Travel Tips

Valuable Skills to Learn Before Hitting the Road on a Career Break
Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Haggling is part of everyday life in some countries, such as India, Vietnam, and Egypt. Vendors are known to inflate prices for tourists and are very skilled in getting foreigners to pay more than they would charge other locals. This goes for everything from backpacks to t-shirts to fruit to tuk tuk rates. Knowing how to successfully negotiate prices will help ensure you aren’t taken advantage of and overcharged.

Creating a backup plan or two before you start haggling is important in case your first strategy doesn’t work. Plan A could be basic price negotiation. Should that fail, you enact plan B, which could be walking away or threatening to go to a competitor. Plan C could be more creative, like having a travel partner step in or offering to buy multiple items at a set price.

You can haggle for a good deal at the Luang Prabang night market.

While walking down a small side street in Fethiye, Turkey, we came across a table set up with bottles of perfume and cologne. There was a wide variety, like you would find in an airport duty free shop. Mike stopped to look at the selection while Tara stood uninterested a few feet away. The Turkish vendor manning the table came up to Mike and offered cologne suggestions and prices. His initial offer started high, as street negotiations do, and Mike showed hesitation upon hearing the price. This caused the vendor to lower the initial price without Mike having to say a word. He landed at 50 lira, which was still too high for Mike since he knew they were knock-off products. Mike counter-offered with 10 lira. Of course that’s a laughably low number, but the key to agreeing on a price you want to pay is to start low to bring the seller’s offer price down (this was plan A: plain negotiation). After a couple minutes, Mike got him down to 25 lira, but it didn’t seem like the seller was willing to drop below that. That’s when plan B kicked in, and Tara stepped in to the conversation and offered to buy two bottles for 30 lira. Sold!

As Americans who never haggle for goods at home, we went through trial and error until we got used to negotiating. It’s a skill we wished we had developed or even researched a little before leaving for our 14-month RTW trip. As we traveled, we discovered many other skills that also fell into the “wish we knew about that” category. It’s easy to overlook or not even consider learning these skills when you’re planning your career break. After all, you become consumed by figuring out how to save more money, sell your possessions, and plan a smooth transition from working 9-to-5 to a life of full-time travel. That’s why we included a whole chapter on these skills in the travel-planning book we just published, called Create Your Escape: A Practical Guide for Planning Long-Term Travel – because you don’t have time to think of everything yourself when you’re planning your big trip.

There are a lot of skills you can and should learn before leaving, but we’ll focus on a few other important ones here.

First Aid

Accidents happen even if you aren’t the clumsy type. You might wipe out on a bicycle or trip and scrape your knee while hiking. Knowing how to properly clean and bandage wounds will help ensure you don’t get an infection. And, just as important, you should know which first-aid items you should pack in the first place. Sure, you can purchase antiseptic and bandages on the road, but it’s a good idea to have a starter kit in case you need it in a remote area or after hours when shops aren’t open.

Drive a Manual Car and Motorbike

learn to drive a motorbike

Tara not really driving a motorbike in Kampot, Cambodia (more like posing). She never learned before the trip so Mike was the driver – just to be safe!

You don’t want your skills (or lack thereof) to hold you back from cool experiences while traveling. You might have an opportunity to rent a car or motorbike for a day trip or coastal drive, and you shouldn’t attempt to drive either vehicle if you don’t know how.

When we were in Southeast Asia, a local said to us, “You see all the foreigners with bandages or casts? Those are likely the result of a motorbike accident.” It’s true that many people underestimate motorbikes and scooters and think they can drive them with ease. Fully automatic motorbikes might be easier to drive, but many rental companies only offer semi-automatic and manual options. You have to be skilled in driving this type of vehicle to be successful, otherwise you risk endangering yourself and others on the road.

Likewise, many rental cars around the world are manual, and it takes practice to understand how to drive these vehicles. You could ruin the engine if you incorrectly use the clutch and don’t know how to properly shift gears, and that might cost you a pretty penny to replace. Plus, stalling out in the middle of a street (at a light or stop sign) could cause a traffic jam or even an accident depending on the flow of traffic.

A new country with different road rules than your own is not where you should learn to drive a motorbike or manual car. Sign up for a class at home so you feel confident using the vehicle and learn how to be a defensive driver. Doing this will not only ensure you don’t have to pass up an opportunity to rent a vehicle, but it may also help you in an emergency situation where you have no choice but to get behind the wheel.

Learn to Swim

Tara swimming in the Mediterranean off the coast of Turkey.

