Posts Tagged ‘contemplating’

When the Light Bulb Went On
Friday, March 6th, 2015

Little did I know it then, but a letter to my mother my senior year of college has set me on a path that will inevitably change my life. 

It was 1995.  Being a naive college grad, I was eager for what was next in life, yet I was scared to face reality at the same time.  The letter I wrote to my mom that year captured my restlessness, my wanderlust, and my questions about how I was going to live my life now that I had satisfied all the prescribed obligations of early adulthood.  Now that I was free to choose what I wanted to do with my time, traveling and having new adventures was much more appealing than going to work.  Settling down to a cubicle?  Really?  Ugh, boring!  I was no stranger to travel having spent the previous summer studying in Denmark and touring Europe in my spare time.  I just didn’t know how to make my dream of traveling the world happen.

Want to plan your<br />
own career break?
Want to plan your
own career break?

So, I did what any broke 22 year-old would do – I went to graduate school and then got a regular corporate job.   

Jump ahead 13 years through graduation and student loans, a move, a year of volunteering, a career change to the public sector, and numerous awesome vacations where I couldn’t help but want just one more day before coming home.  My trip and the desire to explore the world would always come to mind during those vacations, and I would usually think it was just a crazy dream or that it couldn’t happen now – I had other things to do.

After being downsized early in 2008, I faced a crossroads.  Would I strike out on my own and start the business I’d been thinking about, would I travel, or would I try to find another job?  The economy was going south and I had a mortgage.  Being fiscally responsible was what I thought I should do even though my heart was on the road somewhere in Mongolia.  I made the decision to start the business and look for (and a year later, I ultimately found) a full-time job so I could keep paying the mortgage.

During that year, it felt like I was being slapped in the face every day to know I now had the time and opportunity to travel long term, but felt stuck with my current situation.  I thought I couldn’t spend the money I did have on anything other than necessities to keep myself, and the lifestyle choices I had made, afloat.

Fast forward through another 3 years of cubicle-land and a broken heart after being turned down for the fellowship I desperately wanted.  I remember the exact moment I was on the phone with my mom to tell her the news, tears streaming down my face.  The words came out of my mouth a bit flippantly, but nonetheless, I voiced what I had dreamed about since 1995.

Maybe I should just go on my trip.

Her response?  “Yes, you should.”

And that was it – everything clicked and the light bulb came on.  It wasn’t that I was looking for permission.  It was that I had finally stopped thinking about my trip as an impossibility or a pipe dream.  I had finally decided I could really do it and realized it was more important to me than anything else.

So, the trip I’ve been thinking about taking since writing that letter in 1995 launched in February of 2013.  Two unsolicited job offers were even turned down the year prior to leaving because I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer.

The enormity of my trip was an eye-opener and made me reconsider more than once.  But I had already made the one decision that really counts.

I decided to GO.

Beth Fenger took off on her own in February of 2013 for her round the world trip, visiting Patagonia, Cambodia, Mongolia, India, Turkey, Jordan, and Namibia.  She’s also an amateur photographer, zealous wine taster, obsessive trail runner, avid camper, adrenaline junkie, and finds her current career calling in the non-profit sector.  She can be found toting her camera, tent, and corkscrew, while running trails in various US cities and on Twitter and Facebook.

Setting the Wheels in Motion
Monday, January 14th, 2013

During a recent sermon, our pastor preached about not living a life of “accumulating regrets.”  At that moment, my husband and I glanced at each and we both knew what the other was thinking…let’s do it.  Two Southwest tickets and four weeks later, we were sitting in Bar Louie in Chicago for one of the nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events.  We had just taken the first step in planning our round-the-world (RTW) journey.

There’s just something about being in a room packed full of travel junkies that is intoxicating.  When my husband and I left the event, we were high as planes mid-flight.  Unlike most “conferences,” there were no awkward conversations with strangers.  You see, each participant’s nametag announced two important items of interest:  the last place visited and the next on the list.   Conversations flowed loosely and easily between people who had just met.  The intoxicant:  Travel Talk.

“Wow, we really should have done this 15 years ago,” was my initial reaction after spending four glorious hours with people who had really done it.  By “it,” I mean extended ’round the world travel.  Sixteen years ago my life was so simple.  I was mid-20’s, freshly divorced with a job and an apartment.  That was it.  No husband, no kids, no pets, no mortgage.  Unfortunately, I drank the corporate Kool-aid and decided it wasn’t the right time for such an adventure.

Fast forward to present:  I’m now in my early 40’s with a 50-ish husband, three businesses between us, two middle-schoolers, a dog, a cat, and a big house.  I now understand that the time is never “right.”  However, the yearning to experience the world is one that comes from the core of your soul.  Either it’s there, or it’s not.  And here’s the kicker…if it’s there, it never goes away.  Ever.  All the stock options, and vacation time, and fancy kitchens won’t scratch that itch.  Trust me.

