Life On-the-Road

5 Reasons to Incorporate a Group Tour into Your Career Break
Monday, October 3rd, 2016

small group tour career break

Take a break from your career break and try a small group tour

Taking a career break to explore the world is a tremendously freeing experience, during which you’ll have the chance to learn much about other cultures – and yourself!  However, planning a long-term trip can be a daunting process. Solo travel is rewarding, but also nerve-wracking, and while on your travels you may find yourself needing to take a break (from taking a break!).  This is where a group tour can provide some relief. Guided tours provide an opportunity to let someone else take care of all those pesky logistics: like accommodation, transportation, and daily itineraries.

You may be wondering “but group tours are so limiting! Will I get to see everything I want?”

The short answer is: “yes!” Group tours are often different than people expect. Particularly those who tend to travel independently. You may be surprised by how much independence you actually have during your tour! Sherry Ott, who took a solo career break in 2006 notes of her own experience: “If you choose the right companies, small group tours can be some of the most rewarding travel you do on your career break – it was for me. The group tours I did arranged all of the logistics (transportation and hotels), but the rest was really up to me. I could eat with the group or go alone, do the tour or explore on my own. But the best part was that you always had a local guide with your group that traveled with you, ready to answer questions. It was a way to get much closer to the culture of the country than I could have on my own.”

Here’s 5 reasons to consider a group tour during your extended travels:

1. Easily Socialize with Others

You’ve been on the road for a while. You’ve met people along the way, but everyone is transient, on their own adventures around the world. It starts to wear on you a bit. Though it’s still exciting, you begin to wish you had more than a few hours here and there with new friends, to really get to know your fellow traveler.

On a group tour, you’ll have a lot of time to meet and get to know like-minded travelers. And some tour companies even provide ways to pre-meet each other in forums or local city meet-ups! While you might not be life-long friends with everyone on your trip, you will likely find a few people that you automatically click with.

small group tour

A group dines in Morocco together on a small group tour of the country

2. Cultural Immersion

Though some may argue that true cultural immersion only comes from striking out on your own, many tour operators give you the opportunity to venture deeper into local life. This is especially true of more dangerous destinations, where solo tourists are advised to stay in very specific areas.

But with a tour, oftentimes your guide will have connections in the area. And you are granted the unforgettable experience of dining in a small local restaurant, meeting local families, and getting a true glimpse into a new culture. This is especially true if you join a small-group tour, where group sizes are usually 10-16 travelers maximum.

3. Some destinations require you to be on a tour

Then of course, there are some places where you simply cannot visit on your own. Interested in seeing the diverse wildlife of Africa? A safari will get you up close and personal with the animal residents of the Savannah.

Although tourism regulations to Cuba have been greatly relaxed, a tour is still a good idea – it will help guarantee accommodation, and you’ll be able to explore the farther reaches of the island.

Want to check that 7th continent off your list? Antarctica is only accessible by tour (unless you’re a scientist!).

Antarctica group tour

Go with a group to Antarctica

4. Local Expertise

Getting to know a destination through the eyes of an expert is an incredible way to have a deeper travel experience. They bring the boring plaque next to the landmark to life, provide context to a famous building, and introduce a new way to think about cultures and customs. Many tour companies employ only local guides, so it’s sort of like traveling with a friend who knows the best places to eat and find that perfect gift for a loved one back home.

5. Maximum bang for your buck

Busy days, covering long distances, checking off famous sites. On a guided tour, you will have the opportunity to see a lot more in a condensed period of time. This can be helpful for those wanting to take a break from the “slow wander” and pick up the pace, participate in activities, watch demonstrations, and get special access to landmarks and attractions. Often times, tours will save you money over solo travel since operators get deep discounts on things like accommodation.

When considering group tours, there are so many options you’re sure to find the perfect one suited to your personality. Let your sabbatical be enhanced and made easier by incorporating a fun guided trip into the experience!

About Samantha Scott

samantha2Samantha Scott is the Content Manager for Stride Travel, a marketplace where you can search among thousands of trips, read reviews, and find the perfect guided travel experience for you.

A Career Breaker’s Troubled Love Affair With Airbnb
Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

Most career breakers utilize the sharing economy services these days as a critical part of their itinerary.  Sites like AirBnB, EatWith, Car2Go, and Couchsurfing are hallmarks of the sharing economy and can help career breakers save money, make connections, enjoy local experiences, and find deals the world over.

Read How to Use AirBnb On Your Career Break

Sites like AirBnB work great most of the time, but the benefits come with risks you may not have considered. This is a true story of how two career breakers learned this lesson the hard way.

bad airbnb stories

Jill and Zac on the road

Love at First Stay

We started using AirBnB in early 2014, and what started out as a week in Seattle quickly bloomed into a monogamous relationship with the service. In the few years we were together, we cataloged over 13 stays in 5 countries. It seemed like a dream.  We had many amazing experiences and only one bad one. We met a lot of great people and were highly reviewed by our hosts. We hadn’t even considered looking at other rental sites.  It was true love.

