Posts Tagged ‘reflecting’

Taking a Break From Your Career Break
Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Many of us leave our jobs to go travel the world thinking it will be the best thing ever. What could be better than not having to go into work every day AND having the freedom to experience foreign countries? I was one of those people too. I wanted to take a round the world trip for so long, and when I finally found a way to make it happen, I couldn’t have been more excited (ok, maybe a little nervous too).

My situation was a little different in that I quit my job in Atlanta in order to move to Germany after getting married. I decided this was the perfect time for my career break trip, even though my new husband Andy couldn’t come with me. I planned out a five month itinerary, used miles for a round the world ticket, and hit the road a few months after moving to Germany. Andy even booked a flight to travel with me through New Zealand for two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s.

I stayed in touch with friends and family back in the United States, and I Skyped with Andy as often as possible. I missed him, but that was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was to be so overwhelmed after a month in Southeast Asia by homesickness that I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Andy and I had spent the entire first year of our relationship long distance, why was this so much harder? I had dreamed of this adventure for years, why wasn’t I enjoying it more? I tried to brush it off as just your average culture shock, but after a couple weeks, I knew this dark cloud wasn’t leaving me anytime soon.

Finally, I decided the best thing I could do was take a break and go home to Germany to see Andy. It was a hard decision, and even though I knew I’d be back on the road two weeks later, I felt like I was giving up on my dream trip. But I also knew that I was missing sights and experiences due to my homesickness, and trying to keep going when I was feeling that way wasn’t fulfilling my dream either. So I booked a ticket to Germany and spent two weeks mentally patching myself together.

I spent three more months traveling after that break. My husband joined me for two weeks in New Zealand as planned, and I still missed him when I was on my own again. But I felt refreshed and better able to handle the rest of my round the world trip. My expectations were more realistic, and I was having fun again. Taking a break from my trip was the best decision I could’ve made.

Most round the world travelers don’t plan on going home until it’s all over, and sometimes that works just fine. But I learned that my travel dreams didn’t look the way I hoped they would, and that it’s hard to be away from those who are most important to me. And that it’s ok to feel that way. Maybe being with your family for the holidays is something you want to go home for, or maybe your sister is having a baby while you’re gone. Maybe you just need a little down time with your friends. Flying back home for a week or two doesn’t mean you’re giving up or doing it wrong.

It might just be the thing you need to keep going and enjoy your career break even more.

Ali Garland is an American expat living in Germany. Her travel addiction led her to visit all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She recently returned from a round the world trip and is now fumbling her way through life in Germany. She is currently searching for the perfect salsa recipe. Ali writes at Ali’s Adventures, and you can follow her on Twitter, @aliadventures7. She also just launched a new travel-related website, Travel Made Simple.

Getting Over Your Fears
Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Long-term travel isn’t usually a decision that is made overnight. There is often a deep, long-lasting desire within a person to tread on dirt roads, watch sunsets from other horizons, see new colors woven together by diverse histories and traditions, share unique moments, appreciate differences, learn to be self-sufficient and free, enjoy simplicity, and to rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul. For some, the dream to leave a life behind to follow an uncertain road seems impossible or too scary to attempt. But when the desire to go surpasses the desire to stay, one should prepare for the waves of emotions that follow. As a single mom with two young children, there were almost too many emotions to sort through.

The decision that it was possible

Marriage and kids kept me in one place, and my travel dreams were reduced to pictures on a Pinterest board. In 2011, I was divorced and broke. I had a small, empty apartment in Austin, two children (then ages 2 and 4), no job, no car, and a blank canvas with which to create a brand new life. I began an online marketing business that allowed me the flexibility to be at home with my children and to travel when we wanted to.

After a year of running my business, making sure it was successful and profitable, I envisioned what my life would look like in 6 months. I saw turquoise blue waters, warm weather, and knitted hammocks. So on Christmas morning of 2012, new luggage, passports, swimsuits, and beach toys were wrapped beneath our tree. My gift to my children and myself was a long trip to Cozumel, Mexico, which seemed like the perfect introduction to traveling outside of the US. I sold, gave away, and packed our belongings, and anticipated our departure date in May. I was overwhelmed with excitement until one late night 6 weeks before we were scheduled to leave, I wanted to cancel the whole trip.

