After my first big trip in 2008, I called a psychic. Referred to me by my sister, she had a good reputation of doing readings. I don’t usually rely on otherworldly advice, but it was a time of need. I called her because I had just returned from a trip that changed my life and I wanted more of that transformational nectar. I wasn’t sure how to go about it. My savings were gone and, being the depths of the recession in winter 2009, there were no job prospects to fund any future trips. The future was, what I call, “the big gray.” Formless and pathless, the only point on the horizon was that I knew I had to travel again.
Sitting alone in my bedroom in the tundra of Northern Wisconsin, I asked the psychic the basic question to clear the fog, “What does my future hold?” She said, “You’re going to teach other people how to do what you’ve done… how to travel…” This statement felt right. I knew this is what I was going to do. Again, no idea how or when, but I felt this truth in my gut.
Four years, two more big trips, this blog, and a life in San Francisco later, I’ve done just that. On October 16, I hosted an evening of about 120 travelers, two keynote speakers, three panelists, five volunteers, and 12 breakout session speakers at Meet Plan Go – San Francisco. Meet Plan Go is a national organization that believes the same thing I learned on my big trips – life isn’t lived in a cubicle and long-term travel makes you a better person.
I got involved with Meet Plan Go slowly, first as a panelist in 2011 and then running quarterly events on volunteering and budgeting with co-founder Sherry Ott and Traveling Philosopher Spencer Spellman. Early last spring, Sherry asked me to host this year’s annual event. It was a bigger task – Meet Plan Go was changing format and we were taking it from the inspirational to the practical, arming travelers with the tools they needed to take their own big trip.
On the big night, 120 dreamers, rookies, and veteran travelers arrived to learn about how to plan their big trip. And my event was just the San Francisco event – almost 1000 people total learned how to take a career sabbatical and travel long term at events across North America.
My goal for the event was to inspire with stories and aspirational speakers and then move to the practical with a panel and then individual breakout sessions – giving travelers advice and resources to plan their own big trip. I assembled an amazing cast of speakers to do so – every one had their own story of how travel affected their life, unique big trips and sabbaticals, and advice to share.
Survey results are forthcoming, but overall I felt the event a big success. I heard from attendees, speakers, and volunteers that Meet Plan Go – San Francisco was a great event and helped people feel inspired and ready to long-term travel. And we raised over $1000 for the AFAR Foundation and the Learning AFAR program.
Speaker Fran Wickner shared this with me a few days after the event, “I had invited a friend to the event who was planning to go to Asia at some point in the near future for an extended trip. He had been saving/thinking/talking about it for a while, but couldn’t JUST DO IT. I saw him the evening after MPG and this is was he told me: “I was so inspired by the speakers and the other people I talked to, that today I told my boss I was leaving on November 26th and didn’t know how long I will be gone, I gave notice to my landlord so now I don’t have the expense of rent when I’m gone, and bought a one way plane ticket leaving December 1st.”
Thank you to every one involved and thank you to the attendees and travelers for making the event a success.
Below is a list of links related to the event, including advice from the speakers on their topics.
- The Story of My Big Trips: Kristin Zibell
- Meet Plan Go Organization
- Andrew McCarthy’s Big Trips
- AFAR Foundation
- Itinerary Planning by Robin Devaux
- Itinerary Not Planning by Kelly Wetherington
- Budgeting by Pierre Devaux
- How to Travel Local by Fran Wickner
- How to Make Money While Living Abroad by Spencer Spellman
- 6 Ways Taking a Big Trip Changes Your Life
- All the event pictures on Facebook