Ditch Work for 365 Day Vacation

I was shocked at the huge crowd of people who shared my desire to rendezvous on an extended vacation. I attended a career break event hosted by Meet Plan Go which brought together, those serious and those curious about career breaks (ie. not talking maternity leaves here). A career break aka adult gap year are increasing in popularity perhaps instead of being a teen trying to find themselves an adult tries to lose themselves. I am still on step one…make the decision.

While we were sitting down for dinner on San Cristobal Island in Galapagos Islands on a refreshing October evening I met a couple who took the plunge. No not marriage. They decided to take a leave and travel around the world, with each other.

Meet Anu and Pete from Finland. Anu is a teacher, marathon runner and a gruelling cross country ski racer. Pete is a sports fanatic and avid photographer. They met nearly 8 years ago.

I was intrigued, inspired and envious to learn more about their adventures. They have been gracious to share their experience.

I think that there are many people, whether a couple or individual, dream of quitting their jobs to travel the world. It usually resides there, as a dream and people rarely act upon the dream. They convince themselves not to do it. What made it different for you? What was the point or event that convinced you to actually do it?
We have traveled quite a lot together and realized it's not too hard to be abroad. For example in the summer of 2007 we traveled in Europe for a month. That's when we decided that we wanted to travel the world for a year. We don't have children and we were able to save enough money for this trip, and we also were able to leave our work for a year. It's a big help that in Finland you can take a year off from work (after 10-year working history), get paid a little bit during that time and return back to your work.

What did your family and friends think about the idea when you told them?

Both of our mothers didn't like our idea, the dads didn't say anything. Friends thought that it's great and some of them were really excited.

Before you left, what did you really want to accomplish?
We wanted to visit all seven continents, we wanted to see as much natural wildlife as possible, we wanted to meet with our friends and relatives who live abroad (USA, Australia) and we wanted to experience new adventures.

Where have you been so far? Where are you now? And where are you going to next?
So far we've been to Iceland, USA, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador (also Galapagos Islands 😀 ), Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Antarctica, Uruguay, Brazil, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Right now we are in Melbourne, Australia. We are in Australia for 3 more weeks where we drive from Melbourne to Adelaide, then Cairns and Darwin. Late February, we fly to Bali, Indonesia and we will be traveling in Asia for about 4 months.

What has been the best part of your travels? What destination exceeded your expectations?
The best parts have been visiting Antarctica and Galapagos Islands. The Antarctic Cruise was better than what we had expected. For the most part each destination has been pretty much what we had expected.

The worst part of travelling? What destination was a disappointment?
The worst parts have been long bus trips in Guatemala and Bolivia. Our bus broke down in both places and we were late for our next step. Costa Rica was a little disappointing.

What has surprised you about the trip this far? What have you realized that you didn’t expect?
It has surprised us that we haven't been too exhausted even though we've been very busy and have done a lot of traveling.

We have realized how good our country Finland is to live and how well things there are after all.

Has it been worth it?
Yes, it has!

What advice do you have for someone considering a similar adventure – perhaps they can think of a million reasons why they shouldn’t do it, what should they consider?
Plan your trip a little bit beforehand; it's going to ease traveling a lot when you know something about the countries you are going to go. This means find out some facts about the countries (visas, interesting places etc.) By doing that you save time because you don't have to do those things when traveling. Also save up enough money, because it's not nice to be on a too low budget.

Do you still love each other? What has been the impact on your relationship? What advice do you have for others selecting a travel partner?
Yes, of course we do!

We had been together almost 7 years before starting this trip, so we knew each other pretty well. Our relationship hasn't changed during the trip.

Our advice is that when selecting a travel partner he/she should be interested in the same things that you are. If you like to see culture and he/she wants to go party, it's probably not going to work out.

What will be the first thing you do when you get home?
First thing to do when we get home is to meet both of our parents and go to the sauna and swimming at our friends' summer cottage.

To follow Anu and Pete's travels and enjoy the beautiful pictures visit: www.rantapallo.fi/kaikkimaanosat

To translate to English paste the web address into google translator: http://translate.google.ca/?hl=en&tab=wT#

Thinking of a Career Break?

1.Career Break Secrets: http://careerbreaksecrets.com/
Initiated by a couple of extended vacationers, the website holds a wealth tools and information to assist in planning your adventure.

2.Meet Plan Go: http://meetplango.com/
Lots of tools, information and a watering hole for connecting with other likeminded breakers including a basic training course.

3.  Ditch The Cubicle: http://www.ditchthecubicle.ca/
A series of mini-videos discussing career break topics; sponsored by gap adventures.

Happy Travels. 😉


Your life is precious. Do good things.

Kalsang lives with an appreciation for life. While others may take their loved ones, job, language or culture for granted Kalsang has found a way to make meaning from her experience of losing these things.

Kalsang was born the year Mao’s China invaded Tibet – slowly over a decade thousands of Chinese had migrated to Tibet and were welcomed as neighbours. In reality, they were Chinese militants who rose to invade Tibet killing over 1 million people in 1959. Another 800,000 Tibetans fled the country including H. Holiness the Dalai Lama who was only 24 years old.

Consider right now without warning, you are forced to leave everything, take only what you can carry and never be able to return to your home while at the same time not know where you are headed.  Kalsang’s family made the treacherous trek to India – to a new land, a new language, all without a home or a job or a plan.

