Posts Tagged ‘travelogue’

A Year in Paris
Monday, June 6th, 2011

Jenny SundelIn the months leading up to her 33rd birthday, Jenny Sundel’s high-paying, but deeply unsatisfying interim job ended. After a decade of working around the clock – and sleeping next to her blackberry! – she knew she needed a break. “That only crystallized further when I attempted to find another job, right smack dab in the middle of a recession no less. ‘Knowing your background as a freelancer, are you sure you could truly be happy in an office,’ asked one interviewer. ‘Um uh um uh um uh um,’ I stammered. Needless to say, they gave the job to someone eIse.”

Jenny was so burnt out that she could no longer imagine returning to her prior freelance life either. “I had lost all motivation to hustle for assignments along with any passion for my work. I felt disillusioned, purpose-less and un-inspired. And all this right as I was turning 33, otherwise known as the Jesus Year. It was the perfect time for a reinvention.” Jenny decided to move to Paris and shares with us how her life is changing

I always dreamed of a year in Europe, having taken several trips abroad from the time I turned 16. And I had been stashing money away for years due to the instability of freelancing. But that should be used for down payments, or riding out a down job market, or…Paris, as would come to me the weekend before my birthday after months of selling off my possessions to people who kept asking me if I was moving from Los Angeles, my home for eleven years. “Yes.” “Where?” “I’m not sure.”

Nearly two months after my birthday, I arrived in Paris in the middle of a snowstorm armed with my rusty high school French (sadly, not much has changed in that department!) and two contacts – an old kindergarten pal whom I had not seen in years and a Facebook “friend” who had written a letter on my behalf so I could secure a visa even though we had never met.

Eiffel TowerNotre Dame

Now, five months and three apartments later, I have made friends from all over – the Philippines, the Czech Republic, and my beloved Italy, which I have already visited twice since my arrival, lucky girl that I am. I have watched the sky change from moody grey to fairytale blue, spent all of my Euros on eye palettes and lipstick from Bourjois in a (failed) attempt to look French (on one particularly good day, I passed for Italian!), and learned to read a map so I can walk around this beautiful city rather than travel underground in the metro.

Not that I haven’t seen some uh-mazing sights on the subway, too, like the time I spotted a girl in heart tights and begged her to tell me where I could get them. (Yes, I bought the tights. No, I still don’t look French. That certain effortlessly chic je ne sais quoi? Turns out it’s not for sale. Trust me, I’ve looked. Plus, I still have a dopey smile plastered on my face – a dead foreigner giveaway.)

But there’s nothing like walking home along the Seine and spotting the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower every hour on the hour or looking out at the magical glow of the city perched atop one of the romantic bridges next to some couple making out (yes there is a reason it’s called the City of Light and the City of Love). In moments like these, I stop and think, “Wow, I live in Paris?!!” The surreal amazingness of it all washes over me at least once a week. Still.

But live here I do. I have my routines, my favorite walks, my go-to spots: underneath the bridge in Ile St. Louis where I often see brides posing for photos – turns out I’m not the only one who likes the Notre Dame backdrop; the café in Saint Germain with the best people-watching and the flirtiest waiters; the Aussie-owned coffeehouse in my hood where I order green tea and asparagus soup – tres important after a steady diet of croissants and macarons; the Irish bar where they know how to make my fave hard drink when I tire of my usual kirs and vin rouge (note: vodka-soda-limes are soooo not French); the Apple store at the Louvre, where they have learned to…tolerate my tech tantrums; Le Bon Marche where I drool all over the dessert case in their food hall and the tres chic (but way out-of-my-budget) designer duds in the adjoining department store.

Macarons in ParisNapping Cat in Paris

I no longer get chastised daily (just every other day?!) since I have learned to follow the unspoken rules here, or at least knowingly break them. “Bon appetit,” someone will undoubtedly say with a smirk if I choose to eat my pain au chocolat as I walk down the street rather than on a bench or in a café. When I forget to mind my manners and ask the salespeople for what I want as soon as I approach, “Bonjour,” they will remind me before forcing me to repeat my question after a proper greeting. And I still pat myself on the back when I order something in French and actually get what I think I ordered. (Although, after five months, perhaps I should set the language bar a bit higher?!)

I have given French people directions (ok, just the once, but still!); held an entire conversation in (broken) French with a locksmith when I could not open my door despite having my key in my hand; and found escargot totally palatable! There have been plenty of other surprises along the way, too. First, that I don’t actually have to know French to live in France since most people speak English (but I really should); that accomplishing a simple errand can often take all day and require a mound of paperwork; that I cannot subsist on croissants and cigarettes alone (try as I might!); and I will let just about anyone walk me home if they let me practice my French in the process (just ask one persistent stranger who took me the long way on Valentine’s Day).

