Posts Tagged ‘adapting’

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!


Reverse Culture Shock: Dealing With It Without Spreading It
Friday, May 31st, 2013

You’ve just returned from a life-changing adventure around the world, where every day brought you something new and exciting to experience. You can’t believe how much you’ve accomplished in such a short period of time, yet the second you walk through the door to your home, it feels like you never left, as everything looks the same.

And that feeling is only enhanced when you meet up with family and friends, as it may seem as if nothing has really changed with them either. But you have changed, and you’re not sure what to make of the roller coaster of emotions you’re feeling. You, my friend, are experiencing reverse culture shock.

You’ll be happy to know that you’re not alone. Just about every traveler experiences it in some variation (including our very own Sherry Ott). And although it’s not contagious, you can spread it to non-travelers. Here are some tips on how to deal with Reverse Culture Shock without spreading your anxiety, and even depression, to those around you.


Regrouping on the Road
Monday, June 4th, 2012

Everyone knows the first rule of traveling abroad, especially in developing countries, is to expect the unexpected.  But when the unexpected happens, what do you do? I was a few days away from my flight from Delhi to Cochin, India, casually discussing my plans with a fellow traveler, when she said, “I hope you’re not flying Kingfisher.”

I was.

“You’d better check your flight, they’re about to go bankrupt.”

I jumped online as soon as I returned to the hotel.  Sure enough, my destination was no longer listed, but I could not find any other information.  I asked the hotel staff if they had any news about the situation, and all they could tell me was that it was bad and passengers were getting stranded.  Flights were not taking off if the airline couldn’t pay for fuel, and no one was extending credit to them.   There is no Chapter 11 here, no consumer protection, no other airline willing to offer an alternate flight, you are just plain out of luck.

I had prepaid the hotel at my upcoming destination, plus I really wanted to spend my time in Cochin, not in Delhi sorting things out.  At this point I had a few choices:  take my chances with my current airline and hope they had made arrangements with an alternate carrier (which was unlikely), opt for a 20 hour train ride and forego the cost of one hotel  (which was unappealing),  or book a new ticket (which was expensive).   After weighing the time, money, and aggravation factors, I chose the latter.

Buying a new ticket ended up to be the right choice for me, despite the fact it set me back a few hundred dollars.  Twenty four hours before my originally scheduled flight I received an email from Kingfisher stating that my flight was cancelled, but no other option was offered.  I met an Indian woman at the airport who told me that her son and daughter-in-law were stranded by Kingfisher in London and both had to buy new tickets for 800 British Pounds each.  She didn’t seemed too surprised by this, she simply shrugged and said, “it’s unfortunate, but what can you do?”

Every situation where you are forced to regroup will be unique, but here are some tips to deal with the problem, or prevent it altogether:

Expect the unexpected – and budget for it.  We all know it will happen at some point, so by planning and budgeting for it upfront, it may not be as much of an annoyance.  If everything goes as planned, you will have extra funds at the end of the trip to splurge on some extravagance or pocket the cash.

Do your homework.  I did not have the luxury of time when I made the arrangements for my career break, but a quick internet search could have alerted me to the financial difficulties of Kingfisher and I would have been able to make alternate arrangements.  Also, check travel forums like Trip Advisor where you can get advice from other travelers.

Enlist the help of a travel agent. They are not widely used anymore, but a travel agent can be a great help.  I was extremely jealous when two of my fellow Australian travelers, also facing a possible trip cancellation, shot an email to their agent who was able to rebook them.  Another option would be to enlist the help of a travel savvy friend back home who has access to a fast internet connection and can make a few calls on your behalf.

Build extra time into your itinerary.  You won’t always have the luxury of downtime when you travel, but giving yourself extra time in “transition” locations will help to get you back on schedule if something goes awry along the way.

Get your money back, if possible.  My first attempt was to deal with a Kingfisher agent face to face who assured me my ticket would be refunded within 5 business days.  After 15 business days, this had not happened.   Even though I was promised a refund, I immediately disputed the charge with my credit card company.  They placed the charge on “hold” meaning I don’t have to pay for it until the issue is resolved.  Ideally, try to get documentation in writing from the vendor as it will help in your effort to dispute the charges.  Your travel insurance policy is another option, but read the fine print closely.  Mine states:

The following exclusions apply to Trip Cancellation and Trip InterruptionBenefits will not be provided for any loss resulting (in whole or in part) from: (a) travel arrangements canceled by an airline.”