When we decided to take a career break, sell our house, and travel around the world, AirBnB was a huge part of our plan; starting with a road trip in the US, in which AirBnB was our only choice of lodging.

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Stellar reviews – the beginning of a great relationship

Cracks in the Facade

Upon arrival at our stay in Cleveland, our guts were telling us to leave. There were a lot of red flags that we had never experienced with our other AirBnB rentals. We should have left, but the place was well reviewed by other guests. Everybody has a bad day, right? That’s what love is about – the good and the not so good.

However, things did not get better; in fact they got worse.

The night before we checked out, we could not gain access to the back door. The deadbolt had been thrown from the inside, and key we were given didn’t work. We texted the owner, called through open windows and rang the doorbell until we were admitted by one of the housemates. We told him the key would not work in the top lock. He tried it and agreed. Since we were leaving the next morning we decided to leave from the front door and gave it no more thought. We went upstairs, packed and went to bed.

Early the next morning we said our goodbyes and left – using the front door as planned.


As is customary, the owner of the house reviewed us, and we him. He was short and complimentary as were we. We did mention some of the troubles, but did not go into gory detail. There’s a dance that is done in review giving and we decided to play along.

We were at our next stay in Louisville when we received a notification from the AirBnB resolution center stating the homeowner in Cleveland was demanding $1000 for damaging his door.

We were shocked. That level of damage couldn’t be caused by trying to put a key in a lock. The amount was exorbitant, and it felt like extortion. We were totally floored and ready to defend ourselves to AirBnB.

However, sadly we weren’t given much of an opportunity to do so. Homeowners on AirBnB can provide ample data in their charges against a renter, including video, pictures and testimonials. But as a renter you are allowed only to respond via the resolution center.

Breakup by Text

Airbnb encouraged us to reach an agreement with the owner, which meant paying for the damages. We informed them we were not open to paying what amounted to extortion.

It was right after this that we got a text notification that our next booking in Memphis had been cancelled, and payments refunded. When we called customer support, we were told we were blocked, and they were under no further obligation to discuss the case further. We were dumped, and they were moving on. The relationship was over…

When looking out of our hotel room in Hong Kong, we couldn't help but imagine how many of the lit windows were Airbnb rentals.

When looking out of our hotel room in Hong Kong, we couldn’t help but imagine how many of the lit windows were Airbnb rentals.

In the age of customer-centric, reviewer based economy, we had no standing and were without any rights. Our spotless record and glowing reviews meant nothing. We were never given the chance to state our case as we would have expected.

In our case, we were not innocent until proven guilty; we were guilty without the option to present our case at all.

How To Avoid Being a Jilted Lover

Sadly, our love affair with AirBnB is over, but to help other career breakers from suffering a similar fate, we’ve compiled a short list of key points so you can protect yourself.

  • Reviews have their benefits, but aren’t foolproof. Send an email asking a few questions, and weigh how they respond. If the response feels off, move away.
  • Be wary if there is a deposit required for booking. This means that they could for any reason decide to keep your cash after you leave if they aren’t satisfied with how the space was kept.
  • Trust your gut. If you have any problems with the apartment, you are under no obligation to stay. Sure it can be a hassle to back out.
  • Know your rights – read the terms and conditions for the booking site. It’s a downer to think about the worst-case scenario when planning a dream vacation or long-term travel, but you’ll sleep better if you do.
  • Notify the owner via text or email immediately if something isn’t right.  This leaves a trail and shows you didn’t break anything.
documentation for airbnb

Document! Dear apartment owner. Your thermostat is broken, and we aren’t responsible. Please refund our $500 deposit when we leave.

  • Take photos or videos of the apartment upon arrival and check out to show you left it in perfect condition.

We hope that your relationship with AirBnB, and similar services, has more longevity than ours.


About Zac and Jill Stafford: 
Zac bioFeeling that there was more to life than freezing in Minnesota, Zac and Jill sold their house and possessions and are traveling the globe. For them this is more than a career break, it’s a life change. Jill quit her corporate job as a business analyst and became a certified yoga instructor and Zac is taking his paid search marketing skills on the road. They are documenting their journey on their website

Traveling With Teenagers – Debunking the Myths
Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

We’re currently on the road traveling the world with our teenagers, Ian (19) and Lily (16) and tackling the myths out there about why you wouldn’t want to travel with your darling, albeit sassy and sarcastic, teenage children.  Last month we debunked family travel myth #1 – you have to be rich to travel with your family. And this month we are taking on the rocky road of the teenager/parent relationship!

teen travel

Lily and Ian – teens traveling the world with their parents.

One thing that thoroughly astounded us when we told people about this trip, was how many people asked us if we were taking the kids with us.  Why would we possibly leave them at home as opposed to sharing all of the wondrous sights, landscapes, food and culture with them!?!?!  I can’t imagine this trip without them!  I can’t decide if this question comes from parents not wanting to hang out with their teens or the perception that teens don’t want to hang out with their parents, but either way, I am calling complete BS on it.