From the moment I made the decision to spend a year abroad, my life has no longer felt purposeless. Yes, there are new challenges now. Don’t even get me started on this whole double-kissing business. (Is it an air kiss? A real kiss? Just me pressing my cheek gently against someone else’s while making a smacking sound?) But my biggest concern is to make sure to “profit” as the Frenchies say, from every minute I’m here. I mean that’s a lot of pressure! Especially now that half of the year has passed. Have I seen enough? Done enough? Met enough people? Should I move to another country for the second half of the year or stay in Paris now that I have created a life here and actually built friendships?
Montmarte, ParisSacre Coeur, Paris

But these are high-class problems. I no longer feel that emptiness, that void, that lack of balance that came from only focusing on my career and getting ahead. In its place, I feel a passionate desire to discover new things and – cue the cheesy soundtrack – try to live life to the fullest. Not that I’ve figured it out, but I’ve had a helluva good time trying.

My absolute favorite thing to do is just roam around Paris without a plan and see where I end up. Now, after years upon years of worrying about what’s next, that is how I have chosen to navigate life, too.

Jenny Sundel has written for Los Angeles Times, USA Today, People, Women’s Wear Daily, and New York Post, among several other publications. She is currently detailing her 33rd year of life, otherwise known as The Jesus Year, on her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter at @JesusYear.

Slow Travel with Mobile Lawyer
Monday, November 22nd, 2010

In December 2008, Michael Hodson (aka the Mobile Lawyer), an attorney from Northwest Arkansas, left his litigation practice to circumnavigate the globe – all without ever getting on an airplane. The adventure took 16 months as he ventured through 6 continents and 44 countries. He’s currently in Colombia writing about his adventures on his site Go, See, Write as well as a book.

[singlepic=1912,300,,,right]How did you come up with your ‘travel style’ of no planes or reservations on your around the world trip?
Basically, I wanted a challenge. I didn’t really do any research before my trip (which almost ended up a big problem, since you do actually have to reserve cabins on those cargo freighters I had to take, my only reservations), but I was aware there were plenty of people that had circled the world before. I thought that never leaving the ground would also give me a much better perspective of the size of our planet.

And that it did. I do love flying, but you get a much better sense of the size of things if you travel overland. Getting on a plane, having a couple drinks, watching a movie or two, falling asleep and waking up in Bangkok gives one an incredibly false sense of how small our wonderful planet is. I never had a second thought about doing my trip overland and I am incredibly happy I stuck with it.

How do you go about crossing the ocean on a freighter – learning about it, reserving it, preparing for it, and keeping yourself occupied for the long trip?  Did you ever get seasick?
Luckily I don’t get seasick at all, which I have tested in some moderately bad conditions before, though all my freighter rides on this trip were actually very calm. As to the how-to part, there are 3-4 travel agents that book freighter travel. I used a guy named Hamish Jamieson for all four of my crossings, and then got to met him face-to-face when I arrived in Napier, New Zealand.

I wasn’t prepared for how incredibly boring this type of travel was on my first crossing, but luckily had five other passengers on that leg that were interesting and provided some conversational entertainment. Be forewarned, you get a cabin and three meals a day, but that is about it for entertainment. As I went through Africa, Europe and Asia, I stocked up on lots of DVDs to watch on my laptop and bought a Kindle for reading material.  Without those, I might have blown my brains out on the 22-day Pacific crossing back home. It is mind-numbingly monotonous.


Keith Savage – Breaking One Career to Build Another
Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Keith Savage of Traveling Savage is one person who has not allowed societal pressures to stop him from pursuing his career break dreams. He’s not afraid of the unconventional. In fact, his career break plans are quite unconventional! Over the next two years Keith plans to visit 8 countries for a month each (4 months total a year) while beginning a travel writing career. All with the support of his wife, who will remain at home working and taking care of their three cats.

He shares with us what led him to this point in life.

Keith & Sarah Savage in ScotlandCould you tell me more about what made you decide to take a career break?
The American system of moving from childhood to adulthood usually involves going to college and identifying your future professional pursuit. Going to college also involves far too many parties and tons of interesting “flavors” of coursework. I graduated from school with degrees in creative writing and psychology, but I failed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Actually, I think I secretly knew what I’m consciously aware of now: I simply don’t want to do the kind of work that has come to typically define the word.

With no aspirations of seeking higher education after graduation, my liberal arts degrees effectively became little more than proof that I successfully completed undergraduate studies. I was on my own for job hunting, but, by the grace of some long-forgotten god, I managed to land a job as a technical writer at an amazing software company after only a few months. By any estimation this was the best “first job” I could have gotten.


