Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

How the West Can Be Won
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Cost is an obvious, integral factor for those of us planning an overseas sabbatical.  You’ve already resolved to place your day job on pause, now it’s time to strike a balance between where you would like to visit and the amount of money it takes to get there.  While Western Europe rightfully holds an allure for all travelers, some of its more enticing cities tend to be the most prohibitively expensive.  It’s the reason we see few backpacks in Florence and a barrage in Luang Prabang; Southeast Asia is the affordable alternative, particularly when you’re sustaining yourself with US dollars.  But is it completely out of the question to be Euro-friendly?  On a recent trip to Berlin, I discovered that Western Europe can indeed make the shortlist for potential career break destinations.

There are few places in the world in which I believe the possibilities are infinite; Berlin is one of those cities.   Perhaps because certain areas appear under perpetual construction, or likely since there are invariant traces of its tumultuous past, Berlin exudes an energy that similarly sized cities notably lack.  From its trove of museums to a nightlife that puts New York’s to shame, the once-divided metropolis may sate whatever a traveler craves.  The fact that it is one of the least expensive cities in Western Europe makes it even more palatable for those seeking a bit of intrigue versus the steeply priced capitals. Food, housing, and transportation are a relative bargain when compared elsewhere within the EU; Berlin’s monthly metro/bus pass is $98, dinner and drinks runs around $50 for two, and a private flat in the city’s most convenient and compelling neighborhoods can be had for $40 per night.  You won’t reside in a lap of luxury, though that usually isn’t one’s intent when embarking on a sabbatical in the first place.

As I’m sure it will take some convincing, here’s a snapshot as to how Berlin can be your private and economical European playground:

Expense-Free Exploration

Anything pertaining to World War II is free of charge.  The Holocaust Memorial should be at the top of your list as the museum provides context for all European nations who were affected by the Nazis, while its exterior, undulating slabs of concrete are a site in and of themselves.   The former SS Headquarters, now known as the Topography of Terror, along with the Resistance Museum (think “Valkyrie”) are likewise of interest, as is the lesser-known Museum Otto Weidt, the namesake of which is attributed to a man who hired blind Jews at his factory and successfully saved them from deportation through 1943.  Also notable is the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining portion of the Wall covered in commissioned art for ¾ of a mile, while the Tränenpalast is a former border crossing that today exhibits East/West checkpoint complexities.

Note: If you need a respite from Berlin’s varied past and happen to be in town on a Tuesday, free concerts are held each week at 1pm at the city’s Philharmonic.

Cut-Rate Transportation

As mentioned earlier, a monthly pass in Berlin costs roughly $98 and covers S-Bahn, U-Bahn, and bus services.  Those who prefer to have a late start while on break should instead opt for the “Wide-Awake” monthly pass ($72), the primary difference that it may only be used between 10am-3am Monday through Friday, with all day/night continuing to apply on weekends.

Thrifty Fine Dining

On my recent jaunt I devised a gastronomic tour that encompassed any and all cuisines.  Henne, a traditional “wirtshaus” in Kreuzberg, is the frontrunner as it serves remarkable roasted chicken along with kraut salad and wine for $26.  Close seconds are Monsieur Vuong, a trendy Vietnamese spot in Mitte that I’d recommend for lunch and dinner (appetizer + entrée + drinks for one = $23), and the inventive Rosa Caleta, a Jamaican joint where I dined on a jerk platter and crispy snapper (plus drinks = $32).  For Italian enthusiasts, Muret La Barba is an inviting wine bar where the host stood at his Mac and obligingly translated the German-only menu (homemade linguine + wine = $16).   Schöneberg’s Bejte is another top contender, offering excellent Ethiopian fare that ran three of us $64, while W-Der Imbiss specializes in an array of appetizing naan pizzas ($8-10) that range from guacamole to olive tapenade.  For a meal on the go, Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebab was the best $4 I spent during my trip – expect a line.