In tackling  family travel myth #2 – Teenagers don’t want to leave their friends and their social lives behind to travel with their parents – I thought it might be nice to interview the kids about their thoughts and feelings about the trip and family travel, in general, and share their perspectives with you.

teen family travel

Visting Taj Mahal

What did you think when I first proposed the idea of traveling around the world?

Ian:  It was a crazy idea, but I just kinda went along with it.

Lily: At first I didn’t think it would actually happen and then after that I thought you had lost your ever-lovin’ mind.

At what point in the planning process did you start to get excited about the trip?

Ian: Like a month before we left was when I just got to the point where this was really happening and we were actually leaving.

Lily: Maybe six months. That’s when it started to feel real.

What were your biggest concerns about the trip before we left?  Why?

Ian: Money because we didn’t know if we would have enough money to go as long as we wanted.

Lily: School. Just being able to get stuff done on the road.  In terms of the trip, I was worried about how we were going to carry all of the stuff we were taking.

What did your friends think about the trip?

Ian: They all thought it was cool, but they were concerned about how we would spend so much time together without wanting to kill each other.

Lily: Some people were baffled by it, but my friends were supportive and their biggest concern was what they were going to do for a year without me there.

What have you learned about your family from this trip?

Ian: I was surprised that mom and Lily did so well on the mountain and made it through to the end.  I learned that they were tougher than I thought they were.

Lily: We’re badass.  We’ve gone through some really stressful moments, I feel like we have pulled through it as a family and I’m not sure we would have been able to pull through it without each other like if it was just me and Ian.

What is your least favorite part of traveling as a family?

Ian: There’s a lot of stuff that we get worked up about that we don’t need to.  Like getting visas.  We’ve gotten better since Turkey, but there’s still stuff that seems ridiculous to worry about that we still do.  (He means mom here.)

Lily:  I don’t have my own space, it’s our space and that means I have to clean up after myself more.

teen travel 3


What is your favorite part about traveling together as a family?

Ian:  That we don’t have to see these places alone – these cool, amazing things that we are seeing.

Lily: That our relationships with each other have gotten healthier because our lives don’t seem so separate so our stresses don’t seem so separate and that pulls us together more.

What advice would you give to teenagers about traveling with their parents?

Ian: It’s not as bad as you think it is going to be.  It’s not going to be terrible to be hanging out with your parents.  It will be what you make it so if you think you are going to have a terrible time you will and if you think that it will be a good time, then you will.

Lily:  You are not going to be independent when traveling with your parents no matter how much you think you are.  There are going to be things that happen that you are just going to want to hold your parent’s hand and you need to be ok with that.  The people you travel with are what makes the experience unique.  If you traveled with other people, you would have completely different experiences and memories.

What advice would you give to parents thinking about taking this kind of trip with their teenagers?

Ian:  Let your kids be part of the planning process and involve them as much as possible in making decisions.

Lily: Save surprises for your kids.  Don’t let them look up everything you will see online so that they can have the experience of seeing things for the first time.  Also, don’t expect them to click into it right away.  Don’t try to force them to like everything, let them experience it in their own way.

What has been your favorite experience and why?

Ian: Petting tigers in Thailand.  It was really cool to see them up close and learn about how they aren’t declawed and just being able to be in the cages with them and watch them play.

Lily:  The cooking school in Chiang Mai because I really like to cook, but I know limited stuff so it was fun to learn new things to cook and succeed at it.

family travel with teens

Lily and Ian at cooking school

What do you miss from home?

Ian: The level of social interaction at home like going out to dinner with friends and going to game night.  I didn’t expect that to be as hard as it has been sometimes.

Lily:  I miss knowing what to buy in the grocery store.  Like the whole milk debacle in Turkey.  We bought milk three times and never got the right kind of milk!!

How do you think this trip has influenced you?

Ian:  It has made me want to travel more and not just stay in one place.

Lily: I am more resilient than I thought I was and I like traveling, but I miss the comforts of home.  I never thought that would be something that resonated so strongly with me.  I mean sometimes people just need some hot chocolate or a freaking brownie or anything else that reminds them of home.

Next time we’ll take a look at family travel myth #3 – I’ll have to home school my kids if we take them on extended travel!  I know. The thought made me want to drink, too.  I mean, there is just no way I am going to succeed at homeschooling my kids in Chemistry or Calculus.  There is no end to the tears and frustration in that scenario.  And the kids would probably be upset too.  Never fear, my friends, there are other options!!


About Staci Schwarz

staciStaci and her family are currently traveling the world for several months enjoying good food, incredible sites and the best of company. You can follow their madness on or on Facebook at Blame My Wild Heart.

Next month Staci will explore family travel myth #2 by interviewing her children to assure you that they were actually totally excited about this trip and are not being held hostage by their super mean parents who tore them away from their friends to go on a stupid trip around the world.




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

8 Secrets No One Tells You about Being an Expat
Thursday, September 25th, 2014

I have lived in the center of Amsterdam, in the rainforest of Puerto Rico,* and in my husband, David’s, hometown – a very small village outside of Barcelona. In total, I have lived (and worked) as an expat for over three years.