Fears set in during the planning stages

I had been spending my evenings reading travel articles, travel blogs, travel tips, cultural differences in Cozumel, Mexican laws, and other books. I mapped out a detailed plan that exhausted me to look at, but I felt secure that everything in Austin would be taken care of when I left. I hired staff to take care of tasks that I couldn’t be present for, and on paper, my plans for my exciting journey seemed thorough. But exciting journeys aren’t about a plan on paper.

About 6 weeks before leaving, I began to feel displaced. My thoughts and energy had been focused on Cozumel, and it pained me to feel uprooted from my comfortable life in Austin. I felt adrift- some place between Austin and Cozumel. Knowing I wouldn’t be with my friends in a month, I stopped making plans with them, and I was sure I would be forgotten. I feared that there would be nothing to come back to, that friends would move on, and that I would no longer have a place.

I questioned whether this was best for the kids- to uproot them when we had made a comfortable spot for ourselves in Austin. I was content there to a degree, so maybe I could be okay. Maybe life abroad isn’t really what I had imagined, and maybe I was setting myself up for disappointment. I was sure of my life in Austin. I knew what was coming, and I knew what to expect. But in another country, I didn’t know what to expect. Was the excitement of the unknown worth the risk of having no permanent home?

I questioned everything. I began to panic and started holding on to any reason to stay in Austin. Talking about my trip made me cry. I couldn’t sleep, and I cried more in that last month than I did in the past year. I wrote out how much it would cost to cancel my trip, get a new place (since I had given notice at my apartment), put the kids in a new pre-school, and continue living just like I always had. I was so disappointed in myself- I claimed to be a free spirit, but I was terrified of venturing out with only a couple of pieces of luggage, my two children, and my little dog.

So did we go?

I thought I needed comfort and roots, but what I really needed was resolution and wings. I began having long chats with a seasoned world traveler friend of mine. He assured me that these feelings were normal, but that I needed to find a way to put them in their place. I could cancel the trip and go on living the way I was, or I could take this chance, and get a glimpse of something that could be incredible. If I didn’t like it, I could always return to Austin, but my friend assured me that if I would just get on the plane, I wouldn’t regret it. I was allowing fear to ruin the possibility of a deeply-rooted dream, of a free vagabond lifestyle that I had designed in my head for years. But I wanted this adventure enough that I had rid myself of all material things, structured a business around a travel lifestyle, and prepared my children to be little world explorers.

I had been blindsided by the waves of emotions I felt from day to day and even hour to hour (sometimes minute to minute). Finally, a couple of weeks before leaving, I found ways to manage my fear and move forward. If I failed, I could still have a good life in Austin, but if there was even a glimmer of hope that I could pull this off, I was going to find out.

I began envisioning myself in my new life, free in my spirit, but grounded in who I was. My stability would be within myself. My children would find their safety in my own stability. My comfort would be in knowing that the world was an exciting place, and that my children and I had the privilege of living in it- all of it if we wanted! My fears would not be passed on to them, and they would feel free and open to wander and discover, while I watched them in amazement. I realized that I could have roots, but also be fluid and mobile.

I ran, I meditated, I drank hot tea, I listened to soothing music, I took bubble baths, and I began to surround myself with only positive, calming energy and people. I reflected on all the amazing memories I had in Austin, but looked forward to new ones. I read books written by other wanderers and vagabonds who discovered things they were looking for and found even more that they weren’t. I studied maps, and beautiful cultures, and revived my excitement for seeing them myself. I recognized my fears, and then released them, as I began to expect the best from our trip. I spent time with people who had been traveling, I saw their appetite for life and exploration, and I regained my own enthusiasm for my journey. There were moments of fear, but I had resolved that we were going to do this. On May 23, 2012, the kids and I boarded a plane together, each of us with a stuffed animal in our hands.

What about now?

Questioning this move was a really helpful part of the process, now that I reflect on it. It helped me realize how strong my desire was to travel to new places. Had there been no struggle in my decision, in the end, I may not have been so resolved and focused to release myself from my own boundaries. My children and I have been in Cozumel for 3 months now, and we have all adjusted well. We have extended our trip through the school year, and we plan to live in Costa Rica next.

Sometimes, I wonder what I’m doing here, or I fall into habitual fears and mindsets. I worry that we may lose everything, that my business will fail, and that I won’t have the ability to pay for our home here.

But I guess even in a worst case scenario, I could just tie a couple of hammocks between two palm trees on a beach, and really, that doesn’t sound too bad at all.