Shelter on a Shoestring

I rented a two-room flat in Schöneberg via that was considerably larger than my one-bedroom in New York.  The rate was $60 per night (taxes/fees included), though I could have leased a smaller yet equally adequate space for less than $40 a day.  In addition to where I stayed, the neighborhoods best suited for sightseeing and sustenance are Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, and Friedrichshain, the latter of which has most faithfully retained its eastside temperament.

In all fairness, it should be noted that half of Berlin was once part of the Eastern Bloc for almost thirty years, a fact that continues to impact its current economy.  Every city likewise has its perks; nearly all museums in London are free, the Paris metro is $2 per ride, and the art in Rome is unquestionably worth the price.  Is it impossible to find a meal in London for two under $50?  It’s quite feasible, actually, though your day-to-day costs on the Tube along with lodging will leave you feeling Pound foolish.  My advice to anyone who is considering a Westernized sabbatical – save the other capitals for one-off visits, and instead couple Berlin with more reasonable cities like Lisbon and Barcelona.  While Bangkok may be kinder to your bank account, the exchange rate doesn’t necessarily create a barrier between Western Europe and the wandering employee.  And Berlin is the perfect place to begin.

Paul Fusco is an avid traveler who works as an Executive Recruiter at an international management consulting firm in Manhattan.  He took his first career break in early 2010 and recently achieved a personal objective of visiting thirty countries by the age of thirty, celebrating in both Israel and Jordan.  In his spare time Paul writes, maps out future destinations, and enjoys New York City for all it has to offer.

Photo Friday: Warsaw, Poland
Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Today’s Photo Friday of Warsaw, Poland was submitted by Basic Training member Val Bromann.

“I had a hard time adjusting to life on the road. A week in and I wasn’t getting a rhythm for it, I was crying every day, I wasn’t sure if this was really what I wanted anymore. It was a rainy night in Warsaw and I sat on a bench with my umbrella and a terrible piece of pizza, just staring. When the rain cleared, a rainbow appeared over the Royal Castle. I thought at that moment ‘how many other people in this world are seeing this right now?‘ It’s sometimes, the little things, that help you appreciate what you’re doing, and help you power through the hard times.”

Val is still on the road and you can read more about her journey on her blog.

Have you had a hard time adjusting to long-term travel? How did you get through it?

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Check out our easy submission policy!

4 Reasons to See Europe in Winter
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The following is a sponsored destination post brought to you by Escape Travel.

When you think about vacations, you usually imagine warm weather; sunshine and beaches, yet taking a holiday during the winter season can be quite a beautiful experience. Just imagine the snowy moors of England or the vast darkness of Sweden. These are places where activities continue to delight residents and some brave travelers. The pubs are frequented, and the fireplaces in various accommodations roar with delightfully bright flames to warm your insides. Really yummy baked goods and steaming hot chocolate top off the end of days in many European countries.

Choosing to Travel in the Off-Season:
For every reason that you choose to stay at home in the winter, there is at least one reason to go on a winter holiday to Europe. Keep reading and you will come up with many more important reasons to travel in the winter months.

You will definitely save money.

Air fares and hotel accommodations are much cheaper in the off-season. In today’s world, we are all looking to save money and not give up everything in order to do so. See Paris, London or Stockholm in the rain and snow and save bundles when you are willing to capture these moments. Wherever you are traveling, off-season rates will always be available and serve to save! You may choose to book at the very end of winter, when you can still save and see signs of spring, too. You’ll save money back home when you set your own thermostat low and just go!

Many European Holiday Spots are Still Quite Warm.

Places like southern France and southern Spain. Greece offers plenty of reasons not to “light” there in the summer. Winter is comfortable for sightseeing while still allowing for an afternoon swim. Many airlines offer a great deal on ski packages for those who really embrace the snow and the cold. Love the adventure of it all.

European Christmas Markets.

The markets are hustling and bustling and alive with the season of festivities and there are so many uniquely unusual gifts can be purchased in these markets. Making your family especially happy, bright and cheery via special gift giving may be your prime motivation for a winter trip to Europe. Give that special person in your life the Christmas gift of plane tickets to a desired European spot and leave immediately after the holidays.

