Posts Tagged ‘reflecting’

Re-Entry Roundup: Meet, Plan, Go! Hosts
Monday, August 8th, 2011

We’ve recently been featuring many of our Kick-Ass Meet, Plan, Go! hosts to show you why we are excited to have them on board. Collectively they have some great experiences to share from their career breaks that will inspire you – both before and after your own career break.

Here’s a round-up in case you missed any of them!

Was Your Career Break a Job Killer?

There are some career breakers who turn their travels into a new career path. But for most, like our Seattle hosts Paul & Christine Milton, they knew they wanted to go back to their careers.

“Let’s face it. Most of us aren’t witty travel writers and we’re not glamorous TV stars. We’re not going to spend the rest of our lives traveling the world, submitting creative blog posts or poignant documentaries from exotic distant lands. Of course there are those doing it, but they’re the minority in the global travel community.

The travel community is made up of people like you and me. Most who mark the calendars, strap on a backpack and look forward to scuba diving, mountain trekking and passport stamps are the temporary traveller. We’re able to take 3-12 months and head out into the world – seeking to learn about the unknown in other countries, and deep within ourselves. Sooner or later, the trip will come to a conclusion and you’ll be back in the job market, nervously anticipating sitting across the table from a prospective employer in an interview.

Was your trip a waste of time? Was it a job killer? Honestly . . . no.

Paul & Christine offer some great advice on working your career break into interview questions.
Join Paul & Christine at our Seattle event.

Following the Imperfect Career Path

JoAnna HaugenIn college, did you feel pressure to pick just the right major in order to start that perfect career path? So did our Las Vegas host, JoAnna Haugen.

“Resumes begin in college, so I majored in a broad and widely defined field, and I minored in a foreign language and international business. I studied hard, held offices in several student organizations, paid my way through school with scholarships and graduated with honors and an emphasis in international studies. All of these things were meant to prepare me for the perfect career. You know, the career where my skills were needed and appreciated, where my creativity was coveted and where I could scoot right up the corporate ladder while collecting hefty bonuses along the way.”

That perfect career? Not so much. So what career path did JoAnna take?
Join JoAnna at our Las Vegas event.

Re-Entry is a Whole New Journey

Smith family in ArgentinaThink your career break is the biggest challenge you’ll experience? Re-entry and reverse culture shock is a challenge and journey all unto itself. Just ask our San Francisco Host, Sarah Lavender Smith.

“About a year ago, our family experienced the shock of re-entry when we moved back home after nearly a full year of traveling around the world. Our big house felt so oversized, and the four of us felt so natural being close together after months of sharing small spaces, that we spent the first night huddled in sleeping bags on the floor of one room.

The thoughts swirling around my head back then included, I don’t want us to move back into our own rooms and separate offices, where we’ll be out of eyesight and earshot of each other. I don’t want to unpack our household stuff and fill up this space with things I no longer feel we need. I don’t want to lose our closeness and feel stuck in one place. I don’t want to go back to work, and I have no idea what we’ll do for work…

How have they settled in?
Join Sarah at our San Francisco event.

Following Someone Else’s Dream

What if the career break dream isn’t yours but your partners? Do you take the chance and say yes to join them? That’s what happened to two of our hosts.

Lisa Niver RajnaOur Los Angeles host, Lisa Niver Rajna was just a couple of months into dating George when she said yes to joining him on a trip to Fiji. And while in Fiji, he presented the idea of taking a career break together.

“Most of the career break stories I hear are about the person who cannot wait to go. My story is the opposite. I wanted to want to go, but I was so afraid. Off the beach and back home, all I had were the WHAT Ifs? What if we don’t get along? What if there is nowhere to stay? What if we get sick? I had lived on a cruise ship for nearly seven years, so I knew I could leave and come back, but to travel with George without a set plan; this was a challenge I was not sure I could handle.”

What happened?
Join Lisa and George at our Los Angeles event.

Adam SeperAdam Seper, our St. Louis host, also followed someone else’s dream – his wife’s.