Autumn la Bohème is a single mother of 2 who left her home in Austin Texas to disprove the word “impossible”. Always labeled a gypsy soul, she had a dream to live absolutely free, to travel with no geographical ties, to roam, to explore, and to make the world more real to her than the pictures she saw in books and magazines. She is a writer and online marketing manager for Bodhi Leaf Media, a business that she started to fund her travels. She also documents life and travel on her blog It’s All About a Journey. She loves daydreaming, open skies, and listening to tales of other nomads and vagabonds on their journeys. Her children’s adventurous spirits have added to the excitement of their journey, and now they have their own list of areas to visit as they slowly explore Central and South America.

Photo credits: Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha, all other photos courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.

Mourning the Loss of the Journey
Thursday, July 11th, 2013

I walk through the arrivals gate at the airport late one evening, a practice I have completed time and again over the past year, but this time it’s entirely different.  This time there isn’t another destination close in my future or a hostel to find in the middle of the night.  This time the airport is entirely familiar:  the art installations, the signage, the advertisements showing off familiar products with new labels and updated logos…  After 15 months, there should be some elation that comes with my re-entry. I should feel excited to be home.  I feel jittery and nervous… oddly lost.  Everything feels comfortably familiar and alarmingly foreign at once.  Welcome back.  This is home.  I live here.

Fifteen months ago I left on an extended trip with my husband.   We had a rough idea of the direction we were going to travel and an even rougher timeline. We had estimated our trip solely on the size of our savings account, with the help of an online travel calculator.  We’d been planning to give this a go for years, never knowing if we’d be able to save enough or be willing to take the plunge and actually go for it.  But against all the adversity that arises in a monolithic adventure like this, we were able to pull it together.  The easiest part was jumping on that first plane.

Perhaps the hardest part was coming home.

Nevertheless, our trip was the single best thing I could have done. Now that we’re home, things are a bit confusing and we haven’t quite pulled our lives back together.  It takes more time than I anticipated.  We’re living with family, working side jobs while seeking more permanent employment, and catching up with old friends.  We laugh, we adjust, and we worry sometimes.  But nothing can take away what we’ve accomplished.  You won’t find us regretting a thing about our decision to travel.

Our travels through 22 countries, including a boat ride over the Atlantic, were extraordinary.  People at home thought we were crazy.  The feelings of freedom, self-discovery and empowerment were astounding.  We discovered new foods in Cambodia, dove the barrier reefs in Australia and Belize, stayed in tiny thatched huts in Malaysia, and learned native dance in Guatemala.  We worked at an Italian cooking school in New Zealand, surfed the infamous waves in Bali, and tasted prosciutto in Spain.

Every day was about new experiences, brilliant colors, and laughable moments. Now that I’m back, sometimes life just feels like everything went to beige after a year in a rainbow. My experiences abroad broke down both personal and cultural barriers for me.  I learned how to communicate without using language, how to let go of my need to control things, how to quickly adapt, and how to thrive in unfamiliar territory.  In many ways it was the perfect preparation for coming home; I am stronger, more willing to adapt, and seem to take things as they come.  I worry, but not all that much.  We know ourselves well enough now to know that we’ll land on our feet.  More than anything, I just miss being out in the world.  I miss the adventure, the confusion, the uncertainty, the mind-boggling views and the tiny villages… In a way I feel more at home out in the midst of it than when sitting in a familiar living room.  That realization is weird to me.

My initial re-entry was so much less shocking than I had thought it would be.  That first night at home didn’t bring on the stress of reverse culture shock in the way many had warned me about.  Things felt almost normal, oddly normal.  It started out with general observations more than anything else. We scooped up magazines we hadn’t seen in a year, ate citrus from the farmer’s market, and drank coffee from the little place on a corner we use to frequent.  The sidewalks seemed impeccably clean, a 6-lane freeway looked enormous, drinking water from the tap was a luxury, and finding that every house and business had plumbing came as a shock.  Grocery stores were a maze of new products and old standbys.  We were thrilled at seeing our favorite local cheese, and we devoured tacos from the best cart in downtown. Throughout our first few weeks back, it was the little things that got us the most: no food was spicy enough; public transportation ran on an actual schedule, ice cream flavors were so ‘normal’… These insights are comedy; they offer little smiles throughout the day, they are mementos from our travels that sneak up on us daily.