Crowds are Sparse.

Less crowds means more “elbow room.” All of the usual tourist attractions will be free of the crowds and make it possible to enjoy a much more pleasant experience. There are also festivities available during the winter months that you will never see in the summertime.

Whichever season you choose to travel to your most cherished European destination, planning and dreaming are the key elements that will open you to the pleasure of a wonderful experience. There are a number of Europe tour packages at great prices available at the moment.

Photo Friday: Sintra, Portugal
Friday, January 27th, 2012

Sintra, Portugal

This Photo Friday from Sintra, Portugal is from Facebook Fan Nan LaCaille, who left her job in August 2010 due to inevitable company wide layoffs.

“I sold everything I owned to be free of rent, bills, you name it, and to have finances for travel. What I hoped would happen with my career is that I would discover alternative ways to live, create art and design, to be more independent and free. I’m still in that process. I’ve found much inspiration in this period, made many more friends from all over, and I wish everyone a moment to mix up their lives a little to get more flavor from it!”

You can catch up on Nan’s travels throughout Europe as well as her design work on her site “Nan – Now & Next“.

How do you hope your career break will reshape your career?

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

The Anticipation of a RTW Trip
Monday, July 18th, 2011

It’s common to experience a variety of emotions in the weeks leading up to your career break departure date. In the two weeks before Val Bromann departed on her career break, she still didn’t feel like it was her trip that she was about to depart on. She shares with us the emotions that she experienced before departing earlier this month. You can follow along on her journey on her personal blog and also on Twitter: @sillyamerica – Val also writes about roadside attractions at Silly America.

Venice, ItalyTwo Weeks to Go

People keep telling me that Berlin has good currywurst. A fact that would appeal to me if only I enjoyed eating sausage. Besides that, I don’t know anything to do or see or eat in Berlin.

When, in February, I booked a plane ticket there I figured that I had plenty of time to sort such things out. But now it’s June and I’m leaving in two weeks and have hardly picked up a guidebook. Life happened, work happened, extreme procrastination that haunted me throughout 20 years of school happened.

And I now have two more weeks to figure out everything I’m going to be doing for the next year. Berlin is just the first stop of many, each I’m less prepared for than the last.

The idea of taking a round the world trip had been buzzing in my head for years. I’m not sure how, exactly, it got there. In grad school I took a travel writing class and while everyone else was talking about backpacking Europe or living in Mongolia, I wrote about taking a Greyhound from Chicago to Milwaukee. A few years back while on a three-week European vacation a friend mentioned how he’d heard of people traveling for a year on a round the world ticket and was contemplating doing it some day. In both of those instances I thought to myself “I could never do that.” I don’t know what happened that changed my mind, although I’m still not sure anything actually did. I’m still not convinced that indefinite travel is something I am capable of doing. But I suppose I’m going to find out.

Over a year ago I decided that in July of this summer I would leave my job to backpack through Europe. I would see the world and go to all the places I never thought I’d go. I ended up choosing Berlin as my first stop simply because it was the cheapest one-way ticket I could find.

It still doesn’t feel like I’m the one taking this trip. Like I quit my job and in a weeks time will never have to go back to the opera house where I worked for the last four and a half years. Like I booked a one-way ticket to Europe with no itinerary, no exact timeframe, no end date. It doesn’t feel like in two weeks time my whole life will be turned upside down and I’ll be living nomadically with only the things that can fit in my backpack.

Someone with a whole lot more courage than I have is taking this trip. Someone who isn’t shy and socially awkward is taking this trip. Someone who can read a map is taking this trip. I’m just watching it unfold.

Paris, FranceI still haven’t gotten to the point I normally do before a vacation where I’m crying and cursing for forcing myself to leave the comforts of my home. I’m not shaking and suffering insomnia and rationalizing reasons for me to cancel.

I suspect that will come in about a week and a half.

