What to Do

What to Do: Teach English As a Second Language (ESL)
Monday, August 9th, 2010

There are many ways to travel. Teaching ESL within a local community and really connecting with the people and the culture through education taught Alisha Robertson more about her location and herself than any other experience. She shares with us what inspired her to teach ESL abroad and gives advice if you wish to pursue this path as well.

[singlepic=1859,275,,,right]Teaching English abroad is one of the most amazing travel experiences. I always recommend taking this approach into consideration when someone is pondering the idea of long-term travel. Teaching ESL allows you to connect with the local community in a way that is much different than being just a traveler. You are also able to make money for your travels while giving back, and you truly get to experience life as a local.

For a year I had the opportunity to teach Business ESL in the northern part of Chile in the coastal city of Iquique and in the Middle of the Atacama Desert. During this time, I was able to meet some of the most amazing people, and build friendships with many who I still keep in touch with today – friends who I will always consider a part of my extended family.

When I decided to move away and told my friends, family, and co-workers the questions were endless. Where are you going? Isn’t that dangerous? How long will you stay? How did you find your position? Where will you live? and the list goes on and on. Now that I have returned, I find that the questions are still endless, and many are interested in how they too can sustain their travels through teaching abroad.


What to Do: Career Break Secrets
Monday, July 12th, 2010

Many career breakers go into their travels with the anticipation of encountering unique experiences – whether it’s picking up a new skill, volunteering, or just seeing inspiring parts of the world. And for Jeff Jung, he experienced all that and more.

[singlepic=1841,250,,,right]Brave and crazy. That’s what people said about me when I told them I was leaving my corporate job, packing up, selling off my stuff, and heading out to travel the world. That was in 2006. Four years later, I don’t regret the decision one bit; here’s why.

  • On my career break, I learned to speak Spanish fluently.
  • I learned how to ski for the first time.
  • I woke up to the sunrise and sipped wine while watching the sun set in the Galapagos Islands.
  • I went sailing on a felucca for 3 days on the Nile in Egypt.

But most of all, I got my life back.

Jeff now wants to help inspire other career break dreamers through his site Career Break Secrets, which will offer fun, informative video travel guides and resources to places and activities you want to know more about for your often-dreamed-about career break, sabbatical, or adult gap year.

The first season will cover Spain, South Africa, New Zealand, Patagonia (both Argentina and Chile) and Colombia.


We’ll be covering three types of career break activities:

  • Those where you can pick up a new skill. For example, cooking school in Spain and sailing school in New Zealand.
  • Those where you can give back. For example, in South Africa, we feature volunteer programs at a AIDS/HIV orphanage and a monkey sanctuary.
  • Those that give you an interesting way to see a country. For example, walking the famous Camino de Santiago in northern Spain and taking the TransScenic rail across New Zealand.

All video guides will be downloadable to your iTunes library and available to watch on your computer, iPod or TV. And they are portable, so you can take them with you during your travels without worrying about the extra weight like guide books.

I personally can’t wait for Jeff’s video guides to come out. I’m already planning my next break to Patagonia based on the previews I’ve seen!

Until they are released, check out some of the Career Break Secret Rough Cuts.

[singlepic=1839,250,,,left]In addition to being founder of Career Break Secrets, Jeff Jung will be co-hosting the
Meet, Plan, Go!

What to Do: Small Group Tours
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Recently, Sherry Ott and I gave a presentation on the “Benefits of Small Group Tours for the Solo Traveler” at the GAP Adventure Concept Store in New York City. Both Sherry and I have incorporated small group tours into our various travels and for various reasons. Here are highlights from our presentation. Maybe you’ll be inspired to incorporate small group tours into your travels as well!

[singlepic=1813,195,,,right]STEPPING STONE

  • Good for the novice traveler
  • Group leader to translate and answer questions
  • Experience all the new things within the ‘safety’ of a group
  • Used it as a ‘test run’ for extended travel


  • Comfort level varies for different countries
  • Unsure of safety as a woman traveling alone
  • Language barriers also vary country to country
  • Transportation issues

[singlepic=1812,185,,,right]BREAK UP EXTENDED TRAVEL

  • Variety – solo, travel with friends & group tours
  • Travel is work!
  • Nice break from booking transportation & lodging
  • Offered a ‘vacation’ type experience
  • Also offers a level of independence
  • May provide future travel partners

[singlepic=1810,175,,,right]CULTURAL EXPERIENCE

  • Access to cultural activities you may not have on your own
  • Experience life like the locals, including transportation and staying with families
  • If you want to understand a country and it’s people, ride with them
  • You aren’t on the outside looking in
  • Times when you have to have a guide (ie, Galapagos)

[singlepic=1814,175,,,right]NO TRAVEL PARTNERS

  • Some experiences you don’t want to do on your own
  • Even if you don’t have a travel partner doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the experience
  • Make new friends
  • Have cultural experiences within your own group


  • When booking, think about what you want to get out of the experience
  • Comfort level/Age range
  • If you are solo, try to arrange an airport transfer when possible
  • While on trip, be patient with new cultures
  • Also be patient with your group members

Some of the destinations we’ve used small group tours include
Peru | Galapagos Islands
| Morocco | Brazil | Cambodia | Vietnam | Egypt

Recommended Tour Operator

Travel Solo But Never Alone

Career Breaks that Give Back
Monday, April 5th, 2010

Carolyn Lane is the founder of the non-profit organization Dog Meets World and she’s changing people’s lives one picture at a time. Armed with tools, a little stuffed dog and a portable printer, her Phodographers travel around the world providing kids and parents photos of themselves. A rare treat in these people’s lives.