The knowledge I come away from this trip with personifies everything I wish for humanity—everything I wish we understood about each other and everything I strive to understand myself.  Lately I feel like I have been mourning the loss of my journey.  Many people will say that to travel long term is to become desensitized to what you see or what you experience, but for me this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I was aware of the sanctity of every hour of my trip—the long bus rides, the frustrating travel days, the language confusion and the angered border crossings—even in the most aggressive of situations I was still elated to be in that moment. I now harbor experiences that few can completely comprehend and fewer make effort to understand.  It is something I strain to find the words for, but my soul has grown wiser because of it.

Seeing the world has become my muse, and the brilliance is that no matter how much I try, I will never run out of it.  The world is too big, to dense, and too varied to ever be fully discovered.  For us, there is peace-of-mind in that, because no matter how life changes here, there will always be an adventure out there waiting.

To learn more about re-entry, check out the following articles:


Stacey Rapp and Dave Roberts love hiking, scuba diving, cooking, and of course, traveling.  They decided to take a career break after years of planning imaginary trips on a world map taped up on their living room wall. Now back in the US, they have relocated to San Jose, California from Portland, Oregon for work.  They are busy unpacking boxes and getting reacquainted with their cat, Baja.  The couple documented their travels on their blog, Breakfast on Earth, and they look forward to adding more posts whenever the next adventure comes around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Things to Expect When Returning Home
Monday, July 9th, 2012

Nothing can prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster of returning home after a sabbatical or career break. Even those of you who have done the research, reading the posts and the warnings, will be in for a surprise. You tell yourself that everything will be peachy-keen on the way home. And, for your sake, I hope you are right.

For those of us who have a less-than-peachy homecoming, I give you the following: A few realistic things to expect when returning home.

1. Travel Depression

It starts off as a nagging feeling in your head and heart, telling you that you are missing out on adventures while you are back at home. Your day-to-day falls back into a routine, lacking the discovery of yourself, new people, and new places. You’re adrenaline isn’t pumping like it did before- but all of this can be overcome.

One of the things that we found imperative to combat this is to give yourself a few days to hide out when you get home. Life went on while you are gone, a few extra days is not going to be the end of the world for your family and friends.

This time allows for decompression, de-stressing, and time to sort out the feelings you have about being home already. We sequestered ourselves in with our best friends in Phoenix, Arizona. This time was a “No Judgement” time filled with movies, video games, and beer. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, find what makes you happy and participate in it. The buffer will help you adjust for what is next.

2. Reverse Culture Shock

After being gone so long you would not believe how much you have accepted the terms and customs of the cultures you have visited. If you have spent a lot of time in third world countries, it can be especially bad.

Shaun and I had spent a year traveling through Central and South America. Towards the end of the trip we spend 6 weeks in Bolivia – one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere – and grew to love it. We learned how to navigate through outdoor markets and really started to connect with the community aspect of shopping for food.

When we returned to the States we were in shock and awe the first time we went into our neighborhood supermarket. Not only was it MASSIVE but I almost had a small panic attack when looking for butter as I was barraged by a wall of 25 different kinds. I sat there for a good 5 minutes trying to make up my mind. It was only when my husband came to find me to tell me he couldn’t pick a box of macaroni and cheese because there were 17 types that I realized what a predicament we were in.

3. Not everyone wants to hear your stories

The instinctual icebreaker when someone sees you for the first time after your return is almost always “How was your trip?” But many of those people are really looking for simple, one word answers. Although, it is usually quite apparent when someone actually wants to hear about your experience.

Needless to say, I was a bit surprised that very few people really wanted to hear about my life changing career break/sabbatical. I found that it helps to either come up with an intriguing one word answer to get them to ask more questions or make sure you have a support group that is willing to listen to you. Going to travel tweetups and local Couchsurfing events definitely cures this issue. Surround yourself with like minded people that do want to know and understand that family and friends sometimes just don’t understand what you went through.

4. People will have moved on with their lives without you

You are going to have to expect it. While you spent some length of your life volunteering in orphanages or walking through Patagonian glaciers, they kept living their lives at home.

Keep in mind that while you have changed, so have many of them. I think that was the hardest one for me to realize. People have had children, gotten promotions, turned vegetarian, bought new houses, etc. They won’t always be able to instantly make time in their lives for you again. It takes a bit to figure out where you fit in the big picture. This adds to the travel depression mentioned above.