This means it might be an uphill battle to get reimbursed.  Additionally, there are many airlines which are excluded from coverage altogether.

Embrace a new experience.  Sometimes you will just have to make a new plan.  You have two choices:  get upset about it, or enjoy the unexpected.  That outcome is entirely up to you.

Leora Krause is a travel addict who started circling the globe when she was old enough to vote.  Recently downsized from corporate America, she is enjoying her second career break (her first one was in 2003), traveling through Thailand, Vietnam, India and Nepal.  She hails from the great city of Chicago, Illinois.  You can read about her travel adventures on Restless Passport.

Photo Friday: Street Food
Friday, March 16th, 2012

On Monday we highlighted the benefits and reality of eating local during your career break. Being brave in what you eat on the road will most certainly be a highlight of the experience.

(A little timid? Start training yourself and your stomach before you go.)

Our friends at Intrepid Travel have shared this colorful image of what you could encounter on one of their Delicious Discoveries trips. And if you book one before March 31st, you can carve off 15% of the price! We are salivating as we type.

Want to see your photo here? Check out our easy submission policy!

Preparing for Culture Shock
Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

The first step is admitting you have a problem. That famous first step isn’t typically related to career breaks and long-term travel. But it is important for you to realize that you will experience culture shock at some point during your career break. It could be day one – it could be day ten – it could be day one hundred thirty seven. But at some point, you will be overwhelmed by your surroundings and face frustrations.

The key is preparing and dealing with it in a positive manner to get over it as quickly as possible and get on with your travels. You may go through different stages during your career break, and you never know when culture shock will strike. It might not necessarily happen right at the very beginning of your trip either, so it’s important to be prepared and know what to do when it happens.

Prepare Yourself Before You Go
There are several things you can do to help prepare yourself for culture shock before leaving. You already know that some things are going to be very different. In some places, everything will seem completely upside down, and you’ll feel like you’ve entered the bizarro world (India, anyone?). While you’ll never be able to replicate what’s going to happen on the road, there are certain things you can do to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

Learn some of the local language

Wherever you go first, it’s probably a good idea to learn some of the local language. If you start in Latin America, realize that English is still spoken quite a bit, but for the most part, you’re going to need some Spanish to get around. Taking a Spanish class before you leave will help tremendously in your adjustment upon arrival, and there are plenty of places to do it.

Be brave in what you eat

Part of traveling is trying new, interesting, and sometimes really unique food. If you’re a picky eater, it’s time to change your habits. You will have to be open to new things, especially if you don’t want to spend 2-3 times more on food than you have to. Eating in western restaurants are usually much more expensive than eating locally.

Photo Courtesy of Intrepid Travel

Before you leave for your trip, you can start training yourself by going to new restaurants. Eat ethnic food you’ve never eaten before. Order something off the menu that you don’t recognize, and don’t ask the server what it is (the point and smile method of ordering is commonplace for many travelers in different areas of the world). Start getting in the habit of not really knowing what’s going to come out of the kitchen on your plate. It’s sometimes a scary yet exciting thing, and it’s going to be the norm when you’re out on your career break.

Read and research your destination as much as possible

You would think this is a common sense tip, but you’d be amazed at the amount of people who don’t read up on the culture and everyday life of the place they are visiting. You know those beginning parts of a guidebook that talk about the history, customs, and culture of a country or city? Read those! Knowing about the people, the customs, and what they’ve gone through is a huge part of trying to understand their culture. Understanding that putting your feet up in an Asian country can be highly offensive is a very important thing to know. In fact, voicing anything negative about the King in Thailand could land you in jail!

Reading about common scams and tips for not being taken advantage of is also a great idea. Anyone going to Bangkok should already know before touching down that tuk-tuk drivers are notorious scammers. When you want to go to one of the famous sites, the Grand Palace, chances are they will tell you it’s closed today, and they’ll instead take you on a ride (literally) all around Bangkok, seeing some temples but also to their buddies’ jewelry shops, rug shops, and any other shop a friend might own. The scam is mentioned in nearly everything written about Bangkok, yet unsuspecting travelers fall for it every single day. This would never happen if people just read up on a country before visiting.

