Posts Tagged ‘re-entry’

What to Expect When You Return Home From Travel
Tuesday, October 1st, 2013


Expect culture shock.

Expect struggles.

Expect feeling a bit lost.

Expect to have people not understand.

Expect that you will be changed.

Expect to be patient with yourself.

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

Expect that you will have no regrets.

Coming back home is not always easy. There are a few pieces of advice we can provide you, but until you live it, it’s hard to say how you will feel about returning. We’ve been collecting career breaker re-entry stories for years now – you can find them here in our Re-entry section.  Or simply bookmark it and read them when you return home – I’m pretty sure you will be able to relate to these other career breakers in many ways.  Each person’s experience is unique. However there are some things that hold pretty constant for all career breakers.

Reverse Culture Shock

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

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


Travel Changes You

Travel is a great way to learn more about yourself, in addition to world cultures. And as Paul Milton shares, the experience will certainly change you – for the better.


Craft Your Environment Again

It’s important to surround yourself by people who’ve gone through a similar experience and love travel. Remember the support group you identified while in the planning stages? They are still your support group and understand the same struggles that you may face when you return.

It’s helpful to stay active in Meet Plan Go events and the online traveler community – helping others who are planning their breaks provide you an outlet to share all of the knowledge you gained.  It’s a great way to ‘pay it forward’.  

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


It’s important it is to take time to process the emotions, questions, and concerns that come up after a career break abroad.  Here’s some tips on how:

>> How to Make Processing Part of the Re-entry Process

>> The Ultimate Guide To Coming Home

>>Reverse Culture Shock – Dealing With It Without Spreading It

What A Career Break is Really Like
Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Before leaving the United States for my 11-month journey around the world, I figured I would ultimately work in corporate sales when I returned. For nearly seven years leading up to my journey, I’d worked as a recruiter and communicator, and I have some connections in the field, so it made sense to me.

After six years of planning, I turned 30, left my job, packed up my house and left the country. It’s a decision that’s shaped my life indelibly, just as any traveler will tell you. But the truth is, it was tough for me. For all the incredible experiences, there were also challenges, frustrations and hard times.

Discomfort, Uncertainty, and Responsibility

With long-term travel comes discomfort, uncertainty and ultimate responsibility for everything that goes on in your life, which is always the case of course, but when you’re at home you might have people who help you out – make you dinner, give you a ride, or buy you a ticket to the game. Plenty of people are willing to help you out while you’re traveling – an incredible amount actually – but it’s not something you can count on like close friends or family. It’s different. And being truly on your own, in a strange country without hotel reservations or signs in English, can be uncomfortable.

Being disconnected may have its merits, but it wore me down over the months. Granted, I was connected to the Internet more days than not. I could email, Skype, Facebook, and connect to my friends and family most of the time. But everyone is still back home, and you’re still out there.

You miss the things you love doing the most. For me it was playing and watching sports. I was able to watch a fair amount of sports truthfully, but watching the NFL in Portuguese is not exactly sitting on the couch with your bros drinking beer. And outside of skiing, playing football, softball, volleyball, basketball, and golf – each once over the 11 months, plus one tragic international cricket debut – there were not a lot of sports for me (that might sound like a lot, but in reality, it’s less than one sport every six weeks for a guy who normally plays some type of sport two to five days a week, at a minimum).

Mostly, it was about always having to figure it out – where am I going next, how am I getting there, who am I meeting, where am I going to sleep, how am I going to eat, and what am I going to do when I get there. What am I going to do right NOW? It’s all on you. On top of that, you always have to be cautious about your money, as there are always people grinding you down – asking you for money, trying to hustle and sell you crap, you name it. Many of these people you end up being friends with after all, but it becomes tiresome.

These and other challenges made it tough sometimes, but they made me stronger. Traveling is almost as much about working on yourself as it is seeing the world. You figure it all out. You learn the ropes and toughen up. And you learn some things in the process, about the world and about yourself.

Is it Worth It?

After all that it sounds like traveling sucks! That’s not true at all. The challenges are easy in comparison to what you get out of traveling. There is no greater education or experience, and you might never really discover the real you until you travel.

So was it worth it?