In these experiences, I learned plenty. One of the most profound observations was the shame I saw in expats when it comes to admittedly that, although living in a foreign land is one of life’s most worthwhile experiences, it has definite draw backs, which are rarely, if ever, discussed.

Here are the eight secrets I believe most expats would prefer not to tell you.

#1. Not all expats are awesome

A similarity between home and foreign lands? The people you meet on the road are exactly like the people you meet at home. Some you will click with, enjoy, trust and want to know better, and others will have you sprinting for the closest exit.

While the expat trail holds many wonderful people, there are others who didn’t quite fit in in their homeland and are attempting to give it a try elsewhere. Remember you do not need to participate in their social experiment.

#2. You will experience profound loneliness and feelings of complete incompetence

Every country has two versions: the citizen’s version and the traveler’s version.

The traveler’s version consists of people who speak your language, know how to deliver the comforts you expect, and are there to prevent interaction with uncomfortable situations citizens maneuver daily. Their patience is paid for (by you) and their livelihood is entirely dependent on your happiness – and as such they do their best to deliver it. (Yes, independent travelers, this applies to you, too.)

The citizen’s version consists of 100s of 1000s if not 100s of millions of people whose primary concern is – themselves.

What so many forget about living in another country is it is absolutely NOTHING like traveling in it. When living there, you are not just driving by, walking through, or snapping pictures of a foreign and beautiful place – you are attempting to navigate your life, your career, your personal relationships (most of which will be via a language you aren’t so fabulous at), your health, your finances, your Internet connection, your transport, and every aspect of your day to day life – in the deep catacombs of a culture you – no matter what you would like to tell yourself – don’t know anything about.

Combine this with leaving everyone and everything you know behind (and when I say everything – I mean – the way you buy toothpaste is about to drastically change and the WTF! moments increase substantially, and daily, from there).

All of this leads to countless feelings of incompetence, loneliness, and the ever present awareness of your outsider status. The consolation I can provide? Know that with time, it will pass (and when it does you will look back at what you accomplished and consider yourself the coolest person – you have ever known – ever).

#3. You will find your first real friend somewhere around the 12 – 18 month mark

Most expats decide to be so because they want to experience a completely different version of life. However, one of the lessons most learn is no matter where or how you live – some aspects of life just do not change – the process of finding good friends being an excellent example.

Yes, you will likely meet all kinds of interesting people, but for some reason I find that the true friends, the real ones, the friends that you will stay in touch with no matter where you are in the world, tend to show up around the 12 to 18 month mark. I am not sure why or how this is, perhaps it is because those who are most needy of friendships float to the surface first or because it takes time to figure out what you want and need, but know that it will take a while to find great friends, and committing to enjoying the process will make you that much happier when you find them.

#4. You are the punch line to a lot of jokes

My sister, David, and I were at a gas station outside of Denver shortly after arriving in the U.S. Although David does not have to pump petrol at the gas stations in Spain (they are all 100% full service), he jumped out of the car to pump ours.

But first, he had to decide how many gallons (he is accustomed to liters). Then, how to use a credit card (credit cards being something no one has in Spain) and lastly, what a zip code was. It involved a lot of trial and error with credit card insertions (at one point he tried cramming the Visa into where the receipt comes out), mad beeps, and transaction cancellations.

Inside the car, I was in uncontrollable and sobbing laughter, and my sister was repeatedly telling me I was being a jerk.
The moral of this story? The tiny differences are enormous differences, and what can you do about it? Expect a lot of laughs – in your direction.

#5.  Live in the biggest city you can

Small towns stay little, sweet, and charming for a reason – because people typically don’t move into them. On the flip side, people typically don’t move out of them either, and for the most part, nothing ever changes. That is why we love them. It is also why foreigners (and by foreigners I mean anyone from two cities over to eight countries away) do not fit too well within them.

I have written about the experiences of numerous expats with small town expat experiences and without fail the verdict is: “He who moves to a small town in a foreign land moves home quickly.” (This is from people who both spoke the local language prior to arriving and those who did not.)


Many people move to small towns because they want to experience the local culture.

The problem with this?

The local culture may very well not want to or know how to experience you.

My advice to expats? Start in a big city. There are a trillion (probably more) cultural norms which require adjustment, and no one gets an award for being the most culture shocked, the most overwhelmed, and the most uncomfortable.

Easing yourself into a country is the best way to guarantee you will stay in it. Utilize the “big city’s” expat groups, job possibilities, and general know how of working with foreigners to build your friend and professional base. Learn to speak the language, and if at the end of it all, a small town appeals to you, then by all means move to one! There are lots of small town success stories that used this approach.

#6. Find expat friends IMMEDIATELY

A friend who moved to Paris at the age of 18 told me that if I found expat friends, I would never learn the language. It was good advice for her, and I thought it was good advice for me.

Until after some months I learned this – learning a language, the culture, and customs of a new place are critical. Doing so at the expense of your sanity is just stupid. Friendships, especially those where you can have real conversations, are extremely important to the expat experience.

