As I mentioned, lots of people dream of taking an extended trip or moving overseas but often find a reason not to go. One life event or another sways folks into maintaining the status quo. That’s why it was important for me to charge my credit card for a conference in Queenstown, New Zealand. This locked in my commitment.
I’ve been a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) for a decade. It’s a valuable group of entrepreneurs who support each other in their personal and professional growth. EO holds international learning events called Universities, and in 2012, it just happened to be in Queenstown, New Zealand in February.
We decided to jump into our travels by escaping the dreary Seattle winter and enjoy the Southern Hemisphere’s summer. Before arriving, I reached out to a diverse set of local entrepreneurs explaining my trip and that I wanted to interview them. Most agreed and seemed excited to play a part in our careercation (many longed to do their own too).
I stuck with my goal to interview people outside of my peers in the tech industry. I talked to a spectrum of Kiwi business leaders: a food-catering TV celebrity, husband-wife recruiters, an artsy new-media design agency diva, a bartending school impresario, a mobile-tech startup inventor, and a yogi vintner.
Between interviews, we experienced New Zealand’s natural beauty and visited fun tourist activities like sheep farms and geothermal glaciers. Starting in an English-speaking country eased us into the trip, but island living occasionally shocked my system. Learning that a small can of Coke costs $4 meant kicking my soda habit and switching to coffee to save money.
But the most challenging habit to break was constantly being “on” with emails, texts, Internet, and calls. Alice and I bought SIM cards for our phone only for emergencies. So we gave up Internet and telecommunication access cold turkey.
It was particularly hard, as an entrepreneur for the past dozen years, to unplug. I felt part of my identity and feeling of self-worth was tied to being constantly in demand. Only after a week or so were the silence and independence freeing. It was good that I went through Internet withdrawal cold turkey because we had no choice but to unplug in the South Island’s remote areas.
Travel Au Pair Jackpot
On the family front, a huge highlight included meeting our new travel au pair. Hiring sight-unseen a full-time live-in staff/family member/baby-care-taker is mildly stressful. Back in the U.S., after many emails and Skype conversations, Alice had hired Kayla, a young woman from New Zealand. We immediately hit it off with Kayla when we met in person, and she bonded to Keira with natural ease.
Kayla had experience as a nanny with a local family, but our au pair role particularly excited her. She had recently gone to Thailand (and learned to cook a mean mango chicken dish), and the travel bug bit her. New Zealand is beautiful, but it’s an island. Like many young Kiwis, Kayla wanted to travel and explore outside of her country.
Usually au pairs get placed with a family in Seattle or Dallas, or a small town far from any city. Traveling around the world definitely sounded more fun and romantic than those choices. Kayla jumped at our opportunity to work as a travel au pair on a careercation.
For us, having a travel au pair gave our family an important extra set of hands. When necessary, I could focus on my interviews without burdening Alice with all the child-rearing duties. This way, each of us had a chance to appreciate our travels in a meaningful way. Plus we had the freedom to go on some very memorable date nights as we traveled.
All in all, we had a great start to our careercation. Keira was fine-tuning her walking skills at the local park and reveled in all the greenery New Zealand offered. Being in an English-speaking country made the transition pretty smooth for Alice and myself. We immediately liked New Zealand.
Then, I jumped into interviewing some interesting entrepreneurs and soaked in their stories.