“After spending the first half of my 20’s trying to figure out what it was I wanted to do, I finally went back to school to get my teacher’s certificate and master’s. I became a high school English teacher and soccer coach. I really enjoyed my job. I was happy. I was nearly through my first year of teaching and my new career when my wife first came at me with this idea of a year-long RTW trip.

At first, I thought she was nuts. We were both finally out of school and making good money. We were paying off our debt. We were saving up for a house. We were about to fulfill the American Dream! Why in the world would I want to give all that up?

Adam had thought it was a crazy idea, but did he think so afterwards?
Join Adam at our St. Louis event.

Travel is the Ultimate Education

The Cooney Family at Angkor Wat

Our Orlando hosts, Mike & Catrell Cooney, made financial sacrifices in order to fulfill a promise they had committed to their sons – that they would travel around the world as a family.

“The purpose of our hair-brained idea was to expose our three sons to the world before starting college. As I always like to say, we spent the funds for their Ivy League education up front. Our philosophy then and now, is that ‘Travel is the ultimate education.’ The knowledge they gained, the people they met and the cultures they experienced were not something they could learn from a book. It could only occur by being immersed in a journey that taught all of us more about the world in which we live.

And in the process, Catrell and I believe we helped create better global citizens who have memories to last a lifetime, and will make travel apart of their future as well.”

Was this such a hair-brained idea?
Join Mike & Catrell at our Orlando event.

Kick-Ass Host: Sarah Lavender Smith
Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

All of our local kick-ass Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the time leading up to our National Event in October we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet our Kick-Ass San Francisco Host: Sarah Lavender Smith

Re-Entry: A Whole New Family Journey

About a year ago, our family experienced the shock of re-entry when we moved back home after nearly a full year of traveling around the world. Our big house felt so oversized, and the four of us felt so natural being close together after months of sharing small spaces, that we spent the first night huddled in sleeping bags on the floor of one room.

Smith family in Argentina

The thoughts swirling around my head back then included, I don’t want us to move back into our own rooms and separate offices, where we’ll be out of eyesight and earshot of each other. I don’t want to unpack our household stuff and fill up this space with things I no longer feel we need. I don’t want to lose our closeness and feel stuck in one place. I don’t want to go back to work, and I have no idea what we’ll do for work …

Renting out our home, leaving a business partnership, pulling our son and daughter out of school, and living nomadically on five continents with only as much as we easily could carry was the most meaningful, rewarding, transformative and mind-expanding thing we have ever done.

But I won’t sugarcoat the fact that ending travel and starting a new chapter professionally and personally is just plain hard. Instead of writing about our year away, I decided to focus on re-entry to show how we’ve managed—and why using extended travel as the jumping-off point for a major career/life transition ultimately is so very worth the effort.

In many ways, the year after the year away has been a journey, too. My husband Morgan, successful for over a decade at a law firm he co-founded, spent several months at home while trying to figure out what he would do next. Losing his income as well as jeopardizing those close professional relationships felt incredibly risky and put us both on an emotional roller coaster.

Thanks to the year of travel, however, we felt much more capable of working closely together in our house and living frugally to stretch our savings. (Budgeting for travel is a topic for another post, but suffice to say we’re proof that most people need a financial cushion upon return. My advice: Save for re-entry as well as for travel.)

Meanwhile, I felt adrift and highly ambivalent for months after ending our trip. I missed my “job” of homeschooling the kids and blogging about our travels. I resented the return to household-related chores and monthly utility bills that disappeared during our year away. I spent five months unsuccessfully developing a manuscript and felt like a failure when I shelved it indefinitely.

Smith family in Barcelona

Our daughter and son fared better, since they were happy to reconnect with friends. Entering 7th grade, my 12-year-old daughter met the academic rigors and sidestepped the social landmines with an inner strength and easygoing attitude that I credit in part to our travel, which helped her develop self-reliance, intellectual curiosity, and an ability to get along with all types.

Our 9-year-old son had a bit more trouble transitioning to 4th grade, however. When we traveled, his core schoolwork of math and language arts boiled down to just an hour or two a few days a week—and then he’d learn a great deal experientially about our destinations. He found it difficult to go from the one-on-one, self-paced nature of “road”schooling to being one of 27 kids stuck in a classroom for six hours. Ultimately, though, he adapted and did fine.