I’m still reminding myself that I’ve made no commitment other than to go to Berlin. I can come back home after a week and buy a condo and never leave it. I’m still reminding myself that since I’ve made no plans I don’t have to go to Asia. I don’t have to go to Poland. I can make my way from Berlin to London if I want and spend my days in a place where I can at least mostly understand what people are saying. Though, I do have a fear that I’m going to get to Berlin and never leave. Not because I’ll fall in love with the city but because I’ll never figure out how to buy a train ticket out of there.

I see a few all-nighters in the coming weeks as I desperately try to cram for what to do in Europe. I see many tears and some absolute refusal. I see feigning illness. I see calling my old roommate and telling her “never mind I’m staying.” I see telling my boss “oh you thought I was serious about quitting?”

Every time I prepare to travel I panic and cry and decide that I no longer want to go. But every time I return from travel I feel calm and rejuvenated and just plain happy.

So I’ll have to push back all those tears and all those excuses and force myself on that plane to Germany. Because I also see, in my next year of travel, adventure, art museums, cafes, monuments, new friends, wine, and maybe even some currywurst.

Val is a member of our Basic Training community, an efficient and supportive way to plan your extended travel. Need support to help turn your career break dreams into reality? Check out Career Break Basic Training.

A Year in Paris
Monday, June 6th, 2011

Jenny SundelIn the months leading up to her 33rd birthday, Jenny Sundel’s high-paying, but deeply unsatisfying interim job ended. After a decade of working around the clock – and sleeping next to her blackberry! – she knew she needed a break. “That only crystallized further when I attempted to find another job, right smack dab in the middle of a recession no less. ‘Knowing your background as a freelancer, are you sure you could truly be happy in an office,’ asked one interviewer. ‘Um uh um uh um uh um,’ I stammered. Needless to say, they gave the job to someone eIse.”

Jenny was so burnt out that she could no longer imagine returning to her prior freelance life either. “I had lost all motivation to hustle for assignments along with any passion for my work. I felt disillusioned, purpose-less and un-inspired. And all this right as I was turning 33, otherwise known as the Jesus Year. It was the perfect time for a reinvention.” Jenny decided to move to Paris and shares with us how her life is changing

I always dreamed of a year in Europe, having taken several trips abroad from the time I turned 16. And I had been stashing money away for years due to the instability of freelancing. But that should be used for down payments, or riding out a down job market, or…Paris, as would come to me the weekend before my birthday after months of selling off my possessions to people who kept asking me if I was moving from Los Angeles, my home for eleven years. “Yes.” “Where?” “I’m not sure.”

Nearly two months after my birthday, I arrived in Paris in the middle of a snowstorm armed with my rusty high school French (sadly, not much has changed in that department!) and two contacts – an old kindergarten pal whom I had not seen in years and a Facebook “friend” who had written a letter on my behalf so I could secure a visa even though we had never met.

Eiffel TowerNotre Dame

Now, five months and three apartments later, I have made friends from all over – the Philippines, the Czech Republic, and my beloved Italy, which I have already visited twice since my arrival, lucky girl that I am. I have watched the sky change from moody grey to fairytale blue, spent all of my Euros on eye palettes and lipstick from Bourjois in a (failed) attempt to look French (on one particularly good day, I passed for Italian!), and learned to read a map so I can walk around this beautiful city rather than travel underground in the metro.

Not that I haven’t seen some uh-mazing sights on the subway, too, like the time I spotted a girl in heart tights and begged her to tell me where I could get them. (Yes, I bought the tights. No, I still don’t look French. That certain effortlessly chic je ne sais quoi? Turns out it’s not for sale. Trust me, I’ve looked. Plus, I still have a dopey smile plastered on my face – a dead foreigner giveaway.)

But there’s nothing like walking home along the Seine and spotting the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower every hour on the hour or looking out at the magical glow of the city perched atop one of the romantic bridges next to some couple making out (yes there is a reason it’s called the City of Light and the City of Love). In moments like these, I stop and think, “Wow, I live in Paris?!!” The surreal amazingness of it all washes over me at least once a week. Still.

