Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Travel: Finding a New Future
Thursday, April 25th, 2013

As former workaholics it had taken decades for us to find ourselves in a fairly unique position. We were financially quite well-off, we both enjoyed successful and rewarding careers with the free added bonus of exhaustion and stress. We weren’t millionaires, but as quite a frugal couple, we’d never squandered our hard earned cash on opulent apparel, but we did splash out on vacations and new cars now and again.


We’d paid off the mortgage on our main home, purchased a vacation property overseas, we dined out most evenings of the week, and had all the latest gadgets and gizmos.  We had everything that the world associates with a happy, successful couple. There was one big problem; it really didn’t satisfy us.

We wanted to travel the world, and we were in our late 30s and early 40s, so the clock was ticking.  We were far too young to afford to retire for life, but could we turn our back on everything we’d worked so hard to accumulate and give it a go for a while?

Planning to take a Career Break Took Too Long

We spent over three years researching and looking into the possibility of how to make this a reality. Logically (that’s the logic of our past consumer world) said it just didn’t make sense for us to walk away from our high income jobs. The economy was in freefall, and getting back into the market after the trip would be near impossible. Then a whole series of further doubts and reasons not to make the jump came.

What about family and friends? Could we leave them for so long would we miss them too much?

What if we couldn’t live out of a backpack for months on end?

Would we miss our home comforts?

What if we get ill?

What if we get robbed?

These are just a small sample of the endless questions and doubts we wrestled with while holding firmly on to our dream of traveling long term.  In the end we found answers to all of these questions on sites like this and from other travel bloggers who had already made the leap and were sharing their experiences.

Travel Risks Vs Rewards

So we took the risk, quit our jobs in 2011, and started de-cluttering of our lives.

Clearing the house and our lives of possessions was liberating and at times a little sad. After 20 years together, some of the things we had to say farewell triggered fond memories. But in a way we now know we were just making lots of room for the countless new memories that would replace them on our trip.

We sold the cars and other things that we no longer needed, sorted all our files and paperwork, and made them available on-line so that we could access everything on the road.  We rented our home out and finally wrote a will (just in case).  We then said an emotional goodbye to family, friends, and work colleagues.  There was no turning back now, and we were excited (and also a little apprehensive) as we departed, in December 2011, to catch a flight to Australia.

We’ve been traveling ever since, and the trip has been the most amazing and fulfilling experience we have had together.  Experiencing so much each week, it’s difficult to express everything we’ve learned about us as a couple and individually, as we are still learning and changing.

Freedom to Travel Long-Term

Currently we’re living off our savings and rental income from our home, and plan to do so for a good while yet as we travel on a low-cost ‘flashpacking’ budget.  We will begin to think about working to fund our travels in the future, though not just yet.

We no longer measure success in terms of monetary wealth. We appreciate that there are few certainties in life (other than birth and death), so we are doing the best we can to fill the space between these with new experiences.  We have no regrets about what we have done. There are things and comforts from home we miss occasionally, but those emotions are fleeting as another experience smacks us in the face and reminds us how truly lucky we are.

Regrets About Leaving Our Home Behind?

We wish we’d started this journey sooner and not spent so many years trying to analyze the consequences. We initially intended to spend just a couple of years traveling around the world; however, our long-term plan is now to live a location independent life, picking up work when and where we can find it. Do we know how we are going to do that?  Not yet, but we have plenty of ideas, and we will look at them in more detail soon.

There is so much more we want to explore that we no longer want to return to the lives we once had, and also realize that you don’t need to win the lottery to do this. We’ve met many people of all ages and backgrounds who have very little in either savings or income, yet they still manage to fulfill their desire to travel by working temporarily in all manner of jobs around the world, and then using this cash to pay for their next adventure.

We have learned as the trip has progressed that things often work out better if you don’t rush them. The future comes every day, so if you miss today’s opportunity, another will be along tomorrow.

To find out more about people who left their jobs to travel, check out the following articles:

In 2011 Craig and John sold off most of their belongings, quit their jobs, and set off around the world.  They bought a one way ticket to Australia and have been heading west across the globe ever since. Their blog features destination travel advice and tips for the older long term traveler.  They travel in what they call the flashpacking style, avoiding shared dorms and bathrooms at all costs.  Their posts are accompanied with some great travel photography featuring the architecture, cultural treats, and people they meet on their travels.  They blog about their journey at flashpackatforty, or you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Teaching English Abroad: The International Career Break that Pays You to Travel & Boosts Your Resume
Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Are you looking to escape the corporate grind for a rewarding career break abroad than enables you to live in foreign country and become part of the local community?

Do you need a way to finance your international adventures?

Have you considered that international work experience can boost your resume and set you apart in a globalized economy and a competitive job market?


Why Consider Teaching English Abroad?