5. It takes time to get used to things again

This is especially prevalent if you were in different cultures without access to the same things you had at home. You will revel in air conditioning, feel awkward about carrying a cell phone, stress out over how quickly things move back home, or like me, take weeks to stop deciding whether or not I should throw the toilet paper in the trash can or the toilet.

Luckily this one passes the quickest and you will be surprised how grateful you are about the small things in your lives – like dryers. I love hot, dry clothes. Apparently the rest of the world doesn’t use them. Who knew?

Not this girl.

The sooner you realize what emotions you are feeling when you return, the easier the transition will be back into your life at home. While the road is definitely not going to be an easy one, be assured by the fact that your recent experiences have helped prepare you for everything life can throw at you – even this.

Erica Kushel is 1/2 of the team at Over Yonderlust. After a year of backpacking and taking part in photographic delights in Central and South America, they are currently planning their next adventure: Iceland and Europe.

Breaking Free: Five Stages to a Career Break
Monday, April 23rd, 2012

For me, taking a career break wasn’t what rational people did.  Just quitting work was not “realistic.”  That’s what I had been raised to believe.  To get to where I am now–on a career break in South America since January–I had to go through five stages:

Stage 1: Envy

Having gone through university, I never took the opportunity to study abroad and was always envious of those who had.  My friends who returned from Italy, England and Spain with stories to tell was awe inspiring to me.  Then I had those friends who did the whole backpacking thing after college.  Again, that was a fleeting idea to me because (1) I didn’t have a trust fund and as a 22 year old, I did not have the finances for such an adventure and (2) I was of the mindset that after college I had to get my career started, and that meant entering the job market as soon as I exited university.

Stage 2: Regret

Envy inevitably leads to regret.  A few years into my advertising career, I was working in the New York City office of a company that happened to be based in London.  Upon threatening to resign, I was offered the opportunity to transfer to their London office.  While this was thrilling, my internal self was torn.  Being away for an indefinite period was exciting, but scary.  In my head, I thought about all the moments I would be missing back home and I knew my parents were not thrilled at the idea.  In the end, another company made me an attractive offer and I wound up staying in New York.

Stage 3:  Antsy-ness

One may ask, how can I be bored in a city like New York.  Living in New York, I’m constantly meeting people who are from other parts of the country — people who packed up their lives and took the dive to move to the big city.  I was once expressing to a friend of mine this envious feeling I had toward those people, and my need to take the same sort of plunge.  What she said has always stuck with me.  She told me I was one of those lucky people to have grown up with one of the best cities as my backyard.  For some reason though, I wanted more.  I wanted to live outside of my norm, to live outside of my box.  To live and work somewhere else, outside of NY, had an aura of excitement for me.

Stage 4: Guilt

The year 2008 marked a time of increasing unemployment.  At this point in my career, I had already “lived through” multiple rounds of layoffs at previous companies.  At the time, I was working for a national newspaper, and layoffs were fierce.  Colleagues would come into my office, worried about their jobs and the future of our team.  While I reassured them that we didn’t need to worry, inside my heart, I was truly hoping that my name would make the company cut list.  These thoughts made me feel a bit guilty as I watched the news and read about all the unemployed people struggling to pay their bills.  In truth, I wanted to switch places with them.

Stage 5:  Guts

It was the summer of 2011 and I was working at a digital start-up.  I always considered myself to be a person who did not shy away from a challenge, and I decided it was time to act.  What kept going through my head was the expression, “if not now, when?”  That meant getting some guts, quitting my job, leaving New York, packing up and saying goodbye.

I started to put my game plan together. I would give two months’ notice and travel to South America.  Focused on Ecuador, I started to look for volunteer opportunities in the country and borrowed Rosetta Stone from a friend of mine.

Fortuitously, lightning struck, and in September I was informed that the New York office would be closing its doors.  My head was spinning.  My team members were frantically updating their resumes, while I secretly thought to myself, “FINALLY! The stars had aligned and it was my turn.”


Sheryl Neutuch is a marketing professional from New York who took the plunge.  She is traveling, volunteering, learning and exploring in South America.  She is living her dream.

You can read more about her adventures on her blog, Smiling in South America.

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.

Travel & Your Entrepreneurial Side
Monday, February 20th, 2012

It was over 4 years in the making, but my girlfriend and I had done it. We had saved $50,000, quit our jobs, sold all of our stuff and bought a 1-way ticket to Hong Kong. It was time for a career break to spend a year in Asia just traveling and enjoying life.

Why was I traveling?

