One night next week, the travel gurus at Meet, Plan, GoMinneapolis will have me serve as an Expert in “Prepping to Leave.”
Ish! I mean, that’s often the hardest part of a career break. Still, it pays to plan ahead, big time. So here’s a witty A to Z guide that may make your BreakAway exit a bit less stressful.
A is for ARMY KNIFE. Be it Swiss, Victorinox, or Acme, the many timeless tools tucked inside can come in handy. Highly recommended: the corkscrew.
B is for BARF BAG. Laugh if you must, but they’re complimentary from (most) airlines, and can be useful for food, garbage, or—God forbid—barf. Travel much? Hey, it happens!
C is for CURRENCY. Cash is king in many places. And if you visit multiple countries, you’ll get multiple math lessons. But use your credit card when you can—and get one that charges no conversion fees. A debit card saves money on ATMs. And it never hurts to stash a few $100 bills; it’s the international standard, you know. Ask any drug lord (or better yet, don’t).
D is for DUPES. Yep, dupe your passport, driver’s license, and other critical docs—and stick them in a separate, safe place.
E is for ENERGY BARS. One savvy traveler is never without oatmeal. Another prefers nabbing extra airplane peanuts. Whatever your taste, it’s always a good idea to carry something to eat (make that a sackful if you travel with kids).
F is for FUNDING. Planning a career break helps keep you grounded and teaches you to save. And then it helps you fly high when you spend. Practice good fiscal fitness—but also keep in mind that, for certain important goals in life…It’s not a financial decision.
G is for GIVING NOTICE. Be thoughtful and considerate about telling your boss and colleagues that you’re about to take this job and shove off. Remember, you may need gainful income again someday. In fact, you’ll need it to take your next career break!
H is for HATERS. Some friends and even fam will try to rain on your Big Break with doubt, questions, and (above all) green Jello. Find strength in their scorn! And when they say, “Oh I could never do that,” politely suggest that it’s not about them.
I is for INSURANCE. It’s a hassle, it’s expensive, and it’s full of hoops and BS. Still, it makes sense to at least ponder all the iterations—from health to home, from electronics riders to travel insurance—which can buy great peace of mind, especially if you have a complex, pre-purchased itinerary.
J is for JOKER. Bring a deck of cards, of course. But also give yourself a wild card that gives you the go-ahead to try new things in strange places. Oh yes, bring your sense of humor, too.
K is for KIT OF DIVERSIONS. Leave the home theater at home, but plan for necessary diversions for long flights and unpredictable nights: reading, music, journal, sudoku, what have ya. Such toys can save the day if you’re traveling with kids or anxious spouses.
L is for LUGGAGE. Less is more, but get the right gear—whether backpack or suitcase or other. Take a short test trip or two to see how it feels to schlep your shtuff around; you’ll probably lighten your load!
M is for MED KIT. Skip the apothecary, yet procure a little of just about everything you might need in a hurry, from Immodium to Ibu. And don’t assume such things will be at your fingertips when you need them. (Frankly, you may also want some anxiety pills for before you go…and some anti-depressants for when you return!)
N is for NEEDLES. Yeah, you might need a needle (and thread) to repair your rips and tears. But we’re also talking immunizations. It won’t hurt a bit—compared to being locked out of your destination country because you overlooked certain medical prep or precautions they require. Don’t like shots? Celebrate your bravery afterward with a shot from Dr. Cuervo!
O is for OUTREACH. Set up your communication lines and expectations for family, friends, and emergency contacts. If you’re like most BreakAway artists, you’ll probably want to blog, too. But whatever you do, don’t spend your sabbatical staring at screens! Focus your connections on new faces, not Facebook.
P is for PET PLANS. People love their pets, perhaps sometimes too much? Fido will be fine without you, as will Miss Kitty. Just find them a nice place to purr—be it neighbor, friend, or sitting service. Get their immunizations caught up and provide ample supplies, while keeping in mind that pets need sabbaticals too!
Q is for QUIET AIDS. In the Caribbean, the roosters crow after midnight. In NYC, the taxis (and tourists) never shut up. In Rio, the locals rock and roll all night (and party every day). Ergo, pack your earplugs, headphones, and maybe even a rainforest app.
R is for RECORDING GEAR. No, not a studio—but rather, your camera, journal, laptop, sketchbook or whatever you us to capture the memories so that they last forever.
S is for STUFF MGMT. Get ready for pondering, purging, selling, sorting, storing, schlepping—and swearing. Pardon the French, but sometimes stuff sucks. And yet, when you’re away from it all, you probably won’t miss a thing.
T is for TECH TOOLS. Unplug as much as you can, please! But if you’re bringing digitalia, think through things like adaptors, converters, back-up systems and the price of connectivity. Your iPhone may work abroad, but it could cost you a king’s ransom to use it the way you do at home. And when the wifi won’t work? Stop worrying and start dancing in the streets.
U is for UNDERGARMENTS. Snicker if you must, but how will you stay warm? Dry? Clean? Longies or lingerie? Wool or cotton? And who’s going to do the laundry? Pack smart. And keep in mind you can usually eliminate extras, or pick up what you need.
V is for VISUALIZATION. Before you go, envision worst-case scenarios. That way, if (or when) they happen, you’ll be ready. Use these little practices also for possible emergencies, opportunities, and even the return to reality. Because you can, and you must, go home again.
W is for WATER. Hydrate. Shun bugs. A bottle of safe water is worth its weight in your backpack.
X is for X IT OFF. Make thorough and exhaustive lists, whether in a sketch book, computer, or on giant Post-its. (After all, you can’t keep all this in your head, can you!?!) Rejoice every time you X off a to-do. And when the list seems ridiculous, remember: You’re boarding that plane regardless.
Y is for YES MENTALITY. Speaking of opportunities, prepare yourself for eating raw snails, riding on elephants, sailing into storms, and a world of possibilities. That’s why we travel, right? So when in doubt, just say yes.
Z is for ZIPLOCKS. They’re handy in your kitchen, and even more useful on the road. Heck, here in the USA, even the TSA likes them—and they don’t like anything!
Speaking of zips, one of the happiest sounds on earth is the zip-zip-zip of luggage zippers closing when the prepping is over, the packing is done, and your ride to the airport is on its way.