Fast forward six months, and Morgan and I find ourselves working side by side on a new business he launched in early 2011: a litigation graphics and consulting firm. He is leveraging his favorite part of being an attorney—the creative and strategic side of case preparation—in a way that he hopes will help others. I’m handling the marketing and assisting with business development. As much as possible, I also carve out time to develop a new blog that combines my twin passions of long-distance running and travel.

Our business venture sometimes feels like the kind of seat-of-our-pants adventure we experienced around the globe. We’re forced to adapt to change, cope with risk, work collaboratively, keep odd hours and learn as we go—skills enhanced by long-term travel.

I honestly don’t think Morgan would have had the vision for his new business—or could have mustered the courage to change his career—without taking the round-the-world departure from our “regular” lives. As he wrote last year in a post reflecting on how the trip changed us:

“Taking this trip was seizing hold of an opportunity to do something different with the remainder of my life. … The process of travel allowed me to slowly change my focus from the past to the future. Travel forces ‘the new’ upon you on a daily and moment-to-moment basis. Trying to figure out how to order in Spanish, or work a foreign ATM or get a phone card in another country, all combine to make change a constant in your life—and a pleasure.”

Smith family RVing in New Zealand

On days when all four of us feel harried, disconnected and overscheduled, I ache to be on the road again, when we had a common, relatively simple mission: get from Point A to Point B, learn about the destination, and figure out where to sleep and buy groceries. But I also value relationships in our hometown and getting involved in our community so that we feel we have a real home.

I have no doubt that the year of traveling as a foursome—an experience I sometimes call “radical marriage and family therapy” or “extreme quality time”—bonded the kids as siblings, Morgan and me as spouses, and all of us a family in a way that will keep us close for life, no matter what happens. Instead of getting sick of each other, feeling homesick and “needing our space,” we grew closer together and made whatever apartment, motel or campground we spent the night in feel like home.

Our goal now is to establish a new career with flexibility and financial success that allows us to take off for extended periods. Rather than be digital nomads who work on the road, we prefer to try to establish a home/travel cycle where we work hard and take long breaks away—easier said than done, but a goal worth striving for.

And if it doesn’t work out? Well, at least we had that year!

Check out the San Francisco event details.

Living Life Differently
Monday, July 11th, 2011

Sarah Reijonen’s home base is Spokane, Washington, though ultimately it’s wherever her camper is parked. She and her husband, Chris, quit their jobs and sold their house in 2009 for a seven-month trip around the world. The trip changed their lives, their outlook and made them eternal wanderers. Upon returning home they bought a camp trailer in which to live and travel for Chris’ work. Chris is a power lineman and Sarah is pursuing her dream as a writer. She is working on her first book about what else but travel, as well as blogging about life, love and travel at Walkabout: Spanky and Sarah’s Journey

I always feel more lost upon returning home.

Sarah in Vietnam

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.

A year later we are still in our home on wheels living the life of gypsies. We travel where the work takes us then take a couple months off at a time to go where our hearts lead us. Most recently, we returned from two months through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Our friends and family expect it now.

When I come home, they aren’t surprised to see my bloodshot eyes brought on by a SCUBA diving accident. They are even less surprised to hear that it happened in Thailand. “Of course,” they say, almost scoffing. I feel a bit like Owen Wilson’s character in the Focker flicks; always onto a new adventure and coming off just a bit too Zen for anyone’s comfort level.

Sarah in New ZealandAlthough seven months is a little too long for my liking, I will never stop traveling. It’s not a bug; it’s a disease, but in the most positive sense. I return from my time abroad and see my world with new eyes. Minor irritations are just that: Minor. As for those friends and relatives that keep me at a distance so as not to catch my madness, well, I want to hold them closer than ever. I twist their arms to take weeks off from work, and if they aren’t ready for weeks then just days.

