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29 September 2011
How a Career Break Turned My Life Totally Upside Down

Today's guest post is from Stephanie Yoder, one of our Meet, Plan, Go! panelists in DC last year. Steph will not be at this year's event because she's off traveling the world. But if you'd like to meet other inspiring travelers like her who are getting out there and living the dream, come out and join us for MPG DC on October 18!

Steph at MPG 2010Last September, I sat on the panel for Meet, Plan, Go! DC, nervous as hell. I was there to share my expertise both as a blogger and an imminent career breaker. In less than a week I was supposed to be on a plane to Tokyo. From there I would be exploring Asia, Australia and more in what I envisioned would be a year long trip before I came back and found myself a real career.

As I sat near the bar, nervously reciting my reasons for leaving, I felt a tad hypocritical. I firmly believed that may year around the world would be a success, but there was no way for me to actually know what the world had in store for me. In truth, and I didn't dare say this out loud, I was terrified.

Looking back now, a year later, I can now say that my decision to quit my boring cubicle job and fly to Asia was the best thing that has EVER happened to me. My life now looks totally different than it did 12 months ago and it just keeps getting better.

Here are some of the ways by life has evolved over the past year:

A new career
In truth I felt kind of guilty calling my Asia trip a career break as, at 25 years old, I'd yet to come close to finding anything resembling a career. I'd been working in publications, which fit in well with my English degree but bored me to tears, yet I couldn't come up with an alternative that actually sounded appealing.

Months before I left I'd started writing about my travel experiences online. I wrote about my desire to travel, to do something different, about planning and executing a big trip, about how bored I was at home. It took far too long for it to dawn on me that what I really loved, maybe even more than travel, was writing itself! Even better: people seemed pretty interested in what I had to say. It was a leap.... but maybe I could write about travel for a living?

And that's what I do now, against all odds. I am a self-employed travel writer and blogger. The money isn't super but the intangible rewards are out of this world. I used to hate getting up and going to work in the morning but now I've become a workaholic!

A new community
When I began blogging and planning my big trip I started tapping into the online travel community -- a fascinating place full of backpackers, career breakers, travel professionals and more. It was so encouraging to meet so many people who also felt passionate about travel. I now have friends all over the world! Sure I haven't met all of them, but it's a great resource.

Steph and Mike

A new love
In the months leading up to my big trip I'd pretty much given up all hope of having a love life. The career-oriented guys I would meet in DC just looked at me like I was a lunatic when I told them my plans. I'd planned to do this big trip solo anyways and I was pretty okay with that.

Then, mere weeks before I was set to leave, I met a really cute guy. Not just any guy, a free-wheeling fellow travel blogger who was headed to China to teach English for the next year. In most situations that would be a pretty big inconvenience but for me it was perfect.

We spent the next nine months hopscotching around Asia. I'd go to visit him in Xi'an, he'd use his vacation time to island hop in Thailand with me. It wasn't easy but a jet-setting, continent hopping romance did feel pretty glamorous. Plus I was in love, with someone who actually understood the restlessness of my soul.

A new energy and purpose
When I was working in DC, wasting away my hours answering corporate emails I felt like I could spend an eternity just whittling my life away without any chance of escape. Now, anything seems possible. If I dropped everything and flew across the Pacific, what else could I do?

After 9 months of backpacking around Asia and Australia I came home for a couple months, to get ready for the next step. In my case, the next step is to head down to South America (I leave this week!). The boyfriend and I are making a documentary about technology and travel. After that, who knows?

I'm not writing all of this to brag, although my life IS pretty sweet. I know that most people who take a career break end up returning to the traditional work force and not becoming free-wheeling backpack hippies like myself. Even so, nobody comes back from a year of travel exactly the same. That's a scary thought, but also kind of an awesome one.

I now know what all that fear was about -- it was about change. Change is scary, but it was absolutely what I needed in my life. Massive change was the only thing that was going to get me on the right track, the one where I belonged.

Stephanie YoderStephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! She blogs about her adventures at Twenty-Something Travel and tweets a LOT at @20sTravel. You can read more about her documentary project at Everywhere Connection.

Meet, Plan, Go! DC on October 18

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