Many people travel to “find themselves” or “figure out what they want with life”. This was never my intention. I thought I had it figured out already. I liked my job (enough), I liked the area that I lived in and I liked the career path I was heading down. I had worked for a large company for over 4-years. I had steadily gained responsibility and earned promotions. When I was finished traveling, I assumed I would join another company and continue down my path. How wrong I was.

The Entrepreneurial Bug

My entrepreneurial bug started as I researched long-term travel. The research led me to people who showed there was a different way to live life. There was Chris Guilleabeau, Brian Armstrong, Kirsty Henderson, Nora Dunn and this was just the beginning. I started exploring what it meant to be an entrepreneur and became fascinated with Andrew Warner’s Mixergy interviews, 37 Signals, Jason Cohen, Dharmesh Shah & This Week in Startups. I was hooked.

My girlfriend and I were seeing new cities, meeting new people and doing a lot of fun things. I was trying to enjoy my time off, but it’s funny – when you no longer have a job, a commute, chores, and obligations, you end up with a lot of free time to think. I couldn’t shut my brain off.

Within a couple months I had an itchy mind (yup, I just made that term up…think itchy feet) and I started looking for problems that I could solve. I realized one of the biggest problems I could solve was one that I was experiencing every day. Figuring out what to do and how to get around in the new cities I was visiting was a huge pain!

Wikitravel gives a nice overview, but after that it was pretty much downhill. I wanted someone to tell me what the best things in the city were and how to specifically get around. I wanted something cheap. I wanted to see the city like a local and I still wanted to do it on my own. Thus spawned Unanchor.

Building Unanchor

The idea was simple. Local experts from around the world would be able to write travel guides and sell them on our site. What I particularly loved about this idea was that if it took off, the writers and the community would keep most of the money. I’d be helping the community of writers while making travelers’ lives easier and more enjoyable. The only question was ‘how do I build it’?

In high school I had built websites and in college I had taken some programming classes. Things had changed a lot since then – that was quite a few years ago. From the interviews I was listening to and the blogs I was reading, I knew the best way to start was to build it myself. So I decided to teach myself to code. I downloaded and read every page of “Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites“. At this point we were settled down in South Korea, giving me more time to learn. Within a couple months I had built the first version. It wasn’t pretty, but it did the trick. I started getting some interest and eventually found a partner who could help me improve it.

What Happened?

Fast forward almost a year and a half. We now have almost 100 itineraries for 75 different cities around the world. Travelers are using the itineraries and saying great things about them.

While I wish I could say that Unanchor took off and it now makes enough money to support me and my wife, that is unfortunately not the case. No matter what anyone says, starting a business is hard and takes a lot of time. Unanchor has grown and I’m proud of how far we’ve come, but it hasn’t grown fast enough. Once again I’ve found myself at a cross-roads trying to figure out what’s next. We’ve decided to move back to the Bay Area and I’m looking for a job now. I now know I want to work for a small company with a big goal. I won’t give up on Unanchor, though, and I’ll continue to work on it during nights and weekends.

It’s funny how things worked out. I never thought I’d be the type of person to “find themselves while traveling”, but that’s exactly what ended up happening.

Unanchor Contest Giveaway!

I’ve worked with the MPG team to create an Unanchor contest giveaway. Just leave a comment below, stating which Unanchor itinerary you’d be interested in having. And at the end of the day February 22nd, we’ll randomly select 2 people and give the itinerary away. Good luck!

Jason Demant finds Will Ferrell to be hilarious, hates the feeling of velvet and has a strange phobia of touching his own belly button. He grew up in Northern California and didn’t really leave. At 23 he got his first passport stamps and has been hooked on travel ever since. Jason and his wife were able to save for 2 years and in October 2009, they quit their Silicon Valley jobs to travel around Asia for a year. It was during that year abroad that he discovered the need for, and launched, Unanchor.

2011 Recap: Re-Entry
Monday, December 12th, 2011

These experienced career breakers are doing everything from planning another & becoming an expat to settling down in a new city and writing a book. We know you don’t want to think about your re-entry, but these stories will make you feel better about it.

So You Want to Write a Travel Memoir

Alexis Grant - MadaYou’ve just returned from an inspiring career break and are inspired by the experience to write a book. Think it’s not possible? Alexis Grant offers tips on how you can make it happen.

When travelers hear I’m writing a book about backpacking solo through Africa, they often confess that they, too, have dreamed about telling their travel story. “But I don’t really know how to go about it,” the traveler says. “How should I get started?”

