All of our local Meet, Plan, Go! hosts have inspiring stories of their own career break travels. In the months leading up to our National Event on October 16, we will introduce them to you so you can see why they are part of our team.
Meet Our 2012 Minneapolis Host: Katie Aune
My biggest mistake in taking my career break?
I waited too long.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty and, looking back, the perfect time for my career break would have been 2006. I had just sold my condominium in Chicago in an attempt to downsize and prepare myself to change careers from being an attorney to being…something else.
That was back when the economy was still doing okay and I walked away from that condo with a nice chunk of change in the bank. I entertained faint visions of taking time off to travel but the idea seemed so far out there to me, I didn’t even really seriously think about it. It just didn’t seem possible.
Instead, I rented for a year, changed careers and then promptly bought a new condo.
Two years later, I started dreaming of travel again.
This time, the idea hovered in my mind a bit longer but it still seemed like a pipe dream. I didn’t know anyone who had traveled for an extended period of time and I just didn’t know how I would make it work. I had a condo, I had a job, I had cats. Nonetheless, I spent nearly all of my free time dreaming about possible routes and itineraries. Slowly but surely, the idea morphed into a very loose plan. I started actually telling people what I wanted to do, but it sounded crazy coming out of my mouth.
I don’t know that anyone really believed I would actually go through with it.
Months passed and I bought up every guidebook I could find and made list after list of online resources. I started reading travel blogs and started my own. I joined Twitter and started following travel folks, which is how I am pretty sure I first heard of Meet, Plan, Go!
However it happened, I found myself sitting in a room at REI in Chicago in September, 2010. I was surrounded by people who loved to travel. I listened to the host, Lisa Lubin, explain how she left her career to travel and ended up being gone nearly three years and making a new career out of it. I soaked up information about insurance and packing and itinerary planning. And when the event ended, I practically ran over to panelist Megan Kearney, who had traveled solo through Central Asia – the exact area that I wanted to visit.
Suddenly, it all seemed possible.
A year later, I was part of that panel – via Skype from Veliky Novgorod, Russia.
Two years later, I am thrilled to be hosting the Meet, Plan, Go! event in Minneapolis.
How did I get here?
After that inaugural Meet, Plan, Go! event in Chicago, I joined the online Basic Training course, where I was able to find even more practical information, inspiration and community. I went to local meet-ups and got to know Lisa and Megan better, while also connecting with others planning to hit the road as well. I put my condo on the market and when it didn’t sell after six months, I came up with a Plan B. I figured out a way to make things work financially while renting it out instead. I started listing things to sell on Craigslist, increased my monthly bank transfers to savings and picked up some freelance work through Elance to make extra money. In February 2011, I announced to friends and family I would leave on my 35th birthday, just six months later.
By late July, I secured a tenant for my condo, gave notice at work and found a new home for my cat. I sold all my furniture and moved the rest of my belongings to my parents’ basement in Minnesota.
And on August 30, 2011, I boarded a plane to Helsinki, Finland.
In the last year, I ran a marathon in Estonia, taught English in Russia and Tajikistan, traveled the length of the Trans-Siberian Railway, studied Russian in St. Petersburg and Kiev, crossed the Black Sea by ferry from Ukraine to Georgia, volunteered with the national tourism board in Armenia, lived with local families in Azerbaijan and camped in the desert among ancient ruins in Turkmenistan.
I also picked up some freelance travel writing work and joined the Meet, Plan, Go! team as managing editor, which together have allowed me to extend what was going to be a ten-month trip into a thirteen-month journey.
The road has not always been smooth – I probably have experienced more bumps than most do, ranging from hellish homestays to horrid weather conditions (visiting Ukraine when it is -30C is not ideal!). And I still had things to deal with at home which sometimes put a damper on my feeling of complete freedom. But as much as I stressed and worried about things along the way, the biggest lesson I learned was that things always have a way of working out.
My only regret? That I didn’t do it sooner.
Katie is a Minnesota native and recent Chicago resident who started dreaming of traveling and seeing the world at a young age. But aside from a church mission trip to Mexico when she was 14, she didn’t leave the country for the first time until she took a 23 day tour to Europe after finishing law school in 2001. She spent the next ten years making the most of her vacation time by taking short trips to Australia, Egypt, Peru, Norway and all over western Europe.
A self-professed “recovering attorney,” Katie left a job in educational fundraising and event planning last August to travel and volunteer in all 15 countries of the former Soviet Union. She returns home September 25 after a 13-month career break that included running a marathon in Estonia, teaching English in Russia and Tajikistan, volunteering with the national tourism board of Armenia, living with local families in Azerbaijan, and trying her best to speak Russian on a daily basis. In addition to being obsessed with travel, Katie is a sports fanatic, running enthusiast and gluten-free since 2010. You can read more about her adventures on her blog, Katie Going Global, or follow her on Twitter at @katieaune.
Join us on October 16, 2012 for our nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events: