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11Q: Lucky Alexis Grant

Posted on: Saturday, March 24th, 2012
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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.

 

 

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Meet Kara McGuire, Money Maven & MPG MSP Panelist

Posted on: Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
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Kara McGuire has one of the coolest jobs around:  She gets to write about money. No, not Donald Trump and the VIX index, but helpful info for the average checkbook bungler.  On Tuesday, October 18, Kara will participate in our Meet Plan Go career-break panel. If a money’s a main obstacle that keeps you from flying away, you’ll want to be there.

  • Spot-on reportage

Kara clips coupons.  Kara has three kids under the age of eight.  Kara knows how many Americans are one month away from losing their house.  But within the last month, she’s also offered readers real, relevant articles like…

  1. Think twice before saving for college
  2. Women minding the money
  3. Slash your grocery bills

She’s also a proponent of schools that get off their abacus and teach our young’uns how to be better with a buck.  Just think:  Had we promoted that sooner, maybe this dang debt crisis wouldn’t still be such a massive bummer.

  • Yet Kara’s BreakAway awaits

Last we talked, Kara came clean with a secret:  She’s yet to take her career break.  (Egads!)  Yet she loves to travel,

It’s not so easy with two careers and three kids, but we try to set aside travel money every year—athough it can be the first savings to get tapped when the unexpected expense shows up.”

So, Kara, unlike most Americans, do you at least use all your vacation days?  She laughs,

Oh yes.  And when we travel, we might spend a day at a four-star resort, and then camp—to extend the budget and time away.  But with a family now, sometimes vacations become visiting grandparents and such.  The good news is that, sometimes, that takes you to faraway places like Massachusetts.”

  • Save your hard questions for Kara

So please, join Kara, me, and our three other panelists.  And ask Kara the taxing questions.  She’ll have a savvy answer—and you’ll be one step closer to your big break.

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Meet Jeff Jung & the MPG Guides

Posted on: Monday, October 10th, 2011
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On October 18, career-break dreamers and veterans alike will gather simultaneously in 17 cities nationwide for the 2nd annual Meet,Plan,Go!

In each location, a savvy panel will provide the punch, while a local host will run the circus.  In Mpls, that’s Me.

  • Who are these crazy people?

One of them is true travel guru, Jeff Jung.  I mean, this guy not only globe-hops like the Energizer Bunny, he also blogs like the best and creates amazing videos to help folks get going (among other things).  Surf his world to see just how righteous a sabbatical site can be.

Despite his travels and tech tasks, Jeff found time to collect the short stories and faces from the other 16 hosts.  It’s a captivating crew—with surprisingly NOT that much in common—ranging from youngish to oldish, from solo to family, from selfless volunteers to shameless vagabonds. Please meet just a few…

  • Sonia, in DC exemplifies the “back to work breaker.”  That’s right:  She’s proven it’s possible to have a career, run away, and come back to work again.  Encore!
  • “Soloist” Lisa Lubin, in Chicago, shoots a helluva photo and clearly eats well when she embarks on solo sojourns.  She takes no short-cuts and savors every bite.
  • And then there’s my fellow “multiple breaker” and dear friend, Sherry Ott—who’s also one of the mad visionaries behind MPG.  For a cathartic treat, get lost on her site.

I could go on and on.  But the far more fascinating option would be to wander around some of these suave sites.

Good luck and Godspeed to my fellow hosts—and thanks, Jeff!

 

 

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First MSP, Then the World!

Posted on: Monday, September 26th, 2011
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Ever wanted to ask a bunch of experts about how and why to BreakAway?  Well then, please join me and four fun, savvy smarties when we meet up for a few hours on October 18.  We’ll gather in Honey, a sweet club by Nye’s in Minneapolis, from 7-9, with doors and cheap sips starting at 6.

The event is called MeetPlanGo (this is Year 2) and it’s happening in 17 cities nationwide.  Wow!  Please meet your impressive panel…

  • Julie DuRose: chef-turned-nomad who ate her way around the world for a year–half of it solo after a breakaway break-up–and lived to write about it;
  • Layne Kennedy: acclaimed photographer who has shot everything from pink dolphins in the Amazon to Inuits in Greenland–for LIFE, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated and more;
  • Kara McGuire: mother of three and author of an award-winning personal finance column in the StarTribune who knows a thing or two about saving money; and
  • Leif Pettersen: a freelance writer, insatiable traveler, slightly caustic blogger and semi-professional wino who is a regular contributer to Lonely Planet.

And, of course, yours truly

For details and registration, click here.  Hope to see you there!

