Lots of people dream of taking a career break, and then there’s Alexis Grant. She wrote the book on the idea—literally. Some might question her sourcing, though, since the first quote (among many) comes from Yours Truly. Thanks, Alexis!
Alexis believes in making your own luck, and it seems to be working well. She recently left a “real” job, helps other idea merchants as a social-media coach, blogs almost daily, and has a travel memoir in the publishing pipeline. Atop all that, just returned from a mini-career break of her own in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Yet she still found time to answer a set of BA 11Qs. Does she ever stop writing? Let’s hope not! And if you’re looking for savvy inspiration from many experienced sources, download a copy of How to Take a Career Break to Travel. Today!
Once again…thanks, Alexis—for your comments here and for carrying a bright torch for the career-break movement.
1. You’ve got a powerful web presence, but what do you call your “day” job?
I’m a writer, building my own business. I make my living by creating content in various forms: ebooks and digital courses that I sell on my website, social media marketing for small businesses and stories for magazines, newspapers and blogs. My web presence – mainly my blog and newsletters – supports all of these efforts.
I don’t really consider it a “day” job though. I don’t work 9-to-5 – I create my own schedule, sometimes taking time away from my desk to work out in the morning or writing late at night to finish a project. I’m my own boss, which means I can pursue ideas I’m excited about, so long as I can figure out how to make money off them.
2. What are some of your other ventures (and how are they going)?
I’m running my first digital course – about how to use social media to Make Your Own Luck. This is the kind of project I love because it gives me a chance to teach others what I’ve learned, and it’s all email-based, which means I get to write.
I also offer a weekly newsletter called Solopreneur Secrets, through which I share what I learn about transitioning from working for a company to working for myself (I’m only six months into this new work-style). It’s a lot about building and selling products, creating a community online, and other challenges you’re likely to face if you take this route.
I should also mention that I’ve got a book out there in the publishing pipeline – that’s really why I started blogging to begin with. It’s a travel memoir about backpacking solo through Africa as a woman, an adventure I embarked on in 2008. The book is complete and with my literary agent, who’s now figuring out how to pitch it to publishers.
3. How’d you become so inter-webs savvy?
By doing. Whenever I need to know how to do something – create newsletters, format an ebook, use a new social media tool to help a client land customers – I figure it out. The wonderful thing about the web is that there’s so much free information, you can teach yourself anything if you take the time to do it. Often, when I learn something, I share it on my blog, so others can learn it, too.
4. Do you have time for any other hobbies, passions, diversions?
Sure! Spending time with friends and family is a big hobby, but I also put a good number of hours into working out at the gym, getting myself into nature on weekends and trying out different brunch spots around D.C.
My work feels like a hobby in some ways though; I love learning about entrepreneurship and how to earn a living through the web, so I often go to networking events or spend time reading books that help me reach that goal.
5. How do you fit travel into your busy life (and how much do you get)?
I’m still figuring that out! I just took three weeks to travel in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I dubbed it a working vacation, but what I learned is that I really don’t want to work while traveling. Yeah, I’ll check email daily and be available to put out any client-related fires, but I’d rather work my butt off ahead of time so I can leave my laptop closed while I’m away and really experience the places I visit.
One of the nice things about working for myself is my flexible schedule; it makes it easier to take long weekends to travel domestically. That’s what I’ll be doing a lot of for the rest of this year.
6. How’d you muster the inspiration, investigation, and dedication it took to complete your e-book: How to Take a Career Break to Travel?
This is a topic I’m passionate about, so it didn’t take much self-convincing. I spent a big block of time solely writing the ebook during a two-week residency at VCCA (The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts), a writer’s colony. The guide is full not only of my advice, but also includes advice and ideas by a dozen or so other career-breakers (like Kirk!) who I interviewed. It was the perfect project for me because it combined my journalistic skills – interviewing and researching – with personal experience.
7. What’s the response been like?
Anyone who’s read the guide has offered positive feedback. But to be honest, it really hasn’t sold that many copies! It’s been a learning experience for me, particularly since my first ebook, How to Build a Part-Time Social Media Business, has sold super well. I think this niche of taking a career break to travel appeals only to a small group of people. And that’s fine; I knew that going into the project, yet it was still worth it to me to write it well. It’s fun helping even that tiny slice of the population who wants to escape the grind and have a truly life-changing experience.
8. Honestly, now: Do you think there’s truly a “career-break movement?”
Well, I think a lot of people took career breaks when the economy tanked because they couldn’t find jobs, and I think it’s easier nowadays to find other people who are taking or have taken career breaks because of the web.
While the number of Americans taking breaks may have increased slightly over the last few years, it’s still such a small percentage of the population. That’s why us career-breakers have to stick together!”
9. Hostel and/or 5-star: What’s your travel philosophy and style?
Hostel, for sure. I like to make my money go far so I can travel for long periods of time. Plus, the community atmosphere at hostels makes it so much easier to meet other people – and that’s when you have awesome experiences and learn new things.
My tolerance for uncomfortable travel, however, is decreasing little by little. I’m in my early 30s now, and I like to have a hot shower and room to myself every once in a while. So I’ll do a dorm hostel most nights, but treat myself to an inexpensive private room when I need a break.
10. It’s hard to choose (I know, right?) but what are some dreamiest places you’ve been—and long to be?
I really loved Madagascar. It has the unique feel of Africa, yet travel there wasn’t as difficult or expensive as West Africa. Plus, the wildlife there is really unique, since the island has been isolated for so many years, which allowed unique plant and animal life to develop. That’s the only place the lemur exists in the wild!
For those who enjoy first-world traveling, I’m a big fan of New Zealand, especially the south island. It’s a haven for outdoor-lovers.
11. What’s next, and where might you see yourself in a decade or two?
I’m pretty content where I am right now! I don’t have concrete career goals like I used to when I worked as a journalist. Instead, my professional ambitions revolve around continuing to figure out how to continue to do work I love and have the flexibility to create the type of life I want to live, while still bringing in a paycheck.
I also want to have a family eventually, so I’m eager to see how that changes things – whether I’ll continue to create my own career or find myself yearning for the stability of working for someone else’s company. I do know that I want to continue to travel once I have kids – and I’m glad to have YOU as an example of how to do that!
Thanks for having me, Kirk.