From Costa Rica and Chile to Cambodia and China, an estimated 250,000 English speakers gain employment each year teaching English abroad, making teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) one of the most viable ways for people from all background to get paid while living abroad.  You won’t get rich teaching English abroad, but in Europe and Latin America English teachers typically make enough to break even and live comfortably, while in Asia and the Middle East English teachers usually save 30%-50% of their salary each month after expenses, which is great for funding extra travel or perhaps making student loan payments.  In addition, you can enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in a foreign country as a local where you shop in local markets, live in a local neighborhood, and interact with members of the community on a level that even the most dedicated travelers almost never experience.

Teaching English Abroad as a Resume Booster

Whether you are looking to take a break from your current career or are just out of college and looking for ways to enhance your marketability to potential future employers or graduate schools, teaching English abroad can not  only provide a great international adventure, it can make for a serious resume booster as well.

  • * In a globalized economy where commodities, financial transactions, information, and people are crossing borders at ever-faster rates, international work experience is sought by employers in nearly every sector.
  • * Employers also increasingly prefer to hire people with experience interacting with others from different cultural backgrounds, and nothing embodies that more than living and working in a foreign country.

  • * Teaching English abroad will require you to develop organizational and communication skills, as well as the ability manage group settings – all skills that will serve you in whatever endeavors you pursue in the future.

  • * Working and traveling in a foreign country proves your ability to move out of your comfort zone, to take risks, and to adapt and confront new challenges.

  • * Graduate school programs, including law schools and MBA programs, increasingly seek those with an international background and “real world” work experience.

In addition, teaching and living abroad will set you apart from other applicants for jobs or graduate school who will otherwise hold similar qualifications to you.

Key Things to Know about Teaching English Abroad

  1. Take a TEFL certification course!  You don’t need background in teaching in education to teach English abroad, but a quality TEFL course will provide you with the skills you need to become a professional teacher, and most schools and language institutes require it. Also, quality TEFL schools will provide job placement assistance. Make sure you take an accredited TEFL course that meets international standards, including 100 hours of training and coursework, and 6-20 hours of live practice teaching and observation.  This is the equivalent of a four-week intensive class or an 11-13 week part-time or online class.

  2. Research as much as you can!  From interview procedures and hiring requirements to visa matters and salaries, all aspects of teaching English abroad will vary from country to country.  Here are some great resources for learning more:


Websites like and list thousands of job listings for English teaching positions all over the world and forums where English teachers and job seekers share their experiences and insights.

The International TEFL Academy website features hundreds of FAQs & Articles about teaching English in addition to country profiles for teaching English in more than 50 countries around the globe.  You can also call 773-634-9900 and speak to an expert advisor about all aspects of teaching English overseas.

While it’s written primarily for a British audience, Susan Griffith’s Teaching English Abroad is a great resource providing hundreds of pages of information about job markets for teaching English abroad, including country profiles, contact info for thousands of schools, volunteer organizations and recruiters.

Blogs – Many English teachers around the world write their own blogs that offer great first-hand insights into life abroad as an English teacher and many include great job-hunting tips as well.

And finally, don’t be intimidated if you don’t have prior teaching experience or a background in education. Approximately 80% of those teaching English abroad don’t have prior experience and by taking a TEFL course you will gain the skills you need to enjoy a rewarding experience abroad as an English teacher.

Good Luck!

John Bentley is a Senior Admissions Advisor at the International TEFL Academy, which trains and certifies 1,200 people a year to teach English abroad and provides lifetime job search guidance to all students and graduates.  He holds a BA from Harvard University in Middle Eastern Studies and an MSJ from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.  While at Harvard, John was a primary author for the Egypt-Israel edition of the famous Let’s Go! travel guide series and he has worked in the field of international travel and education throughout his career.  He also grew up overseas in Cairo, `Egypt and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe.

For more information about TEFL Certification and teaching English abroad and to request a free brochure and country chart, please call 773-634-9900 or visit:



Photo Friday: Antarctica
Friday, January 25th, 2013

Today’s Photo Friday comes from the ends of the earth – Antarctica! Meet, Plan, Go! co-founder Sherry Ott recently cruised to Antarctica with her father and had plenty of great stories and photos to show for it.

Interested in checking out Antarctica on your career break? Don’t miss Sherry’s post about what to expect when cruising to the seventh continent. And to read more about Sherry’s travels, check out or follow her on Twitter as @ottsworld.

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Photo Friday: Best of 2012
Friday, December 21st, 2012

As 2012 winds down, we thought we’d take a look back at some of our favorite pictures featured on Photo Friday over the last year:

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Mathura, India

Floating Market in Indonesia

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Masaya, Nicaragua

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

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Photo Friday: Everest Base Camp
Friday, December 14th, 2012

This week’s Photo Friday comes from Facebook fans and three-time career breakers Kip Patrick and Liz Zipse.  This shot was taken at Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal, eight months into their third career break. The Khumbu Icefall is in the background.