Talk to people who have been there

It’s never been easier to obtain first-hand information about a place than it is today. With social media sites and blogs, getting instant feedback is the norm. Bloggers in particular are very forthright when it comes to helping people out and answering questions about a place. So if you’re reading a particular post about a country you’re going to and you have some questions, contact that person and ask. Chances are he or she would love to talk with you about your upcoming trip and answer any questions you may have. Getting the lay of the land before leaving, and knowing what to expect in certain situations will help keep you comfortable and will help tremendously so you don’t feel too out of place. And what better way to get that information than from someone who is there now?

Oh $#!+ Moments

There are going to be times when you think “Oh $#!+ – What have I gotten myself into?”. Well you’re not alone. Lillie Marshall recalls the time she was scammed by a taxi driver after arriving late night into Vietnam from Cambodia. (Runtime – 1:32)

On the Road

While on the road, it’s important to continue learning the local languages, even if it’s just a few phrases. Traveling slowly, developing routines, and utilizing the power of a smile are also helpful tips to counteract culture shock. We offer more insight on how to combat culture shock while on the road in our Basic Training Course & Community.

It’s important to know that you will experience culture shock and travel burnout at some point along the journey that is your career break. Even if you follow all these tips, it’s still going to happen. Whenever you take someone out of his or her comfort zones, no matter how much preparation that person has done, it’s inevitable he or she will feel overwhelmed at some point. You simply can’t prepare for every situation. What’s important is recognizing those feelings quickly and doing something about it.

What have been some of your “Oh $#!+ Moments”?

What to Expect When You Return
Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Expect culture shock.

Expect struggles.

Expect feeling a bit lost.

Expect to be patient with yourself.

Expect that you will be changed.

Expect to have people not understand.

Expect that you will be happy to see friends and family.

Expect that you will have no regrets.

Coming back home is not always easy. There are a few pieces of advice we can provide you, but until you live it, it’s hard to say how you will feel about returning. Each person’s experience is unique. However there are some things that hold pretty constant for all career breakers.

Reverse Culture Shock

Yes, even though you are returning to your home culture after experiencing many new different cultures, you still will be in some stage of shock. Odds are that the first time you walk back into a grocery store in North America you may be thrilled to be there, but you will also be a bit dazed and confused with all of the choices.

After JoAnna Haugen was gone in the Peace Corps for an extended period of time, she talks about how she combats the shock of being home.

Craft Your Environment Again

It’s important to surround yourself by people who’ve gone through a similar experience and love travel. It’s helpful to stay active in MPG local meetups and the online community – helping others who are planning their breaks provide you an outlet to share all of the knowledge you gained.

And be warned…there will be people who aren’t very interested in hearing stories about your travels. Learn to identify them before you bore them to death and find people who do want to hear them.

Basic Training

We cover more on what to expect when you return in Career Break Basic Training, as well as other topics related to your Re-Entry.

Away for the Holidays
Monday, December 19th, 2011

Traveling long term is a gift; the ability to see and experience new cultures, to step away from your own rat race, and slow down. However, when you’ve been on the road for a while and the holidays roll around, it’s easy to get the blues. You’re away from your own culture and traditions, and you miss your family and friends, so it’s easy to get a bit homesick. I spent one Christmas Eve alone eating leftovers watching a movie; I was so lonely in Vietnam that I vowed to never be alone again during the Holidays.

If your career break travel happens to fall during the holidays, then consider what you can do to avoid the holiday blues.

Christmas in Singapore

Plan Ahead
When I first traveled around the world I actually planned out my itinerary with the holidays in mind. For me Christmas is all about family. Luckily I happened to have family living in Singapore so when I planned my itinerary, I planned to be in Singapore in December. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I could have made. The familiar food, customs, and humor of my family was just what I needed after 4 months on the road. Plus, they were able to introduce me to different Asian holiday customs in Singapore – so even though I had slowed down my career break travel to spend time with family, I was still experiencing new things in new cultures!