Since leaving the Meet, Plan, Go! event in October, we have put the wheels in motion for our RTW journey.  The first step was getting our daughters on board.  It’s hard enough for two people to agree on the particulars, much less four people.  Although my husband and I might do it differently if it was just the two of us, it’s not just the two of us.  Everyone’s vote counts and while our 13-year-old was initially on board, she’s recently changed her mind. Nonetheless,  we’re planning to start our five-month tour in October 2013, focusing on Southeast Asia, New Zealand and  Australia.  We know it is a LOT to cover in five short months, and we are prepared to let the final version unfold along the way.  Based on the wise counsel of RTW veterans, we are opting to buy point-to-point tickets rather than RTW tickets.  Flexibility is key.

We’re now arranging the pieces of the RTW puzzle.  Remember paragraph four?  It is overwhelming as a whole, so we’re breaking it into small pieces and finding solutions for each piece.  Here’s what it looks like so far:

? Thanks to eBay and Craigslist, we are purging our excess stuff and preparing to put our house on the market in January
? We have sold one business, and have interim solutions in the works for the other two.
? We are fortunate to live in a school district that values these types of experiences.  Between homeschooling resources and the girls’ teachers, we will ensure they are prepared for re-entry in the spring.
? Did I mention that one daughter is in the middle of orthodontic treatment?  We have a solution for that, too.  Our top-notch, well-traveled orthodontist has worldwide professional connections.  We’ll visit orthodontists as necessary along the way.
? Finally, our beloved pets.  This is the most difficult detail of all–logistically and emotionally.  We will place them temporarily with loving foster families.  We are still working on this one…

The bottom line:  For every challenge, there is a work-around.  It’s just a matter of identifying it.  We all have a million and one reasons why the time isn’t right.  However, I am writing this from the aisle seat of a LAN flight from Cusco to Lima, Peru.  There is nothing like hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu to remind you that so many of the world’s great experiences should not be postponed until your Golden Years.  You can always work, but can you always travel?

Kellie McIntyre spent 15 years in corporate healthcare surviving on three weeks of annual vacation time.  She’s now a full-time mom, part-time real estate manager, and part-time family adventure planner.  Kellie and her family live in Vestavia Hills, Alabama

Lost Job? Go Travel!
Monday, September 10th, 2012

Laid off? Go travel!

That’s not usually the advice that follows after losing your job. But for me, that’s just what I needed to fulfill my adult-lifelong dream.

After college, I chose the standard newbie route to travel for five weeks through Western Europe. I booked a tour and off I went by myself. I was not aware at the time that this would be the start of my travel journeys. Little by little, trip after trip, I’d get my feet wetter and wetter and take more adventurous journeys far across the world.

My trips prepared me for the BIG one. The trip that would be the best, the longest, the greatest trip of my time. I just kept getting sidetracked. Almost 5 years passed since I came up with a plan to just go. By this time, I was all talk. No one believed me anymore. I was starting to rethink things too. Maybe I would be okay with only the normal two-week vacations?

No, I needed more. However, three main things kept getting in my way: my job, life and love.

The job obstacle disappeared when I was laid off due to the economy. Everyone I knew was getting laid off, the job market in California was so bad. But that was exactly the ‘push’ that I needed and honestly, I wasn’t happy at my job anyway. I was unemployed for a little over a year. Since I was convinced this was the kicker that I needed, I spent this time researching, researching and researching. I have been brought up to save my money as much as I can and be thrifty, so luckily I wasn’t in a financial jam. I had plenty of savings to be unemployed before my big trip.

The life obstacle turned into greater strength and determination for me. The more I thought about my plan and laid it out, the more I wanted it. I also had a lot of support from family and friends.

And the love obstacle eventually turned into marriage. Just as I was getting the strength and determination to go, along came love and I just couldn’t pass that by, could I? Well, I was lucky enough to meet someone who didn’t shy away from my plan. He embraced it as much as I did.

We came up with a loose itinerary. He quit his job. We spent months downsizing our apartment. We sold the remainder of what we didn’t want at our two yard sales. What we wanted to keep, we moved into our families’ garages. We sold our car, got rid of our cell phone contracts, terminated utility bills and switched the rest of our bills to online payments.

We got married in November 2011, said our goodbyes for two weeks and then took off! So yes, this has been our ‘extended honeymoon.’ I feel grateful for sticking around for so long because now I get to experience this with my husband, my best friend.