Absolutely. I would do it a thousand out of a thousand times, 100%. It was my life’s great adventure. No matter what happens, I’ll always have that, and I’ll absolutely never regret it.

I returned to the US in December of 2012. Somewhere along the way I decided against climbing the corporate ladder. Instead, I’ve started a company with my best friend and business partner while writing a book about my trip around the world. It’s interesting; most travelers I know or read about tend to go their own way after their adventures. It must be something about freedom.

If you’ve ever thought about traveling, do yourself a great favor and just go. Anywhere. Make immediate plans and set a firm date. Be resolute. If you think about the reasons not to go you’ll find plenty, but they’re all meaningless once you make the decision to do it.

Chris Healy Biography

In a series of planned moves, Chris left his job of seven years in December of 2011, embarking on his 11-month, 6-continent, 28-country adventure around the world. His journey focused on Growth, Connection, Service and Fitness.

Chris returned to the United States in December of 2012, moving to San Diego, CA where he’s started a creative/design/marketing studio with his friend and business partner. Chris writes about fitness and the road to personal success, while also working on a book about his world adventure.

Visit Chris’ blog at

How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Springtime in London

The day was bound to come: your career break is over and you are headed home for the first time in months, maybe even years. You are returning from a life-changing adventure, where every day brought something new and exciting, and you are proud of all you accomplished.

And then you get off the plane and everything feels familiar, yet different. You walk through the door to your home and it feels like you never left. You stroll around your neighborhood and everything looks the same.

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

You’ll be happy to know that you’re not alone. Just about every traveler experiences it in some variation (including our very own Sherry Ott). What can you do to make the transition easier?

Make it a two-way conversation

Coming home can be a selfish act. It can be easy to assume that everyone wants to hear about your trip and all the exciting things you encountered. But don’t forget that they were living a life as well – make it a two-way conversation. Don’t make your friends or family members feel as if their lives are any less relevant because they didn’t travel – even if they insist that their lives have been “boring” compared to yours.

One way to make this transition easier is to stay up on what they were doing while traveling. You may have started a blog to allow family and friends to follow along with your journey, but make sure the communication is a two-way street. Schedule Skype dates, stay in touch by email, take advantage of instant messaging and follow their updates on Facebook. And don’t be offended if loved ones don’t keep up with your blog – it doesn’t mean they don’t care; thy may just not feel like they can relate.

Be careful of sharing too much information too fast

When someone asks you the general question “how was your trip?,” you may be tempted to go into every detail – from the tree-climbing goats you searched out in Morocco to the baby goats you fed by bottle staying in a village in Thailand. But for the most part, you’ll find that most people ask the same few questions.

Sherry Ott found that preparing some quick answers to the questions people wanted to hear was very helpful. She even created a Reflection By Numbers list so that should could quickly reference some fun facts, like how many bodies of water she dipped her toes in (10), the number of overnight trains she took (10), and the number of photos she had taken after editing (11,868).

And be aware that others might be jealous of you. In her post on Vagabondish, “How to Survive Reverse Culture Shock”, Amanda Kendle warns:

Be careful not to drop your travel tales into too many conversations. After traveling pretty widely, I know I’m guilty of this at times, and there is a clear reaction from some people if I begin a story with “When I was on the Trans-Siberian …,” which seems like one of jealousy. Not everybody has the same opportunity as you to travel abroad, but they might want to – so be sensitive about who you discuss your experiences with.

Try to introduce your friends to new cultures at home

Many travelers can get depressed after returning home from around-the-world travels, finding life at home less than stimulating. Matthew Kepnes put it best in his post, “The Joy of Coming Home”:

Back home, boredom can happen pretty fast if you don’t keep yourself busy. On the road you move around everyday but there is a certain static-ness that comes with being back home. Even if you keep yourself busy, returning home can be a little underwhelming sometimes.

It’s easy to start complaining to friends and family about how boring home is, but they may feel as if you are calling them boring as well. And your cultural adventures don’t have to end as soon as the plane touches down on the tarmac. Seek out restaurants, events, museums and other activities in your area that can make you feel as if you are still abroad. And better yet, invite some of your friends or family along so they can get a taste of what you experienced.

