Proud to be the anti-Eat, Pray, Love girl

Borneo

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.

Istanbul

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.

Borneo

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.

Istanbul

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.

Kuala Lumpur

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.

Varna, Bulgaria

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.

No excuses!

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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Comments

  1. I’m definitely in the mindset that we may come back and be ready to go into career mode. I think it is absolutely wonderful that you are advocating a career break as a way to refresh your gusto for life and (possibly) a career.

    All I can do is hope that I can find something I love to do as much as you do Abby! <3

  2. I’m glad to have this counterpoint and I’m hoping there are more of them out there.

    I don’t particularly enjoy regional food (although I miss tacos!) and I don’t pray. And love? Well, not lately.

    I love your blog, does that count?

  3. Love, love, love this post! I think the fear of not being able to find a job afterward is what holds a lot of people back from traveling. I like how you used both yourself and your friends who found new careers in Costa Rica as illustrations. You never know what’s waiting for you around the corner or across the globe!

  4. I think I “could never” do what you did because I wouldn’t want to – I don’t like hot weather or beaches or traveling, even – but there’s a lesson to be learned here: follow your happiness & it won’t lead you astray. Whatever is it, do it – and be a better person for it. I think we can ALL find value in that wisdom. <3

  5. @Erica I’m SO excited for your trip! And you’ll come back when you’re ready to. And then we’ll go out for drinks again… And plan our next trip!

    @Joel Aw. Thanks! You’re a boy, you don’t count haha. It’s strange how many people think I was going to come back totally different than I was before!

    @Lauren Totally! As I’ve admitted, I’m one of those people who would never have had the courage to take a year off unless I was forced to, like when I lost my job. So I’d love to continue to spread the word!

    @Suburban So happy you got my point! “Not for me, but sounds fun!” is certainly something I say often. (Mostly related to skiing or other cold-weather, outdoor activities.) Some of the people I admire most are non-travelers — but people who followed their heart in other ways.

  6. Great post. We travelled for almost a decade before finally not going back to our careers. We took career breaks for years, (luckily our jobs were flexible and we were freelance) leaving to travel for months at a time and then returning home to settle back in our lives. We always found work and it was always better and more exciting than the place that we were at before. Travel changed our lives it made us more confident to return to the work force. Because of our experiences, we had more to offer employers. So yes, get out there and take a career break, you will have no problem returning to the office.
    We never did :-)

  7. Fantastic post! My wife and I traveled for a year in 2008-2009 and have now been home for a little over a year. We struggled for so long (and still sometimes do) thinking that we were doing something wrong by moving back home, into the same house we lived in before we left, with my wife doing the same kind of work she did before we left, having the same friends, and basically living the same life we did before leaving. It seemed as though so many who took career breaks then made completely different lives for themselves. We were actually ready to come home when we did.

    Are we different people now after our experience? Absolutely. Do we want to get back on the road and travel? Hell yeah. But we are also content and happy being back home and living a normal life again. You don’t have to be a permanent vagabonder, and although we both want to travel more than 2 weeks a year, we have no interest in becoming permanent travelers or moving our home somewhere else. We already have a home that we know and love and that will always be “home” to us.

    It’s all a matter of doing what YOU want to do. If that means traveling forever, do it. If that means taking your week or two a year, do it. If that means not traveling at all and buying a nice house and car, do it. Do what makes YOU happy. It took a while for me to realize this, but once I did, I stopped trying to do what I thought I SHOULD do, and I started doing what I WANTED to do.

    Thanks for an awesome post!

  8. Great post. See, one of the most important things when comming back home and getting joining the work force again is finding a job that you really like. I don’t know if there’s a job that I can like as much as traveling, but then I can’t live from traveling right now. It’s been quite a few months since I finished my year long trip, and although I’m currently in Mexico, waking up in the same place day after day is not as exciting. I think there will be a change soon though…

  9. I’d be proud, too! That book remains one of my all-time LEAST favorite travel accounts. Your shenanigans in CR were FAR MORE INTERESTING!

  10. @Dave and Deb I watch you guys closely, because I also think I’ll have a lot of starts and stops! I’m so glad to hear more of your story. You guys are so inspiring!

    @Adam So happy to meet you! Yes, of course I’m having some struggles in the transition back (a later post maybe?), but I know with all my heart that this is what makes me happy right now. I’m so glad you understand!

    @Fede Yes, it’s a strange concept, moving my love of travel back to a “hobby.” But in some ways, that makes me love it even more!

  11. @Kristin!! I personally loved the book — well, the first third of it anyway! Then it became way too self-indulgent for me. Me? I’ll just keep reading blogs like yours — you have the wildest adventures!! You need to stay Stateside long enough for us to meet!

  12. AMEN!!! I get the same comments and I say the same thing to people who say they could never do it: “Yes, you can.” We are living proof. 🙂

  13. Loooooved this post!!! You rock my world girl. I hope this inspires people to go for it and yes there are absolutely NO excuses!!!

  14. I cannot amen this post enough!!!!! A FREAKIN MEN Abby!!!!!!! And this is yet another illustration of why I adore you. This is sort of the unpopular message these days, travel as a life seems to be what everyone aims for. But I think it’s somewhat unrealistic. I love that you choose to illustrate how there are different ways to incorporate traveling into life. I think the way you did it is fabulous. It certainly inspires me!!