We typically talk about career breaks as pausing your career to travel and volunteer and participate in activities that interest you. Carolyn is not the typical career breaker, but she has taken these three important elements of a traditional career break and put them together in a groundbreaking idea to make the world a better place. She left her stable career behind to pursue creating a volunteer opportunity around travel.

I had the opportunity to speak with Carolyn about her efforts to bring photography to all corners of the world.

[singlepic=1743,275,,,left]You decided to take a very unusual career break in order to travel and give back. Can you tell us what you did prior to your career break? My eclectic career has spanned from being a research scientist to most recently the Director of Discovery Montessori School.

How did you decide to take the career break leap and pursue your goal?
I returned after 12 years to again head the nonprofit Montessori school which I had co-founded in 1990 and guide it through a growth period. I indicated to the board that I would not be the next long term director but would prepare the school for the future, so I already had an inkling of wanting to do/create something else as part of my life’s work. So after 3 years as the head administrator I resigned to make space to create what would become the Dog Meets World project, which at the time was just a collection of loose ideas.


What to Do: Learn a Language
Monday, December 7th, 2009

[singlepic=1600,250,,,right]If you’ve ever dreamed of learning a new language, there’s no better time than on your career break!

August Flanagan, co-founder of Lenguajero.com, a startup that helps people practice conversational Spanish, has 5 tips on how to make it happen.

1. Go to a/the country where the language you want to learn is spoken.
If you are like me and want to learn Spanish, it is pretty easy to get to the Spanish speaking country of your choice from anywhere in the U.S. Frequently, flights into tourist hotspots like Cancun or Buenos Aires cost only a couple hundred dollars one way. Once you are there, you can catch either a domestic flight or a bus to just about anywhere for a whole lot cheaper than an international flight.

2. Settle down somewhere and spend time in a new community.
If you take a few months (or longer) and stay in just one place during this time you will learn a lot more of the language than if you just travel from place to place during that time.

Forming a routine means that you’ll see the same people day in and day out. You’ll stop to chat with the same store owner or vegetable vendor, get to know your neighbors, and, of course, you’ll make new friends. Which, in my opinion, is really the best way to learn a language.

When you first get to your new home try using CouchSurfing to organize a few nights out. Aside from being a website that helps you find a place to crash, CouchSurfing is a great place to meet new people in cities all over the world.


How to Choose an International Volunteer Program
Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

[singlepic=1420,150,,,right]You’ve decided to incorporate some aspect of volunteering into your travels – now how do you choose the right international volunteer program for you? One of the biggest benefits of volunteering abroad is the opportunity to learn and experience another culture. So much of the travel experience is take-take-take and for many that rarely even involves a genuine cultural exchange.

But by including volunteering as part of your travels, you’re able to immerse yourself into a culture and give a little something back as a way of saying thanks. When I decided to take a career break in the summer of 2006, I knew that I wanted to include volunteering into my experience. And there were many factors that I considered that helped me decide what program was best for me. (more…)

What to Do: Overview
Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

If you are like me, you work hard – very hard. However, all of a sudden I was looking forward to a year of free time to do whatever I wanted – no work and all play! Yes, a dream come true but overwhelming at the same time. So many decisions to make.

My first instinct was to escape to a beach and relax, but I knew that I couldn’t simply ‘vacation’ for a year. And I knew it wouldn’t take long to get the ‘vacation bug’ out of my system. So after that, then what?


Peru: Cusco
Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

[singlepic=13,140,140,,right]In 2006 I took a career break and volunteered in Peru for the summer.  This was the first time I really spent an extended amount of time in one place, and the experience was amazing.  The culture and people of Peru touched me in a way I never expected and this led me to my next job at Cross-Cultural Solutions.

For many years, Peru has called me – whether it was the spirit of the Incas, the mystery of Machu Picchu, or the magic of the Quechuan smile, I needed to answer the call.  In the summer of 2006, I did just that. But unlike other travels, where I tried to see and do as much as possible – never staying in one place for more than a few days – this time I wanted to have some roots.  I really wanted to immerse myself in the culture; experience life as the locals; and maybe pick up a bit of the language.


Cusco was the perfect place.  Chosen as the capital of the Incan Empire for a reason, Cusco has a spiritual essence that can’t be explained – it can only be felt.  But if I was going to take so much from this beautiful culture, I also wanted to give something back.  And that’s when I found Peru’s Challenge.


Costa Rica: Surf Camp
Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

We had an amazing time going to Surf Camp in Costa Rica. Here’s a sneak peak of our experience:


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What to Do: Photography Lessons in Laos
Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Not all activities on the road need to be planned in advance.  During her travels, Sherry explored the opportunity to take photography lessons from a professional.

[singlepic=1001,200,,,right]I’ve had an ill feeling that has plagued me for the last year. I first remember it coming on in New Zealand. Then it hit me stronger in Vietnam. I was feverish about it in India. It is the feeling of being in some type of moving vehicle, traveling through a country, and seeing about 25 perfect photographs outside my vehicle window. I would feel ill thinking – “if only I could tell them to stop so I could get out and take a picture.” Yet I sat there helpless watching my beautiful shots go whizzing by, wondering if I would ever be able to capture this image again.

I would get queasy when I saw a group of people intimately interacting, simply being themselves, but I couldn’t get the nerve to go up and ask them if I could take a photograph. Instead, I would linger a bit, and then sulk off mad at myself for not having the guts to be a real photographer! The few times I did get the guts to go up and ask if I could take a photograph (fumbling through this conversation in broken English, pointing at my camera and smiling) they would normally say ‘yes’ and then give me some big, posed, toothy grin – transforming the shot from a nice little intimate, cultural gathering, to a Sears family portrait.


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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