Indeed, a book-length work can be daunting. But if you have a blog – and many travelers do – you’re already ahead of the pack. Blogging gets you in the habit of writing regularly and gives you an outlet for feedback, so you can get a sense for which stories resonate with readers.

So what’s the best way to turn your ideas into a book? Here’s how to get started on your travel memoir: Continue…

Travel and the Rewards of Your Goals

Rewards of your GoalsFor Richard Yang, it’s not about the destination – it’s the journey that matters most. And he now applies the lessons he’s learned from travel to his life and career goals.

Traveling is a passion for me and I’m fortunate to be working on launching my own travel related startup. However, this is only the beginning of the journey and I look forward to the challenges. But what I want to share is not about travel related entrepreneurship; but instead the “process” from where I was to where I am.

In 2000, I graduated college and entered the world of consulting. In 2005, I decided to take a sabbatical to travel. After returning to my job and working for 3 additional years, I moved to Spain for my MBA at IE Business School. But what does all of this have to do with traveling or anything at all? It turns out everything. Continue…

Manali & Terry: Content, Relaxed Yet Energized

Manali & Terry in SantoriniNow that you have returned from your career break and extended honeymoon, how would you describe yourselves?

Content, relaxed yet energized! We would definitely also add the word “appreciative” to how we describe ourselves. We appreciate that we took the time off to explore the world and yet we appreciate even more the opportunities that we have back home compared to some of the places we visited. We are so glad that we were able to take the leap and take full advantage of an extended career break, leave all our worries behind and be a part of this strong traveler community! Continue…

Living Life Differently

Sarah in VietnamI always feel more lost upon returning home. It probably doesn’t help that my husband and I live in a camp trailer, but to us wheels are freedom.

Our first trip in 2009 was the trip to begin all trips. We quit our jobs, sold our home on 80 acres, and leapt off the American grid for seven months around the world. When we came home we were faced with culture shock as well as a desire to live differently. I wanted to reduce my footprint, but see more places; live simply, but pick up more recipes and hobbies.

We had already accomplished the “art of non-conformity” in one sense, but we were ready to scare our friends and relatives just a bit more. Hey Mom and Dad, if you thought we were crazy then, wait until you see the camper we bought – to live in. Continue…

5 Tips for Career Break Re-Entry

Day-to-day cubicle doldrums didn’t motivate me to take my career break, instead it was an inspiring interview for a travel-related job. While I didn’t get the position I still remember what the interviewer said to me: “If you want to travel, then travel.”

I can’t picture being where I would be today if I had not taken the leap and simply booked a flight to New Zealand. While smart financial decisions and pre-entry planning made returning easier, it was ultimately a positive attitude and helpful support from others that prepped me for the adventures that have followed. Continue…

From Career Breaker to Expat

Having spent the majority of my twenties studying for my international business degree and climbing my way up the career ladder in a London marketing agency, my opportunities for ‘real travel’ had been limited to a few, weeks in Thailand, India and Morocco with the rest of my trips abroad taking the form of long weekends escaping London to visit European locations like France and Spain.

Like many people I had always been torn between two lives; my career ambitions and longing for stability and a comfortable life was constantly battling against my love of travel, living life to the full and breaking the mold. I decided last winter, aged 29, that it was now I never. I needed to stop fighting the latter and give my adventurous side a chance to explore. So, I agreed to a six month sabbatical with the director of the marketing agency and headed to South America, planning to travel for three months, (and here’s where my sensible side refused to totally give up the fight!) and put the rest of my time to gain a skill, trying to learn Spanish in Buenos Aires. Continue…

Planning Another Career Break

Sand Dunes in NamibiaJim & Rhonda Delameter reflect on their previous career break as they begin planning for another.

My husband, Jim, and I have always loved travel and adventure. He held various exciting jobs before we met from working ski lifts on Mt. Hood to being a crew member on a fish processing boat in Alaska. I grew up taking near yearly road trips around the United States with my family as well as living in four different states by the time I was 13 years old.

When we got married in 1990 we knew we wanted to explore the world but had a normal “American” preconceived notion of how holidays work. I started working in the travel industry and, in fact, we did start seeing the world in one to two week intervals. In 2003 we had been to 20 countries on five continents but we felt like we weren’t truly experiencing the places we were merely visiting. One or two weeks at a time were simply not sufficient. Continue…

Planning Another Career Break
Monday, November 14th, 2011

Jim & Rhonda Delameter reflect on their previous career break as they begin planning for another.