Make new friends

Your career break experience has changed you and while you may return home hoping to reconnect with your old friends, you may find it easier to seek out new friends – fellow travelers who understand who you are now. Caz Makepeace advised in her post, Dealing with Reverse Culture Shock:

Accept that you are not the same. You see things with different eyes and people may not recognize this anymore. Understand that is okay. Remain true to who you are. And if it means that some friendships change as a result then so be it. Things change, it is the nature of life.

Spend time with those who accept the new you and start making new friends. We joined the Sydney Travel Tribes group which is full of travellers who understand us. It always feels comfortable and easy to be with them. I still enjoy hanging out with my closest friends, but it’s nice to be a different me with others as well.

So keep in mind that adjusting to life back home will take some time. As long as you are aware of the signs of reverse culture shock, the better prepared you will be to deal with it.

How I Found a Job After Taking a Career Break to Travel
Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Without a doubt, my biggest fear when I quit my job to take a career break to travel was whether I would be able to find a job again upon my return.  The fear plagued me throughout my thirteen months on the road. Not a week went by that I didn’t worry to some extent about what I was going to do next.

I started my job search early – and unless you have enough money in the bank to get you by for several months after you return, I recommend you do the same. With two months to go before I would return to the United States, I signed up for job alerts, updated my resume and started applying for jobs. I made it clear when I would be back in the country and that I was available in the meantime to speak via Skype. Indeed, I did two Skype interviews while I was still on the road.

I was alternately overconfident and insecure as I plunged into my job search. I only budgeted for two months’ worth of living expenses after my return, thinking that if I started early, I would surely find something within a couple months. When I got my first Skype interview, I had visions of doing an in-person interview as soon as I landed in Chicago and being back to work within a couple weeks.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well and my hopes were dashed. Then my anxiety grew as I sent out resume after resume with no response – not even for the jobs that seemed to be a perfect fit!

Back in the United States, I focused on three main areas in my job search. I long thought I wanted to pursue a job in travel after my trip, so I looked at a variety of travel company jobs. I could also see myself combining my professional background in event planning and fundraising with my international interests by working for an internationally-focused non-profit.  Finally, I knew I had the experience to land a job back in my old field, working at another law school or university. I customized my resume for each area and tailored my cover letter for each position to which I applied. I also started networking like crazy, reaching out to friends and former colleagues, looking to make new contacts wherever I could.

It wasn’t long before I started getting calls for initial phone interviews – primarily for the jobs in my old field, but also one for a tour company and one for a non-profit with a bit of an international angle. Before I knew it, I was juggling multiple interviews and my confidence was through the roof. I got an offer for a job with a tour company exactly a month after I returned from my trip, but while I once thought such a position was my dream job, I made the tough decision to turn it down – the pay was too low, the benefits non-existent and overall, it just wasn’t what I thought it would be.

I soon realized that the process can take a long time. I got a call in mid-October about a job I applied for back in August.  I had rounds of interviews spread out over two months.  Employers don’t necessarily review resumes and start contacting people immediately after posting a job and once they do, trying to coordinate schedules among candidates and multiple interviewers can take a lot of time.

More importantly, I never got the impression that my career break was much of a factor – good or bad.

While some interviewers commented on it (“that’s cool”), no one asked many questions and some didn’t even realize I wasn’t currently employed – they just saw my previous job at the top of my resume and assumed I was still there. I was still attractive to employers in my old field because I had the exact experience they desired. On the other hand, aside from the offer for my so-called dream job, I didn’t have much luck with the internationally-focused positions I desired. There were several positions that made me say “yes, that is exactly what I want to do,” but I got nowhere with those. While my international experience could have been seen as a bonus, it wasn’t enough to make up for other skills or experience that I lacked.

In the end, I was invited to interview for about one-third of the jobs I pursued and ultimately received 5 job offers within 3 months of returning.  I know I am extremely fortunate to have had so many options, but I also think I positioned myself as well as I possibly could have.  I started early, did a lot of research, customized every cover letter and resume, and approached the whole process with a positive attitude. I really enjoyed networking and interviewing and learning about all of the options that were out there. Sure, I didn’t end up where I thought I would, but I’m thrilled to be bringing in a regular paycheck again while gaining valuable experience and preparing myself for whatever comes next.