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Inspiration…From Strange Places

Posted on: Thursday, August 18th, 2011
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If you long for a career break—or break of any kind—what is that tipping point that makes you finally GO?  And what about where?  My friends at Meet, Plan, Go! have been asking all hosts to answer that question; my story runs today.

  • Deciding where to go

In my family’s case, we felt like we were nearly there.  After all, we’d done the hard work—made the decision, set the budget, and begun navigating most of the 555 obstacles.  But there was one problem:  We didn’t know where to go.  For months, we debated.  A good problem to have, yes!  Fun?  Not so much.

  • Yet another strange twist…

The strange source of inspiration that finally ended the conundrum turned out to be a long-lost, faded, travel article in a forgotten file—that I literally stumbled on while purging piles in my office. That’s strange; I still think so.

But in yet another strange twist of alignment, the person who co-runs MPG and posted my story, Michaela Potter, was responsible for stuffing the envelope…while an intern at a PR firm…that was hired to promote Grenada tourism…which reached the journalist…who took the bait, booked the trip, and wrote the story.

Grenada was pushing hard to revive its tourism after the infamous invasion during the Reagan administration.

That was in 1996—about 13 years before I found the article and ended up in Grenada.  Today, Michaela and I made that bizarre, but remarkable, connection.  I’m still gripping my forehead.

  • Ripples across the water

In a way, these stories of travel and BreakAways continue long after the plane brings you home again.  There are memories, yes, but also connections yet to be made.

Michaela and I made another today.  My thanks to her, Sherry Ott, and the all good people advocating career breaks because we BELIEVE!

 

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Obligations? Pish-tosh! It’s YOUR choice!

Posted on: Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
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You meet the most interesting people in cyberspace.  One of them who recently crossed my vector is the talented Alexis Grant—travel writer, social media coach, and career-beat journalist for US News and World Report.

Like so many of us, she’s become possessed by this notion of career breaks—and thus interviewed me about my experiences, ideas, and jabberwocky.  I enjoy nothing more than practicing Sabbatical babble, so we had a lovely converation.  Lexi recently extracted one particularly brilliant quote for her most excellent blog.

If you say you never could do that, you certainly never will. But every one of those obligations is a choice. Getting up in the morning is a choice. Taking your kids to that game, going to work. You face hundreds of choices every day, and you just keep saying yes, yes, yes to them. And that’s great, and that’s what gets you through the day and gets you success. But there’s also the choice to sometimes say, I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to work every day of my life.” (Kirk Horsted)

My deepest thanks go to Lexi—not only for the post, of course, but also for the reminder.  Because, here, today, the new summer routine of playing chef, chauffeur, and chaperone to my kids (8 and 14) has gotten out of control, particularly when piled atop countless other obligations that don’t take summer vacation.

  • Remember the “N” word!

So sometimes, a guy’s just gotta say No! No! No! And then say YES to yourself when pondering,

Would I like to sneak in a kayak ride right now?”

On that note, the water calls.  Summer is here, life is short, and breaking for solitude and exercise is the right choice!

Thanks again, Lexi.

 

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Get your Tix for Meet Plan Go!

Posted on: Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
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Those crazy organizers at MPG are REALLY on top of it!  Yes, early-bird tickets are already on sale for the 10-18-11 national career-break meetup.  And yours truly will be the Mpls host.

We had a hoot & a holler last year, with two mighty fine guest panelists and 100 travel enthusiasts.  We talked about everything from how to work on the road to how to quit your job without losing your career.  From what to do with your pets to how to tell your spouse. 

This year?  The sky’s the limit!  Stay tuned for details about who, where, and when…because you already know why!

Or, throw caution to the wind and REGISTER NOW!  It will only set you back $10 and you’ll be guaranteed a bird’s eye view.

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It’s Baaaaack… Save the Date for Meet, Plan, Go!

Posted on: Thursday, April 21st, 2011
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postcard-4inx6in-h-round-frontIs there a trip to someplace interesting on your Bucket List?  

Do you have an unscratched itch for travel?

Have you ever harbored fantasies of taking a break from your career to spend time doing something you REALLY love?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I invite you to join me (your affable host)—and a panel of pros—when we gather for the 2nd annual Meet, Plan, Go, a national meet up conversation on career breaks. 

  • SAVE THE DATE:  Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Here in Minneapolis, last year’s event sold out quickly and went SRO as 100+ dreamers and schemers swarmed our venue, a Honey of a bar that did a super-sweet job of making us feel at home while helping us envision flying away. 

You’ll meet all kinds of fellow travelers, catch some journey buzz, and leave with a cool goodie bag too.  And while last year’s attendee evaluations left our humble panel blushing, we will stop at nothing to try to make this year’s even better.