Liz and Kip also believe in giving back and started their website, 1 of 7, in honor of their goal to spend 1 day of each week volunteering or giving back in some way – check it out to read more about their travels or follow Kip’s blog for the Huffington Post.

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On the Road Recap 2012
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

From the thrill of fulfilling a life-long dream to work with elephants to the dismay of a disappointing homestay to the joys of traveling as a family, our career breakers have experienced a lot this year! As 2012 winds down, we wanted to recap some of our favorite posts about life on the road.

Crewing in the South Pacific

Kelly Wetherington has been traveling since she first escaped her cubicle in 2007. Her insatiable curiosity for the world and thirst for adventure have led her to trek, dive, sail, zip, surf, climb, and paddle her way through 25 countries across Central America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. Last spring, she shared the story of landing her first crewing job:

As I knock, knock, knocked on the window of a sleek catamaran with a shiny teak deck, I wondered, is this appropriate behavior? Had I been visiting a house, I would have knocked on the front door, but climbing aboard seemed intrusive. No one emerged from below deck. Maybe they were out, or sleeping, or simply don’t open the door for strangers?

I scribbled the boat’s name, Summer Sol, in my notebook, under the column “try again later,” next to growing list of boats that did not need crew. Surrounded by hundreds of masts from around the world, Thomas and I were hopeful we could find a Captain to take us with them to the South Pacific. Continue…

Homestay Hits & Misses

Katie Aune spent her 13-month career break traveling through the former Soviet Union. Along the way, she stayed with several host families and shared her thoughts on the ups and downs, as well as advice on what to consider if you’re planning to do a homestay.

As I prepared for my career break and considered the different things I would do along the way, staying in a home stay was high on my list. Everything I read indicated that homestays would be a great way to connect with locals and immerse myself in a different culture – exactly what I was hoping to do on my travels. I imagined a homestay as being a true cultural exchange.

I did my first homestay almost right off the bat, just two weeks into my journey through the former Soviet Union. It was part of a volunteer program that had me living with a family in St. Petersburg, Russia and tutoring the children in English. Unfortunately, the situation was a huge disappointment. Not only were the living conditions not as had been represented to me, the family didn’t even seem to want me there. The children had no interest in being tutored and during the entire four weeks I was there, no one in the family asked me a single thing about myself or opened up anything to me about their lives. I just felt like I was in the way. Continue…

Regrouping on the Road

Leora Krause is a travel addict who started circling the globe when she was old enough to vote.  Recently downsized from corporate America, she enjoyed her second career break in 2012, traveling through Thailand, Vietnam, India and Nepal. She wrote about having to regroup after an airline she was supposed to fly went out of business.

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. Continue…

Career Breaks: They’re Not Just for Backpackers

Larissa & Michael Milne turned 50, sold everything and embarked on a 1+ year round-the-world trip in August 2011. In this post, they shared how they made their career break work with rolling suitcases and apartment rentals.

When we first started telling people about planning our round-the-world trip we often got the comment: “You two are going to backpack?

The short answer was “no.” We’re in our fifties, so this didn’t seem like a good time to start teaching our old spines new tricks. Yet this is often the image of a round-the-world journey: people with overloaded backpacks trudging through airports and train stations. But there are alternatives. Continue…

Pachyderm Dreams

After leaving her job as an associate with a large law firm, Robin Devaux spent approximately eleven months traveling the world with her husband, Pierre, visiting five continents and 24 countries. She also got to finally fulfill her life-long dream of working with elephants.

I felt a bit panicky when I realized, while speaking with the bed and breakfast owner in India, that I might never work with elephants.

My husband and I were staying in the woman’s home in a rural part of Kerala, chatting with her about the wild elephants that had wreaked havoc on her banana trees the year before, when the thought of elephants caused my heart to sink. I began to tune out what she was telling us as I recalled my myriad childhood career aspirations – elephant caretaker, and also naturalist, park ranger, veterinarian, journalist, jockey, novelist. In my mind, I watched these varied and utterly incompatible aspirations fall to my sides like leaves. It struck me then as it never had previously: There was so much I had wanted to do, and so little time. Continue…

Around the World as a Family

The Van Loen family left their “normal” life in July 2012 to spend a year slow traveling around the world. Here, they share their rationale for hitting the road as a family.

Most folks travel in their twenties when they have few responsibilities or in their retirement when they have fulfilled them. We thought we’d try splitting the difference.  As a family we value experiences — learning by doing — which is why we chose an alternative school for our children that used the Expeditionary Learning (ELOB) approach. Our concept for our around-the-world (RTW) trip emerged primarily from that core value.  We talked a lot about whether we wanted to travel in between school years, or take the kids out of school for the whole year. This decision was made a bit easier by the fact that Anne is a teacher, and we can home school the kids for the year without major impacts to their overall school journey. Continue…

Want to read more?