I can’t sit for a minute, though I could have laid on a beach for days on Koh Lanta. Sights from my old stomping grounds are both familiar like a baby blanket and different as a foreign country. I wear make-up and curl my hair – a far cry from the woman on the go that I left in Ireland two weeks ago. My two personalities of homebody and road warrior continue to move closer to one another as I morph into the one woman I see before me in the mirror.

I may be home, but home is quite relative these days. Though I miss the comfort of a foundation, it isn’t necessary. Travel takes sacrifice. I have chosen the road less traveled, and in turn, I make the road my home.

Kick-Ass Host: JoAnna Haugen
Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

All of our local kick-ass Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the time leading up to our National Event in October we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.

Meet our Kick-Ass Las Vegas Host: JoAnna Haugen

What Doesn’t Kill You Only Makes You Stronger

JoAnna HaugenIn college, I believed I had to prepare for the most robust career opportunities available. Even though I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do, I knew I loved to travel and wanted to integrate some sort of international experience into my resume.

But resumes begin in college, so I majored in a broad and widely defined field, and I minored in a foreign language and international business. I studied hard, held offices in several student organizations, paid my way through school with scholarships and graduated with honors and an emphasis in international studies. All of these things were meant to prepare me for the perfect career. You know, the career where my skills were needed and appreciated, where my creativity was coveted and where I could scoot right up the corporate ladder while collecting hefty bonuses along the way.

During the semester leading up to graduation, I applied for hundreds of jobs and was called for less than half a dozen interviews. With our apartment lease up and no company willing to greet me with open arms, my husband and I packed our bags for Peace Corps service in Kenya.

They say that serving in the Peace Corps is the “toughest job you’ll ever love,” and it’s an accurate statement. Mood swings took 180-degree turns within a matter of minutes. We lived without electricity and running water. We rode for hours on stuffy buses with coughing children and chickens. To get our mail, we had to ride our bikes for ten miles through the sand … and hope the post office was open. It was exhilarating and maddening. Exciting and angering. Gratifying and incredibly sad.

And we survived.

Upon returning home, I captured the office job I was supposed to covet. Well, it turns out that
Corporate America and I don’t get along very well. For several years I worked passionately, devoting
myself to my jobs, providing innovative suggestions on my quarterly reviews, honestly answering
surveys on how to improve the departments and companies I worked for, working long hours in hopes of future rewards … and ultimately collecting a pile of pink slips in return.

Confused, frustrated and questioning whether I was not only a good employee but also a good person, I continued to plug away at the 8-to-5 while working on another plan. I always wanted to be a writer, and I obviously didn’t get along well with my bosses, so I figured I might be the best boss for myself. No one ever told me in college that it was okay not to have a pre-defined, in-the-box career, so the idea of breaking free was terrifying.

In October 2009, I had the opportunity to go to Burning Man—an extreme living community in the
harsh Nevada desert—by myself. For several months I wavered on whether to go but ultimately decided to pack my car with an old bike and crazy costumes, and I took off for Black Rock City, the makeshift community of 50,000 people that makes up Burning Man.

I encountered dust storms, loud nights and hot days … and several guys my age who had shrugged off Corporate America to pursue their passions. If they had done it, why couldn’t I? For one week, I lived in difficult conditions surrounded by strangers (who became friends).

And I survived.

Upon returning home, I turned in my two-week notice and quit my relationship with Corporate America for good. Now I’m my own boss, pursuing my own passion. Some days are better than others, but all of them are better than that pit in my stomach I got driving to work every morning.

And I’m surviving, because that tried and true saying is true: What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Check out the Las Vegas event details.

Manali & Terry: Content, Relaxed Yet Energized
Monday, June 13th, 2011

Manali and Terry just recently returned from eighteen months of extended travel, visiting 27 countries and have now settled in Boston, MA trading their backpacks to briefcases once again! You can check out their website at or follow them on twitter @manaliandterry.

On your blog you describe yourselves as “Yuppies to Hippies”.

Now 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!

Manali & Terry in Santorini

That was quite a honeymoon.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

Our favorite part was meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and just being able to relax with no set deadlines or specific “things to do”. We learned so much about being able to be adjust to unknown surroundings quickly and be comfortable among strangers. We met some amazing and inspirational people in every country we visited and have been trying to keep in touch!

