This year will be my first year not hosting Meet Plan Go in Austin. It was a tough decision to make because I really love this event. In the past two years, I got the chance to meet so many great people getting ready for their own trip. But, my schedule just didn’t allow for it to happen. Luckily, we found a great pair to take the reins and from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a fantastic night. Shelley and Keith are globe trotters who have first-hand experience taking a career break. They have great stories so I asked them to provide us with a guest post so you could get to know them better. To Shelley and Keith I saw, Knock ’em Dead! I know you’ll do great as hosts. And, for anyone thinking about taking a break, please check out this year’s Meet Plan Go event.
How Career Breakers Are Made
It’s literally the ticket to the whole world…but only 30% of Americans have a passport. A passport is about so much more than travel; and travel is about so much more than sightseeing and vacationing. It’s about witnessing different ways of life than your own, experiencing different cultures and ways of thinking, meeting and interacting with people who have a completely different lifestyle than your own.
It’s about their traditions, beliefs, loves, foods, hardships, dances, songs, history, geography, and passions. It’s about life itself – and there is far, far more to life and the world than what any of us see in our own backyards, in the little corner of this planet that we are born into.
Neither of us came from families that traveled much while we were growing up; family road trips were the most of it. When we each finally started traveling as young adults — decades before we knew each other — worlds were opened up that we had previously only dreamed about.
Keith’s story: A serial career breaker
I never really had the opportunity to travel while growing up, but even as early as in my middle school years I knew that I wanted to eventually get out and see the world. Then, burnt out on school after finishing my sophomore year in college, I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to backpack around Europe with my best friend. That decision ended up being one of the most important and best decisions of my life.
To save the money I needed for the trip I worked a ridiculous number of hours of hard labor at a box factory of all places and took any other odd jobs that I could find that summer. When September came around my friend and I flew standby to Brussels with the vaguest of plans, our precious travelers checks (no ATM cards back then!), a copy of Let’s Go Europe, and a sense of excitement that I cannot possibly put into words. Before that time I had never been more than 400 miles away from where I was born, and here I was about to backpack around Europe!
That three and a half month trip changed my life forever. The sense of wonder and excitement that I got from exploring different countries and cultures on my own never left me, and I knew without a doubt that travel would always be a big part of my life. Likewise, learning how to adapt to the unexpected while on the road made me much more confident in myself and prepared me for taking other worthwhile risks in life. And last but not least, getting outside of my ‘normal’ life and comfort zone to mix with people with such different lives and belief systems has enabled me to see our complex world in a much more open and understanding way.
Upon returning home from that auspicious trip back in 1985 I eagerly finished school, and I have been a regular career breaker ever since. Sprinkled all throughout my various stints in Corporate America and even after practicing law for a short while I have taken multiple extended trips abroad. From backpacking throughout different regions of the world, including a two year hiatus in Southeast and South Asia, to studying Spanish in Guatemala, to teaching English in Japan, to doing bits of volunteer work, I have taken breaks from work to recharge my batteries and to regain perspective.
And after my last job in Corporate America three and half years ago I decided to intertwine my livelihood even more closely with my love of travel. I simplified my life to give me the time and space to explore different opportunities, and I ended up starting a travel consulting business that has spread into travel photography as well. With my partner Shelley Seale, I co-wrote the book How To Travel For Free (or pretty Damn Near It!), and I likewise became the Director of Overseas Projects for a non-profit organization. Doing these things hasn’t always been easy, but it has certainly been well worth it.
Because travel has changed my life for the better in so many ways, I a firm believer that everyone should take an extended trip at least once in their lives. I can honestly say that I’ve never heard anyone who has done it say that they regretted it later, and at the same time I have heard plenty of people say that they HAVE regretted not taking the time to do it. So if you have been thinking about hitting the road, you really just need to make up your mind and take the plunge!
Shelley’s story: A passport to a new lifestyle
I got my first passport in my senior year of high school, in 1984. Up til that time I had only been to places in Texas and a few surrounding states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana) and to Mexico (you didn’t need a passport back then). My high school’s Spanish teacher, Doctora Rodriguez, was organizing a month-long European trip – and that is what I wanted for my high school graduation present. With all my heart and soul, desperately. Many other people would have perhaps thought that was $2,000 that could have bought a car, something longer lasting.
But the truth is that it is the car, or any other thing that could have been purchased with that money, which would have been gone long ago. Now, more than 25 years later, I still have fond memories of my first glimpses of London, the Eiffel Tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa (you could actually climb it then!). I remember looking down from my hotel window in Rome, after Italy had just won a huge soccer match, to see the complete gridlock party in the streets. That trip fueled a lifelong love of travel – and the curiosity and desire for learning that came with it.
Over the next 15 years I didn’t travel extensively, internationally. I started a career (my previous career in real estate), got married, had a child. I traveled here and there, but it wasn’t until I took my daughter to France when she was 10 years old that my next phase of life — that of a global wanderer — really began. Within the next few years I began to transition out of real estate, which was a career that sort of chose me and that I wasn’t passionate about, and into a full-time writing career.
I also began to transition my writing around travel writing. I still write about a lot of other topics in addition to travel, such as food, lifestyle, nonprofits, health and wellness — but part of my crafting of a new work life including crafting of a new whole life. See, I came to realize that we shouldn’t have to compartmentalize our lives. Work shouldn’t be some separate thing that you do for 1/3 of your life just to pay the bills. I wanted to create a life that reflected my passions, values, interests and beliefs — and that certainly included travel.
You don’t have to be a writer to do this. There are plenty of ways that people find to earn money on the road or to support a traveling lifestyle. I have several friends who come home and work and earn money (which they save) for months or years at a time, then hit the globe for months or years at a time on that money. Others work their way around the world doing bartending, odd jobs, child care, English language teaching, working on farms, etc. Still others start businesses that can be done online or become consultants who can work virtually from any location.
In today’s world, with the Internet and mobile phones as well as the new workplace norm of more freelancing, entrepreneurship and virtual offices, it’s much easier to make a living, and a life, while traveling. I encourage anyone to follow their dreams in this regard. Yes, it takes time and patience and a lot of hard (but mostly just consistent) work to make it happen. But if it’s really what you want, I promise you — if I can do it, so can just about anyone else!
Meet Plan Go is a nationwide movement focused on career breaks and long-term travel. The Austin event, one of 10 cities in North America hosting the events, will be held on October 16 at Abel’s on the Lake. Tickets are limited to 120 and selling fast. Get yours today.
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