It’s hard to believe. A week-plus has already gone by since I hosted the Minneapolis contingent of Meet Plan Go, the national meetup for career breaks. As I sit and reflect, I’m stunned by the way days disappear, by how much time an event like this can suck up, and by the passionate attention the audience granted to my panelists and me.
About 80 escape artists showed up to network and share stories, but mostly to listen. While I had expected a happy-hour vibe, folks were pretty darn serious—though certainly stirred. The travel fervor was palpable. And all three panelists were touched by the sincerity—and range—of questions.
Now it’s “jobs, jobs, jobs”
Times have changed. In past workshops, the dominant questions (and answers) were about money, money, money. Now, it’s jobs, job, jobs. This downturn has chipped away at people’s saving accounts and confidence. Wanderlust lives on, but fear of coming home to no work makes for a tight leash.
As one woman exclaimed:
Of course I long to go away for six months. But come home and begin again? I’m 55! Who’s hiring me?”
A money man who’s got it and gets it
I’m honored to have shared the stage with Ross Levin—whose book “Spend Your Life Wisely” just hit Amazon last week. Ross tells happy tales of his own months away, from the simple college-student phase through the raising his twin daughters (now seniors in high school).
By anyone’s standards, Ross has earned super-success. But he’s enjoyed it too, while never losing sight of what matters.
As he explained in his introduction—which also appears on page 1 of his new book:
In working with hundreds of people over the years, there has been very little relationship between owning stuff and happiness.”
Indeed, while jobs and money played their appropriate role in the Meet Plan Go conversations, we three wise panelists had to admit that we manage to travel most when least employed—and that the uber-trekkers we know are typically not rich or career-driven.
Life is travel; travel is Leif
Leif (pronounced “Life”) Pettersen rounded out our panel, and our guests couldn’t get enough of him. No surprise there: Leif is not only that rare person who makes a living as a travel writer—including for Lonely Planet—but he got there the old-fashioned way. Which is to say:
He sold his house, his car, and all his things—and bought a one-way ticket across the pond. For four and one-half years, he moved through 40 countries. 40! And by the time he came back home to Minneapolis, he was again gainfully employed as a writer and blogger, and ready to settle down again. Well, sorta.
Folks were fascinated by his resume, stories, and wit. In a roomful of journey fans, he’s a real rock star. When asked about the difficulties of language barriers, Leif can reflect:
It’s just not a big deal. You learn the words and phrases need to know as you go, and you can always communicate with sign language, smiles, and pictures.”
Naturally, the two hours went too fast, just like a good vacation. Though the night officially ended at 9, some of us hung out, sipped, and nibbled til nearly midnight. In those hours, I realized, yet again, we are not alone—as people’s passport memories (and futures) poured out…
To be continued…
These people are my heroes, our tribe, and the reason I keep tapping away on this topic and tap-dancing away on BreakAways when the spirit allows and moves me.
My heartfelt thanks to these new friends, to Ross and Leif, and to the three high-energy women—Sherry, Michaela, and Tara—who made Meet Plan Go happen.
Until we meet again, happy sails…