When I first ran away to Central America, my friends pushed me to start a blog called “Eat, Pray, Abby.” Thank goodness I didn’t listen! While legions of female fans of the best-selling phenomenon are, as we speak, traipsing the globe trying to be the next Elizabeth Gilbert, I was most certainly not one of them. And my story illustrates what came to be my favorite aspect of travel and career breaks.
No, I did not find my one true love while on the road. Instead? I ended up right back at the office. Forget romance, I fell back in love with my career. I’ve suffered much “what kind of ‘live free’ example are you?” ribbing, and I laugh about landing back behind the desk.
Yes, in the end, I became the anti-Eat, Pray, Love traveler. The point?
Anyone can find room for travel in their lives, even worker bees like me who are unlucky in love. I’m so thrilled with all the attention that career breaks are enjoying right now: Take off! See the world! I never thought I’d do it in my 30s, and it changed my life in a profound way. But I am disappointed with how little I read about what happens when the trip is over.
Some people tend to forget that a career break can be just that… a break. There is life after long-term travel!
If only I had a dollar, or euro, or colon, or ringgit, for every time I heard, “I could never do what you did.” Yes, you can! It’s so easy to think that if you step away, you’ll never work again. I’m proof that that’s not the case.
Yes, the travel bug might bite stronger than you expected, and you might find yourself circling the globe for years. But if not, you CAN go back. Travel has always been an important part of my life, and it will always be. This time? I took off for what ended up being a year and a half, visiting Borneo, Mexico, Germany, France, Italy, Costa Rica (my home base for a year), Nicaragua, Turkey and Bulgaria.
And then I went back to work.
Now, I want to scream from the rooftops and get the message out there: If you’re thinking about traveling or taking a career break of any kind, and you have the feeling that the timing is right, go for it! You WILL be able to find work when you’re done, or you’ll discover a faraway place you want to move to, or you’ll fall in love, or you’ll get pulled in to a different career or way of life all together.
There’s so much out there! But you’ll never know unless you try.
Let’s take my girls who were at one time all working in my Costa Rican barrio:
Lisa took a few months off from being a workaholic New Yorker to go to Costa Rica for her diving certification. There, she met a hot, young local named Mauricio, and the two of them are now married and own a sportfishing/surf trip business in Coco. She never looked back.
Brynn also discovered Costa Rica while taking what was supposed to be a temporary break from an intense career. She now feels that she was meant to live there forever, and after five years, it looks like she might!
Denise, like me, had the time of her life in Coco. And, like me, she found a job back home when the timing was right. It will be strange to visit her in Canada instead of Costa Rica, where she always had the darkest tan of anyone!
Kelsey headed south for some R&R and instead started working almost right away. A simple vacation turned into a new life for her, and now she runs the beach club as one of the most successful women in Coco – in a career she probably would have never discovered at home in the U.S.
Ana was born in Costa Rica but grew up in Canada. As an adult, she decided to move back. Now, she has a great job and a wonderful boyfriend. She doesn’t miss winter.
My expat friends from the barrio taught me so much about having the courage to pick up your life, make huge changes, and see where it leads you. For two of us, it eventually led back home, after a thrilling stopover in a small Central American pueblo on the Pacific.
I implore everyone who’s ever thought about adding travel to your lives, especially long-term travel, to consider taking that leap. You have no idea where it will lead you, but I promise you it will take you someplace great, even if it’s back home to a different job, which you’ll do with an added zest for life and something special in your heart.
Take it from me, the anti-Eat, Pray, Love girl who somehow found a balance between the love of escape to faraway places and the joy that my career brings me in the one industry I’ve been passionate about since I learned to read.
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