They survived even thrived with the help of their culture, religion and the generosity of many Indians. Over time, dispersed Tibetans struggled to keep connected to their roots; and for Tibetans that remained in their homeland practicing their religion or acknowledging their traditions were forbidden.

To preserve the Tibetan culture and people, H. Holiness the Dalai Lama established a Tibetan government-in-exile, Tibetan schools, handicraft centres and training institutions in Dharamsala, India. Young Tibetans learned their language, heritage and traditional art. This was the foundation for the Norbulingka Institution that exists today. Then and now, its purpose has been to preserve and protect the essence of Tibet and its culture.

Kalsang attended this school when she was 5 years old. She lived with a foster Tibetan family and was not able to see her parents again until she was 10 because of the distance and terrain to travel. Despite her loneliness, she learned who she was including her native language and heritage.

When she finally returned home she remembers clearly the lesson her mother bestowed while she was giving her a bath one evening.  All life is precious, she said. If one throws handfuls of rice at the wall, handful after handful, maybe one kernel will stick. It is special.

For two people to meet, out of all people.
for a fetus to grow, out of the thousand things that need to go right to build a toe, a hand, a heart.
for a baby to crawl, for a child to learn how to print their name in their native language,
for a person to safely grow into a teenager, an adult and a senior facing each joy and struggle.
The creation of all life is a series of magnificent yet simple events and all of them precious.

Kalsang not only learned this but embodies this notion. This thought  was very enlightening juxtaposed it against my short subway ride on my way to meet Kalsang. Patrons fall into an anti-social coma to check their social networks. The uniqueness and preciousness of life seemingly non-existent. Kalsang offers that she has always tries to have compassion for others and their feelings.

“Making other people happy is going to make me happy.” Kalsang knowingly states. It didn’t quite resonate with me at first but it does make sense…you get what you give. I can’t think of a time when I made someone unhappy and felt genuine happiness about it. Making others unhappy originates from of unhappiness and produces unhappiness, therefore the opposite as Kalsang states must be true.

The support and encouragement from Kalsang’s parents helped her complete her bachelor and master degrees; later when she returned to Dharamsala to give back she met her husband-to-be and they moved to Canada with his family.

It was, of course, difficult in Canada. Kalsang adopted the lifestyle of many Canadians who work a 9 to 5 job without much time for themselves or much money. More importantly, the job did not carry any meaning and she grew unhappy and restless for a change. This is a position many of us may relate to yet may not act upon. Buddhist teachings offer that all human suffering is due to one’s mental attitude. A negative attitude can blind you from all of the many good things that appear right in front of you. Kalsang believes our time is very precious. Do as much as possible as soon as possible, waiting for another moment in time or until you retire could be too late – anything could happen, so always do it now. She did.

Instead of staying in a job that made her unhappy,
she took a chance and started her own business.

She had the idea to open a Tibetan store; at the time there wasn’t anything a similar operation in Toronto. She opened the Tibet Shoppe which now resides on Queen St West in Toronto. Like Kalsang, the store is authentic.

Kalsang travels to Dharamsala India a few times a year to purchase Tibetan made products. This supports the work of preserving and promoting the unique Tibetan culture and traditions by not only selling the genuine works but also just as I met Kalsang, she shares her passion and knowledge of Tibet with those that are curious. She has spread the knowledge of Tibet to Torontonians for almost twenty years.

If Kalsang continued in that job she did not enjoy, she would not have found her way to not only enriching her life but that of others from across the globe. Kalsang advises ‘Each individual can make a difference in this world, no matter how small. Life is so incredibly short so use each day well.’


For more information:

Tibet Shoppe
662 Queen St West, Toronto

The Tibet Shoppe specializes in traditional, high quality Tibetan home furnishings and accessories. They carry a wide selection of items ranging from traditional Tibetan rugs, rare, original antique Tibetan furniture and decorative artifacts, Buddhist ritual instruments, handstitched bedroom collections and cushion covers as well as traditional jewelry, clothing and books. All of their products are genuine works of art by Tibetans

Norbulinka Institute
Dharamsala, India

As the website mentions Norbulingka is dedicated to handing down tradition and restoring standards by providing training, education and employment for Tibetans. It supports an environment in which Tibetan community and family values can flourish. It reconciles the traditional creatively and respectfully with the modern, and seeks to create an international awareness of Tibetan values and their expression in art and literature.


The Tibet Shoppe has compiled a list of resources for learning more about Tibet, you can visit here: http://www.tibetinteriors.com/about-tibet/

What is your story?

Have you ever made up the life story of a stranger you saw on the street or sitting in a restaurant? Curious by the people we
encounter on a daily basis? What are they thinking, what experiences would they share? What have they learned here on planet earth?

Being human stories.

Your Heart Print is about documenting personal stories. For many cultures storytelling (oral histories) is a sophisticated and sacred method of:

  • understanding where one comes from,
  • passing on wisdom and experience from the older population, and
  • preserving culture.

Today, our fast-paced, information overloaded, technology congested world makes it difficult to pinpoint these precious nuggets of golden wisdom.

Over the next several weeks I plan to start introducing you to some interesting people …whom maybe you passed on the street.