Katie Aune quit her fundraising job in 2011 to spend a year traveling and volunteering throughout the former Soviet Union and is now back at work as the director of alumni engagement for a law school in Chicago. You can read about her travels, job search and re-entry experience on or follow her on Twitter at @katieaune.

The Return Trip Starts Before You Leave
Monday, November 12th, 2012

You have saved the money, your flight is booked and you have a vague idea of your itinerary. Perhaps it has been a year in the making or maybe it’s been three – either way, your career break is about to become a reality. You are finally leaving it all to travel the world!

But what about coming back?

While some career breakers decide to pursue location-independent lifestyles so they can keep traveling, many return home and jump back into the working world. If you think you’ll likely return, there are steps you can take before you leave home to make that re-entry a little bit easier.

First of all, dig deep and ask yourself – why are you going?

Are you running toward something or are you running away? (and it is perfectly okay to admit you are running away) Or are you simply strolling along, finally fulfilling a dream of traveling?

Now, why does it matter?

You will need a coherent narrative that you can use in an elevator speech or in heart-to-heart conversations with friends, family, and past and future employers.

If you are using your career break as a springboard for the next chapter in your life, think about what you are running toward. Do some research about the next gig and talk to people who are doing it and ask them how they might use a break – what would they learn? what would they do? Plan to incorporate “learning breaks” into your journey to build skills that you can use in the next phase.

On the other hand, are you running from a job that you hate or running from people who have made you miserable? Honestly debrief yourself (or ask some friends to help you). Separate the misery-making tasks,  toxic work environments, people you neither liked nor understood, your commute, your cubicle, or your wacko supervisor so that your narrative is matter-of-fact and not whiney. If you are running from a bad relationship, know it, own it, and don’t whine about it.

It may be enough for you to say “I have always wanted to travel,” but other people will look to you for a story that makes sense to them. “I have always wanted to travel” needs substance -for example, “since I was a teenager, I have wanted to backpack across the Andes” or  “since I began planning my retirement, I have thought about teaching English in countries of the former Soviet Union.” The more detail that you can provide to these people who will be alternately skeptical and supportive will help them understand you.  Meet, Plan, Go! travel planning resources will add credibility to these conversations.

Finally, take concrete steps to ease your return.

? Keep a diary or write a blog. The discipline of daily writing will help you create your continuing narrative.  What did you do? How did you arrange it? How did it work out? What did you learn?

? Keep a list of the people you meet, their contact information, and note the context of your meeting. You won’t be able to recreate this information after you get back.

? Connect with other travelers. Although you may be traveling alone, meeting up with other travelers along the way will give you important support, new ideas, and great stories.

? Stay connected with the folks at home. There will be some people with whom you stay in almost constant contact (family, close friends), but there are others with whom it would be wise to check in with occasionally:

? Your Mean Old Boss (particularly if you were fired or left on a bad note) should hear from you occasionally so that your accomplishment (planning and making this career break happen) will be top of mind when the inevitable reference check happens. You want to implant something positive into this person’s brain that may supplant whatever awkward departure you had.

? The personal and professional networks you left behind: Career services professionals, former colleagues, people you have identified who do work that you might want to do, people whose blogs have inspired you, people you have met along the road (see above), alumni groups (include fraternity/sorority/extra-curricular), religious organizations. Keep your “connections” radar setting on “high” throughout your Break.

? Prepare for re-entry conversations. People will want to know why you went and what you learned. They will ask right away, even before you have unpacked.

? Keep an up-to-date electronic copy of your resume on your laptop. You never know when someone will want it. Store it in the cloud (Google Docs or Dropbox, for example).

? Carefully describe your career break on your resume. Do not write a “backpacky” paragraph, which gives short shrift to an amazing year:

The Original Backpacky Paragraph: Do Not Do This


In 2012, I traveled through 20 countries, including studying Russian language in Russia and Ukraine and volunteering in Russia, Armenia and Tajikistan. Prior travel includes Australia, Egypt, Peru, Norway, the Czech Republic, Hungary and most of Western Europe.

