Posts Tagged ‘personal experience’

3 Women, 3 Trips Inspired by Meet, Plan, Go
Monday, February 25th, 2013

Back in the fall of 2010, three future career breakers’ lives converged.  Shortly after attending Meet, Plan, Go! events in September 2010, Katie Aune, Val Bromann and Jannell Howell signed up for our Career Break Basic Training course and set the gears in motion for nearly simultaneous trips around the world.

Each woman’s trip was sparked by a strong desire to travel and see more of the world than they had in the past, with major birthday milestones factoring in as well: Val bought her one way ticket on her 30th birthday, Katie hopped a one-way flight to Helsinki on her 35th birthday and Jannell wanted to travel as a way to celebrate turning 40.

Val departed in July 2011 and traveled for 15 months before heading back home to Chicago in October 2012. Starting in Berlin, she stopped in Poland, Belgium, Spain and Turkey before moving on to Southeast Asia, where she spent the bulk of her trip exploring Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. The highlight of her trip was learning to surf in Bali. “I fell every single time, banged my knee, and could hardly even stand up on the board,” says Val. “But at the same time, I was having an amazing time. Surfing was something I had always wanted to do, and it was so much fun…even when I was falling.

Jannell traveled from January to November 2012, making a few stops in the United States before heading to Tokyo, Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Dubai, London, Rome, Spain and then back to the U.S. She counts among her trip highlights walking around the Taj Mahal at dawn, riding a camel in the desert, eating Momos made with buffalo meat, looking out from the world’s tallest building and finding complete bliss in the English countryside.

Katie took an unusual route on her trip, focusing on the 15 countries of the former Soviet Union. Departing in August 2011, she spent the next 13 months visiting Finland, Russia, the Baltics, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, the Caucasus, Italy, Turkey, Central Asia and Spain, before finally returning to the United States at the end of September 2012. Her favorite moments included running a marathon in Estonia, hiking in Siberia, teaching English in Tajikistan, camping among Silk Road ruins in Turkmenistan and joining a pilgrimage to an underground mosque in Kazakhstan.

None of the three trips was without its struggles, although most were limited to fleeting feelings of homesickness or exhaustion from being on the move too quickly. Jannell explains, “[a]fter being on the go for about two months, with no stay longer than 4 nights and often being in transit overnight, I felt exhausted. I was able to rejuvenate by staying put for a while, being alone with sightseeing kept to a minimum.”  For Katie, her lowest point may have been at the beginning of her trip when she started a volunteer homestay program in Russia, living in difficult conditions with a family that didn’t seem to care she was there.  Val’s low point came when her hostel in the Philippines was robbed:

All of mine that was taken was the charger to my laptop (luckily the computer itself was locked up, I had just neglected the chord), but some new friends had lost phones or their laptops. It made me feel so vulnerable and unsafe. For the next few days none of us could shake it. Luckily, with the help of some tracking software he’d installed, one of my friends was able to track down the thief and got his stuff back.

All three women credit Meet, Plan, Go! with making their trips possible.  “Before attending Meet, Plan, Go, I didn’t know anyone who had traveled long-term,” says Katie. “All of a sudden here were all these people who had done it and it became so much more real. Within six months of attending that first event, I had set my departure date.

Likewise, Jannell says “Meet, Plan, Go introduced me to many different travelers – both those in the planning stages of their first journey and those that had been traveling for years.  Before making those connections, I felt alone in my travel goals and less confident about my plans.

For Val, Meet, Plan, Go! provided both inspiration and resources, inspiring her to expand her original Europe-focused itinerary to include Asia and offering much-needed information on tricky topics like health insurance.

So what’s next for these world travelers?

Katie has settled back in Chicago, working in her previous field of alumni relations and development and enjoying the opportunity to rediscover a city she loves. She continues to write about her trip and re-entry experience at Katie Going Global. Val also landed back in Chicago, but only temporarily. She will hit the road again in mid-March, this time heading to Central America to learn Spanish and continue her career break for at least another six months. You can follow her adventures on Jannell has relocated to New York City, where she is working on launching a new business, Your Digital Marketer, pursuing a location independent lifestyle and continuing to blog at Travel Junkie’s World Tour.

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.

Housesitting: The Last Frontier in Budget Travel
Monday, November 5th, 2012

MeetPlan….Go ahead and extend your travels for a few months longer.

Or, Go ahead and cut your travel budget in half.

Either way, we’re about to make your travels a whole lot better.