The Lost Girls: Book Review
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

The Lost GirlsThe Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World. Or as we like to call it here at Briefcase to Backpack – a career break.

One of these Lost Girls shared with us the struggles she faced letting go on the road: Amanda Pressner – Losing Myself on the Road. And now with the release of the book, we are able to learn much more about her career break experience, and those of her fellow travelers Jennifer Baggett and Holly Corbett.

Whether they were running away from something (Jen), searching for something (Amanda), or seeking adventure (Holly), The Lost Girls took a leap of faith together and ventured off on a global journey that took them to South America (Peru & Brazil), Kenya, India, Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia) and Oceania (New Zealand, Australia).

Like many career breakers featured on our site, The Lost Girls were on the expected path in life, but questioned whether or not that was the right one for them.

“As we rocketed toward the next major stage (the one involving mortgages, marriages, and 2.2 children), we all wondered: Were the paths that we were heading down the right ones for us – or were we simply staying the course because we thought we should? Was the road most frequently traveled the one that we wanted to follow?”

They hoped that life on the road would help them gain the perspective they were looking for.

What is fascinating about the book is how we are able to delve into their hearts & minds and how the same journey is interpreted & experienced in three very different & unique ways. The Lost Girls do a great job of sharing their experiences – including the struggles & triumphs, the ups & downs – while still maintaining their individual voices. Not only do they guide us through their actual travels, but they open up to how each experience was affecting their own internal journeys.

The Lost Girls

Jen, Holly, and Amanda - aka "The Lost Girls"

And by sharing their thoughts and feelings about each other demonstrates the power of having a support system when taking such a huge risk in life – whether that is one on the road, back home, or both. Though it’s not always easy to travel long-term with one partner, let alone two, they were able to utilize each other’s strengths throughout and lean on each other during their weaknesses.

For the armchair traveler or workaholic, their story may be unique. But it fits right in here at Briefcase to Backpack. They touch on the circumstances that brought them to this point, the steps they took in planning & preparing, and even a glimmer of their reflections afterwards.

But the main crux of the book covers life on the road – and not just climbing Machu Picchu, volunteering in Kenya, surviving the trains in India, and bungy jumping in New Zealand. But also the struggles they faced letting go of their careers, loved ones, and sense of identities in order to gain new insight into themselves.

As they learn, the road doesn’t always have the answers to the questions you seek, nor will it serve them up on a nice silver platter. But by the end of this journey they realized that it wasn’t over, and lessons learned would only serve as guides as they navigate through the next steps of their lives.

Something every career breaker should embrace.

The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents.
One Unconventional Detour Around the World

Released May, 11, 2010 (hardcover) | April 26, 2011 (paperback)
Order now!

Paperback price: $9.75
Kindle price: $9.99
Hardcover price: $16.49

Favorite Blog: Almost Fearless
Thursday, November 5th, 2009

[singlepic=1570,300,,,right]One of our favorite blogs, Almost Fearless, comes from a fellow career-breaker, Christine Gilbert. The blog follows along on Christine’s journey from corporate manager at a large Fortune 500 Company to full-time freelance travel writer. In addition to her adventures on the road, Christine shares great tips on becoming a digital nomad and a location independent professional.

According to Christine:

I always wanted to travel the world. Who doesn’t? But somehow I ended up trading in my 20’s for a job I didn’t love, money I didn’t need (but happily spent on things I didn’t need), and a burgeoning sleep problem. One night after I ran out of valerian root and melatonin, I stayed up all night looking through job listings in my field. I realized something—I didn’t want to do any of them. None. I could change my job, change my environment, but the work itself had become excruciating.

It was time to take the leap and start over. I would finally pick up that writing career I had been tinkering with for years. I would start living the life I wanted now, instead of waiting for some far off reward. My husband and I would sell everything and move abroad with our two dogs, Molly and Jack.


Manali & Terry – Adjusting to Life on the Road
Monday, October 19th, 2009

[singlepic=1559,300,,,right]For many experiencing long-term travel for the first time, the first few weeks on the road can sometimes be the most emotional time. You may feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster as you feel excitement about your new environment one moment, and stress about what you left behind the next. But it’s all part of the journey!

Manali and Terry, a couple from Atlanta, Georgia who started their one-year career break in August of 2009, shared with us the emotions they experienced in their first weeks of travel in Asia.

1. What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to on the road?
Manali & Terry: Routine things taking two or three times as long as before. Certain small everyday things themselves are not difficult, but we feel that the general departure from the familiar to something new can be challenging at times. For example, at home we would hop into our car, drive to our favorite grocery store, pick up our favorite flavor of ice cream, know the price and pay.