Utilize your Embassy
If you find yourself far away from family and friends when the holidays strike, then consider trying to find other people from your country that are celebrating. I found myself in Sydney, Australia once during American Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to sit around my hotel room watching TV and going to McDonalds for dinner, so I went to the American consulate to ask them if they knew of any American based Thanksgiving celebrations going on in Sydney.

They quickly gave me a paper with a list of the various Expat organizations observing the holiday with traditional dinners. Perfect! I contacted a few and soon found myself eating Turkey dinner surrounded by a bunch of Australians and Americans.

Thanksgiving in Australia

Phone Home
If there was ever a time to use Skype, it’s the holidays! It’s a cheap/free way for you to actually see your family and friends and connect during the season in video. Don’t miss the opportunity to see and the decorations at home. And be sure to share how the country you are in is celebrating the holiday as it will help your family and friends understand what you are going through. If you don’t know what Skype is – you can learn more here and download it for free – Skype – It’s essential for travel!

Embrace the Strangeness
Nothing is forever, so even though you may be in a very foreign culture for the holidays and they don’t have your same traditions, earn everything you can about how they celebrate and embrace the moment. I spent a Christmas in Ho Chi Minh City marveling at how they celebrated. There were remnants of Western culture Christmas, but there were many odd differences too! You can read about those differences in Christmasia! Experiencing Christmas in Vietnam. So, instead of sitting inside wallowing in your loneliness, get out and walk around and see the locals celebrate. You may even get invited to celebrate with them!

Be Social
Get in contact with the local Tripping group and maybe you’ll find a local that you can spend the holidays with! These types of crowdsourcing groups are great for solo travelers as they will get you connected with locals who have a love of travel.

Are you traveling for the holidays? How have you dealt with the holiday blues while traveling?

Kick-Ass Host: Sarah Lavender Smith
Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

All of our local kick-ass Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the time leading up to our National Event in October we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet our Kick-Ass San Francisco Host: Sarah Lavender Smith

Re-Entry: A Whole New Family Journey

About a year ago, our family experienced the shock of re-entry when we moved back home after nearly a full year of traveling around the world. Our big house felt so oversized, and the four of us felt so natural being close together after months of sharing small spaces, that we spent the first night huddled in sleeping bags on the floor of one room.

Smith family in Argentina

The thoughts swirling around my head back then included, I don’t want us to move back into our own rooms and separate offices, where we’ll be out of eyesight and earshot of each other. I don’t want to unpack our household stuff and fill up this space with things I no longer feel we need. I don’t want to lose our closeness and feel stuck in one place. I don’t want to go back to work, and I have no idea what we’ll do for work …

Renting out our home, leaving a business partnership, pulling our son and daughter out of school, and living nomadically on five continents with only as much as we easily could carry was the most meaningful, rewarding, transformative and mind-expanding thing we have ever done.

But I won’t sugarcoat the fact that ending travel and starting a new chapter professionally and personally is just plain hard. Instead of writing about our year away, I decided to focus on re-entry to show how we’ve managed—and why using extended travel as the jumping-off point for a major career/life transition ultimately is so very worth the effort.

In many ways, the year after the year away has been a journey, too. My husband Morgan, successful for over a decade at a law firm he co-founded, spent several months at home while trying to figure out what he would do next. Losing his income as well as jeopardizing those close professional relationships felt incredibly risky and put us both on an emotional roller coaster.

Thanks to the year of travel, however, we felt much more capable of working closely together in our house and living frugally to stretch our savings. (Budgeting for travel is a topic for another post, but suffice to say we’re proof that most people need a financial cushion upon return. My advice: Save for re-entry as well as for travel.)

Meanwhile, I felt adrift and highly ambivalent for months after ending our trip. I missed my “job” of homeschooling the kids and blogging about our travels. I resented the return to household-related chores and monthly utility bills that disappeared during our year away. I spent five months unsuccessfully developing a manuscript and felt like a failure when I shelved it indefinitely.

Smith family in Barcelona

Our daughter and son fared better, since they were happy to reconnect with friends. Entering 7th grade, my 12-year-old daughter met the academic rigors and sidestepped the social landmines with an inner strength and easygoing attitude that I credit in part to our travel, which helped her develop self-reliance, intellectual curiosity, and an ability to get along with all types.

