Quitter to Winner

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From Consulting Rehab: Interview with Three Month Visa

Consulting Rehab recently published an interview with Tara Russell, founder and president of Three Month Visa. TMV is sponsoring the Briefcase to Backpack Meet, Plan, Go event on September 14. Here's an excerpt from their conversation about the event and Tara's involvement with the movement.

Tara, tell us more about the origins of Meet, Plan, Go! How did it get started and why does it exist?

The seed for Meet, Plan, Go! was planted back in January of 2010 when Michaela Potter and Sherry Ott who founded Briefcase to Backpack were in town and we met up for coffee. We realized that there were so many cool ways that we might work together that what was meant to be a half-hour meeting turned into a 5-hour brainstorming session! Our goal working together has been to take this conversation about Americans and career breaks and start building some critical mass behind it – get it out from the underground and take it national. One thing that came up was the success of a group I have been running for a few years now in SF – SF Travel Book Club and Lectures Series – and we started to wonder what it would look like if we could take the strength of that in-person group dynamic and expand it nationwide by doing a day of coordinated events across the US. From there, Michaela and Sherry were able to leverage the strength of their online network to recruit hosts and panelists from across the US and that’s how Meet, Plan, Go! came to be!

Why do you think that taking a Career Break and traveling is beneficial for people?

I would go beyond even saying “beneficial” – I think career breaks are absolutely essential for people…perhaps now more so than ever. Consider that our office desks are no longer stationary items that we can leave behind after 5pm…with the introduction of cell phones and PDAs, many of us are forever wired and always accessible from the moment we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night. In an age when we are hearing more and more about work /life balance, it seems increasingly difficult to truly “unplug.”

Career breaks and travel give us that opportunity to unplug…to really take a step back, get perspective and regain balance in a way that we just can’t do while we are caught up in the pace of our hectic 9-5. (Or – let’s be honest – given the crazy hours many of us work, our 5-9.)

Travel gives us fresh and new perspectives, expands our horizons, strengthens our sense of adventure, pushes us to challenge ourselves, feeds an appreciation of our own strengths and abilities and provides us with space and time to examine who we are and what we truly want out of life. I’m passionate about helping my clients find that and taking that message national is what MPG is all about!

Who is this event for?

Well, it’s pretty simple, really. Here’s a quick and easy exercise to help readers determine if MPG is right for them…

Close your eyes and imagine taking time for yourself to do exactly what you have always wanted. Do you see:
* Surfing lessons in Costa Rica?

* Taking classes at a local university?

* Hiking the Himalayan Annapurna Circuit in Nepal?

* Renovating your house into the home you dream of?

* Volunteering at an orphanage in Brazil?

* Japanese lessons in Kyoto?

If you came up with anything other than “I’d like to be right here where I am…in my beige cubicle.”, then Meet, Plan, Go! is definitely for you.

This event is for anyone who has ever had a travel dream and wondered how to make it a reality. Anyone who has ever thought “Oh, I would so love to do something like that, but… Anyone who is currently reading this from their tiny little corner of cubicleland and thinking “Man, I wish I was lounging on the beach in Fiji right now.”

You get the picture…if you close your eyes and dream of being somewhere other than where you are, this is the event for you.

What exactly will happen at the event?

We have put together a stellar panel of travel experts – travel writers, photographers, podcasters and bloggers as well as me wearing the hat of Travel Coach. We will be presenting on the big Whys and Hows of career breaks and long-term travel and helping participants get an idea of resources that they turn to when they can start planning and go for support as they move forward.

What do you expect that people will get out of it? Why is it worth their time?

I would say this really breaks down into the “big three” of what you need to make your plans for a career break a success – inspiration, resources, and community. People who attend will be inspired by a panel of speakers / travel industry experts, they will be connected with some of the resources they need to start making their travel dreams a reality and they will be surrounded by a dynamic, supportive community of people who “get it”. Each element of that formula is really key for us.
Ok, let’s talk about the San Francisco event for a minute…

What are the logistics (e.g., when, where, how long, how do people sign up, etc.)?

The SF event is being held on Tuesday, September 14th from 7-9pm at NextSpace in downtown San Francisco. The event is free but participants do need to reserve their space and print and bring their ticket with them. RSVPs can be made at: http://meetplangosanfrancisco.eventbrite.com
Switching gears a bit, let’s talk about you…

How and why did you personally get involved in this?

When I met Sherry and Michaela back in January, there was such a cool synergy there when we combined our skill sets. Given their professional and personal backgrounds and their experience running Briefcase to Backpack and also blogs of their own, they are incredibly savvy about the internet, blogging, online networks and marketing, etc. What I brought to the table was years of experience running in-person travel-related events and also working with one-on-one coaching clients as they prepared for career breaks of their own. From that, (coupled with my own experiences planning and realizing a year-long career break of my own,) I had a keen understanding of the self-imposed limitations and perceived obstacles that often deter people from taking the sabbaticals that they really want. When we put our heads together, in short, I saw the opportunity to work with really cool people on a project I was extremely passionate about – how could I say no?

What do you do with your time when you’re not working on Meet, Plan, Go?

I am thrilled that I get to spend a great deal of my time working with one-on-one travel coaching clients, helping them work through the logistical and emotional preparations that go into making a career break possible. In addition, I’ve been able to do quite a bit of speaking in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond on topics revolving around career breaks, life sabbaticals and long-term travel. Loving my work makes it something I am pleased to dedicate a lot of time to.

When I’m not coaching, reading travel books or arranging events for SF Travel Lit & Lectures or working on MPG, I do my best to get out in this gorgeous city with friends to enjoy all the great sights, music, food and museums that SF has to offer. I also dedicate as much time as possible to my passion for photography and some of my work can be seen at www.greentaraphoto.com

And (of course,) whenever I can, I travel!

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