You may have noticed last week that my posts were brought to you by Meet Plan Go!, an annual gathering focused on helping you convert your long-term travel plans into a reality. This year’s MPG events will be held across the United States next Tuesday, October 16th and for those of you around the world I’ve got a special treat. One of the co-founders of MPG, traveler and photographer Sherry Ott, will be joining me for a 90 minute live chat right here in the comments below.
The chat is open today (Oct. 16th) from 2:00pm-3:30pm US EST (6:00-7:30pm GMT; 11:00am-1:30pm Log Angeles). Scroll down or click here to catch up on the chat conversation below!
Aside from being one of the driving forces behind Meet Plan Go!, Sherry also blogs about her travels on Ottsworld. Sherry began her long-term travels around the world 5 years ago, after initially planning a one-year career break (believe me, traveling is addictive). I first met Sherry in person during a blog trip to Valencia, Spain last May and her enthusiasm, passion, and desire to help others travel is inspirational. I imagine there are a few of you sitting at your desks dreaming of going to far off places right now – and this can be your start. Sherry and I will be taking your questions about career breaks and travel – live in the comments below – for 90 minutes today, so ask away!
Hello and welcome everyone to this month’s live chat! I’ve just landed from Sydney, Australia and am in a haze of jet lag before before we begin I’d like to bring you one of the best comments from this past September.
Dyanne let’s those of you carrying U.S. passports know that when you order extra pages, you can get *double* extra pages for no extra charge. Might as well – you never know how much you’ll end up traveling!
Speaking of, let’s get things started for this month’s live chat. Sherry Ott planned on a one year career break and 5 years later is still traveling. That’s many passport pages and if you’re looking to take some time off to travel, now’s your chance to ask the expert and co-founder of Meet Plan Go!
Hello! You can bet I got double pages in my passport for the same price! It’s thick – but I”m quite proud of it!
But I never even had a passport until I was 30! However just last week I took my 16 year old niece to get her first passport – it was quite exciting for me! We hope to travel together this summer.
When did you begin to start thinking about international travel?
When I was about 29 I guess. Not until my co-worker who was from Turkey came to me and said – “you don’t have a passport? I’m going home to visit family this summer in Istanbul – why don’t you join me.” I thought – ok, why not! I don’t even think I knew where Turkey was on a map!
Those darn Turks get you every time…:)
haha, we are a charming bunch 😀
That is quite adventurous, I’m not sure many would do the same in your shoes! But Turkey is a good place to be introduced to travel 😉 Is that when your career break began?
Arriving in Istanbul for your first time out of the country was a shock! But it obviously sparked something in me.
My Career break started in 2006. By then I had done more international travel and decided that I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to see what it would be like to travel longer – like the people I met when I was on vacation in Rio. The concept of traveling for 3 months seemed foreign and impossible – so the challenge was on. Plus – the fact that I wasn’t nuts about my career also helped push me out the door!
How long were you in Istanbul for the first time?
I was only there for a short 9 days flying all the way from San Francisco and experiencing jetlag for the first time in my life! However I went back to Istanbul this summer 12 years later to experience it again. This time I stayed 6 weeks! And the only reason I came back to the US was to get ready to throw the Meet Plan Go events!
…and there’s no getting over jet lag really is there? It always takes a few days, I’m under a haze myself right now. So you return from Istanbul and then what’s the thought process between that moment and your next trip?
When I came back I liked it, but I still didn’t think I was ready to go out and travel the world. However, then I got hooked on the show eco challenge – an adventure race in different parts of the world. That year it was held in Borneo. Upon seeing it – and the landscape and adventures in Borneo – I knew I wanted to travel more. I ended up doing adventure travel in Australia next – then had an opportunity to go to France for a week, then Italy, then, Costa Rica, Peru, then Brazil….all over the course of 6 years then I broke free! My first stop was Kenya as I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro.