Our 9-year-old son had a bit more trouble transitioning to 4th grade, however. When we traveled, his core schoolwork of math and language arts boiled down to just an hour or two a few days a week—and then he’d learn a great deal experientially about our destinations. He found it difficult to go from the one-on-one, self-paced nature of “road”schooling to being one of 27 kids stuck in a classroom for six hours. Ultimately, though, he adapted and did fine.

Fast forward six months, and Morgan and I find ourselves working side by side on a new business he launched in early 2011: a litigation graphics and consulting firm. He is leveraging his favorite part of being an attorney—the creative and strategic side of case preparation—in a way that he hopes will help others. I’m handling the marketing and assisting with business development. As much as possible, I also carve out time to develop a new blog that combines my twin passions of long-distance running and travel.

Our business venture sometimes feels like the kind of seat-of-our-pants adventure we experienced around the globe. We’re forced to adapt to change, cope with risk, work collaboratively, keep odd hours and learn as we go—skills enhanced by long-term travel.

I honestly don’t think Morgan would have had the vision for his new business—or could have mustered the courage to change his career—without taking the round-the-world departure from our “regular” lives. As he wrote last year in a post reflecting on how the trip changed us:

“Taking this trip was seizing hold of an opportunity to do something different with the remainder of my life. … The process of travel allowed me to slowly change my focus from the past to the future. Travel forces ‘the new’ upon you on a daily and moment-to-moment basis. Trying to figure out how to order in Spanish, or work a foreign ATM or get a phone card in another country, all combine to make change a constant in your life—and a pleasure.”

Smith family RVing in New Zealand

On days when all four of us feel harried, disconnected and overscheduled, I ache to be on the road again, when we had a common, relatively simple mission: get from Point A to Point B, learn about the destination, and figure out where to sleep and buy groceries. But I also value relationships in our hometown and getting involved in our community so that we feel we have a real home.

I have no doubt that the year of traveling as a foursome—an experience I sometimes call “radical marriage and family therapy” or “extreme quality time”—bonded the kids as siblings, Morgan and me as spouses, and all of us a family in a way that will keep us close for life, no matter what happens. Instead of getting sick of each other, feeling homesick and “needing our space,” we grew closer together and made whatever apartment, motel or campground we spent the night in feel like home.

Our goal now is to establish a new career with flexibility and financial success that allows us to take off for extended periods. Rather than be digital nomads who work on the road, we prefer to try to establish a home/travel cycle where we work hard and take long breaks away—easier said than done, but a goal worth striving for.

And if it doesn’t work out? Well, at least we had that year!

Check out the San Francisco event details.

Living Life Differently
Monday, July 11th, 2011

Sarah Reijonen’s home base is Spokane, Washington, though ultimately it’s wherever her camper is parked. She and her husband, Chris, quit their jobs and sold their house in 2009 for a seven-month trip around the world. The trip changed their lives, their outlook and made them eternal wanderers. Upon returning home they bought a camp trailer in which to live and travel for Chris’ work. Chris is a power lineman and Sarah is pursuing her dream as a writer. She is working on her first book about what else but travel, as well as blogging about life, love and travel at Walkabout: Spanky and Sarah’s Journey

I always feel more lost upon returning home.

Sarah in Vietnam

It probably doesn’t help that my husband and I live in a camp trailer, but to us wheels are freedom.

Our first trip in 2009 was the trip to begin all trips. We quit our jobs, sold our home on 80 acres, and leapt off the American grid for seven months around the world. When we came home we were faced with culture shock as well as a desire to live differently. I wanted to reduce my footprint, but see more places; live simply, but pick up more recipes and hobbies.

We had already accomplished the “art of non-conformity” in one sense, but we were ready to scare our friends and relatives just a bit more. Hey Mom and Dad, if you thought we were crazy then, wait until you see the camper we bought – to live in.

A year later we are still in our home on wheels living the life of gypsies. We travel where the work takes us then take a couple months off at a time to go where our hearts lead us. Most recently, we returned from two months through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Our friends and family expect it now.