The Revised Professional Approach


Volunteer Organization

? Drafted fundraising proposal for new Visitor Information Center.
? Analyzed existing national tourism website and drafted proposal for new website.
? Prepared request for proposals to hire a developer for new tourism website.

International Education and Volunteer Experience

? Expanded cultural views and intercultural communication skills while volunteering and traveling over 13 months in 20 countries.
? Researched and created a detailed itinerary and saved for two years prior to departure.
? Tracked all expenses and maintained a daily budget.
? Studied Russian language in Russia and Ukraine.
? Studied Armenian language in Armenia.
? Taught English in Russia and Tajikistan.
? Created, launched and maintained the travel website, Your
? Contributed travel articles to leading travel websites and blogs.

Your Blog Name

? Edit and publish a travel website that averages 4,000 unique visitors and 10,00 page views per month.
? Write 3-5 articles for publication each week.
? Manage social media promotion and search engine optimization.

It doesn’t matter if you are running toward a new career, running away from an old one or just strolling along. Taking the steps to prepare for your eventual return before you ever board that first flight will make your re-entry just a tad bit smoother.

Of Susan Gainen’s 7 or 8 careers spanning 4 decades, she has spent more than 25 years as a career counselor. Currently a multiple entrepreneur (national career speaker, painter, cooking teacher), she has a wealth of experience and perspective on creating and managing unexpected careers. After nearly 2 decades as the director of career & professional development at the University of Minnesota Law School, Susan now lectures nationwide on career change and alternative careers for lawyers while providing a plethora of career-related advice on her blog, Pass the Baton. You can also follow her on Twitter as @PTBSusanGainen.

Ghosts of Sabbaticals Past
Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Sometimes, when I walk past the hallway closet, I swear I can hear my hiking boots whisper.

We used to be your daily companion, don’t you love us anymore?”

You see, I have neglected my hiking boots in recent months. It’s been about eight months since I last paid any attention to them. They lay there patiently, covered in a mixture of caked-on sand from Namib dessert, muddy speckles from Kilimanjaro, dusty patina from the Great Wall, reminding me of this adventurous woman I had become during my career break.

I came home to New York City in November of 2011 after 9 months of travel that took me through mainly Africa and Asia. New York is home for me and I can honestly say that I appreciate this city so much more now than I did before. The assortment of cultures in New York is the reason why.

My new career is in real estate- I’m not someone that particularly enjoys sitting in a cubicle for 9 hours a day. I need to be moving, meeting people and doing something. Besides, I have always been fascinated with the variety of homes in NYC and I enjoy meeting new people, so this career is an ideal choice at this stage in my life. However, it sadly does not require my hiking boots at all!

Thankfully, here in New York,  I can be reminded each day of what a great international city this is. When I stroll through Harlem and spot the Kilimanjaro Restaurant on 116th Street- and I feel an amazing sense of pride. Climbing “Kili” is no longer just an item on my wish list, I was actually was there in the flesh and I climbed it!

On the West Side I see the mural of an elephant in the Natural History Museum subway stop, I reflect first on how completely out of scale it is and then that the mural simply does not do any justice whatsoever to the true majesty and grace of an elephant! But for a split second or two a can feel as though I’m in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. I know the thrill first hand of being just inches away from one of these creatures, and for a few minutes I feel that I’m there.

Now I understand so clearly why people call it a travel bug. I definitely have it and can’t kick it- nor do I want to. I have become determined to find a way to make a trip like this happen again. Why? Solo long-term travel gave me the ultimate sense of freedom. I finally felt alive for the first time in a long time. As a traveler, I could let go of any and all pretense and be myself in the truest form, without the makeup and suit and fancy handbag. It forced me to push my limits mentally, physically, psychologically, and even gastronomically!

It’s as if I had grown wings for nine months and could truly fly. That’s a great feeling! It was not hard for me to decide that I would need to structure my life in a way that would allow me to travel long-term again at some time in the future. Solo adventure travel is way too exciting to only do it once in a lifetime!

While I work in real estate, I have decided to invest in reshaping and redefining my blog I am also working on a small business idea that would enable me the freedom to perhaps not travel for nine months at a time, but that would allow me to take a one month journey from time to time. My ultimate goal for this phase of my life is the location independent lifestyle.