Through your work with Meet Plan Go! do you notice this is a similar pattern? Or does the travel build up tend to be more gradual…
I think the majority of times it is gradual build up – people want to travel more and more and vacation doesn’t allow enough – they finally get to the point where they just decide to go for a break. Or – many times I see people who had the luck of growing up with travel in their lives already as kids and they tend to be more eager to ensure it’s part of their lives as an adult too. You basically need a good mentor – to get you going! And that’s what we try to be at Meet Plan Go.
Sherry, what do you hear as the number one reason why people think they CAN’T do a career break?
Hi Gillian! The number one is normally money. However I’ve found that it normally breaks into these 4 fears:
1. It costs too much
2. It would ruin my career
3. It’s not safe to travel like that
4. Societal pressure – from family, friends, co-workers ->you’d be crazy to do that.
However – it all just comes down to Fear…Fear is at the root of it all. fear of not having enough money, changing your lifestyle, making a change. If you want to really do it – you can.
Gillian – what do you hear the most from Canadians? Are the fears the same?
Most often I think people just don’t even consider it, thinking it’s for ‘other’ people. Then, yes, the same reasons…money, career, family. I’ve never really heard the safety issue but people do wonder about the logistics.
I am open with people as to how much our trip cost us and the benefits I gained that have helped me in my career since return.
I also no longer allow the ‘you’re so lucky’ response – I reply that I’m not lucky, I just did the work to do it, and that they can too. Yes, it takes sacrifice, but the return is greater.
Very true about the ‘lucky’ comment. I often hear that ‘You must be rich’ which is hilarious because I’ve never been so poor – but I’m still able to travel around the world!
We recently made a pitch to a television station in the US to run a story on the events – and had the response that they thought it was interesting – but it would be insensitive to the viewing audience to run something about quitting your job at a time when so many people are looking for jobs. Crazy. Yet they run ads that allow people to buy stuff they don’t need and get deeper and deeper in debt! 🙂
Gillian – how did your career break benefit you?
Here’s an introduction to Meet Plan Go! for those of you who don’t know much about it yet:
Sherry, what kind of planning does pulling such a large event(s) off take?
Ha! very little sleep! It really actually awakens all of my old project management skills – but it pulls in many of the new skills I have learned traveling and travel blogging – like networking and marketing via social media. When you travel you have to became really good at asking for help. And that’s what I do…I ask, and ask, and ask.
I have 9 great hosts in each of the cities who are running their events. They put together a super group of panelists who are typically career break veterans who took a 6 months to a year off to travel and then returned. So our panels are normally very relatable to the average person – which is important.
It seems that this year is bigger than ever. You must be excited to be reaching out to so many people and planting the seed for them. Do you think it’s becoming more common to take a career break? Are people seeing you, and others, doing it and realizing that it might just be possible for them too?
Because we are just a small group of people putting this on – we had to do fewer cities this year – but we are still seeing great ticket sales. The people who are attending are people who really want to learn how to travel and take such a break – so that’s great.
And yes – I do believe more people are traveling in this way – taking a longer break instead of a vacation. One thing that helps this is social media and it’s easier for people to get connected to others who have done it – and then it seems less crazy and more ‘do-able’ for them. When I started in 2006 i knew no one who had done such a thing – I was terrified!
I expect as this next generation goes into the workforce – the idea of longer time off and not delaying gratification until retirement will increase – and career breaks will become common place. At least I hope so!
Any plans on having expanding to cities outside of the U.S. in the future?
Goodness – we get that question all the time! It seems as if London, India, and Australia are the main requestors. I do hope to expand the idea outside North America. We’ll just have to see how we can grow it. It has really surprised me that these other countries also feel like they need a career break – it has opened my eyes that maybe America isn’t as different as I once thought!
Having just been in Japan and China, I can tell you…two very overworked workforces as well!
Speaking of, how can people help support MPG to grow?