Picture this: Living for several months in a beach-side bungalow on a Caribbean island, filling your days with scuba diving and sipping cocktails on your patio while the fresh ocean breeze washes over you. Or how about spending a few months bouncing around Europe, wandering mouth agape through the streets of Rome and then cycling through the quaint French countryside, returning each night to a cozy residence filled with all the comforts of home.

Now, imagine doing this all for free.

It’s called house-sitting, and it may just be the last frontier in budget travel. House-sitting is essentially an exchange of services – you take care of a property (and often pets) in exchange for free accommodations while the home-owner is away.

Not only can you travel on a much slimmer budget (or, enjoy a much longer period of travel), but you can gain an experience like none other. Forget racing on and off tourist buses to see the big sights – instead, immerse yourself in a local neighborhood and really get a feel for life in another land. Enjoy a slower pace of travel and your own space to relax in after a long day of exploring.

We’re currently on our eleventh house-sitting job in three years, and it is our favorite way to see the world!

We’ve been able to explore nine different countries from one week to six months, and have easily saved over $30,000 in the process. We’ve strolled on that Caribbean island, taken care of a 10th century manor in Ireland, and immersed ourselves in a remote corner of Turkey. And even though there are moments when it isn’t all that glamorous – when we’re chasing other people’s pets through muddy fields or cleaning up after a tropical storm – it has given us authentic local experiences that are impossible to beat.

From taking a two week vacation, to a year long career break, to a perpetual life of travel, there are house-sits for everyone, and they are all guaranteed to give you a truly unique travel experience.

Learn how to get started today!

We’ve put our extensive house-sitting experience into How to Become a House-Sitter and See the World – an eBook jam-packed with information on how to become a house-sitter. It includes:

? A thorough analysis of the house-sitting websites to help you decide which to join;

? Recommendations on how to write a successful profile and application letter, including examples;

? Tips on how to be a good house-sitter;

? Plenty of resources to help you plan for your house-sitting gig;

? A discount to one of the major house-sitting sites that almost covers the cost of the book!

? And much more!

Click here to buy How to Become a House-Sitter and See the World for just $19.99.

Dalene and Pete Heck are a Canadian couple who sold everything in 2009 to travel the world. They have spent over half of the last three years house-sitting in places like Ireland, Belgium, Turkey, Spain, Honduras, Canada, London and New York.You can follow their travels at, and find them on Facebook  and Twitter.

Making a Permanent Escape
Monday, October 29th, 2012

For months, people asked me, “what will this do to your career?

I was tired of answering the question. I knew there was another path for me. But I was scared of removing the proverbial golden handcuffs. In 2009, I was a seventh year associate on partnership track at the largest law firm in the world. After a severe bout of tendonitis, all thanks to what is known as “document review” in the legal biz, I was sure I needed a change.

At the time, though, I felt lost. I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I wasn’t sure that I could walk away from the title that was almost within my reach. My husband, Eric, and I considered putting all of our belongings in a few suitcases and moving to Spain or Italy to live life more slowly, to savor food and wine, to enjoy each other and our life together. At the time, though, we weren’t ready for so permanent a change. And so the decision to travel the world for a year evolved. Our friends termed it the “Master Plan.” Little did we know then what our Master Plan would ultimately become.

Making the decision was the easy part. Telling my boss about the Master Plan? Not so fun. Still, I found the courage and waltzed into his office one morning and asked him if I could take a leave of absence. He was pretty stunned and requested that I stay until the end of a big project. Let me translate that. The big project could have delayed me for 18 to 24 months. I considered this option, knowing that 24 months could turn into four years, knowing that there would always be some reason to stay.

It was time to jump, to take a risk. After months of discussion and negotiation I was told I could take a leave of absence, with qualifications. I quit my job with an understanding that I was leaving on good terms and would need to reapply if I wanted to return in a year. My job was not waiting for me when I returned. Although some partners continue to sell my leave to naive young law students as a “sabbatical,” they’ve got it all wrong. I had to quit, remember?

After 14 months of traveling through Australia, New Zealand, Asia, South America, and Europe, I emailed my boss and expressed my interest in returning to the firm, my interest in willingly putting the golden handcuffs back on. I was good at my job. I thought this would be easy. I was wrong. I was forced to run the gamut, interviewing with over 20 different attorneys, many of whom I knew intimately.