But live here I do. I have my routines, my favorite walks, my go-to spots: underneath the bridge in Ile St. Louis where I often see brides posing for photos – turns out I’m not the only one who likes the Notre Dame backdrop; the café in Saint Germain with the best people-watching and the flirtiest waiters; the Aussie-owned coffeehouse in my hood where I order green tea and asparagus soup – tres important after a steady diet of croissants and macarons; the Irish bar where they know how to make my fave hard drink when I tire of my usual kirs and vin rouge (note: vodka-soda-limes are soooo not French); the Apple store at the Louvre, where they have learned to…tolerate my tech tantrums; Le Bon Marche where I drool all over the dessert case in their food hall and the tres chic (but way out-of-my-budget) designer duds in the adjoining department store.

Macarons in ParisNapping Cat in Paris

I no longer get chastised daily (just every other day?!) since I have learned to follow the unspoken rules here, or at least knowingly break them. “Bon appetit,” someone will undoubtedly say with a smirk if I choose to eat my pain au chocolat as I walk down the street rather than on a bench or in a café. When I forget to mind my manners and ask the salespeople for what I want as soon as I approach, “Bonjour,” they will remind me before forcing me to repeat my question after a proper greeting. And I still pat myself on the back when I order something in French and actually get what I think I ordered. (Although, after five months, perhaps I should set the language bar a bit higher?!)

I have given French people directions (ok, just the once, but still!); held an entire conversation in (broken) French with a locksmith when I could not open my door despite having my key in my hand; and found escargot totally palatable! There have been plenty of other surprises along the way, too. First, that I don’t actually have to know French to live in France since most people speak English (but I really should); that accomplishing a simple errand can often take all day and require a mound of paperwork; that I cannot subsist on croissants and cigarettes alone (try as I might!); and I will let just about anyone walk me home if they let me practice my French in the process (just ask one persistent stranger who took me the long way on Valentine’s Day).

From the moment I made the decision to spend a year abroad, my life has no longer felt purposeless. Yes, there are new challenges now. Don’t even get me started on this whole double-kissing business. (Is it an air kiss? A real kiss? Just me pressing my cheek gently against someone else’s while making a smacking sound?) But my biggest concern is to make sure to “profit” as the Frenchies say, from every minute I’m here. I mean that’s a lot of pressure! Especially now that half of the year has passed. Have I seen enough? Done enough? Met enough people? Should I move to another country for the second half of the year or stay in Paris now that I have created a life here and actually built friendships?
Montmarte, ParisSacre Coeur, Paris

But these are high-class problems. I no longer feel that emptiness, that void, that lack of balance that came from only focusing on my career and getting ahead. In its place, I feel a passionate desire to discover new things and – cue the cheesy soundtrack – try to live life to the fullest. Not that I’ve figured it out, but I’ve had a helluva good time trying.

My absolute favorite thing to do is just roam around Paris without a plan and see where I end up. Now, after years upon years of worrying about what’s next, that is how I have chosen to navigate life, too.

Jenny Sundel has written for Los Angeles Times, USA Today, People, Women’s Wear Daily, and New York Post, among several other publications. She is currently detailing her 33rd year of life, otherwise known as The Jesus Year, on her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter at @JesusYear.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Have you ever asked ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ when contemplating your own career break travels? Janice Waugh of Solo Traveler shares with us how she and her family decided to go on their travels – and where she has arrived today.

[singlepic=1858,250,,,right]How does one balance the importance of living in the present with the need to prepare for the future? Some people don’t contemplate this issue. They simply do what comes naturally – sometimes suffering the consequences of favoring one over the other.

But, if you are one who does consider how to balance the two, where does the answer lie. And, what is the question?  If you love travel, the question is: should I stay or should I go?

We chose to go.
Late in 2000 my husband and I decided to go.