Perhaps I’m just experiencing adrenaline withdrawal, but I find that I’m a curious person. I need to explore new things- not just within this city but also on a global scale! I am determined to create a mobile lifestyle that will allow me to work from anywhere on the planet that has a half decent Internet connection.

I look forward to the day when I can strap on my hiking boots once again!

Sonia Virtue was born in London, but has lived in New York since the age of eight. After 15 years in sales and marketing, she saw her daughter off to college and took a career break in March 2011. She spent 9 months traveling from Nairobi to Cape Town, Portugal, Spain, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.  You can read about her travels at

Travel Makes Better Executives
Monday, May 14th, 2012

As a long term traveler on sabbatical, I am occasionally asked, “Are you concerned about coming back to work?  How will you explain the large gap in your resume?

Each time this question is posed, I calmly reply “of course not.” As the months have passed, some of the lessons I’ve learned are easier to articulate than others. Nevertheless, here are five skills that I have tuned while traveling. I am sure that these skills will make me a more confident executive leader and apply to other travelers as well.

Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

At some point every executive has had to make a decision with less information than would be considered prudent. In a complex business environment, executives need strong analytical skills for sure, but the best leaders regularly listen to their intuition. As Malcom Gladwell describes in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, we do that by “thin-slicing,” using limited information to come to our conclusion.

In what Gladwell contends is an age of information overload, he finds that experts often make better decisions with snap judgments than they do with volumes of analysis. He also mentions that sometimes having too much information can interfere with the accuracy of a judgment, or a doctor’s diagnosis. This is commonly called Analysis paralysis.

The challenge is to sift through and focus on only the most critical information to make a decision. The other information may be irrelevant and confusing to the decision maker. Collecting more and more information, in most cases, just reinforces our judgment but does not help to make it more accurate.”

The book argues that intuitive judgment is developed by experience, training, and knowledge. Travelers thin-slice every time they choose to hire a tuk-tuk, accept a gift from a local, or share a drink with new friends.

Mystic Connection with Nature

Steven R. Covey wrote that “[e]very human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” Further, he shares that “[t]he way we see the problem is the problem.”

It follows then that with an awareness of the true nature of universal timeless principles, we can alter reality. As a traveler, you are frequently vulnerable. We can choose to see power in this vulnerability or we can find weakness. Specifically, vulnerability exposes us to scams, theft, and crime. Vulnerability also inspires a heightened sense of awareness and curiosity that helps us embody true “presence” or appreciation or our surroundings.

Super Human Hops

As a traveler you are often faced with unique situations leaving few resources at your disposal. Even the best planned itinerary can result in flight cancellations, unexpected bus delays, or an unforeseen arrival during a regional celebration or workforce strike.

Finding solutions to travel surprises expands confidence in out-of-the-box thinking, and reinforces creative problem solving skills.

Having the confidence to hurdle over unexpected challenges makes the difference between an average worker and an exceptional team contributor.

Stomp Out Insecurity

Until your team feels trusted, understood, valued, and enabled, synergistic results will remain elusive.

Insecurity is that feeling inside us that prevents us from becoming deeply empathic listeners. If we are to cultivate empowered teams which operate over the foundation of high trust relationships, deliver passionate contributions, and produce synergistic results – insecurity must be at a minimum.

Through an exposure to foreign religions, manners, and cultural norms we naturally gain an appreciation for varied cultural views. This appreciation shifts the fulcrum allowing increased understanding and reduced fear. By eliminating fear we can stomp out insecurity.

Multiple Perspectives

As mentioned earlier, empathic listening is critical to success in an interdependent reality. To achieve empathic communication at least one party must be engaged in seeing reality from multiple perspectives. It is only by reflecting content and feeling, accurately and completely, that communication barriers are replaced with profound understanding. Having awareness and being centered in compassion are the first two requirements for such understanding.

Travel long enough and you will eventually find yourself a sleep-deprived, under-fed traveler whose fate depends on the services of an under-paid, under-appreciated, and under-educated world citizen. In these scenarios, empathic communication will often make the difference between a seat on a train, a room in a hostel, or a bite to eat and utter frustration. Through necessity travelers develop empathic listening skills.