Although they ultimately made me an offer, I was “punished” for taking time off. They decreased my associate class year and salary. But on the bright side, I was back on partner track, and, most importantly, was employed after 14 months out of the game. The “sabbatical” seemed to have little effect on my “long term” career. They would still allow me to practice law for another 20 or 30 years. Lucky me! In just one month, I was sailing back into my “normal” life. Or so I thought.

[W]e always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.” – Paulo Coelho

In the end, my biggest problem was readjusting to the monotony of my day-to-day – taking the Metro, sitting at the same desk every day, eating at the same boring restaurants in my “faux urban” neighborhood, and dealing with friends who just did not understand my fascination with seeing the world, with pursuing a different life, the right life for me. I had only been to 40 countries. There was so much more to see and experience!

Another Escape? Already?

Eric and I realized quickly that we were unhappy – call it Life ADD. We started to save our money and live more simply. My hope was to make partner and stay for another 5 years. But I lasted just a little over two. I was thirty days from making partner and still walked away. Why? Because I was working crazy hours, counting days until I found the courage to quit or collapsed from the exhaustion and stress. What’s worse, I was bored. And so I did quit.

Today, Eric and I are off on the road again, having just started our second round-the-world (RTW) adventure. This time it is a permanent one. Our first trip whet our appetite for adventure – a more simple life, with new and unique experiences every day. It also made it blatantly clear that we are free spirits, destined to settle somewhere outside of the United States and outside of the predictable life. Most importantly, it helped me to discover that I don’t belong in an office.

When I left the firm for the second time, my boss, management, and HR told me that I could return whenever I pleased. I am not sure quite how sincere that was, but it is nice to know that it was offered. Will I ever go back to the rat race? I doubt it. We have a nest egg and wanderlust, and we will keep traveling until we find someplace where Life ADD is a farfetched proposition. We are not on the “Master Plan 2.” This time, it’s a “Life Plan.” I am certain of one thing. I never want to sit in a sterile office under fluorescent lights for 60 or 70 hours a week again!

After 10 years as an attorney, Amber Hoffman left her job at the largest law firm in the world and decided to start living her life. She is now a recovering tax lawyer, traveling the world with her husband, exploring Europe, Latin America, and ultimately settling into a happy existence somewhere in Asia, where her passion really lies, outside the law. You can read more about her travels on With Husband in Tow or follow her on Twitter as @ashworldtravel.

How to Make Friends on the Road
Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

We are excited to have Evelyn Hannon giving the keynote speech at Meet, Plan, Go! in Toronto on October 16.  Evelyn was the first Canadian to look at travel strictly from a woman’s point of view. Since 1994 her mandate has been to inspire females worldwide to travel safely and well. Her award-winning website, and her monthly travel tip newsletter connect 64,000 readers and journalists in over 100 countries. She’s circumnavigated the globe, explored 65 countries and this Fall will be reporting on India and then spending New Year’s Eve in Antarctica. Now 72, Evelyn is considered the “Grandmother of Women’s Travel.” Today, she shares her best advice for making friends while traveling.

Remember back to your first day in grade one? You came into school excited but a bit worried that you wouldn’t have anybody to talk to. Who will you play with at recess? Who will sit beside you in the lunch room? Well, hold that memory because setting out on a solo journey could include much the same set of emotions.

I’ve never been afraid to travel solo. I’ve been doing it for the last 37 years and I love it but I do work on ways of meeting folks along the way. It’s important to me. I feel cheated if I don’t connect with the locals. I’m bored if I don’t chat with other travelers along the way.

Here are eight of my tried and true tips for making friends along the way…

1. Seek out connections even before you leave home. Chat with women who’ve traveled before you. Make note of their tips, advice and contacts. Some of your best adventures will begin that way.

2. Speak to your friends and neighbours who were born in the country you’re travelling to.There is a grandmother here or a sister there who will happily provide some wonderful connections for you. (And, even if they can’t suggest contacts to you they will certainly share their expertise on how to dress appropriately and stay safe. This is a perfect time to ask.

3. Dress appropriately. Do your research before you leave and find out what is suitable so that you don’t offend the culture you are in. For tips from others who have travelled before you check out, What Should I Wear, Where.

4. Join SERVAS, an international network of hosts and travelers building peace by providing opportunities for personal contact between people of diverse cultures and backgrounds.

 5. Many solo travellers tend to choose hostels because they are looking for travelling partners. Take advantage of that fact. Don’t like eating dinner alone? Pack your favorite tunafish casserole recipe and offer to cook dinner for your new hostelling pals. You will be a very popular traveller.