How has your transition to life back at home been going?

Have you experienced any reverse culture shock?

As soon as we landed stateside, we were glad to be home but definitely noticed the “in your face” marketing, large billboards and loud ads on the tv as soon as we had two feet on the ground for busy Christmas shopping season. Although people were still friendly, everyone was in a rush to cross items off the list with their “to go” food and coffee, scurrying to their next destination. We are going to try very hard not to fall back into the ‘checklist’ mentality and enjoy every moment of every precious day!

Manali & Terry in China

You’ve actually settled into a new city.

How did you come to that decision?

When our travels were nearing the end, we were really tempted to continue to live abroad and begin a new adventure as expats in a foreign country. We attempted to find corporate jobs abroad but nothing really caught our attention, so we focused efforts back home in the States, keeping our options completely open to all 50 states. Eventually, wonderful opportunities arose in Boston, MA. After moving a day before a massive blizzard hit the area in January, we are still awaiting the warm weather everyone has promised will come soon!

What are your career plans now?

And how did your break influence your decisions?

Before we left and during our travels, we were worried that we won’t be able to go back to a “normal” corporate desk jobs again, so we really tried to list out qualities that were important to us before we jumped back into the “real world”. During our job search, we looked for opportunities that allowed us to make an impact at work, schedules that were flexible and had great cohesive team environments. Although there is no perfect job, we are happy with our current situations, have shared many of our travel experiences with intrigued coworkers and hope they catch the travel bug soon! Our career break also taught us that there is definitely life outside the cubicle and we may even change our career paths in the future to incorporate some extended travel, whether it may be helping other people plan, hosting travelers or even retiring on a small remote island!

Terry in New Zealand

You’ve gone from honeymooners to expectant parents.

How do you plan to incorporate travel into your life as a family?

We are expecting a little baby backpacker this October! We definitely will be taking international trips as soon as we feel ready, especially since we have family abroad. We’re hoping our kids are curious and interested in traveling early – we’ve been inspired by many families that travel long term and plan to take a year off again sometime in the future!

What were you doing one year ago today?

Living the good life! We were cruising the Greek Isles, basking in the sunshine on the white sand beaches and enjoying plenty of delicious cheeses and wine!

We would highly recommend long-term travel to anyone! There isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t reminded of the fantastic places and people we encountered. We hope that we will cherish those memories forever as a couple and inspire future travelers.

People always say that we are “lucky” but honestly, luck has nothing to do with it! Once you take the first step, you will have wonderful experiences at your fingertips – the world awaits!

Travel and the Rewards of your Goals
Monday, May 16th, 2011

For 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.

Rewards of your Goals

Appreciate the process of reaching your 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.

When to start traveling is always a hard decision for anyone. There are obvious time advantages in terms of age and family in the decision factor; but leaving a secure job is difficult within the American social norm. I was advancing professionally and had reached my initial goals in making manager at a global firm.

While proud of my accomplishments, the sensation was fleeting. Working diligently and logging long hours, I’d forgotten to take in the process. All I knew for so long was I wanted to make manager.

I also knew I wanted to take some time to travel around the world sometime in my life. Just like my managerial goals, I approached it logically. I wasn’t getting another title change soon, so why not start my journey.

It took me a long time to adjust to the travel life. I felt antsy with the thought that I had to “accomplish” something everyday. If I didn’t, I wasn’t taking full advantage of my time off. I believed I must succeed in a new goal everyday. But as any traveler knows, this is impossible. Through time, I learned that the world does not run at NYC pace, let alone American pace. Through the journey I learned little lessons about my travel style, when to go and when to stay, and who and what to trust. I put little thought and even less appreciation into the fact that I was learning. The transformation from binary thinking to process appreciation wasn’t planned or recognized. I didn’t set out to travel to contemplate, it just happened.

Only by the end of my journey did I begin reflecting on the five previous years as a consultant. I realized why the manager title was fleeting and why saying I traveled around the world meant nothing. What mattered was the little step-by-steps you take to get to where you are. Learning from your mistakes, accepting failure, and picking yourself up again. Goals change, and will constantly change, but how you as an individual reach those goals matter more. Making the conscious decision to appreciate the process becomes valuable in everything you do – be it the initial overpacking for your journey to starting your own company.