We do have a program where we allow people to start their own local meetup groups to talk about travel and career breaks. We put it on hold as we prepare for the big event in Oct – but it will be back in place again probably after the event. Other than that – we try to get people to post their stories of what they learned, how they did it, how they handled re-entry, etc.
I’m one of the folks who’s piped up about bringing Meet Plan Go to the UK. We took a mini-career break (3 months) earlier this year and it was totally worth it and the right thing for us. While the ‘gap year’ before or after university is pretty well entrenched in British culture, career breaks are less common. I’d say that many of the reasons people choose to take a career break in North America (crappy economy, job dissatisfaction etc) certainly exist in the UK and many people would be open to learning more.
Anil – do you think that Europeans (I’m lumping the Turkish into that!) worry as much as Americans do about taking time off and traveling? What did your family say when you left your career to travel for a while?
In general I’d say no – but for Turks the societal pressures are probably just as great if not more so. My parents thought I was crazy and my father and I especially had huge arguments over it. (My mother quietly concerned.) But I stuck with it and after a few months they changed their minds. And now, years later, I’m sure of it 🙂
One question I do get a lot and I’m sure you do too Sherry – with the global economy being weak as it is, should people hold off on taking a career break? How do you view that concern?
Yes – we get that question a lot and the plain fact is that there will NEVER be the ‘right’ time to go – and if you wait for it – then you’ll never go anywhere. Plus – I can positively say that traveling tends to be cheaper than being at home. Traveling is different than a 2 week vacation. Traveling is long term – and you spread expense like flights over a long period of time rather than two weeks. Plus – the key is going away long enough so that you can get rid of your other living expenses – such as rent/mortgage (sublet or sell), paying cable/internet/electricity/gas/car/home insurance/etc. – these things all go away and you are focused on spending on the basic things – food and sleep. If you travel slow and to certain countries – it’s even cheaper! Do you find that it’s cheaper to travel Anil?
Definitely, especially as you travel slower. You begin to think about every purchase and limit yourself to what you need. The monthly charges to this and that service also go away and then you realize how you don’t need them.
Traveling isn’t nearly as most people assume – and many assume I’m very rich! (Not the case!) But for anyone who has an iPad and car payment, that’s a flight somewhere 🙂
Sherry, I am just laying the groundwork for our first RTW trip and we are planning on 50 days. In the past, we have taken 2-3 week trips in 1-2 countries and everything was planned out. Part of me feels like we must do the same with this trip….plan plan plan…but part of me wants to leave some to serendipity. How do you manage the 2 when planning a trip with a start and a finish of only 50 days?
Thanks for the question Janice and congrats on your upcoming break! 50 days will be great! I don’t normally recomend planning everything out before – even for a trip of 50 days. I would use a rule of thumb and pick anchor points (cities) so set up a flight itinerary – but make them broad. Then I would plan the first 1/3 of the trip so that you are comfortable – but leave the remaining 2/3rds until you are on the ground and start to get used to the idea of longer travel. You’ll meet people who have wonderful suggestions, and you’ll be able to follow them. And you may learn that you want to stay longer in a place so you can do that. If you are going to Europe – then getting a flexible train pass is great – as then you can leave more open to chance.
Where are you headed?
Sherry, if you had to tell your travel story in 3 of your own photos, which ones would they be?
Self Discovery: Camino – http://photography.ottsworld.com/Europe/Spain/Camino-de-Santiago/23092386_3DXjfS#!i=1867036146&k=xtGTMV8&lb=1&s=A
Adventure: Mongol Rally – http://photography.ottsworld.com/Asia/Mongolia/Mongol-Rally/20221438_DCcr5c#!i=1598113086&k=KKZdr8k&lb=1&s=A
Challenge: living in Vietnam – http://photography.ottsworld.com/Asia/Vietnam/Vietnam-Transportation/6425743_Bh7kPk#!i=769799548&k=iWMdY&lb=1&s=A
What kind of budget’s do you recommend for 3 month trip? Or for a year? do you have suggestions on the financial planning side of long term travel?