6. Look for restaurants that offer communal seating at large dining room tables. Journeywoman has tried this at the warm and welcoming Pain Quotidian bakery, bar and cafe all rolled into one as well as Wagamama, a chain that serves tasty noodles dishes worldwide. The fun part of these restaurants is you never know who will sit down beside you and what the conversation will yield.

7. Are you a runner? Ask around – check on bulletin boards, the internet and sports shops for groups that you could join for fun and exercise when you’re away.

8. Finally, a word of caution. Not everyone you meet has pure intentions. That said, never tell a new pal you’ve met on the road which hotel or hostel and (gasp!) what room he/she can find you in. If arranging a rendez-vous meet the person at a neutral yet busy spot. Leave a note in your room describing who you are meeting and where. In case you run into trouble authorities will, at least, have some idea of your circumstances.

Safe journeys, everybody!

Join us on October 16 at one of our 10 Meet, Plan, Go!

events across North America:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

Photo Friday: Bhaktapur, Nepal
Friday, September 28th, 2012

Today’s Photo Friday comes courtesy of Russ Brooks – former career breaker and panelist for Meet, Plan, Go! New York.

Russ took this shot in Bhaktapur, Nepal and writes, “different places and different people, but always the same smiles and curiosity.”

Enjoy more of Russ’ photography on his website, Brooks on Break, follow him on Twitter at @brooksonbreak or hear about his travels in person on October 16 in New York City!


Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

How to Stay in Shape on the Road
Wednesday, September 26th, 2012


As I started planning my career break, I struggled with how I would manage to stay in shape on the road without a gym to go to every day.

I had been looking for a theme to keep me sane in my travels and thought what better challenge to keep me motivated than trying to stay in shape while traveling around the world?

Searching online for how other travelers dealt with this dilemma yielded little useful advice. Sure I could just run every day but that would quickly get boring, not too mention the pounding my knees would take.

Pulling what I could from crossfit sites and conversations with trainers, I started to assemble a word document of body weight exercises and routines that I could do on the road.

From day one of my trip, I have been committed to doing some type of exercise each day. This has continued despite my fair share of travel days and spending three weeks in Tunisia and Egypt during Ramadan.

My 5 pieces of advice for working out successfully on the road:

1. Find exercises that require a minimum of space – not having a gym nearby or sharing space at a hostel often means space is at a premium. Luckily body weight exercises like pushups, squats, sit-ups and burpees can be done almost anywhere. If you keep going long enough I promise you will get a good sweat going. And don’t worry if you think you look ridiculous. On several occasions people have come up to me in the middle of a workout to ask what I’m doing to see if they can do the same thing at home!

2. Keep it creative and fun – finding exercises that can be done in confined spaces encourages creativity. Be on the lookout for anything that can be used as exercise equipment. I have used pull up bars in neighborhood parks, a gas canister used to heat a kitchen stove for bicep curls and bedposts for dips. My backpack also serves as a great way to weight train nearly all of my muscles. And if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing then it will never become a habit. There are always opportunities out there to go on a long bike ride, spend an afternoon hiking or even find a local gym. So reward yourself with activities that you like.

3. Schedule exercise for a similar time each day if you can– this one is tricky on days when you’re traveling or have scheduled activities but penciling in my workout each morning gives me the energy to start each day with a sense of accomplishment. Think of the word routine as something to look forward to rather than with a sense of dread. That’s why its so important that you find workouts that are fun.

4. Keep an exercise log – documenting my fitness activities has allowed me to monitor my progress and serves as motivation for exercising each day. Incorporating this into weekly posts on my blog motivates me to push myself even more knowing that my friends and family can see what I’m doing.

5. Run or jog as a way to get acclimated to a new place – I love to go jogging whenever I arrive in a new destination. There is nothing better for helping you become oriented to a place and allowing you to see things you might otherwise miss. Plus in my case it’s been pretty cool to jog along the Nile in Egypt, up the steps of a Roman theater in Tunisia and along train tracks in Sicily.

Working out on the road is a great way to stay in shape and blow off some steam. Some of my best ideas for my blog and in planning my trip come during my workouts, which is the one time every day I know I will have all to myself.

Five years out of college, Matt Sussman could no longer ignore his constant itch to travel. Leaving his stressful financial job in New York behind, he is following his dream of traveling the world. Meandering solo since July, Matt loves exploring new cultures and meeting new people all the while continuing to find time to exercise. You can read about his adventures and follow his workout routines at

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

Pachyderm Dreams
Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

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.