These expat friendships provide stability and normality to your not-at-all-normal life. They can also provide a much needed sense of “immersion empathy” which expats, and only expats, can give.

My advice? Find every friend, friend of a friend, and friend of a friend of a friend in and near where you live. Get over the discomfort of reaching out to them and set up time to go out for coffee, lunch, or dinner. Find Meet Ups, expat organizations, volunteer opportunities, and anything else you can come up with that gives you the opportunity to meet other expats. The 30 minutes of initial awkwardness is so worth the comfort, friendship, and love of your new country that will result from your efforts.

#7. Know the 2 for 10 or 10 for 2 rule

One difference between the U.S. and many other countries? In the U.S. you spend a few hours with a friend or two. In countries like Spain, you hang out with the entire high school graduating class for 10 hours a day – while, in my case at least, they were speaking Spanish and Catalan interchangeably.

I attempted this.

Consistently around hour eight (on the good days) I was melting down. After a few too many near emotional catastrophes, I implemented this rule: Two Friends for 10 hours or 10 Friends for Two Hours but never 10 (or 40) friends for 10 hours.

AND I highly suggest anyone who values their sanity do the same – starting the first day.

#8. You will have moments of desperately missing “normal” and home


And no matter what anyone tells you – that is ok.

*Puerto Rico is not another country (assuming you are American) but it is quite different from US mainland.

Bio: Linda Rubright is the founder of the delicious day. She has traveled throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, Central America, South America, the U.S., the Caribbean, and Canada. Linda sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with her dad in 2000 and has spent three years living as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean.

Read more about expat life:

Photo credits: Giedriusok, all other photos courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.

Renting a Campervan on a Backpacker’s Budget
Monday, July 7th, 2014

As a world-traveling backpacker, I’m always on the lookout for best value, whether for quality cheap eats, comfortable budget accommodation, or transportation tips. Because I know the more money I save here and there adds up to more time—translating to a longer career break! 

Finding the best value; however, isn’t only about saving money, it’s also about creating more authentic and interesting adventures. Typically, the most obvious, convenient options result in more crowds, more cost, and an overall less personal experience. For example, would you rather sit down at an international restaurant in town center and order an overpriced burger and fries, or walk down an alley and join locals for a plate of traditional fare and spend one fourth the price? You might regret having that extra chilli, but at least it made for a good story, a lesson learned, and cleaned out the sinuses!

Learning the ins-and-outs of a new place can be time-consuming and challenging—and not without surprises—but in the end, rolling up my sleeves and diving in has been far more fun and rewarding. 

Camper van relocation?

While I discover many great finds through trial and error, I also love gathering recommendations from fellow travelers. One such travel tip came from a friend living in Melbourne and led to the highlight of my two and a half months in Australia, not to mention my most memorable Christmas to date: Camper van relocation in Tasmania.

I had heard from several Aussies that Tasmania, similar to New Zealand, is best explored by camper van (or rental car plus camping equipment). I initially shrugged at this idea. As a solo female traveler, I wasn’t keen to tent camp and knew from prior research that camper van rentals in this part of the world can cause serious cash hemorrhages. So the less-than-ideal compromise was to rent a small car and overnight in hostels, but I knew this option would restrict me from staying in remote wilderness areas.

Naturally, when my friend mentioned relocating a camper van for $1 a day my ears perked up like satellite dishes. Could this be true? I had never heard of such a deal! She had heard of a website providing a list of available routes in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA:

Sure enough, on the homepage was an advert for relocations, “one way, from $1 a day.”

I honed in on a route over the Christmas holidays: “Dec 24 – Dec 27, Melbourne to Hobart, $5 / day, $350 towards fuel and ferry crossing.” I couldn’t pick up the phone fast enough. By the end of the conversation, I had deposited and confirmed my reservation.

Merry Christmas to me!

At the Melbourne rental office, I was required to watch an instructional video on vehicle operation and features as well as review and sign a stack of paperwork. I’ll admit to my growing apprehension while signing the contract. Somehow, I had to get myself to the opposite end of town to board the Spirit of Tasmania with the following in mind: I had never driven a proper fully-equipped camper van, I was not accustomed to left-hand manually shifting, and it had been nine months since I had driven on the left! Luckily, I had given myself the entire afternoon for pick-up and orientation. Once all questions had been answered and documents reviewed, I had a good idea of what I had signed up for.

Amelia compiled a detailed cost comparison of doing a camper van relocation vs. a normal camper van rental that we’ll be posting on Thursday. Be sure to check back!

My experience

Before heading to the port, I completed several laps around the parking lot to get my bearings, then hit the grocery store to stock my new kitchen. Crossing the city at rush hour caused a few grey hairs, but once safely at the ferry terminal, I smiled at a setting sun and turned up my reggae tunes.

After a nine-hour ferry crossing and nearly no sleep, I stepped out on deck to the soft morning glow of Devonport, Tasmania and felt a sudden rush of adrenaline. It was 6am on Christmas Day. The entire town was still asleep except for the odd early-morning jogger and dog walker. I found a nice park overlooking the sea to enjoy my first camper van breakfast of instant oats, fruit and tea.

