A Travellerspoint blog

Career Break

from Noah

“Then there is the most dangerous risk of all– the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” — Randy Komisar, The Monk and the Riddle

One of the top 3 questions that I get when we talk about the trip is "what about your job?" (specifically, my mom asks me this a lot). She doesn't like my answer that I'm taking a Career Break, which is probably why she continues to ask me this question over and over again.

Fortunately, I work in a field that is project-based, meaning that my professional life has a cyclical nature. This makes it relatively easy to take time off of work - I can finish one project, take some time off to travel, and then come back to the next project. Of course, this is just a working theory up to this point - our upcoming trip will be the first time we put this into practice (hopefully it won't be the last time...)

Taking time off of work has always come with its share of challenges. Besides the obvious impact to your income, the prevailing wisdom is that gaps in-between jobs on your resume showed that there's some sort of "issue" with your ability to hold down a job. Therefore, leaving a job to travel (or do something otherwise non-job-related) was a potential negative for employers to identify as they reviewed your resume.

What we are seeing now is the start of a movement towards taking a "Career Break". Similar to a Gap Year for students (which is much more prevalent in Europe and Australia than the US), a Career Break is an opportunity to take time off of work (think "sabbatical") for any number of reasons, some of the most popular of which are for travel and volunteer work.

Taking time for yourself (or your family) gives us the opportunity to reflect, to learn new skills, to share our experiences, to give our time to something that is important to us. While most all of us need to work in order to keep on top of the mortgage etc, I would wager that almost all of us would not list "going to work" at the top of the list of things that we want to be spending our time doing.

You're right though, these are tough economic times that make it difficult to contemplate doing something other than working. Anne and I have been thinking about, discussing, and planning this trip for a couple of years now, so although the timing around the job market doesn't seem optimal right now, it's not going to stop us. Besides, we're both lucky to have built very strong networks that we are looking forward to leveraging when we come back to Seattle and get back into our professional careers (if we choose to).

I've been happy that the Internet has made it possible to have found a strong community of other like-minded Career Breakers. There are a number of people who are dedicated to helping people like me (and you) dream, plan, and take a Career Break. Meet, Plan, Go! has some great resources (and is also a fantastic bunch of people); same with the Career Break Secrets site. A quick search will net you a ton more sites.

I admit - getting ready to spend 13 months on the road is both exciting and scary, and I will be quite interested to see what it will do to/for my professional career. I do know that I fully agree with the following quote though -

"Nobody will say on their deathbed: 'I wish I had spent more time in the office'."

- and gauging by the interest and feedback we've gotten from the people that we talked about our trip with, we're not alone. One of the many outcomes I hope for from our trip is that someone else might be inspired to take a Career Break of their own. Why not you?

Posted by noahv 22:15 Archived in USA Tagged career_break Comments (6)

Kid Trip Musings

from Alex and Leah

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One of the top 3 questions that we get when we start talking about the trip is "what do your kids think about this?"

Good question - so we thought we would ask A & L directly. Here's what they said:

What will you miss?

  • A: Mostly my friends, but playing on the computer too. And Zillah, our perro negro.
  • L: Our dog Zillah! I don’t want anything to happen to her while we’re gone!

What scares you?

  • A: Going to places we’ve never ever been before.
  • L: That someone might get hurt or die.

What are you looking forward to seeing? (e.g. Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat)

  • A: Great Barrier Reef - it looks awesome and the snorkeling will be epic.
  • L: The big heads on Easter Island - and beautiful sights all over.

What are you looking forward to doing? (e.g. riding horses, bungee jumping)

  • A: Snorkeling, riding horses, and trying new foods.
  • L: Riding horses, and working with pandas and elephants.

Do you think your parents are crazy?

  • A: Pequeño.
  • L: Yeah.

Note: I think that they might have given the same answer here even if we weren't going on the trip!

What do your friends say now?

  • A: That is seems really awesome and they wish they could come.
  • L: That they are really jealous and will miss me a lot. They want to come too.

What do you think your friends will say when you get back?

  • A: Can I see the pictures of you and the baby pandas?
  • L: How was it? Glad you’re back - can I see the pictures?

What do you think you will learn? About people? About places? About food? About yourself?

  • A: People don’t live like we do in America. And that I can do stuff that I didn’t think that I could.
  • L: People do stuff differently than us, and I’ll have to learn to eat new foods.

What do you think will be the hardest part of the trip?

  • A: Adjusting my body clock to different time zones.
  • L: Having to rent our house to people we don’t know; leaving my friends and my dog!

What do you think will be the most fun part of the trip?

  • A: Taking bunches of photos, and going to the panda sanctuary and the Elephant Nature Park!
  • L: Taking care of animals and going to Tahiti.

There you have it - apparently animals figure large in the thoughts of our kids. More to come from A & L as we go forward!

Posted by noahv 21:41 Archived in USA Tagged children kids Comments (2)

Facebooking

We're very happy to announce the launch of our own Facebook page for our trip here. We didn't want to just make another place for updates, but in the end, realized that each of the communication methods has it's own advantages:

  1. This blog - great for longer stories, thoughts, and picture galleries.
  2. Our Twitter account - great for quick updates, and retweets from a lot of great folks that we follow.
  3. Van Loen Adventures on FB - great for everything in-between; re-sharing items on FB, medium-length status updates, quick photos - and people who want to follow the trip can get just those updates, and not the other updates from our personal pages.

We've got tons of stuff to publish here, so don't go away (unless it's to go over to our new Facebook page and Like us!)