In my actual life, I chose to be a lawyer, figuring that law school would be a good way to kill some time while I figured out if it was what I really wanted to do. And then, suddenly, I was 33 years old and I had spent seven years litigating with a large law firm – a job I quit so I could travel the world with my husband. How could I ever, at my age, suddenly decide to scrap my years of higher education and toil as an attorney to give elephant training a try (and still leave time for everything else I still wanted to do)? As I thought about this more deeply, an existential gloom settled in that I had a hard time shaking over the next several weeks.

That one of my dreams involved elephants made the thought of letting that dream go particularly bitter. Elephants have always struck a special chord for me; there is just something about the contrast of their immense size with their gentleness; their intelligence; their playfulness; their soulful eyes. Simply imagining spending my days working alongside them was enough to bring a smile to my face.

As our travels continued through India, I let some of my angst go and focused on enjoying our nomadic existence. By the time we returned home for Thanksgiving and began to ponder our next move, I had more or less forgotten about my crisis. As was my habit when we were in the planning process, I picked up the Lonely Planet guide for our next country – Thailand – and began to leaf through the first few pages. The photo that caught my eye right away was of a baby elephant, happily wallowing in a mud puddle, surrounded by the sturdy, protective legs of the herd. “Elephant Nature Park,” the caption read, going on to describe this sanctuary for rescued Asian elephants near Chiang Mai where visitors could spend a week or more volunteering with the elephants.

Though I was instantly sold on the idea of spending some time at the Park, it was not until my husband and I were actually there, spending our mornings shoveling elephant poo and our afternoons feeding the elephants bunches of small bananas and halved green pumpkins, that I realized what I was doing. I was working with elephants. It wasn’t my career, and the elephants were not exactly dependent on me for survival (the park had people who were paid for that), but here I was, fulfilling some idea I had had of myself as a child.

I felt slightly giddy every time I placed a piece of fruit on an elephant’s outstretched trunk and felt it wrap around the food, gentle yet so strong, twisting as it maneuvered the food into its mouth. And I still remember the thrilling terror I felt when I learned just how strong those appendages could be, when an ornery elephant grabbed my arm with her trunk and began pulling me – helpless, perplexed, and exhilarated – towards her. Fortunately, she lost interest after a few seconds and released me, leaving an enormous slobbery mud blotch on my bicep.

Looking back, I now see that it was only because we were traveling for so long and so extensively that I was able to achieve one of my many, possibly silly, childhood dreams. There is a sense of satisfaction I get just from having taken the trip; knowing that I truly seized the day and pursued a huge dream. But also knowing that I was able to do something I never thought I would do, and realizing that there is a way to at least try out some of the things I always thought I might do, is an added bonus.

To be sure, there is still much left untried. I will never be a veterinarian, having realized I can’t handle blood of any kind, not even animal blood. I am almost six feet tall, so my chances of giving jockeying a try are pretty slim. But it is a huge relief that after the moment of panic in India, when I saw my world closing in, came clarity in Thailand, when my world suddenly opened wide again.

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. They visited five continents and 24 countries, sampling the local beer in each one (except for the United Arab Emirates, where they were forced to drink Budweiser). You can read about their adventures at or meet them in person when they speak at Meet, Plan, Go! San Francisco on October 16.

Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

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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Staying Alive: A Vegetarian’s Travel Manifesto
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

I guess you could call me the original hipster. I was a vegetarian before it was even cool – in fact, I’ve never eaten a bite of meat in my life (and yes, that includes fish. Those who eat fish are known as pescatarians). But that dietary restriction has not stopped me from a lifetime of travel, racking up more than 15 countries in 21 years and anticipating at least 20 new ones in my post-graduation trip volunteering around the world.

Since I intend on staying true to my meatless ways, I’ve concocted countless methods of avoiding what is often the basis of entire country’s cuisines. Take it from me, a bonafide vegetarian expert: Traveling doesn’t have to mean abandoning your eating habits. Though it might be hard, with these seven tips, you can continue to embrace the vegetarian lifestyle without sacrificing your culture experience.