Normally, Christmas mornings consist of gift exchanges, mimosas, and my mom’s famous egg casserole, yet here I was sitting in a little house on wheels some 8,000 miles away on a former island penal colony! But, by design, this was no ordinary Christmas. I had intentionally scheduled my trip over the holidays to experience something different, and I couldn’t wait to see what Tasmania had in store for me.

I had nearly four days and three nights ahead of me and knew only where I’d spend my first overnight—Cradle Mountain National Park. The drive from Devonport to Cradle Mountain’s caravan park is about 80 km, but given my vehicle size and Tasmania’s winding roadways on top of getting lost a couple times, I arrived in about three and a half hours. The passing landscapes of cattle and sheep paddocks, poppies and trees were a refreshing change from Melbourne’s concrete and urban bustle. As I made my way towards the mountains, I couldn’t get over the fact that it was just me, my camper van and the open Tassie road. And literally “open road” since most locals were at home celebrating with family and friends.

In front of the caravan park office, I found an envelop with my name on it, inside containing a map and instructions. A modest gravel road led me deeper into the forest, passing secluded camp sites, curious wallabies and finally to site #9. Home sweet home. I clipped the tag from the envelop to my camp post as instructed and prepared for an afternoon hike. My camper van and I were like new best mates by now. I was equally as excited for an epic Christmas hike as I was about preparing a Malaysian curry dinner and glass of Australian Shiraz with my van.

As one of Tasmania’s iconic wilderness areas, Cradle Mountain National Park woos and enchants its visitors, myself being no exception. After bushwalking through stretches of unmaintained trail, the path opened up to golden blankets of button grass, craggy eucalyptus trees, and feeding wombats and wallabies. Dirt gave way to a wooden boardwalk that seemed like my own yellow-brick road. The air was fresh and slightly cooled by a gentle breeze. A trail runner passed me at one point, but other than her, I was alone in the woods—happily. And, it was blissfully quiet. I listened to the sound of my footsteps on the boardwalk and then of a wombat feasting on button grass. Leaving him to enjoy his dinner, I skipped down the wooden planks for several meters humming whatever melody came to mind. Back in the van, I covered the table with my Thai sarong, set my iPhone music to shuffle, poured a glass of wine, and started in on chopping veggies. A curry a never tasted so good.

A couple days later, once mobile reception and the time difference matched up, I phoned my parents back home to wish them a Merry belated Christmas from Freycinet National Park. They had just returned from visiting family in Canada and were exhausted from driving through heavy rains on I-5, our 12-lane interstate. I had just finished a hike to Wineglass Bay and a refreshing dip in Honeymoon Bay.

As I described my Tasmania adventures, I laid reclined on flat granite rocks with my toes dangling in aqua-blue waters. My day had included: breakfast tarts at the bakery in Ross (population approx. 270), rocking out to my music playlist in the van, road-side cheese tasting, an invigorating hike, and an afternoon swim. I now felt comfortable driving the van, plugging into an electrical supply, filling up the water tank, shifting with my left hand, and securing the inside doors and cabinets before driving (as to not have pots and groceries flying about). I felt so at ease in my little home, and I was falling in love with the beauty and energy of Tasmania. Knowing I had only one more night of camper van life was a sad realisation. I could have traveled around Tasmania like this for another month.

Post camper van trip, I stayed in Hobart for four days—just in time for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race—and had a ball exploring the area and meeting new friends.

In the end, there were no fender-benders and no roll-overs. I arrived an hour early to Hobart and was credited the $1,000 bond. Phew!

After comparing what I could have paid as a normal renter, I calculated a savings of $1,266.82 AUD. In a sense, I suppose, it’s unfair to call this a savings, because the regular cost of $1,767.09 AUD is frankly not within a backpacker’s budget.

However, I most definitely would pay $500.27 AUD again for this experience, and I would highly recommend it to other adventurous travellers.

Amelia Tockston has maintained a longterm love affair with travel. Since beginning her career break in January 2013, she has explored New Zealand’s north and south islands, eastern Australia, Chukotka Russia, Mexico City, Singapore, Palau in the South Pacific, Indonesia, and hopes to reach Nepal and India this coming fall. Prior to taking her career break, she worked for an expedition travel company for nearly eleven years directing the Marketing department. Amelia feels the most alive and present when traveling and has an eye to appreciate the boundless wonders that Mother Nature offers. She’s also realized, particularly while on sabbatical, that the people she’s encountered and their stories are equally as inspiring as the destinations discovered.


Using Airbnb On a Career Break
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

When I took my first career break to New Zealand in 2003, a frayed Let’s Go, a pre-paid phone card, and word-of-mouth recommendations were my go-to resources for finding and booking budget accommodations on the road.