Rewards of your Goals

Sometimes you don't know what to expect

Re-entering I had a new recognition of my goals. Within a month of returning, I was asked to relocate to India, where I stayed for 7 months. Upon finishing that project, I began working in Munich. I took the opportunities that others feared taking because the role wasn’t in the eyes of the partners or professionally glamorous. I wasn’t successful at every turn; but, with the new approach I realized the failures were no longer black marks. This philosophy encouraged me to attend an MBA outside the US. It also led me to turn down monetarily rewarding job offers around the world to pursue launching my own business.

In travel, from beginning to end, and the re-entry to home and career, think of every moment and the steps you need to take. They will be difficult & frustrating and nothing will go according to plan. But by appreciating the process and understanding that it’s part of the goal, the rewards become evident, leading to your own happiness.

As for this moment, launching my own startup isn’t like what you read in the newspapers or see in movies. Many talk about the benefits of working for yourself in making millions or having more free time; but few talk about the multiple failures before reaching success. But the process of learning and adapting has been amazing. I expect to fail somewhere. I expect to get a rejection on a daily basis. This relates beyond entrepreneurship and into everything – from traveling to even finding that next career. You will get lost. You will have to change your plans. But by appreciating the step-by-step of your journey will make the rewards personally meaningful, which only carries forward socially and professionally.

Richard YangRich Yang is a NYC based travel tech entrepreneur who founded Street Mosaic, a social, real-time travel guide. Integrating the social interaction and photography element of travel, Street Mosaic gives users a fun way to share their spontaneous discoveries with other exploration-minded individuals. Users simply log on to discover what’s interesting, nearby, and recent and we help get you there. Simply take a picture, write a caption, and share with the community.

Rich checks his twitter often and loves to hear from you. Find him at @yangwave. Street Mosaic is still in developing and testing and open for product testers. Look for our free app in the iTunes App Store and on twitter @streetmosaic.

A Life Changing Year Ends Full-Circle
Monday, April 25th, 2011

After losing her job and spiraling into debt, Abby Tegnelia found herself living in a small Costa Rica village for a year. It was the life change she needed to recharge and fall in love with her career all over again.

Tico, Costa Rica

The logistics of how I ended up living in a small pueblo in Costa Rica for a year were a happy accident, one small step that led to another, leading me to the life change that I so desperately needed. I had been a workaholic. But that lifestyle started to wear on me, leaving me impatient and unhappy, confused as to why the magazine career I had always wanted had left me wound so tight, yet empty.

I lost my job in October 2008, and my world seemingly ended. Like so many other career-focused men and women, I had let my identity forge itself to my career. I was my title. And then it was gone.

It was a long time before I could get out of my lease and put a stop to my expensive bills in Los Angeles. I dove into debt, something I’d worked so hard to never do. Still, I did not reach out to every contact I had or pound the pavement looking for a job.

If I had, I would have restarted the same life that I so needed to pull away from. Sure, I freelanced to make money, but I also cried a lot during marathons of CSI. Then my TV broke. No one said change was easy.


So You Want to Write a Travel Memoir
Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

You’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.

How to Write a Book About Your Travels

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:

Read other travel memoirs

Think about why each book works (or doesn’t). Try well-known authors like Bill Bryson and Mary Morris and Paul Theroux, but also browse your local bookstore’s travel section for up-and-coming writers. Since my book is about traveling solo, I look specifically for books by women who have done just that. How is the story structured? Why did it sell? How will yours be different – and better?

Alexis Grant - Mada

Figure out your message

Your memoir should be about more than your trip; you need an overarching theme that readers can relate to, a story arc that includes personal growth. Look back at those travel memoirs you read. What’s their message? You can bet those stories aren’t simply a chronicle of “first I did this, then I did that.” There’s some thread, some theme that ties their experiences together and makes them meaningful. How can you turn your story into a narrative that people who don’t know you will want to read?