Budgets depend so much on where you go and how you travel – but I can give you a very general estimate for 12 months – but please know that this is average. For a round the world trip for 12 months we find that people normally spend avg. $20,000. You can do it cheaper and you can spend more – first it depends on where you go!
Financial planning comes down to determination and starting to really focus on your goal and how much you want it. You will have to make sacrifices – however the best way to start any plan is to research where the money is currently being spend now and determine where you can cut back. Then – start to think about where you want to go and form a budget – those two things will guide you.
A few more resources:
Do you have any suggestions for parents who want to take a Career Break, but aren’t sure if it’s feasible to do it with their kids?
You can absolutely take your kids! We have so many panelists at Meet Plan Go who took a career break as a family. Kids were homeschooled and lives were changed forever. Here’s a good start on some resources of others who have done it:
Also some great books out there:
Not for Parents Travel Book
101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12!
Travel with Kids
What sort of feedback have you been getting from those MPG has encouraged to take a career break? How easy have people found plugging back in to work and life once their time away is up?
The feedback has always been positive – I’ve never met a single person who has regretted it. In fact – most come back, plug back in to their lives and start planning another.
Granted – when people return it may take a while to find a job – but even it if takes 6 months (which it did for one of our panelists) – he never regretted his decision to go – and is currently learning Arabic and planning for another trip!
Finding work when you return depends on many things – but normally the fact that you’ve traveled makes you stand out. Plus – your own world of what is possible and what you are capable of will grow just from travel – so who knows where you’ll end up when you return.
Good to hear. Do you ever envisage a time when Americans see taking time out as as much a rite of passage as Australians or Brits do?
Oh Shane…that is my dream! And I actually do think that we are slowly moving towards that in a way. This new generation that is finishing college now are searching for opportunities that give them more freedom and flexibility. In ad survey we did last year – people ranked company benefits and a sabbatical program or more time off ranked above things like getting a promotion! So maybe there is hope!
An article of how to add your career break travels to your resume:
When would you recommend the job search planning be done for someone thinking about a career break? Is that a process you do before a trip, in the middle, after the trips are over?
You should do little part of it throughout the process. Before you leave – don’t burn bridges! And make sure you update your resume before you go as it won’t take long after you on on the road that you will completely forget what your life was like in a cube!
During – stay in touch to some extent – whether that’s facebook, emails, blog – but it’s good to sort of keep the network connections alive to some extent. But since you are doing what most people dream of – people are generally eager to hear from you and follow you! Also consider choosing some itinerary activities that help you advance some of your soft skills, knowledge, cultural awareness – something that you can point back to when you return. This can be done through volunteering, traveling to countries/cultures that you interact with in your old career, or even taking on a new hobby like language learning, cooking, or blogging!
Before you return – start to put feelers out thee a month early and then when you come back be prepared to talk about how your career break will benefit companies – how did it make you a better employee.
What are some of your favorite stories that have come out of MPG?
One of your other guests – Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads was in Thailand traveling and ran into a couple that recognized here from attending Meet Plan Go!
haha, now that is a great MPG testimonial!
One of my others…at a local meetup in San Francisco – two women were talking with me and one told us that her company offers a 6 month leave of absence under certain circumstances around longevity, etc. The other woman squealed in excitement and exclaimed what a great company she must work for. She asked the woman planning the 6 month leave who she worked for. And they found out they worked for the same company! 🙂
I can’t believe the coincidence! Wish there were a video of that moment 😀
Anyone having trouble accessing the site or comments? In case you are, feel free to tweet me or leave a message here 🙂
Sherry I know you’re busier than usual these days with MPG coming up next Tuesday, October 16th (hint, hint everyone who’s in any of these cities: http://meetplango.com/) so don’t want to keep you too late!
How can people get in touch with you and what are you up to after MPG?