In the end, travel creates executives equipped to achieve synergistic results through heightened awareness, empathic communication, and out-of-the-box thinking. With practice, these individuals can be shown to make quality decisions given limited information. Now that’s a leader worth hiring!

Matthew K. Sharp is the co-founder of Inertia Interrupted and is currently trekking, volunteering, diving and photographing the world with his wife, Luz.  You can connect with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

How to Make Processing Part of the Re-Entry Process
Monday, March 19th, 2012

You’re probably familiar with the terms re-entry and reverse culture shock. While some people sail through re-entry problem-free, most say they feel more lost upon returning home than they ever did abroad.

This actually makes a lot of sense. When we go abroad we’re constantly in the “new.” We’re seeing new things, having new adventures, hearing new languages, trying new food, considering new perspectives.

It’s exhilarating. Euphoric. It’s why we travel!

Back home, we’re no longer in the “new.” Back home, we are the new.

On one hand, we’re happy to be home with family and friends, speaking our native language, eating our favorite foods, and even sleeping in our own bed.

But we also feel like something is a bit off. It’s not necessarily bad, just…off.

I’m convinced that what really gets us in re-entry isn’t reverse culture-shock (I can order my favorite coffee without pantomiming! Do we really need 1,000 types of cereal to choose from?), but rather the on-going, subtler reverse culture-fatigue (Why do I feel out of synch? Do I really want to stay in this career? Why am I so bored?).

After a career break abroad we know we’ve changed. But we often can’t articulate how (much) we’ve changed. Just as the majority of culture is invisible to us, so are the nuanced ways our travels have transformed us.

In my experience, travelers often react to the feelings and questions that surface in re-entry in one of two ways:

1. We hop the next plane abroad without even unpacking our backpack. (I’m bored here! Gotta get back in the new!)

2. As we settle into our pre-travel lives our adventures become compartmentalized. (I had an amazing experience abroad…but (*sigh*) what does that have to do with my life now that I’m back home?)

Whether you choose to go abroad again or stay put isn’t the issue. My reaction to re-entry was to immediately plan my next trip abroad. My husband? He dove into finding a new job in his field.

Even though we had different reactions to re-entry, we discovered that we held the same concern. Traveling made us feel alive, adventurous, and empowered. We discovered new aspects of ourselves that we really liked. But we both felt like we had to choose between being the person we’d become while abroad or go back to being the person we were before we left. And we didn’t want to choose.

What I’ve learned in the course of several re-entry experiences is how important it is to take time to process the emotions, questions, and concerns that come up after a career break abroad. Meeting this challenge head-on is one of the best gifts you can give yourself because no matter what you decide to do in the future, you’ll bring your true self.

Even if you go abroad again, the career break that transformed you is over. Any new adventure will bring different challenges, emotions, and transformation. If you don’t make a point to process these experiences, you run the risk of letting fear make the decisions, which prevents you from being fully present in your post-career break life.

After the heightened experience of travel, some people feel they’ll never be completely happy unless they’re on the road. Others wonder how to replicate the thrill of being abroad into their daily lives at home. Travel is often a vehicle through which we develop  new interests, talents, and skills. Therefore, one way to integrate the new you into your old life is by asking yourself which aspects of my travels made me feel the most alive, engaged, and empowered?

Was it being physically active every day? Meeting new people? Photography? Blogging? Volunteering? Music? Trying new food? Speaking new languages? Solving travel challenges in creative ways? Participating in an extreme sport? Relaxing?

When you discover what fueled you during your career break, you can more easily integrate that aspect of the new you into your old life. If you go abroad again, you can be more intentional in creating future travel experiences.

Re-entry isn’t an event that happens on one specific day. It’s an on-going part of the travel journey. To be honest, you may never feel perfectly satisfied “at home” again. On the flip-side, you more than likely now feel fairly “at home” anywhere in the world.

Which aspects of your career break abroad made you feel the most alive, engaged, and empowered?


Cate Brubaker helps all kinds of travelers navigate intercultural, personal, and re-entry experiences in her work with TrekDek,, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Cate is currently planning her next career break.

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