I do worry about what this break in my resume will mean when I go back. However the spiritual and hands-on experience that I’ve gotten far outweighs a steady stream of work.

And here we are, we are about to embark on the next chapter in our lives. If all goes well, we’ll settle and start our new lives in Hong Kong. Sure, it took me many years of contemplation, but for a trip like this, sometimes you need that time to prepare and the extra wait can make it that much sweeter when you finally go.

So whatever kick you need, you’ll know it when it hits you – take it and go!

Teresa Yang lost her job due to the poor economy, but made the most of it by planning for her dream trip, getting married, and then taking off with her new husband on an extended honeymoon. So far they have been to Japan, South Korea, China, Taipei, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong. You can find Teresa on Facebook and Flickr.

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Not Wasting Time: Taking a Second Career Break
Monday, July 16th, 2012

Time is now the currency. We earn it and spend it. The rich can live forever and the rest of us? I just wanna wake up with more time on my hands than hours in the day. – In Time (2011)

In Time is a movie that really spoke to me. In the movie, the main character, Will, is falsely accused of murder and must find a way to bring down a system in which time is money. While the wealthy can live forever, the poor have to beg, borrow, and steal enough minutes to make it through each day. At one point, a character gives his time to Will and tells him, “don’t waste my time.

How many times have you been in a pointless meeting thinking what a waste of time it is? So many of us waste time every day. We casually think that there will be time later. One of my strongest memories of seven years working on cruise ships was speaking to a widow who said, “we always planned to come here to Alaska together but there was always something that got in the way.” I heard over and over again, “don’t wait to make your dreams come true” or “you are so smart to travel like this while you are young.” I often felt like a character who had borrowed against time and was running to spend my time wisely traveling.

When my company went bankrupt after September 11, 2001, I thought I would never travel again. I just could not imagine how to make it happen. When George came in my life after an internet date and shared his dream of a year of exotic international travel, I was willing to jump with both feet and share his dream. During our eleven month adventure in twelve countries, our relationship deepened, and our life together evolved. We really learned to be a team.

In the movie, In Time, Will talks about what he would do with plenty of time.

Henry Hamilton: If you had as much time as I have, on that clock, what would you do with it?
[Will looks at the clock on his arm showing how much time he has left]
Will Salas: I’d stop watching it. I can tell you one thing. If I had all that time, I’d sure as hell wouldn’t waste it.

I have been graced with the option to travel and act outside the box. Lily Tomlin said “the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” When I dropped out of medical school and went to Club Med and Princess Cruises to see the world, I didn’t have a clue of the adventures I would find. I would say a theme of my life is that I have not wanted to waste my time.

Recently George and I were provided with another opportunity to drop out of “normal” life. We left July 1st to start a year in South East Asia. Leaving this time is so different. I wish I could write a letter to myself and get it this time four years ago as we were preparing for our first voyage together. Everything seemed so hard and so complicated. We had to build a storage unit in the garage which we used for the first one-year trip and for two summer trips. Now we will be gone again for a year. We are about to rent our condo for the fourth time. The first time I was so worried: will my relationship work out? Will the tenant break all our dishes and windows and things?

George has gotten a leave of absence again. I am saying good-bye to hundreds of children again. We are working on travel insurance, moving files, and finding the best things to bring with us in our backpacks. This time I actually have a backpack. For our first year trip, I freaked out and left with two small bags but no backpack. A few years ago, George bought me a backpack and now I love it.

I had to be patient with myself then. I was so worried. But I lived. I survived. Getting right up close to my greatest fears has let me see some of the best times. On the last trip, I lost sixty pounds and we got engaged underwater. Both were tremendous surprises. For this trip, I cannot even begin to imagine what we will discover together. I only know that we are living our dreams and I cannot wait to see what will happen next!

In the movie, Sylvia realizes that maybe it is worth it to step outside of your zone and take a chance.

Sylvia Weis: Oh, no? The clock is good for no one. The poor die and the rich don’t live. We can all live forever so long as we don’t do anything foolish. Doesn’t that scare you? That maybe you’ll never do anything foolish or courageous or anything worth a damn?

I am glad I took the risk and said YES when George asked me to go with him on his dream trip. For me, it felt foolish and courageous and it makes me feel so alive to be getting ready to go again on another “Big Trip.

Lisa Niver Rajna, M.A. Ed. is an accomplished travel agent, blogger, speaker, science teacher and member of the Traveler’s Century Club, a unique travel club limited to travelers who have visited one hundred or more countries. Lisa and George Rajna spent eleven months wandering Southeast Asia from Indonesia to Mongolia where they fell in love, got engaged, and now as a married couple are writing a book about their journey. They left on July 1st for another year in South East Asia, follow them at

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