China and has backpacked many of America’s national parks.  He is the creator of, an online course that teaches recent graduates how to start their careers.  For more information, download their free 61-page guide on how to start your career or check out the CareerSparx blog.

Trading in Your Backpack for the Briefcase
Monday, May 31st, 2010

Cindy Peterson (aka The Blonde Wanderer) interviews her husband, Bill, about trading in his backpack for a briefcase again after 14 months of travel. We also featured some of Cindy’s itinerary tips in a previous post.

[singlepic=1791,300,,,right]My husband Bill and I recently returned from fourteen months extended travel. When we stepped out of our corporate jobs in November of 2008, we both wondered what would be in store for us after our planned year of exploring the world. And as tempting as it was to continue our adventure living in a foreign country, or finding enough work to continue to travel like so many of the “career” travelers we envy, in the end we made the decision to re-enter life in the United States.

While I embarked on some new business adventures and am keeping our travels alive through continued travel writing, Bill headed back to the Semiconductor industry that we had both walked away from to live our long-term travel dreams. In truth he never completely left – he kept up on industry news and worked to keep his network alive – a key to him finding work in the field only a short two months after we returned to the US.

Bill’s path back to the corporate world seems to be the exception, not the norm, when it comes to long-term travelers. Our friends at Briefcase to Backpack, along with many of our fellow travelers, friends, and family, were curious as to the motives behind Bill’s decision and how his perspectives toward work have changed with the experiences he gained while traveling.

Bill always left the majority of the travel blogging and writing to me, and this is no exception – so I’m here to interview my own husband, the other half of the Blondewanderer travel team on his career break and re-entry. At least this is one interview that I could do in my pajamas over coffee!


Breaking Into a New Field or Industry
Monday, April 19th, 2010

Ask A CoachWhether you are returning from a career break and trying to figure out your next steps or are contemplating a sabbatical but don’t know where to start, our career coaches are here to help.

Barbara Pagano of YourSABBATICAL answers the question:

I’ve realized I no longer want to go back to my old career. In a market with high unemployment, how can I make myself noticed or create opportunities in a new field or industry?

[singlepic=1762,125,,,left]Congratulations on being a risk-taker! Staying in a career that no longer fits your needs can be one of the most debilitating moves away from future happiness. Plus it robs your potential. Here are three ideas to break into a new field or industry during a sabbatical, even in these trying times:


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go