Oh, how the world has changed

Ten years later, my iPhone and the Airbnb app were my digital lifelines as I hopscotched around South America. During three months of travel in Brazil and Argentina between August-November 2013, roughly half of my nights were spent sleeping in Airbnb-booked apartments, homes, and even boats (yes boats!).

If you’re not already familiar with Airbnb, it’s Web-based service that makes it possible for travelers to rent out accommodations in the homes of everyday people, all around the world.

As a college student and even into my 30s, I was game to be scrappy and stay in 20-person-deep hostel dorm rooms. Those days are over. As a 40-something solo female traveler, I now value safety, quiet, a room of my own, and a delicious breakfast. I’m also more interested in meeting locals than consorting with other travelers. Airbnb helped me find all of these things in a one-stop shop.

Tips for using Airbnb

Getting up to speed with using Airbnb took some trial and error. As I navigated my way through the innards of researching and booking Airbnb accommodations, I adopted some hard-won strategies. Here’s my five cents:

All those satisfied customers can’t be wrong – Airbnb listings include the number and quality of reviews for each property. Pay attention. If dozens of people are saying “Run, don’t walk, and book this mountain yurt pronto. Avail yourself of host Yuri’s home-cooked breakfast sourced with eggs from his backyard hen house,” then do not delay.

I placed a premium on choosing places that many, many other travelers had liked. I learned this lesson after a few mediocre stays that were newer to the Airbnb marketplace. I encountered other travelers who’d adopted the opposite strategy. They were like Airbnb versions of urban pioneers who sought out listings with little to no reviews. They used this as a leveraging point for negotiating the listings rate which brings me to my second tip…

Yes, you can negotiate – If you see a place that’s out of your budgetary reach, consider inquiring with the host about a discount. It didn’t occur to me to do this until I actually met an Airbnb host who’d negotiated a steep discount on a newly-listed Airbnb apartment in Rio with a rooftop pool. The Rio host was more than amenable to reducing his rate and making what’s called a “special offer” in Airbnb parlance, so that he could attract more guests and slowly build a cache of positive reviews.

As my own travels progressed (and my travel budget slunk lower), I negotiated discounts with hosts on occasion. If you’re planning to stay in a particular Airbnb location for a week or longer (and the host hasn’t posted a weekly or monthly rate on the listings page), definitely inquire about a reduced rate for your longer-term stay.  

Airbnb reviews – It’s not like Amazon – Reviews are at the core of Airbnb. As a guest, you have the opportunity to pen a review during the 30 day window after you check out. Likewise, hosts can review you as a guest in this same window. So if you track in a pile of beach sand or dye your hair in the kitchen sink, you might see something about that in the host’s review of you.

My prior experience with reviews had been of the unidirectional Amazon variety where customers essentially have a platform to voice their love or loathing of particular product. It took me a little while to get accustomed to this dual review system. Also remember that you’re not just reviewing bricks and mortar. Your Airbnb review should be as much about the host (friendly, responsive, invited me out for dinner, showed me the best place to go tango dancing) as about the qualities of the room or apartment (quiet, comfortable bed, gorgeous views).

Look for experience-based accommodations – As my travels progressed, I sought out Airbnb listings that were a portal into unique adventures, above and beyond a place to sleep. In Paraty, Brazil, I spent two nights on a sailing yacht owned by a retired French expatriate (pictured above). This is the kind of experience that would have been cost prohibitive if I’d tried to arrange it independently. But thanks to Airbnb, it was accessible to me as a backpacker traveler. Moral of the story: as you check out different listings, consider the kinds of one-of-a-kind experiences they can offer.

More than a bed – Don’t just treat Airbnb as a bed and a roof over your head. When you stay with an Airbnb host (as opposed to renting your own private place through the service), a cross-cultural homestay experience is built into the DNA of the booking. If your host invites you to check out a local play or go to a music festival, do it! One of my hosts invited me to her capoeira (Brazilian martial arts) practice. That same day, we bought fish at a local market and made a delicious lunch (see picture at top of my Airbnb hosts). You can’t put a price tag on those encounters. It’s why I travel.

Nancy Rosenbaum is a ‘connector of people, stories, and ideas’ and a burgeoning a career break evangelist. In 2013, she decided to take a three month career break to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay where she pursued three of her great passions – dance, food, and talking to strangers. Prior to her career break, Nancy produced interviews and features at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul, Minnesota. Nancy’s blog, “This Meantime Place” chronicles stories about career and life transition and those periods in life when we’re figuring things out and don’t necessarily have ‘a plan.’ 

To read more about accommodation options during your travels, check out the following:

On the Road: Lessons in Long-Term Travel
Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

A Career Break is not necessarily a vacation

Extended travel is not a vacation. Some people think of long-term travel as an escape from everyday reality or a pleasant jaunt into a world of leisure and relaxation. These people know nothing. Long-term travel is hard work; the planning, budgeting and personal fortitude required for such an adventure is not for the faint of heart or the weak of will.

Yes, the many online travel agents and right-on 2014 holiday companies can offer everything from cabanas on beaches to mountain view ski chalets, but long-term travel typically means working with a strict budget and indulging some underlying desire to search inside oneself. The lessons learned on the road are practical, profound, sometimes surprising and assuredly not the stuff of package holiday getaways.

