Meet, Plan, Go — How long-term travel got me my career back

When my friends at Briefcase to Backpack asked me to write up my story about how taking a career break revved up my enthusiasm for my work in journalism, I jumped at the opportunity. I consider any small thing I can do to encourage others to take a step back and experience some time “off” an absolute honor. What I didn’t expect were all the kind words I got in response — the online travel community is a supportive bunch. My “IRL” friends often marvel about how close I am with my online travel friends, but projects like this one illustrate why.

On that note, the stars of Briefcase to Backpack are bringing their popular Meet, Plan, Go event to Las Vegas — and 16 other cities — on October 18th. Here in Sin City, the long-term travel pep rally will be hosted by my dear friend, JoAnna Haughn, of Kaleidoscopic Wandering and WhyGoVegas, and she’s asked me take part. I’m thrilled! She’s already thrown herself into planning, and I’m so excited about all of the ideas I’ve heard so far. I’ve promised to ignore my fear of public speaking and sit on a panel. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, here’s the story I wrote on my life coming full circle thanks to a much-needed 21 months of travel and expat living. Enjoy!

A Life-changing Year Ends Full Circle

Career Break/Life Break

It’s funny: I’m told all the time by various friends that I’m the only person they know who took a long-term break to travel. But there are so many of us! And a lot of us meet online. One of my favorite such career-breaking pals is Spencer Spellman, of The Traveling Philosopher fame. Get this — he lands in Playas del Coco, where I spent a year before moving back to Las Vegas to work, this very day! I’m not kidding. Before he left, he wrote a moving post on why he suddenly needed a Big Change. He rightly states that he feels his career break is more of a life break — it’s so true. His post may or may not include a big ‘ol cameo by… moi. Enjoy!

Click here to read Spencer’s post, Career Break? More of a Life Break – Part I

Trading lives: new Costa Rican expat heads to the tropics

As I settle back into life in Las Vegas, some of my very favorite travelers are headed to Costa Rica! Yes, I’m jealous, but I‘m living the dream myself in Las Vegas, so I can’t complain. But I can live vicariously through my friends! One of them, Helen, is gearing up for some serious expat time in Central America. And she was kind enough to write a guest blog for me, including some of her favorite pictures from her previous trip to Costa Rica, the one where she fell in love with like I did. Enjoy!

I stumbled across Abby’s blog at work one day, having just returned from a truly amazing trip to Costa Rica. Well, as Abby returns to the bright lights of Las Vegas I’m leaving my (lovely!) job and heading back to Costa Rica for four months. Here are five reasons why I just had to return:

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Life after long-term travel: adjusting back

Unpacking all of my belongings after more than a year away was a strange rite of passage, and one that was much more emotional than I thought it was going to be. I lived out of two suitcases during my time away in Costa Rica, most of it in a little house the size of a car. I learned to live with only the basics. But when I moved back to Las Vegas, a storage unit’s worth of belongings came with me. Alone, I watched the movers fill my new house with boxes, each a mystery that had been untouched for 13 months. I had no idea what I was in for.

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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?

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To be free

Speeding across the Southwest in my beloved Honda Civic that I hadn’t driven in a year, I thumbed through my old CDs. I’d just returned to the U.S. after a year in Central America and wanted to hear country music. My time capsule of a car delivered: After listening to old-school Taylor Swift, from when she still had a twang, I popped in Tim McGraw.  Without warning, I was transported back to the last time I’d been racing through the reds and browns of New Mexico, in the opposite direction, listening to that very CD. I remembered exactly what headspace I was in, before a year in Costa Rica changed my life.

Before the words sunk in, I was carefree, driving west. I was by myself, taking in the sweeping landscape that I love so much, alone after a whirlwind few weeks. I had just moved back to the U.S., to Las Vegas, that week. After a few days at my new office (I was employed!), looking at rentals in my spare time, I’d flown to my parents’ house in Albuquerque to pick up my car. I was L.A.-bound, racing towards my storage unit to finish the last leg of my move.

Then I popped in that CD.

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