When I come home, they aren’t surprised to see my bloodshot eyes brought on by a SCUBA diving accident. They are even less surprised to hear that it happened in Thailand. “Of course,” they say, almost scoffing. I feel a bit like Owen Wilson’s character in the Focker flicks; always onto a new adventure and coming off just a bit too Zen for anyone’s comfort level.

Sarah in New ZealandAlthough seven months is a little too long for my liking, I will never stop traveling. It’s not a bug; it’s a disease, but in the most positive sense. I return from my time abroad and see my world with new eyes. Minor irritations are just that: Minor. As for those friends and relatives that keep me at a distance so as not to catch my madness, well, I want to hold them closer than ever. I twist their arms to take weeks off from work, and if they aren’t ready for weeks then just days.

I can’t sit for a minute, though I could have laid on a beach for days on Koh Lanta. Sights from my old stomping grounds are both familiar like a baby blanket and different as a foreign country. I wear make-up and curl my hair – a far cry from the woman on the go that I left in Ireland two weeks ago. My two personalities of homebody and road warrior continue to move closer to one another as I morph into the one woman I see before me in the mirror.

I may be home, but home is quite relative these days. Though I miss the comfort of a foundation, it isn’t necessary. Travel takes sacrifice. I have chosen the road less traveled, and in turn, I make the road my home.

Kick-Ass Host: JoAnna Haugen
Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

All of our local kick-ass Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the time leading up to our National Event in October we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet our Kick-Ass Las Vegas Host: JoAnna Haugen

What Doesn’t Kill You Only Makes You Stronger

JoAnna HaugenIn college, I believed I had to prepare for the most robust career opportunities available. Even though I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do, I knew I loved to travel and wanted to integrate some sort of international experience into my resume.

But resumes begin in college, so I majored in a broad and widely defined field, and I minored in a foreign language and international business. I studied hard, held offices in several student organizations, paid my way through school with scholarships and graduated with honors and an emphasis in international studies. All of these things were meant to prepare me for the perfect career. You know, the career where my skills were needed and appreciated, where my creativity was coveted and where I could scoot right up the corporate ladder while collecting hefty bonuses along the way.

During the semester leading up to graduation, I applied for hundreds of jobs and was called for less than half a dozen interviews. With our apartment lease up and no company willing to greet me with open arms, my husband and I packed our bags for Peace Corps service in Kenya.

They say that serving in the Peace Corps is the “toughest job you’ll ever love,” and it’s an accurate statement. Mood swings took 180-degree turns within a matter of minutes. We lived without electricity and running water. We rode for hours on stuffy buses with coughing children and chickens. To get our mail, we had to ride our bikes for ten miles through the sand … and hope the post office was open. It was exhilarating and maddening. Exciting and angering. Gratifying and incredibly sad.

And we survived.

Upon returning home, I captured the office job I was supposed to covet. Well, it turns out that
Corporate America and I don’t get along very well. For several years I worked passionately, devoting
myself to my jobs, providing innovative suggestions on my quarterly reviews, honestly answering
surveys on how to improve the departments and companies I worked for, working long hours in hopes of future rewards … and ultimately collecting a pile of pink slips in return.

Confused, frustrated and questioning whether I was not only a good employee but also a good person, I continued to plug away at the 8-to-5 while working on another plan. I always wanted to be a writer, and I obviously didn’t get along well with my bosses, so I figured I might be the best boss for myself. No one ever told me in college that it was okay not to have a pre-defined, in-the-box career, so the idea of breaking free was terrifying.

In October 2009, I had the opportunity to go to Burning Man—an extreme living community in the
harsh Nevada desert—by myself. For several months I wavered on whether to go but ultimately decided to pack my car with an old bike and crazy costumes, and I took off for Black Rock City, the makeshift community of 50,000 people that makes up Burning Man.

I encountered dust storms, loud nights and hot days … and several guys my age who had shrugged off Corporate America to pursue their passions. If they had done it, why couldn’t I? For one week, I lived in difficult conditions surrounded by strangers (who became friends).

And I survived.

Upon returning home, I turned in my two-week notice and quit my relationship with Corporate America for good. Now I’m my own boss, pursuing my own passion. Some days are better than others, but all of them are better than that pit in my stomach I got driving to work every morning.

And I’m surviving, because that tried and true saying is true: What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Check out the Las Vegas event details.

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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