1.  Buy locally, think globally.

Even if the stench of fish and meat smother the air, farmer’s markets are often the best places to find fresh produce at reasonable and equitable prices. Often there will be a decent selection of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and the country’s particular type of bread – the perfect vegetarian food staple that still showcases that region’s unique tastes. In every country I visit, for any length of time, I always make sure to visit a local market – it provides a cultural snapshot of daily life and highlights that nation’s handicrafts all while offering hundreds of opportunities to practice your language skills. When studying abroad in Cambridge last summer, I often skipped the quick and easy supermarket, Sainsbury’s, in favor of the adorable semi-permanent town market – I not only found a variety of vegetables and breads, but also fudges, candies, flowers, phone chargers, Rastafarian paraphernalia, and a staggering number of Banksy-inspired clothing.

2. “Gotta keep them separated.”

Though it may not always be immediately recognizable to someone who has never eaten meat, learning to identify foreign meat dishes helps to avoid unclear situations and gives time to think up alternative options without offending the cook by (politely) rejecting their work. If the way to a country’s heart is through its stomach, understanding the average cuisine gives a glimpse into the surrounding agriculture, the typical industries, and the way of life. In practice, this often entails looking up the country’s cuisine and recognizing the words for different meats in foreign languages. Before traveling to Russia, a land where animal fat is almost a necessity to survive the cold winters, I learned how to read and write in Cyrillic, and was able to use that knowledge to steer clear of the ever-present beef stews – and entertain my Russian friends by ordering my own meals (particularly those featuring “kartoshka” or potato) and responding to catcalls.

3. If at first you don’t succeed, lie.

While I’m generally an advocate for honesty, there are always exceptions. Having to explain a hundred times to admittedly well-intentioned mothers that I choose not to eat meat (and yes, I know, I’ve been told that it is delicious, and yes, maybe I do need some “meat” on these bones) is surprisingly harder and more exhausting than one would think. And that’s in English; try that in another language, and it’s nearly impossible. To cultures that center their diets on meat, the thought that someone would deprive herself of it – optionally, no less – is a concept that for some reason is constantly questioned. In these circumstances, I suddenly develop a “religious reason” or an “allergic reaction” – universally, faith and health seem two free passes to getting away with unthinkable things.

4. Lost in translation? Find a guide.

Cozying up to the locals reaps three immediate benefits: an inside look into a culture through the eyes of a contemporary, a translator well versed with the colloquial speak, and an answer to every “what are friends for?” situation. Unless they’re trying to trick you, your new friends will know vegetarian-friendly meals and restaurants and can warn you if anything you’re about to eat is traditionally made with unmarked and unseen bits of meat or fish sauces. Had I not spoken Spanish, I might have made the mistake in Madrid of eating ham-covered mushrooms – luckily, I had befriended the wait-staff at the café near my hostel, and they recommended alternatives that weren’t on the menu. In most countries outside of the United States, meals are times for lengthy conversations and relaxation – there’s literally no better time to “break the bread” with someone new!

5. Location, location, location.

Generally, metropolitan areas can accommodate the vegetarian diet better than their rural counterparts, simply because there’s a higher likeliness of vegetarians in the midst. Though this might be regarded cheating, urban areas will invariably have more diversity in foreign cuisine as well, giving your taste buds a break when culture shock sets in. Something else to think about: generally, the higher in elevation, the sparser the vegetation. Though it’s possible, it’s more difficult to find suitable meals while you’re volunteering at the peak of the Andean mountains than it is in the foothills.

6. In case of emergencies…

This is possibly the most valuable advice anyone will ever tell you: always carry snacks. Unlike those extra socks or that GPS compass, food will be used, and you will always be glad when you find that pack of saltine crackers to satiate your stomach’s angry protests on a seven-hour bus ride through the countryside (see reason #5 for why this might be a problem). Being prepared never hurts, and having food often helps in the case that you get sea-sick, car-sick, or just sick, and need to take medication that requires you to have something in your system. Plus, self-reliance is a key skill of the vagabond lifestyle!

7. Just say no.

At the end of the day, your diet is up to you. Being a vegetarian is about more than just abstaining from meat for health purposes; for many, vegetarianism is an ideology that embodies how that person sees him or herself in the universal community. Though this might be a legitimate fear for some, in reality, no one is going to force-feed you something you don’t want to eat. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your beliefs to be able to experience a culture, even though meat is a significant part of many. As every traveler knows, where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Vidya Kaipa is a soon-to-be UC Berkeley graduate who will be departing her native California (and her beloved team at Go Overseas!) to embark upon a solo year-long RTW trip. She’s been told that this is crazy, which only makes her more eager to go. With a lifetime of travel, this adventure is the next step – read her blog, Pocket Gypsy, to see how she plans to do it!

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