Posted by noahv 21:16 Comments (1)

Fair Airfare

(from Noah)

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One of the biggest expenses for any RTW trip is airfare - no surprise there. Also no surprise is that doesn't seem to be an "easy" answer to the question of "what is the best RTW airfare ticket for me?" Depending on your itinerary, duration of trip, flexibility, and frequent flyer miles, you'll need to do some research to find the best fit for your needs. Luckily, there are a number of sites that have done a lot of the legwork for you. Since we just went through this entire process for ourselves, I can also share the outcome of our decision.

Short answer is that we went through AirTreks for our tickets. This is a company based out of San Francisco, that focuses primarily on RTW travel. They were recommended to me from someone I met a while back from one of the Meet Plan Go! get-togethers (I wish I could remember who - but thank you!).

I initially reached out to the AirTreks team over a year ago, just to understand what services they provide, and had a great conversation with a consultant, during which I learned a couple of important items:

  1. we were way to far ahead of the airfare booking window (typically 11 months) for any sort of fare estimates,
  2. we might not have to book the whole trip at the start (and, for a trip duration of over 12 months like ours, it might not be possible),
  3. Daniel (my consultant) had personally been to many of the places that we are planning on going to, and had some excellent itinerary insight that went above & beyond simply getting the best deal on airfare.

During this same time, I was researching other options via some great sites - I started with an article by Tim Ferriss, which pointed me to Chris Guillebeau (who also runs the Travel Hacking site). I considered joining the Travel Hacking Cartel, but (since I'm a geek) decided to try it on my own. I also looked at the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forums, since they are typically useful for all sorts of travel info and advice.

From there I did some poking around with the airline alliance sites, before I stumbled on BootsnAll. Through the BootsnAll sister site Round The World Tickets and Meet Plan Go, I realized that I had a good solution with AirTreks.

Note: what works for me/us may not work for you. We are a family of four, with some flexibility in terms of destinations and timing, but also some hard targets that we wanted to hit. We did not have a lot of FF miles to work with, nor were we comfortable with doing point-to-point airfares on the fly as we needed (we didn't want to get split up on multiple flights out of a given location - however this might be more attractive to single or pairs of travellers). For those of you with gobs of FF miles, even across multiple airlines, playing the FF miles game to consolidate these and using an airfare consortium to book a true RTW ticket. The FlyerTalk forums is a good place for this research.

Flash forward to Jan 2012, and Daniel and I reconnect for serious discussions on our initial itinerary (from the US to Peru through Chile to New Zealand via Rapa Nui and Tahiti, and ending in Sydney for New Years). Daniel was a great guy to work with - listened to what we were interested in doing, answered our (dumb) questions, gave us info from his personal experience that we would not have gotten otherwise, and helped us come up with a solid itinerary (places and dates). Daniel then took that info away and came back a week later with flight recommendations and cost estimates. Anne and I got on the phone with Daniel for an hour review session, revising and tweaking the dates and destinations (Daniel came prepared with options), and, at the end, we pulled the trigger and booked the airfare for our family.

AirTreks offers trip insurance as well - basic insurance is included with every airfare purchased (for US and Canada residents), which is a great deal. We opted to do the Full Monty and purchased the additional exclusive insurance, which includes double medical coverage, trip cancellation insurance, and double emergency evacuation coverage. Hope we never need it, but just in case something bad happens before or during the trip, we are guaranteed to get our money back. Since we're going to be on the road for such a long time (with kids) we felt this was an important item to have. Again, ymmv based on who you are and your risk profile.

End result is that we have the flights that we wanted, on the days that we wanted, with solid insurance behind it. I don't feel like we paid a premium to get it either. Sure, maybe in this age of the Internet we could have done it a bit cheaper if we did it all ourselves online, but based on the customer service from AirTreks, the personal guidance from Daniel, and the fact that we can always contact AirTreks for help on the way (like a real travel agent), we're very comfortable with this outcome.

One final note, with any big purchase comes the inevitable "buyer's remorse". Sure, it got our adrenaline flowing and the butterflies in the stomach flying around when it came time to give our credit card digits for the purchase, but this is certainly tempered by knowing that you have a partner in the purchase - that's the way we feel with AirTreks. If you want more info, please leave a comment!

(full disclosure: links to AirTreks are referrals on this page. This does not change our opinion of the service or products that AirTreks provides).

Posted by noahv 10:35 Archived in USA Tagged tickets rtw airfare Comments (1)

2012 Travel Resolutions

(from Noah)

Welcome to 2012 - this is going to be a fantastic year for our family, and we hope it will be the same for you and yours.

In the spirit of resolutions, I wanted to list out some of mine. I'm going to group into 2 categories - pre- and post-departure.

Pre-trip:

  • Continue with the planning (and try not freak out)
  • Make the hard decisions easy (will be tough to do as we get rid of our stuff
  • Continue to be present (while planning for the future)

Post-departure:

Alex and Leah wanted to contribute their resolutions, so here are theirs:
Leah (age 9)

  • Discovering new things and going on adventures
  • Eating new foods that I haven't ate
  • Meeting new people and trying to make friends

Alex (age 12)

I know that Anne has her own, but I'll let her write her own post. :)

Note: I got the idea for this via the Boots-n-All 2012 Indie Travel Challenge, specifically the Boots-n-All travel resolutions post.

I'm very excited about this year - sure, we have a ton of work left to do before we can hit the road, but the community of other travelers is so supportive and informative (specifically the MeetPlanGo! team and the folks we follow on Twitter). It's going to be good year...

Posted by noahv 21:35 Comments (1)

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