What’s the Right Amount of Time on the Road
Monday, April 11th, 2011

When I first started backpacking nearly 20 years ago, I never heard about gap-years, or for that fact, career breaks. I was traveling as a college student, adding to my education by backpacking through Europe and studying in London. That experience led me to realize that I wanted to incorporate travel throughout my life – whether it was three months in SE Asia or two weeks in Ecuador.

San Blas, Panama

And during the majority of my travels, the Internet was not a prevalent part of my planning until the past few years. So I was unaware of any other people outside of my circle taking sabbaticals or career breaks to do extended travel.

But since co-founding Briefcase to Backpack, many more career breakers and RTW travelers have come on my radar. And sometimes it seems like many feel that they need to travel for at least a year or more, and in some cases, sell all of their belongings to do so. But in my experiences, I don’t feel that that is always necessary. Yes, there are many fascinating places in the world to see, but is it really necessary to check them off all at once?

I’ve found that I much prefer taking shorter breaks (a minimum of two to three months) every few years – focusing on a certain area of the world. And knowing that that is how I prefer to travel has also made it easier to incorporate those breaks throughout my career – utilizing time between jobs to travel. And personally, I really look forward to returning home.

My most recent career break was only just three years ago (my fourth), and I’m continuously asked when my next break is going to be. And I thought that it would actually be at the end of this year, when I celebrate my 40th birthday. I’m not sure if it is the milestone birthday or the “pressure” from writing and editing other people’s career break stories – or a combination of both – but my recent vacation made me realize that I may not really be ready for a break. I’m very happy building a business and living with my husband and two cats in New York City.

San Blas, Panama

I think that because of my early travel experiences I have learned how to really make the most of my vacations, using the week or two to also experience new cultures while enjoying the time off. Michael and I just returned from 10 days in Panama, where we took in the diverse neighborhoods of Panama City, experienced the Canal from various vantage points, visited the Pacific beaches on the Azuero Peninsula, and enjoyed the seclusion of the San Blas islands. It was during that vacation that I realized it’s not the length of the trip that is important – it is what you do with your time that is. And that is something I learned from my various career breaks.

Of course RTW trips are an amazing opportunity for many people, and I don’t discount them. I just know that that style of travel is not for me. Nor is the nomadic lifestyle of my business partner, Sherry Ott.

In fact, when we first started Briefcase to Backpack, we didn’t want to tell people how to plan their own career break, because we knew it is a very personal experience. But by featuring the experiences of others, you could find a variety of inspirational stories and then decide what would work best for you. I just want people to also realize that a career break and extended travel doesn’t have to be a one-off experience – it can become a part of your life moving forward.

So in planning your own career break travels, really think about the amount of time and experiences you want to take in. Don’t necessarily worry about keeping up with the Joneses of the RTW travel community.

2 Backpackers: Where Are They Now?
Monday, March 21st, 2011

In the summer of 2009 we introduced you to three career break couples, including Jason Castellani and Aracely Santos of 2 Backpackers. Jason and Aracely began their career break in Guatemala and quickly learned that they preferred slow travel. So they shifted their round-the-world plans to focus their year in Central and South America.

In between, we checked in with them to see how they were adjusting to life on-the-road and get some travel tips based on their road experience. One of the most exciting aspects of their trip was getting engaged and since their return, have already gotten married and moved to Miami! So we decided it would be a great time to check in.

2 Backpackers

You obviously survived traveling together for a year – having gotten engaged and married shortly after your return. What insight did you gain about your relationship while traveling?
We figured, if we survived this, we can survive marriage. Which, to us is the long-term commitment of being together and tolerant of each other all the time, while still staying in love. I had planned on proposing during the one year of traveling if we were getting along. And we did get along. Looking back on that journey now, after 7 months of being home, I still feel as though that was our best time together.

What advice would you give to other couples planning a career break?
We suggest not using a travel career break to find out if you are compatible. In our article 5 Tips for Traveling as a Couple we suggest that you each have a clear understanding of your travel preferences. There will always be compromise, but you don’t want to discover one loves hiking and camping while the other is a foodie and sun bather after you just landed in Guatemala.

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