Where to Go

The Big Career Break Question: Where to Go?
Friday, June 20th, 2014

One of the most important – and fun – aspects of planning a career break is deciding where to go. With so many choices out there, though, it can easily become daunting. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you debate South America versus Southeast Asia, Europe versus Africa or Australia versus the Middle East.

What Calls You

First things first – think about what calls to you. For many travelers, their favorite destinations have been places that have spoken to them in some way before they have even visited.

For example, Meet, Plan, Go! co-founder Michaela Potter became fascinated with Vietnam and Cambodia after studying the war and Pol Pot’s regime in the 1970s. So when she decided to take a three-month career break in 2001, she centered her travels on those destinations.

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Meet, Plan, Go! editor Katie Aune read a biography about Catherine the Great of Russia when she was in high school, which led to majoring in Russian & East European Studies and taking Russian language classes in college. When she started thinking about a career break, Russia was at the very top of her list.

So think about places or cultures that might call you. They don’t have to be steeped in history – perhaps there is a cuisine that you love, a language that you want to learn or an aspect of your family background that you want to explore. Think about some of your favorite movies or books – do they tend to take place in the same destinations or center on similar themes? Inspiration is all around you and you may not even realize it.


Once you come up with a short list of the destinations you want to visit, think about when the best time is to travel to those countries.

What will the weather be like? 

What kind of weather do you prefer and what types of activities are you likely to engage in?

And are there any major events taking place that you might want to witness or participate in?

For example, the months of September – November in the southern part of Thailand is monsoon season, so you won’t be able to enjoy the beaches. However, this time of year also sees some unique local festivals, so you will be able to experience part of the culture most travelers don’t.

December – January are the summer months in Australia and New Zealand, making for a nice escape from winter in the northern hemisphere. However, this is also the time of year when students are on break so most Aussies and Kiwis will vacation during this time, creating competition for lodging and activities.

Some people follow the warm weather so they can avoid experiencing cold, harsh winter climates during their career break, but that doesn’t mean you have to. If you’re an avid skier, spending February in the snow-covered mountains of Europe may be just your thing!

Participating in local holidays and festivals offers a unique cultural experience, but it can also offer some challenges. During countrywide holidays, such as the Thai New Year (Songkran Festival), most locals travel, making it difficult to book transportation or accommodation. This is also the case during the Hindu celebration of Diwali in India. Don’t let that deter you, but do your best to be prepared and stay patient.

It’s also important to understand the significance of the holiday or festival and try to act as respectful as possible. During Ramadan in Islamic countries, non-Muslims and visitors are not expected to observe the fast, but it is respectful to be discrete when consuming food or water during the day. Learning about the customs of the countries you plan to travel to is a great way to understand their holidays as well as their cultures. And if you happen to “stumble upon” a holiday, don’t be afraid to ask a local more about it and find out how you can participate.

Loy Krathong - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Comfort Level

Finally, think about your comfort level with respect to the places you plan to visit. Travel is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, but only you know how far you are willing to go.

Before hitting the road, you do want to have the peace of mind that where you are going is safe – not just for your own comfort but that of your friends and family staying behind. The U.S. State Department’s website offers tips for safely traveling internationally (including registering with the local US Embassies) and posts warnings and alerts for countries all around the world.

Before you leave, try to get a handle on local issues in the countries you may visit by following the websites of international papers, signing up for Google Alerts or check out message boards and forums. While a lot of news stories tend to focus on the negative, locals or fellow travelers may be able to give you a more balanced perspective. Try the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum, BootsnAll forums or Couchsurfing message boards for up to date information from people on the ground in your chosen destinations.

While Americans often assume that we are viewed negatively overseas and that it is not safe to travel abroad as an American, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most people can differentiate between the individual and one’s government, especially when it comes to Americans. And most of the time, people don’t even care where you are from. As long as you respect their cultures, refrain from illegal activities, and keep an open mind, you will be fine.

Have you taken a career break? How did you choose your destinations?

Unusual Career Break Destinations
Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Mongolian Ger

Men sit outside their Ger in Mongolia

Taking a career break can be a daunting prospect, but with careful planning and a clear idea of what you want to do with your time, it doesn’t have to be. A career break can provide the perfect opportunity to get out and see the world like never before. Most career breaks last 3-6 months, and while it’s difficult to advise on where you ought to head for – the decision really does lie with you – I’ve come up with a few places that I found to be a little bit different during my own travel adventure. Hopefully reading about my experiences will provide you with some inspiration.