The underwater world is incredibly beautiful with its colorful coral and curious fish. You’ll likely have at least a few opportunities to snorkel or even become SCUBA certified if you want. You could see the majestic Great Barrier Reef or even watch manta rays swim inches below you. Even though you could use a life jacket or inflatable tubes to help you stay afloat, you really should be confident in the water and know basic water safety if you’re going to splash around in it.

Being a skilled swimmer isn’t just important for water-based experiences, but it could also save your life in the event of an emergency. If you’re not comfortable in the water, take lessons before you leave until you feel confident enough to float, tread water, hold your breath under water, and swim to safety.

Be an Exceptional Photographer

Mike taking photographs in Iceland.

You’ve probably perfected your selfies, but leave the selfie stick at home and turn the camera around to capture the incredible and inexplicable moments of your trip. These are images you’ll be showing others and looking at for the rest of your life, so you should know how to take a sharp, well-framed, and interesting shot, as well as edit the files to enhance them even more.

The first step is learning to take great photos, which you can do through an online course or by reading a book and then practicing every chance you get. Then take it one step further and learn the basics of Photoshop or another photo editing program so you can make your images look even better. You’ll want to understand resizing, color correction, and working with shadows, midtones and highlights. Those are very basic concepts, but they’ll help you create a more vibrant image than your camera may have captured if the lighting was poor when you snapped the shot.

To know what else you should learn before hitting the road, check out chapter 6 in Create Your Escape. It’ll give you good ideas of what to expect in foreign countries and make you an even savvier traveler.

About Tara and Mike

Career Break for CouplesTara and Mike are the original Two Travelaholics. In 2012, they quit their jobs to travel the world on their extended honeymoon, racking up 40,000+ miles in their first year and a half of marriage. When they aren’t traveling, they’re on the lookout for pugs, craft beer, and great bands. They are the authors of Create Your Escape: A Practical Guide for Planning Long-Term Travel, which teaches other travelaholics how to prepare for extended travel. Check it out at

Favorite Tips: Updating Your Resume Before Your Travels
Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Now that you’ve made the decision to take career break and travel I, bet you have an extensive Excel sheet with all the items you need to pack and do before you go away.

  • Do a test pack of backpack to make sure it’s not too heavy – Check
  • Make extra copies of visas and passport – Check
  • Create blog to stay in touch with family & friends – Check
  • Update resume – wait, what?!?!?!?!

I know you just left your job and can’t wait to focus on your travels, but updating your resume before you leave is one of the best pre-trip activities you can do. In his post, “How My Career Break Helped My Career”, Michael Bontempi noted:

I developed a resume prior to leaving to ensure that my latest accomplishments were fresh in my mind.


5 Hostels Great for Female Travelers
Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

prague female friendly hostel

PLUS Prague Female Friendly

Traveling alone as a female in a foreign country can be intimidating. With all the different things to think about, such as travel schedules, places to visit, safety, and eating, the details can get overwhelming quickly. Luckily, there are dozens of hostels around the world that are perfect for the solo female traveling on a budget. Some of them are only open to women and others have women-only areas. Check out these hostels in world-class destinations that will make you feel safe, comfortable, and welcome.

PLUS Prague Hostel – Prague, Czech Republic

Located in one of the most beautiful historic cities in all of Europe, the PLUS hostel has more than 540 beds along with an indoor swimming pool and sauna for you to relax in after a day spent exploring the city. There is also a restaurant on-site with affordable meals and a bar to meet other people from around with the world with similar travel ambitions as you. There are multiple different room options with mixed rooms as well as female only rooms and each room has its own private bathroom. There is also a PLUS girls space, intended to allow you to indulge in being a woman and forget that you are living out of a backpack. There are big bathrooms fully equipped with cosmetic tables, large mirrors, and hairdryers. You’ll receive an extra fluffy towel and a small bag of cosmetics that you can take with you.

Hostelle Female Hostel – Amsterdam, Netherlands

This hostel caters exclusively to women and is a 15 minute tram ride from the Central Station. There are a variety of different sized dorm rooms available, and each room has its own theme, comfy linens, and some even have a balcony to admire the view from. The cozy atmosphere lends itself to meeting new people in a safe environment.

