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08/02/2011

The good folks at Oy! asked me to write an article about myself.  For that reason I've decided to interview myself as if I am two different people. I guess in a way I am anyway. I am a writer, but I have a good story to tell too. So here goes: 

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A few years ago, Lisa Lubin made a radical change. She quit her cushy TV producing job at ABC7 Chicago, sold her car and belongings, broke up with her boyfriend, and left the United States behind to travel around the world solo for 'one' year. She worked and traveled, and three years later, unpacked her bag in Chicago. Now she's building a new lifestyle and business, thanks to her travels and new perspective on life. 

What inspired you to quit your job and travel around the world? 
I have always loved traveling. Since I was little I loved exploring new towns and places. I would ride my bike down new streets mesmerized by something I’d never seen before. A few years after college I went backpacking for a month across Europe. That was it. I got the bug. I fell in love with the world and a world traveler was born. Since then I made a deal with myself to travel somewhere far during my vacation-time every single year and I did do that, but the longest I’d ever been away was three weeks (which was still longer than most Americans). I had never really planned on taking a year off before. In 2006, certain things in my life just fell into place and I realized I was "free" in a way. Then I read a book called One Year Off, by David Cohen. He and his wife took their three (!) kids around the world for a year. Then I realized if they could do it, I could do it. The opportunity was there and I needed to grab it.

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A lot of people say that takes guts to do and it seems many want to do something like that, but just never do it. What do you say about that?
Many say I'm living out what others only dream of. And others have also said what I'm doing takes a lot of guts. The way I see it, those two things don’t exactly mix. I think in fantasy this is a dream trip for many. But in reality, the packing, leaving everything behind, quitting, and saying goodbye for a year is way too scary for most. I had thought about doing this awhile back, but even for me it was too much. But then somehow my plan seemed to slowly evolve right before my eyes and I was just going to do it. Kind of like most other big decisions in life, you never really know what the outcome will be until you do it. The biggest emotional obstacles are overcoming the fear of the unknown and also veering off the standard 'beaten path' that society sort of sets up for us. But my passion for travel allowed me to overcome any fear. Life is too short to put something like this off. If I did, many things could come up to prevent me from going. It was truly now or never.

How did you plan a vacation for 2+ years?
You don't. And you don't have to. As I went along, it became my job to sort out the next leg of my trip. Plus I tried to plan different and varied ways of getting to know each place. I didn’t want to be just walking around new cities and towns for a year. That could get old and I would have burned out very quickly. I took Spanish and surfing lessons in Costa Rica, rode through the narrow fjords and icy glaciers of the Chilean Patagonia, hiked up a snowy volcano in Ecuador, swam with dolphins off the coast of New Zealand, climbed high atop the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, sand-boarded the dunes of Dubai, kayaked between pristine islands of Belize, climbed like Moses to the top of Mt. Sinai, and successfully accomplished a two-week bicycle tour through the rice fields of Vietnam. I also found work in many places—I served up coffee and sandwiches in a café in Melbourne, taught private business English lessons in Istanbul, performed proofreading work for a Turkish media conglomerate, volunteered with the homeless at Christmas in London, worked as a research assistant at the University of Cologne, was a pet sitter and an ‘extra’ in Los Angeles, did public relations for a company in Madrid and did some English voice recording for a publishing company in Berlin.  

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All these different activities also ensured that I would meet other travelers and also locals. My adventures have been amazing, but the best part would have to be all the wonderful people I have met from all corners of the globe—good, kind people. Connecting with people of all backgrounds has touched me in ways I will never ever forget.

Most people assume this was expensive. What did it cost? 
In a nutshell, my trip cost me less than it would have if I’d stayed and lived my 'normal' life in Chicago (when you take into account my mortgage payments, bills, and other monthly costs such as grocery bills and other random costs that come up each month). It certainly can be costly if you are staying at four and five star hotels and traveling in first class. But it can also be very affordable if you stay in hostels and budget hotels and get all the discounts you can. Most hostels average around $20 per night depending on the country you are in (in Costa Rica I stayed at one that was $6 a night for my own room (albeit tiny) and in Hanoi, Vietnam I had my own room and bathroom at a clean, budget hotel for $10/night. I usually travel alone—if you are able to travel with someone that cuts some costs in half. Now, things come up when traveling that raise costs such as special tours and trips—like taking surfing lessons or a boat cruise of the Galapagos Islands. But by saving money in cheaper countries you can make up for these costs. I cut corners where I could, but also didn’t want to deprive myself of some special ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities. Plus, in a normal year just living at home, random costs like these often come up as well (car needs repairing, unexpected furnace replacement, etc.)…or even just trips to Target where I never could get out for under $100.

How has your life changed since your trip? 
The cool thing is in many ways my life has changed completely. I have yet to go back to a full time job and my freelance career has taken off around my blog, my writing, and my photography. I still freelance as a TV producer some, but I also just launched my own video consulting business, LLmedia. Since I have 15 years experience in television and now five years experience writing and marketing my own travel blog, it seemed the perfect way to bridge my two worlds and help other websites, small businesses, and entrepreneurs who are now trying to do their own videos for the web or their business.

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What advice would you give to someone planning a round-the-world trip? 
Just do it! If you are already planning a trip then good for you! Because the hardest part is over—deciding to do it and figuring out how to make it work. I would definitely say it is not that hard. If you have the opportunity and the freedom to just go—grab the chance now when you can…don’t put if off for tomorrow, because something will always come up to get in your way. If you are organized everything kind of falls into place. I love the logistics, but it’s just a matter of making a ‘to do’ list and prioritizing. What are you going to do with your home? Car? Stuff? Find storage. Get a mover. Notify your friends, family. One of the best things I did was put a ‘call’ out to everyone I knew and ask for their friends or contacts anywhere around the world. I met some really cool people this way and had more local experiences by hooking up with friends of friends. Quit your job—a very fun thing to do! Or be lucky and get a sabbatical! Pack. Shop for travel gear. Buy some tickets and plan out some major things and at least a place to stay in your first country. And just marinate in the fact that you are doing something so many others “dream” of but never really have the balls to do!!!!

If you want more advice, I am hosting the Chicago portion of the second annual national Meet Plan Go event on October 18th. This inspirational night happens simultaneously in nearly 20 cities in North America and gives attendees information, support, and inspiration on taking their own sabbaticals and career breaks.

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Lisa Lubin is a three-time Emmy-award-winning television writer/producer/photographer/traveler.  She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com, with photographs and articles from the road/train/rickshaw/camel. 

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