Now, when I said I had some unusual destinations for you, I wasn’t kidding. Obviously Malta may not be the first destination that springs to mind when you think about spending months away from home, but believe me, it’s really got a lot to offer! Malta has a perfect blend of history, culture and natural beauty, as well as some fantastic bars and restaurants where you can fully immerse yourself in the Maltese way of life. The laid back attitude of the place is the perfect tonic for those wanting to take a step out of the fast lane.

Malta Harbor

Malta Harbor


This romantic Indian state is drenched in folklore and heroism, and I found it to be the perfect place to lose myself completely. With swirling deserts, lush forest lands and a wonderfully colorful culture, I can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for an outdoorsy adventure. There are a number of different safari options, including elephant, camel and horseback, all of which provide an unforgettable view of the place.


If you’re looking to really get away from it all, then there are few places more remote than Mongolia. You can hike through the wilderness, sample the intriguing palate of food on offer and indulge yourself in the calming vibes of the ancient monastery traditions to be found here. The Flaming Cliffs are an absolute must, and a great place to head for in search of a spot of self-reflection. It was here that dinosaur eggs were first discovered, so a really special place if you ask me!


Certain areas of Africa are often overlooked by travelers, which is a shame because there’s so much to see and do around this wonderful continent. From Mozambique you can visit the coral reefs off the African coast and get to grips with some of the fascinating marine life in the area. You might also be interested in the marine conservation projects running throughout the area, which can be a great way to really get involved with something during your break.

Wherever you decide to head for, make sure you do some research before you head off. There are some superb opportunities out there for anyone looking for a new direction in life, it’s just about finding the right one for you!

Author Bio: Janice Thomas splits her time evenly between Copenhagen and New York, a keen traveller she spent much of last year exploring Europe during her sabbatical.

To Plan or Not to Plan
Friday, August 23rd, 2013

cat direction

Plan your stops?

The best-laid plans of travelers often go awry…a truth you will most definitely learn on the road. Traveling long term is different than a vacation. In a vacation you normally have to maximize your short time very carefully; transportation, lodging, tours, and sometimes food is often planned. However when you are roaming from place to place over the period of 3 to 12 months, planning each detail becomes much harder.

Things to consider when trying to plan:

You Will Change

One of the most rewarding things about extended travel is that you have time to learn; not only about other cultures, but about yourself. You may be surprised what you learn about yourself. The knowledge you gain will likely effect your plans, so consider leaving yourself open to new opportunities.

Seeing the Whole World

You can’t get to every ‘must-see’ in the world. We know it’s tempting to look at the globe and know that you have more time off then you ever have before in your life and want to do EVERYTHING. But really…do you want to do everything? If you do, then what’s left? One of the biggest benefits of taking a career break and traveling is that you will infuse travel into your life from this point on. We’ve never met anyone who traveled the world and didn’t want to go back out again. Travel and exploring will become a part of your life, you will have more opportunities to get back to places you didn’t get to on this trip.

You Don’t Know Until You Get There

Many times you plan to go to a place and have something specific that you want to do there or see. But once you hit the ground, you’ll meet locals and other travelers and bond with them. Soon you learn of other things that you want to see and do that they recommend. If you have everything already planned, then you may miss out on these new places/experiences that you just learned about.

Oh – The People You’ll Meet!

Whether you are a solo, couple, or family traveler you will meet hundreds of new people while you travel. Each person brings a new possibility; one which you will never be able to predict or control. You may decide to travel with a new friend, you may fall in love, you may get offered a job, or you may decide to stay and help someone. Remain flexible & open and you will most likely end up in a place that you never knew about – and certainly wasn’t according to plan.

Sometimes when you plan too much in advance, the universe has a way of laughing at those plans. That’s what happened to Stephanie and she shares how she now travels at a different pace.

You Will Get Tired

At some point in your extended travels, you will get tired. You won’t want to move any longer, pack any more, see another museum, or ride another bus. If you plan everything in advance, then you’ll wear yourself out with no time to recover. Remember you don’t want to return home as tired and stressed out as you were when you left!