One of the most important lessons learned on the road is logistical in nature – a heavy bag is a serious hindrance. Many travel tips will include this helpful tidbit but until you’re on the road yourself, running for a train and missing it because of the excessive weight on your back, you won’t fully understand this one. Heavy bags break, they’re a pain to carry around, and they increase frustration exponentially. If there are things that can be taken out, take them out. Be ruthless. A lighter pack means you can wander the streets with ease instead of waiting in a bus station for hours because you can’t be bothered to lug it around.

Another significant lesson is less tactical and far more personal – volunteering is an incredible way to experience a place. Travel is fantastic and it undoubtedly broadens the mind, but truly immersing yourself in a culture is a challenge. Language barriers can be cumbersome, locals can be standoffish and the truly authentic pockets of the world can be near impossible to access on your own. Wwoofing is a fantastic way to save money (most room and board is free in exchange for labour), see incredible parts of the world and truly understand a culture. Volunteering is symbiotic in its most wonderful sense, you are helping others and by doing so, gaining authentic and memorable experiences which make you feel fantastic.

The last lesson is slightly more abstract – manage your expectations.

There are some places in the world that are so ubiquitous as a result of films, movies, history classes and cultural lore that it’s impossible not to have an idea about them before you arrive. In some cases these expectations can be met and even exceeded, but in many cases, they can lead to frustration and disappointment. Travel can become focused on how a place doesn’t match an idea rather than the immediate experience of being there in the moment. Travel teaches time and again that the most remarkable things are the ones we least expect. Shedding expectations and embracing the unknown will lead to an experiential immediacy that will allow you to be present in the moment, to soak in a place, to observe the local people and to consider something for what it actually is rather than what you thought it would be.

This post was written by travler Jasmine Williams who has been on the road as long as she can remember (well, about three years anyway). She carries a lightweight back and is amazed by something new every day.

Frustrations on the Road
Friday, July 26th, 2013

[singlepic=1820,175,,,right]There are plenty of great posts and articles discussing all of the wonderful things travel has to offer. But like most good things, there is also a downside to traveling – it’s just that no one ever talks about that. Christine Talianis of “Bert & Patty” shares with us the frustrations she’s faced on the road during her year-long career break. Many people will be able to relate!

What are some of the unexpected frustrations you’ve encountered on the road?
I think the biggest thing is we didn’t know it was going to be so much work. Seems like we spend an awful lot of time planning our next move, figuring out where we are and how to get around (get a guesthouse, find somewhere to eat, laundry, find out what to do in that town/city, public transport, local scams, etc.). By the time we do all of that, we barely have time to journal, write in blogs and upload photos. So, we opt for a beer and get another day behind. I also thought there would be free wifi everywhere, and there definitely isn’t—guess we were spoiled in Seattle.

Is there anything you wish you knew in advance to help prepare yourself for them?
[singlepic=1818,275,,,right]I wish I had a heads up that it wasn’t always going to be fun and exciting. Seems like nobody talks about the downside to long term travel and it’s even worse when we read other blogs and it sounds like others are having the time of their lives while we are struggling (I guess who’s going to write about it or take photos when they are struggling anyways, right!). Then we just feel crazy and felt bad because we were supposed to be having fun!


Traveling with Kids: Building a Foundation of Learning
Friday, June 28th, 2013

Rainer Jenss was a Vice President and thirteen-year veteran of National Geographic. As the Publisher, he helped transform National Geographic Kids into the most widely read consumer magazine for children throughout the world. In the summer of 2008 he decided to put his professional expertise and personal passion to the ultimate test by traveling around the world for a year with his family.

Rainer continues to report on family travel as a Special Correspondent for National Geographic Traveler’s Intelligent Travel Blog and shares with us why traveling is a great way to build a foundation of learning in your children.

Kyoto, Japan

If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably fantasized about quitting your job, packing a suitcase, and leaving town for a while to travel the world. When we first got married, my wife Carol and I often contemplated taking the leap — sometimes seriously, sometimes not. There always seemed to be some excuse why we couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t. Our careers, responsibilities, and commitments had to be considered, and how about what our friends and family would say? It was always something. Then after the birth of our sons Tyler and Stefan, all this talk about packing our bags seemed to suddenly fade away. After all, you can’t possibly do something like this with kids, right?

If we teach our children to travel, we thought, then they will travel to learn –
a foundation that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

In January 2004, it all came roaring back. I had just returned with the family from Europe after visiting relatives for the holidays when Carol and I started reflecting on how much the boys (then seven and four) seemed to enjoy the experience of being in another country. Couple that with the post-9/11 mood of a country that was getting deeper into a war in Iraq and isolating itself more from the rest of the world, and suddenly it dawned on us that taking a year off to travel the world might actually be more sensible now that we had children. Increasingly, we found ourselves looking at taking a year off to travel not from the perspective of what we had to lose, but from all the benefits we could gain.


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go