You can find all of our guest posts from career breakers on the road HERE.

Photo Friday: Turkmenistan
Friday, December 7th, 2012

This week’s Photo Friday comes from former career breaker and Minneapolis Meet, Plan, Go! host Katie Aune. In this picture, Katie is standing on the plateau above the Yangykala Canyon in Turkmenistan. She was the only tourist in sight as she camped there for one night as part of an 11 day trip through the former Soviet country known as the “North Korea of Central Asia.”

Katie recently returned to the United States after 13 months of traveling through all 15 countries of the former Soviet Union. You can read more about her adventures on Katie Going Global or follow her on Twitter as @katieaune.

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Photo Friday: Florence, Italy
Friday, November 30th, 2012

Today’s Photo Friday comes from yet another family on the road! Facebook fan Anthony Graziano submitted this shot with his family taken in Florence, Italy – 104 days into their career break. You can read more about their travels on their blog, Over the Hills and Far Away.

Have you taken a career break with your family? We’d love to hear about it!

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Volunteer Abroad with a Microfinance Organization
Monday, November 26th, 2012

Fatuma is a talented local carpenter in Makeni, Sierra Leone. His work is extremely popular but his workshop space is small and lacks proper cover, making work in the rainy season very difficult.  He also lacks some basic equipment that could help his business to grow.  Fatuma does not want a hand out, he wants a microloan that will give him a small cash injection to expand his business.

Microfinance as a concept has been around since the 1970’s. It aims to reverse the age-old vicious circle of low income, low saving and low investment, into a virtuous circle of “low income, injection of credit, investment, more income, more savings, more investment, more income.”

In its most basic and earliest form, microcredit is a single-development intervention, with loans being the sole service provided by a non-governmental organization (NGO) or bank. When microfinance began, the extension of financial services to the poor was truly radical. For the first time, conventional financial tools were made available to populations that were previously denied such access and were often blatantly discriminated against. The concept has since rapidly evolved and expanded. In 2007, 3,500 Microfinance Institutes reported that they were reaching nearly 155 million clients. According to a CGAP survey in the same year, nearly US$12 billion was committed by donors in support of microfinance.

Despite the development of microfinance, Fatuma currently does not qualify for a loan because he is illiterate and has not been keeping records of his accounts.  He knows his trade and how to run the rest of his business inside out, but he is lacking the business training to qualify for a loan.

Capacity building organization The Collective – Sierra Leone has partnered with Salone Microfinance Trust (SMT) to try and change this. They are bringing talented professionals on a career break to Makeni to train and mentor clients like Fatuma so they can gain access to finance. Volunteers work alongside local staff to deliver a training program to provide skills such a basic book keeping and quality control. Once the loans have been awarded, they will provide a mentoring service so these can be best utilized. Volunteers will work closely with loan officers to ensure that these services can be provided long after their departure.  By collaborating with SMT on this pioneering new mentoring and training program, The Collective – Sierra Leone is utilizing the skills of professionals around the world who want to make a positive change.  This will expand SMT’s services beyond being just a loan provider, increase their potential client base and reduce the likelihood of people defaulting on their loans.

Volunteering with a microfinance organization provides the perfect opportunity for career breakers to step out of their comfort zone while still utilizing the skills they have gained in the workplace. Projects can give volunteers the chance to meet small business owners, and provide training and mentoring to help their business grow. You do not have to be an ex-finance director to be successful either.   Our current microfinance volunteer believes that the ideal candidate should have a banker’s brain and a social workers heart. The most important thing is to have empathy and understand the client’s problems which are often personal rather than financial. A successful microfinance project can also provide invaluable transferable skills and assist you in a change in career path. It will show future employers that you are willing to do something out of the ordinary and are capable of thinking outside the box in a totally different environment.

A career break is about stepping out of your comfort zone to experience life from a different perspective and rediscover what makes you happy. But you often find out most about yourself when you set out to help others. A career break is a chance to utilize your professional skills in a place where you can really make a difference and give people like Fatuma the chance to build a business and support his family.

For more information on microfinance or to learn how you can support business owners like Fatuma, visit

Photo Friday: Myanmar
Friday, November 23rd, 2012


This week’s Photo Friday comes from the Inle Lake area of Myanmar. Meet, Plan, Go! Chicago panelists Bessie and Kyle Crum took the shot during a row boat trip through nearby canals and villages. You can read more about their experience in Through the Hidden Waterways of Inle.

Bessie and Kyle spent more than four years traveling around the world before settling back home in Chicago earlier this year. For more about their travels, visit their website,, follow them on Twitter as @OurOwnPath or on Facebook.

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