FIT Hotel – New York City, USA

FIT NYC hostel

FIT Hostel in New York City

Located near Central Park and the Museum of Natural History, the Jazz on Amsterdam Avenue Hostel in the FIT hotel is located in the heart of New York. Outfitted with two-bed women only rooms, or private double or twin rooms, you can feel safe in this classy hotel. There is a private lounge, lobby, cafe, and luggage storage for all travelers to relax and share stories of their day. You can check out more hostels in New York via

Base St Kilda – Melbourne, Australia

Located on the sunny seaside, this affordable hostel caters to solo women travelers. Not only is there a private lounge for relaxing after a day of fun, but women are also outfitted with a gift pack, including hair care products and other cosmetic items. Bathrooms are equipped with hairdryers and straightening irons so that you can leave each morning looking your best. To encourage the social scene, free champagne is served every night.

St. Christopher’s Inn-Oasis – London, England

St. Christopher Hostel London

St. Christopher Inn Oasis London

Found in the London Bridge area, this women’s-only hostel is a beautiful blend of affordability and luxury. There are a variety of different sized dorm rooms, and the bathrooms are all filled with hairdryers, towels, quality shampoos, and body washes. To make sure you look good from head to toe when you leave, each of the dorm rooms also have a full length mirror.

Backpacking around the world as a solo woman doesn’t mean you have to be roughing it in dark hostel rooms or being worried about your safety at night. By finding the right places to stay, you can enjoy traveling and have some luxuries too. Staying at hostels lets you meet other people doing the same thing you are and gives you the opportunity to make new friends while not spending a lot of money. If you are looking for some more inspiration then you can check out HostelBookers’ page on hostels for female travelers here.

This article was written by

The Naysayers
Thursday, August 8th, 2013

A group of career breakers future and past meet in Seattle at a local meetup

No matter what it is that brought you to the decision to take a career break, it’s important to keep reminding yourself what that motivating force was.  You will meet naysayers along the way, trying to get you off course and doubting yourself and your choices. There will be people telling you that are ruining your life. Telling you that your life will never be the same. They’ll say things like:

  • “You’re going to ruin your career, you know?”
  • “Why don’t you just wait until you retire?”
  • “It’s not safe to travel where you’re going.”
  • “Must be nice to be rich.”
  • “That’s the worst thing you could ever do for your kids. How selfish.”
  • “You’re traveling for a year with your wife? Good luck not killing each other.”

And while the statements above may infuriate you, they are right about one thing. Your life will never be the same. If you decide to take charge of your life and take back your time, things will change. If you decide to truly make your dreams come true, the person you are right now, this second, will change. And it will change for the better.

While the detractors like to think that you’ll end up in a gutter somewhere if you dare veer off the path set forth for you by society, chances are the opposite will happen. You’ll come back from a break like this more open-minded, more willing to try new things, more outgoing, more able to adapt to change, more motivated, and more confident than ever before. Life as you knew it before your career break will be but a distant memory.

Eliminating Negative Human Influences

Crafting your environment is not only about surrounding yourself with people of similar mindsets and goals, it also means that you may have to change your relationship with people who don’t support your goals. There will be people in your life who don’t understand why you are doing this – then what do you do?

Simple – ditch the haters. OK – maybe it’s not that simple. What if they are friends or family? You don’t have to disown them – but consider not sharing this part of your life/plans with them. As long as you have other supportive people to share with, then you simply can change how and what you engage with the non-supportive people about.

Katie Aune shares how she handled the reaction of unsupportive friends and where she found a new support system to lean on.

Remember – staying motivated and achieving goals is about surrounding yourself with supportive people. One of the most important things you can do in order to stay motivated and moving towards your goal is to craft your environment to be supportive.

Where to find people in your community:

• Meet, Plan, Go! Events: We hold local events in a handful of cities  – check out our calendar and see if you can join in the Career Break conversation with people in your city. You can fill out a traveler profile over at and meet other long term, career break, and around the world travelers!

• Search for “Travel” in your town/city and see if there are any groups meeting in your area. If you didn’t find one in your city, then you can start your own – it’s simple to hold your own meet-up group.

• Travel Massive: A global initiative to connect people in the travel industry locally, bringing together travel bloggers, brands, startups and socially engaged travelers

• Couchsurfing: A worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit.

Non-Human Influences

BOOKS: Here are some of our favorite career break and travel-related books.

• Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

• The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, Amanda Pressner

•  The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook by Jeff Jung

• Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

• Escape 101 by Dan Clements and Tara Gignac

• Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim

• Reboot your Life by Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, Jaye Smith

Have you ever come across Naysayers when talking about your career break?  How did you handle it?