[singlepic=1555,250,,,left]This now becomes: figure out how to communicate that you need something to eat, act out that you want to go to a store, get directions, reconfirm the directions on the internet, reconfirm again with a local that you are walking in the right direction, get to the store, try to figure out where the ice cream is located, make sure it’s mint flavored (not green tea or lime or any another green item), make sure it’s not expired (most items we have found are way past expiry!), haggle over the price, then pay in local currency. Although, still fun, it can be exhausting when it occurs multiple times a day. Whew!

It feels like no matter how flexible you are and whatever lifestyle you live currently, you will still have to expect a departure from your routine and be prepared to be patient for everything from finding a place to eat to finding a new way to unwind after a long day.


Vietnam: Saigon as an Expat
Friday, October 16th, 2009

[singlepic=1552,250,,,right]After her original 16-month career break, Sherry Ott decided not to go return to the “Briefcase” world and settled in Vietnam, teaching English for a year.

As an expat living in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Sherry wanted to embrace life as a local, which included learning to navigate the hectic streets by motorbike. For many countries, motorbikes are the main source of travel – it’s not uncommon to see people transport livestock, refrigerators, and families of 5 or more on two wheels, even during a monsoon. And rather than just become another passenger, Sherry decided that she wanted to take control of the motorbike.

[singlepic=1554,250,,,left]Though her rented bike spent it’s first weeks parked in her living room, Sherry eventually got over her fear of taking it on the road, even obtaining a “license” in hopes of being a legal driver.

In her “Motorbike Diaries”, Sherry opens up about the ups and downs of this experience, with witty observations of the motorbike culture in Vietnam. And within time, she finds herself to be fitting right in – masks and rain ponchos included.


Favorite Blogs: Career Breaker Round-Up
Monday, July 27th, 2009

We are all about inspiring people to take a career break and travel, so we were excited when we came across three couples who will be venturing off soon on year-long traveling career breaks! We can’t wait to follow along on their adventures and hope you do the same as well.

Two Backpackers
[singlepic=1496,200,,,left]Jason and Aracely are a couple that understand there is more to life than a successful career. After college, Jason spent much of his time chasing his career and financial goals, which included jobs at Mercedes-Benz USA and Mercer. Likewise, Aracely was groomed into a young professional at Mercedes-Benz USA and as a Finance Manager at American Express. But both find greater joy in being outdoors, learning about the world, and lending a helping hand – activities that better shape and define them as individuals then any job title could.

[singlepic=1495,150,,,right]With no set itinerary other than using Guatemala as a starting point, Jason and Aracely hope this experience will validate their passions, step outside of their comfort zone, and grow as individuals. As Jason writes: “Part of this journey is learning to let go; live in a way that is completely different from the way we currently live our lives. Today, we spend a significant time planning and organizing because we only have a weeks’ worth of vacation from our jobs. Now, there is no need to crunch everything possible into a week, plan extensively or recuperate. You can do what you want, when you want, on your own terms for as long as you want. It’s exhilarating just to say those words.”


Favorite Blog: Hole In The Donut
Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

When I first came across the blog “Hole In The Donut” and read the description of its author, Barbara Weibel, I immediately knew she was a “Briefcase to Backpacker”.

[singlepic=1424,175,,,left]After years of working 70 hours a week at jobs she hated, baby-boomer Barbara Weibel felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside, but empty on the inside. Searching for meaning in her life, Weibel abandoned her career and set out on a six-month solo backpacking trip around the world, during which she pursued her true passions of travel, writing, and photography. Since returning, she has continued to travel and blog about her journey, both physical and spiritual.

It is always interesting to learn what inspires people to make life changes like this, and for Barbara, it was being diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Being practically bedridden for nearly six weeks gave her time to analyze the way she was living her life. During this time of reflection she decided that in order to live a life with purpose, she needed to figure out what brought her joy. And what brought her joy was photography, writing, and of course travel.


Favorite Blog: Otts World
Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

[singlepic=1123,250,,,right]I was first introduced to Sherry’s blog, Ott’s World, while working at Cross-Cultural Solutions. As part of her journeys, Sherry was volunteering with CCS in India, and my colleague thought I would love her site because of her beautiful photography. And she was right. I was also extremely envious of her incredible adventures, which usually happens when I’m stuck in an office and not traveling myself.

Fortunately I was in the middle of planning the career break Michael and I would be taking. During our trip, we kept a blog as well (called appropriately Briefcase to Backpack) and received envious feedback from friends and family. So much so that we felt like we needed to do more with the name and concept.


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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