Favorite Gear: Knopf MapGuides
Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

[singlepic=1844,250,,,right]I’ve always been great at directions. During road trips, I always loved playing shotgun while flipping through road maps. But that was before GPS took that job away from me.

And even though I was won over by the iPhone for the map feature alone, I’m still a big fan of old school printed maps when exploring a new city. Even before leaving on a trip, I will carefully study maps of the destinations I’m going to – including locating places I’m staying and sites I like to see. This is unbelievably helpful for making me feel acclimated that much faster upon arrival.

I recently discussed how when traveling with a partner, it is best to recognize each others strengths. And for me, that is map reader and director. I love this role because if someone else is leading, I often don’t pay attention to our path. And being dependent on another person to get around fills me with a sense of helplessness, especially if we separate.

Of course I don’t like sticking out like a tourist by standing on the street corner with a giant unfolded map. That’s when studying a map before hand helps. But recently I found a more discreet, and extremely helpful map, that includes destination highlights – so you can even leave the guidebook at home!

During a recent trip to London, I picked up the Knopf MapGuide: London (Knopf Mapguides).

It is extremely compact and easily fit into my purse, so I could always have it with me. The sections are broken up by neighborhoods/districts, and in addition to the easy fold-out maps (which are inconspicuous), each section includes highlights like restaurants, bars, museums and other essential places to see. It also includes a map of the Underground, so taking public transportation was easy to navigate.

So on this trip I was definitely happy to put down the iPhone (with the roaming charges) and rely on my Knopf MapGuide. I’ll be certain to use these more on future trips!

[singlepic=1845,175,,,left] [singlepic=1846,175,,,left] [singlepic=1847,175,,,left]

Life on the Road: Ben & Alonna
Friday, November 20th, 2009

[singlepic=1580,300,,,right]It has been three months since the three couples from our Career Breaker Round-Up have hit the road, so we thought it would be fun to check in and see how they have been adjusting to life on the road! The fun part is that all three took off in completely different directions, so they’ll have very different cultural experiences to share as well.

We’re checking in last with Ben & Alonna, who started their travels in Europe, where they visited Amsterdam, Belgium, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Greece. They have just returned home to Boise, Idaho this week, where they will celebrate the holidays with family before hitting the road again.

What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to on the road?

Alonna: Two things….

Trip planning on-the-fly. I’m the travel planner of the two of us, and in the past I loved planning every detail of our 1-week vacations. However, for 3 months that’s not possible, and we wanted to allow flexibility to our schedule anyway. But finding somewhere to stay, transportation, and food is a decent amount of work while you’re traveling. At first it was an adjustment and I spent way too much time planning head. But now I’ve gotten used to finding a “good-enough” hotel, and I even think it’s better for negotiating rates when you’re booking last-minute.

Figuring out the right pace. Our initial itinerary seemed pretty relaxed – at least 3 nights in each place, and we prioritized where we wanted to go. But very early in our trip we realized that we needed to slow down. This meant staying in places longer, and also not packing too much into a single day. Instead of trying to see everything the guidebook tells us to, now we just pick a couple things and spend the rest of the time walking around and enjoying the city.

Ben: Everything. Living out of a suitcase, moving constantly, choosing from the same 5 shirts, trying to figure out what to eat every day, figuring out basic communication and orienteering in every new country, etc. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but it’s a lot of adjusting.


Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Need some inspiration on Italy? Check out some of Sherry Ott’s posts about her Italian experiences on OttsWorld. And you can use this useful Italy Travel Guide as another resource for your travels in Italy.

[singlepic=1260,200,,,right]Maps, Loose Wine, and Nudity – Adventures in Venice!
After traveling with David for 7 days – we have fallen into our travel groove. I think everyone we meet thinks that we are a couple as we are constantly bickering about things. Don’t get me wrong…the fun kind of bickering…not the ‘ball and chain’ bickering. So – we kind of fell into the acceptance of people thinking that we were a couple and didn’t really try to explain things unless people asked. So there was no better person to experience Venice, the most romantic city in the world, than with my gay boyfriend. Read More


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