My husband, Jim, and I have always loved travel and adventure. He held various exciting jobs before we met from working ski lifts on Mt. Hood to being a crew member on a fish processing boat in Alaska. I grew up taking near yearly road trips around the United States with my family as well as living in four different states by the time I was 13 years old.

When we got married in 1990 we knew we wanted to explore the world but had a normal “American” preconceived notion of how holidays work. I started working in the travel industry and, in fact, we did start seeing the world in one to two week intervals. In 2003 we had been to 20 countries on five continents but we felt like we weren’t truly experiencing the places we were merely visiting. One or two weeks at a time were simply not sufficient.

Around that time I was searching for airline tickets and found the website that would alter the course of our lives… BootsnAll. Sean Keener and the crew were some of the first ones out there promoting extended travel and had some fantastic resources. We started reading other travelers blogs and stories, researching where we’d like to go and starting to think this was something we really wanted to do.

We, very fortunately, sold our house in spring 2007, right before the markets crashed, and embarked on an amazing, exotic, frustrating, fascinating, challenging trip. We covered 19 countries over the course of 14 months, exploring at our leisure, moving on when we were ready instead of rushing to see as much as possible in a limited amount of time.


We had a year of superlatives…birthdays on the Great Barrier Reef and floating the Nile. Thanksgiving on the beach in Bali. Christmas with tens of thousands of Vietnamese dressed as Santa in Hanoi. New Years Eve on the shore of the Mekong and Valentines Day watching the sunrise at the Taj Mahal. The highlight was getting up long before dawn to hike the worlds highest sand dunes in Namibia on our 18th anniversary to watch the sun come up over Africa.

But, more important than the “events” in exotic locations, we really found our true selves once again. We had a great life prior to leaving on our Round the World adventure, but somewhere in the pursuit of more and bigger we had lost what really made us come alive and that was spending time together, discovering new things, and immersing ourselves in new cultures and ways of doing things.

Our bodies, no longer required to wake to an alarm, adjusted to our natural sleeping and waking times. We ate well, walked miles every day, slept great, lost weight and felt better than we had in years. We were no longer stuck in our cubicles dreaming of exploring the world. We WERE exploring the world.


When we returned from our travels it was wonderful to see friends and family…for about five days! Within two weeks we were having serious reverse culture shock and longing to be back on the road. We craved to be in a place where no one spoke English, where restaurant meals weren’t large enough to feed a family of 12, and were people actually waved hello as you went by. This was summer 2008, the economy was racing into recession, and my job that I thought I was coming back to was not available. Jim had been laid off right before our departure and he had a couple of months of unemployment left and so, we took the only reasonable option: We loaded up our car with camping equipment and hit the road!

We spent nine weeks driving around the United States, most of which I hadn’t seen since I was a child and which Jim had never seen. We slowly acclimated to life back in the US while still traveling. Many travelers do the US portion of their trip at the beginning but we heartily recommend doing it at the end, when you really need the time to re-adjust to being back in the country while still also continuing to travel.


We’ve now been back an unbelievable three years. Almost immediately we realized that we had to do it again. And, not just on a career break, but as location independent road warriors and global citizens. We’ve decided to drive the Pan American highway to South America and Antarctica – our last two undiscovered continents. We will circle South America and then…who knows. Ship the truck to Africa? Sell the truck and put our backpacks and head back to SE Asia? Head back to India, the most intriguing place on the planet? How the story will go remains to be seen.

Right now we are in plotting and planning mode. We are just setting up our own website, while continuing to update our blog through Bootsnall that served us so well on our RTW. We have already purchased the truck and camper we’ll be living in and are making modifications as we can. We’re once again paying off debt, hoping the housing market turns around so we’ll make money off our latest house, and inhaling the information on the blogs of those who are currently on the road. We’re also researching traveling with dogs because next time, Maddy comes along!

This journey has been a remarkable one. We have grown as people, grown as a couple, and grown as citizens of the world. There is so much life out there and I fear too many people are “someday planners”, waiting for retirement, for the perfect moment, for…something. When the truth is, none of us know what will happen to us tomorrow much less in the future. The time to live is NOW.

Rhonda & Jim Delameter are back in Portland, Oregon planning their next adventure. You can follow along at The Adventures of Jim & Rhonda.

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