  15. Shit Abby, what a wonderful post for me to be reading right at this VERY moment. The next time you’re online on FB, I would love to pick your brain…

  16. @Diana HA, we are definitely proof! If you had told me six months ago that you and I would be back in Vegas, and happy about it to boot, WOW! See you tomorrow night!!

    @Andi You know you travel more than anyone I know — and still have an awesome career! Someday I’ll get there again.

    @Kirsten Aww. Yes, travel as a full-time gig isn’t for me, although I do want to be an expat again. But not for a long time! I really want more people to travel, however they can.

    @Candice I can’t wait to find out what you have under your sleeve!

  17. Great post! I quit my job to travel and work abroad for about a year and a half back in 2008. I’ve been back for just over a year now and back living in the town where I grew up. The trip definitely changed me. I hope I will have another chance to do an extended trip. Costa Rica sounds amazing!

  18. I would have ended up with a book named, “Eat” and still been in Italy. Yea, I probably told you that before. I think you, as someone who took a career break, and is now back behind a desk, are an excellent example for lots of people out there who may be hesitant to take a big step. You speak from both sides of the fence, so to speak.

  19. As far as I am concerned the only thing you need is some balls. Did you write this entry thinking about me ? 😉 If only I could convince Ryan…

  20. Agreed, if you really want to do it you make it happen.

  21. i think that is the whole purpose of a career break is for you to go back to your career a better person. i applaud anyone who finds their true calling while travelling and those who are able to get back with their lives when they are back at home

  22. Awesome post! I would love to travel to a tropical island and find love and stay there! but I would definitely miss winter. I love snow too much! And I loathe bugs which I hear that costa rica is full of! I

  23. @Zablon thank you! I do feel blessed to have found passion. I’m also so grateful that even the really rough year before that couldn’t put it out!

    @Margo SAME. That book really needed to have just stayed put in Italy!

    @Ayngelina Totally! But some of us needed a little push. 😉

    @Megs I always think of you when I write — we’re so similar!!

  24. I was an airline brat growing up (my Dad worked for – Pan Am!) so travel was kind of bred into me early. Yes, I’ve heard that refrain many, many times – ‘I wish I had the nerve to travel like you…’. I always scratched my head! I was never afraid to travel by myself – ever. I like the ideas here, but – how about just – working overseas? I spent a few ‘early’ years in Europe working as a ski lift operator, waitress, bar maid, cook and hotel maid (while living the ‘ski bum’ life in Zermatt, Switzerland), then (later) working as a geologist for 2 years in Northern Italy. Making $, getting a free apartment, having health insurance – 6 weeks vacation! Not to mention every weekend free to visit Switzerland, Austria, France – the rest of Italy… No ‘praying’ (or whining) involved here!

  25. @C Hi! So good to meet you!! I loved my time working overseas, and as you can see from my list, some of my friends are still loving it. But for me, I ended up getting a job unique to Las Vegas. But I absolutely know without a doubt I’ll work overseas again, in a job with half as many hours as I’m working now. I also know that I wouldn’t have gone without someone/something pushing me — so I’d love to help push someone else!

  26. You CAN always make room for travel – love it, what a needed and inspirational mantra. If I could count how many times people said to me – oh you’re just like EPL…really? I love the book – it’s an inspiration, but anyone can go to India, Bali, and Italy and find their own adventures and souls. Thanks for the great post.

  27. Very cool post! There’s definitely nothing wrong with going back to “the real world” after enjoying a marvelous career break. I want to take a career break someday in the future, but have always been afraid that I wouldn’t find work when I got back. Makes me happy to hear that it wasn’t at all a problem for you!

  28. Brilliant post! And, I’m glad you were able to get back into the working world after traveling . . . I have been hearing stories from folks who have gotten stuck not being able to find jobs after traveling.

  29. Awesome post. Never, ever, feel guilty for moving back to the US. All of us have different goals and lives and living in our home country does not mean we are not travelers. You don’t have to travel full-time to be a traveler! Just be yourself and be proud of your experiences and what YOU have accomplished.

  30. Someone just emailed me yesterday to say I was JUST like “Julia Roberts in that Eat, Pray, Love movie”. Errgh. Make it stop already!
    I do have to give the book and the movie credit for inspiring thousands of women to take off on their own & do the travel thing. And, I must admit, I was inspired myself after reading the book. (Honestly, I think I was more inspired to find a hottie Brazilian boyfriend than go abroad… which hasn’t happened after 10 months of traveling. What’s the deal?).
    But I am no Elizabeth Gilbert. I haven’t found myself (or my hottie Brazilian boyfriend… again, what IS the deal with that?). I am no closer to writing that book I set off to write when I originally left my job 10 months ago. And, like you, I’m actually looking forward to getting back to a job (even though I’ll be staying abroad) and a steady paycheck.
    As you said, anyone can take a break. You don’t have to be a budding travel writer to do it… or a digital nomad… or twenty years old… or whatever. You can just be who you are.

  31. This post serves as a wonderful reminder that if you want something enough, the rest will fall into place. No excuses indeed!

    I also think it’s great to read about women’s experiences that aren’t focused on their relationships with men. It doesn’t always need to be about finding true love to have a happy ending!

    I have a vision of spending a month in 2012 in Europe before I adopt. It WILL happen :). xoxo

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