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Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed

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See our slideshow of Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed.

Jisook Choi knew her time was up. She had been working as a managing director at a New York–based investment bank for 11 years when the market began to tumble. “It was inevitable that there would be layoffs—I just had a feeling.”

So when the hammer came down, she was already planning her vacation.

“As much as I loved traveling, I’d always had such limited time. So it was the perfect opportunity. I was single, I had some savings, and I had nothing to lose.” She decamped from Wall Street and learned to dive in Phuket, earning her advanced diving certification and a job offer to be a dive master. “For most people, 2008 was one of the worst years ever,” says Choi. “But for me, 2008 was one of the best years of my life.”

If you’ve lost your job, you’re in good company. Nearly 2.6 million jobs were lost in America in 2008, the most since 1945. And while lachrymose columnists often paint employment losses as a personal tragedy, you could also look at the situation this way: fate has given you a clear directive to figure out what you most want to do with your one short life on this planet—and what better way to do that than to travel?

But who goes on vacation when they’ve just been fired?Isn’t that self-indulgent?Or worse, stupid?

Not necessarily. Travel needn’t be about luxury spas and hotels. Travel, as the cliché goes, is broadening, an opportunity to expand horizons. So, go—travel to transform your curiosities, passions, and unexplored talents into marketable new skills. Explore simpler and more satisfying ways of living. Or just regain your equipoise, perspective, and energy—you’ll need them, after all.

What do you really love to do?If it’s yoga, train to be a yoga instructor on a tropical Thai island. Have you always wanted to write a novel?See if you’ve got the chops at a writers’ retreat in a medieval French village. Learn carpentry in a mountain village in Venezuela. Lend a hand on an organic farm in New Zealand. The global economy may be unsteady, but we promise you it’s still a big, bright, beautiful world positively exploding with things to do and see and learn and enjoy.

Best of all, many of these vacations require little or no money—with a bit of initiative, you can volunteer or barter your way around the world. Some cost a bit more, but your savings or severance pay will go a lot further in some parts of the world than it will at home, and using your reserves to invest in a new life makes more sense than watching your bank balance dwindle while you gloomily thumb through your battered copy of What Color Is Your Parachute?

Grab your second chance with both hands, and never look back.

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