Travel Tips: Budget Your Trip
Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

[singlepic=1720,250,,,right]Betsy & Warren Talbot shared with us the secrets of how they saved money for their career break travels. But how do you stay on track with the trip budget you planned for?

During their 10 months of travel, Laurie and Bryan Tighe traveled through West Africa, the Middle East, India and Nepal. Along the way they were meticulous in keeping to their budget. And with their computer programming skills, they were able to develop an online calculator to keep track of their money and budget. And now they are sharing that with others with Budget Your Trip.

[singlepic=1719,200,,,left]Budget Your Trip is designed to help travelers track their spending and expenses. After registering you can create a trip and enter your daily expenses. The website creates charts and tables that break down costs by category and location. The layout lets you find out if you’re spending more than anticipated on transportation or which country ate away more of your budget.

Furthermore, the website’s budget calculator allows users to estimate the cost of future trips. The budgets provided by other travelers are used to determine the average cost of countries, cities, and categories a traveler might visit. Visitors to the site can search for the average daily costs of accommodation, food, and numerous other categories for cities and countries around the world.

[singlepic=1722,200,,,right]Budget Your Trip also offers a “Travel Cost Calculator Widget” so travelers can search for travel costs directly on your website.

Be sure to check out Budget Your Trip for future trips. And if you have budgets from previous trips, be sure to enter them and help out your fellow travelers!

Travel Tips: Road Experience
Thursday, February 18th, 2010

There comes a point in long-term travel where you have gained your backpacker-legs and have the confidence to help others you encounter on the road, or those preparing. Our three career break couples are at that point in their journeys and share some tips they’ve gained after six-months on the road, as well as what’s next for them.

[singlepic=1700,200,,,right]Two Backpackers (currently in Peru)
One week into our trip we arrived at Panajachel, Guatemala. When our bus stopped, 5 men were already pulling our backpacks off the roof rack and taking them to their own taxis or boats. We asked where a hostel was that we had reserved. The first man assured us that it was across Lake Atitlan, a 1hr boat ride away. We retained our bags and walked away, nervous about the situation. We found a tour shop and asked again. They told us it was a 10 minute walk up the street.

Lesson learned: Whenever you arrive at a transportation station make sure you don’t say yes to anything being offered. Get a hold of your bags and escape the chaos of offerings by finding a place you can sit down and think about your next decisions. Early in the trip we found ourselves being rushed into a bus or taxi with no clue where we were really going.

What’s Next:
Our plans have changed drastically during the last month. We have realized that traveling fast is not what we enjoy. It’s no longer a race to literally travel around the world, but rather to enjoy our visits to different countries throughout Latin America. Latin America is a vast area to explore and most countries have their own unique culture which we would like to experience. So Southeast Asia is off the list of destinations for this trip. I am sure we will get there some day. I am most excited about trekking through Torres del Paine in Patagonia and Aracely is looking forward to visiting the Amazonian Jungle.


Itinerary Tips from The Blonde Wanderer
Thursday, September 17th, 2009

[singlepic=1528,250,,,right]Even though Bill & Cindy Peterson have a great deal of combined travel experience, the idea of taking a year off from their careers still terrified them. Like most Americans, the difficult thing for them to get over was the “work hard, save for retirement” mentality.

Still they knew that if they didn’t take this opportunity now to travel the world, they would regret it down the road. And they found their corporate experience to be very beneficial in planning a year of backpacking the globe.

“We used our previous travel experience and our Corporate America budgeting and Excel skills to plan an overall budget. Our budget was broken down into maintenance costs (storage, cell phones, etc.); time for ‘re-entry’ (into the work world), and actual travel money. Our travel money allowance allowed us to establish a monthly travel budget and pick destinations and activities that we could afford.”

Bill & Cindy are now more than half way through their trip, and even managed to extend it from 12 to 14 months by stretching their travel budget even further. They took time off from the road to share with us their favorite tips on creating an itinerary that works best for you.


Travel Tips from Hole in the Donut
Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut shared with us some of her favorite travel tips she utilized on her career break – and we want to pass them on to you!

[singlepic=1431,250,,,right]It’s very important to understand the culture and etiquette of a country you are traveling to so that you can be respectful to the people you may encounter.

Travel guides are a great source for this information, but during her six-month trip, Barbara didn’t want to have to drag these heavy books with her. Instead, she visited sites like Wikipedia (type in “Culture of [insert country]”) and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum to find this information.

Then, she uploaded text files to her iPod for reference. When she was getting ready to enter a new country, she could easily read up on their customs and etiquette to avoid doing anything that might be offensive.


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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