I think most of us assume that (1) we can’t leave our jobs and (2) we can’t afford it. The three panelists showed us that it can be done, how to approach our bosses, how to handle the money, and I hadn’t even thought about international volunteering until I went to this.

It was great that three different people with different experiences could offer their views on all the topics.  

Kirk did a bang-up job hosting the Minneapolis MPG. Thank you Kirk!”

Want more details?  So do I!  So stay in touch as the Minneapolis shindig takes shape.

Meanwhile—as in immediately—please surf over to the MPG site.  Sign up for the Meet, Plan, Go newsletter.  And do the “LIKE” thing at the MPG Facebook page.  

Stay tuned.  Thanks!

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See the World on OPM

Posted on: Monday, December 6th, 2010
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DSC_0906Finally!  Career breaks and sabbaticals are getting their moment in the sun.  Doers and dreamers are coming out of the woodwork–sharing their passion and stories.  Into this mix, another savvy trekker has stepped forward…  

Meet Michael Schneider, author of the blog On the Other Guy’s Dime.  (No, this is not a rendering of Michael, but rather a metaphorical depiction of his swashbuckling nature.)

I met Michael at our most recent Twin Cities BreakAway MeetUp and he filled me in on his Big Idea, which can be summarized thusly:

“Learn how to live and work abroad without having to reach into your own wallet or give up your regular day job. I have done it 14 separate times and you can too.”

Michael’s got this thing figured out.  In fact, he wrote the book on it!  

He also invited me to speak out on his blog, which of course I took him up on…

As one who has always raided my own booty for career breaks, my guest post tells a decidedly contrarian tale.  But would I considering working (for pay!) abroad instead of footing the bill myself? Sign me up!

Among his many accomplishments, Michael is a professor emeritus at top-notch Macalaster College in St. Paul—and an expert in taking paid (yes, PAID) assignments at exotic international locations.  He’s lived and worked abroad 14 different times, from Australia to Zimbabwe. How the heck does he do it?  

He tells all, in the book and the blog—including tips, opportunity postings and more. So go for my guest post.  But stay for the inspiration and to find out about out-of-the-blue and under-the-radar opportunities like, say, “Seeking Software Engineering Lecturers in Vietnam!

What have you got to lose?

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A Sign (in the Times)

Posted on: Friday, October 15th, 2010
Posted in: Link Luv, Blog | 3 comments

DSCN0560_2How do you know when an idea or movement is taking off? One measure might be a big, meaty article in the New York Times.  Or, better yet, the Sunday Times!  

That’s precisely what will happen for the Career Break cause on Sunday, October 17, when this piece, Making the Dream Trip a Reality, hits the stands in the NYT Travel section.

In it, author Susan Stellin writes:  

It’s a dream anyone with a passport fantasizes about once in a while: ditching everything to travel the world for a year, or at least long enough to forget about office life.”

The article goes on to discuss the possibilities and pitfalls, and quotes several members of our MeetPlanGo tribe.  It’s available online now, if you’re curious (or not a NYT subscriber) and has already amassed dozens of comments, from the encouraging…

…do it, Do It, DO IT! We saved for years, planned for months, and have never been happier. We feel younger, healthier and more in love with life than we could have imagined. Hey, you only live once, right?”

to the downright skeptical and cynical…

Nice idea, but there’s no way I would quit my job at 51 and take the risk of long-term unemployment when I return. Likewise with selling my apartment. This just doesn’t mesh with responsible retirement planning unless, of course, you have the ingenious idea to operate seminars on traveling the world that people will pay you for.”

I left my own long comment, of course, espousing my “seize the breakaway” philosophy, which I’ve been living for the last 20 years…  

Considering yourself blessed may be the first step to breaking away. Another is to watch for the right timing, as one comment noted.

Lose your job? It happens, so why not be ready and use that break. Had a good business year or got a bonus? Trust the fates and ride away on that windfall. Planning a family but want to run wild before offspring tie you down? Go!

Visit friends and family overseas. Caretake in the Caribbean. Home-school while island-hopping. Housesit in Oslo while that family is on holiday. Frankly, there are countless ways to run away–and kind souls eager to help you.”

Harboring your own wanderlust or getaway dream?  I invite you to check out the article.  Pass it around.  And post a comment of your own.  If you’re a seeker (or a believer), help us make this kind of work-life flexibility and freedom mainstream–or at least a more visible and valid lifestyle choice.

Finally, I’d like to shout out a special congrats to my new friend and compatriot Sherry Ott (and her partners at Briefcase to Backpack) for scoring this nice piece of press–and galvanizing a movement whose time has finally come.

Full speed ahead!

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