I went to see the new movie Eat, Pray, Love a couple of weeks ago. The movie wasn’t fabulous, it wasn’t even as good as the book, but it threw me into reminiscing. Nearly four years ago, like the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, I too made the decision to abandon my existing life and job to travel around the world for six months in pursuit of my true passions of travel, photography, and writing. The book had just been released at that time and I read it from cover to cover during the 36 hours and three layovers required to get to Vietnam. I remember being intrigued by the fact that I had previously visited India and would be going to Italy and Bali on that trip, meaning I would be retracing the steps of the author.
My situation wasn’t exactly the same as Gilbert’s. I wasn’t coming out of a divorce or a bad relationship. But I was spiritually bereft. I had built numerous successful careers in corporate environments, only to abandon them to search for something that would make me happy. I knew deep down that corporate life, with its appurtenant stress and soul-sucking politics was not for me, but I kept returning to it because it paid the bills. By the time I’d turned 50 I was a lost soul. I didn’t know who I was, but I knew I had to find a way to make myself happy, to escape from the endlessness of it all.
At the conclusion of my six months on the road I decided to recreate myself as a travel writer and photographer which, frankly, were the only things I’d ever really wanted to do. Now, four years later, I’ve accomplished that goal. I travel 9-10 months per year and have no permanent home. Although I do not suggest that this life is for everyone, one part of my process – the six month career break – was a valuable tool that can benefit anyone. It is not uncommon for Europeans and Australians to take mid-career breaks; employers in these countries seem to understand that employees return to the workplace renewed and brimming with new ideas following such a hiatus. Unfortunately, in the U.S. the mid-career break is not an accepted part of our culture, but there is now a movement afoot to change all that.
Two weeks from today, on September 14th, the developers of the website Briefcase to Backpack will hold a FREE series of events in major cities across the U.S.and in Canada, titled “Meet, Plan, Go!” With the goal of raising awareness about career breaks and extended travel, they are hosting a FREE event with travel experts, during which attendees will:
- MEET inspirational speakers and like-minded travelers in their area
- Get motivation, contacts and resources necessary to PLAN the trip of a lifetime
- Start taking concrete steps forward and get ready to GO!
I well know what goes into planning long-term travel, especially if the prospective traveler has to make arrangements to take care of homes, pets, pay bills from the road, etc., and I wish I’d had access to this kind of program when I was planning my trip back in 2006. Whether you long for a career break, sabbatical, a spiritual sojourn, an extended global vagabonding experience or just a self-designed “gap year”, Meet, Plan, Go! wants to help you make it happen! Tickets are still available in 11 of the 13 venues; check out the locations of the free event. Here’s wishing you happy traveling and a renewal of spirit.