Overall we recommend building a structure and foundation, but know it’s okay to fill in the details as you go. If you are the planning type, then we recommend getting the first few weeks or months planned with transportation and an itinerary, but leave the remainder open-ended. It’s good to have a few core ideas, but fight the urge to connect them until it gets closer to the time in which they will occur.

Where to Go: Timing
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Timing plays a big part in deciding where to go.  Some factors to consider include weather, holidays & festivals, and the value of the dollar.


What time of year are you traveling and what will the weather be like in your destination? Summer in the northern hemisphere means winter most points south of the equator. And some destinations don’t experience our traditional four seasons but rather two – wet and dry. But whatever time of year you travel, there are benefits to the different types of weather you may encounter.


Where to Go: Itinerary Round-Up
Monday, October 12th, 2009

[singlepic=1551,350,,,right]We’ve already offered some tips on where to go based on timing, your interests, and comfort level. And we’ve shared how to decide on what to do based on our experiences. So we thought it would be fun to share what others are saying about planning an itinerary!

Unique Ways To Pick Your Next Destination
From Enduring Wanderlust

This article offers up some unique methods of selecting your next destination, including throwing a dart at a world map, which is what editor Gennaro Salamone did in 1998. Where did he end up? Doing a summer of study in the Czech Republic.

Where Would You NOT Travel To?
From NoDebtWorldTravel

Brian Peters addresses concerns you may take into consideration when deciding on where to not travel, including political beliefs, human rights concerns, and safety. And you may be surprised to find that the United States shows up on some peoples lists for these same reasons.

Secret of Round-the-World-Travel
From Hole in the Donut

Barbara Weibel shares the secrets she learned when planning her six-month career break and how she took advantage of the Star Alliance program to book her RTW ticket. And be inspired by the destinations she chose to visit as she circumnavigated the globe.

How to Travel Around the World Without Flying
From Matador Traveler

This feature piece on Matador’s Travelers Notebook follows a couple who planned their round-the-world trip by boat, train, and automobile – just about every form of transportation but flying! Who knew you could be a passenger on cargo ships? Very useful when crossing oceans!

Travel Budgets
From How to Travel the World

Budget is a big factor in deciding on an itinerary. Have a lot of time but little money and want to stretch your dollar? Think about Southeast Asia where you can survive on $20 compared to the 60-70 Euros you would need in Europe. This article will give you a great idea of average living costs across the globe.

How to Use Social Media for Travel Research
From Mashable – The Social Media Guide

How often do you seek out a friends advice for a restaurant or hotel? Well, why not use virtual friends to help plan your travel itinerary as well! With the advances in social media, there are many great outlets for seeking out recommendations – even while on the road!

What unique ways have you chosen your travel itinerary?

Where to Go: What Calls You
Sunday, December 28th, 2008

There are a lot of decisions to make when planning a career break, but perhaps the one that is the most fun to make is deciding where to go.  So how do you do it?

What Calls You

[singlepic=871,150,,,right]Most of my travel destinations have been places that have called me. In high school I became fascinated with Vietnam and Cambodia after studying the war and Pol Pot’s regime in the 1970’s. For years afterwards I would read and watch anything associated with those countries. So when I decided to take a three-month career break in 2001, I centered my travels on those destinations.


Where to Go: Inspiration Borneo
Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Muddy Waters: Borneo

[singlepic=950,200,,,right]My curiosity with Borneo started around the year 2000 when I was living in San Francisco. I had just moved to the west coast and I was up late one night watching television. I came across the Eco-Challenge, an adventure race that featured a variety of crazy and dangerous sports including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking through rapids, horseback riding, caving, and abseiling. It could take teams anywhere between 3 and 6 days to complete and it was in a place called Borneo. I had never heard of it before, but it sounded and looked completely exotic – this sheltered mid-westerner was hooked.


Where to Go: Comfort Level
Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Making the decision to take a cultural career break may have been a difficult one – but already you have pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t let that stop when you hit the road. This is your opportunity to explore worlds and cultures you never imagined and learn more about yourself in the process.

Comfort Level

Of course before hitting the road, you do want to have the peace of mind that where you are going is safe – not just for your own comfort but that of your friends and family staying behind. The U.S. State Department’s website offers tips for safely traveling internationally (including registering with the local US Embassies) as well as posting warnings and alerts for countries all around the world. And check out the CIA World Factbook for more detailed information on every country.


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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