Yes – it is a busy time here at Meet Plan Go headquarters (my little room I’m renting in NYC!) – but you can get in touch with me on any number of places:
http://www.MeetPlanGo.com | @MeetPlanGo | http://www.facebook.com/meetplango
or at my personal site:
http://www.Ottsworld.com | @Ottsworld | http://www.facebook.com/ottsworldtravel
But happy to check back here and answer questions any time about caree breaks on these comment threads!
As for what’s next…
That will take me through Feb I think!
This is awesome! Im attending my first MPG event next week. My and my GF are leaving for a 2 year trip this Jan and starting up our own company. Born To Backpack will feature eco friendly tee’s for modern day explorers and we really want to connect to the blogging community.
My question is…what is the best way to connect with bloggers and let them know about our affiliate program. Is there a standard minimum that blogger’s like to make per transaction?
Any feedback or advice on this would be MUCH appreciated 🙂
Looking forward to joining you both on the otherside very soon!
Hi Alex, sorry your question has come in after the chat’s been closed but wanted to give you a quick reply from my perspective. Generally speaking, unless an affiliate program can earn me more than the equivalent ad space sold directly, it’s not worth running (from my point of view though other bloggers make and will likely have differing opinions).
Checked out the KickStarter for Born to Backpack. Looks like a solid business model. I’ve worked in affiliate marketing for 14 years, so I can answer your questions, but first I have a couple of my own. 🙂
1) Do you know what affiliate network you’re going to be hosting your program with yet? If you go with one of the more established affiliate networks (Commission Junction, ShareASale, Linkshare, Google Affiliate Network) they will help you with recruiting of affiliates, though it will cost you more than running your own program using a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution (e.g. HasOffers, Cake, DirectTrack, etc).
Of the established affiliate networks, I usually recommend Commission Junction (access to the best affiliates, but expensive) or ShareASale (cheapest network, but lower quality affiliates). You can see a breakdown of the costs at:
2) Do you have someone in place to manage the affiliate program? If you don’t have someone with affiliate management experience in your company, your best bet is to hire an OPM (Outsourced Program Manager) to manage the program, as they will have the contacts (e.g. travel bloggers) necessary to launch your program. I can put you in contact with some if you’d like an intro.
3) What commission rate are you considering? Standard commission rate for t-shirt merchants is 10-12%. I would recommend you start with at least a 12% commission rate, maybe even higher, as you’ll be competing against more established merchants for quality affiliates.
There are other issues to consider, including whether to work with coupon sites, loyalty affiliates and PPC affiliates, how to activate affiliates (activation bonuses definitly work) and how to ensure your affiliate program isn’t cannibalizing sales from your other promotional channels.
Hope this helps. You can email me at fxmartini (at) gmail if you have any questions.
Sherry, thank you again very much for spending some of your time will all of us today. I know there are many curious (but shy!) career breakers following the thread and your advice is invaluable. I want to encourage everyone again to check out Meet Plan Go! (http://www.meetplango.com/) and Sherry’s blog Ottsworld (http://www.ottsworld.com/).
Also, you can follow up with Sherry on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/ottsworldtravel) as well as Twitter (https://twitter.com/ottsworld)
Thank you again Sherry and all of you who joined it. Until sometime next month everyone, happy travels!
Thanks for having me Anil – it’s been fun…and my keyboard is on fire! 🙂 I’ll be sure to check back and answer any other questions that come up!
Here’s an article that sums up career breaks pretty well and will provide some links and info:
And I’m hosting the event in NYC this year – so if you are in the area – stop by – but tickets are going fast in NYC (too many burned out NYers!). More info on all of the cities and tickets as well as 10 reasons why you should attend:
haha, yes, the live chats can cause keyboards to set on fire! I feel the same way after each one – intense but fun 🙂
Thanks again and hopefully our paths cross soon and I can make my NYC plans next week as well!