Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed
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.
Farm Your Way Around the World
Chuck that BlackBerry and learn how to grow the real thing (it’s a dark, juicy, sun-ripened fruit that grows on a vine, for those of you who have forgotten).
Where: Join the nonprofit network Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. In exchange for your room and board, usually in a family home, you’ll work part-time on one of 1,200 organic farms around the world. Grow kiwis in New Zealand, for example, while living in what the owners describe as an “idyllic” converted barn by the sea. Your hosts will teach you the basics of self-sufficient farming, organic cooking, and alternative energy—some farms even teach how to make organic wine, bread, and cheese. Bonus: this knowledge will come in handy if the economy gets any worse.
Swap Your Life for Someone Else’s
So long as you still have a home, you can trade it.
Where: Home swapping allows you to exchange your house or apartment (and while you’re at it, your car and friends too) for someone else’s, anywhere in the world. Whether you trade for a 400-year-old stone house in medieval Padua or a ski condo in Aspen, you won’t pay a penny beyond the small registration fee. Meanwhile, your swap partners will take in your mail, water your plants, and feed your cat. They’ll be highly motivated to do a good job too, because you’re holding their home hostage.
Sail Off Into the Sunset
Spend a budget winter on the sea, chasing the sun on a luxury yacht, and let the folks on Wall Street wonder what happened to you.
Where: If you’ve just been given the pink slip, your foremost worry probably isn’t how to make sure your yacht makes it from the Canary Islands to Ibiza without a scratch. But even in this economy, someone else is worrying about just that. Make their worries go away by volunteering to work with a yacht delivery crew. Find opportunities around the world through the classifieds on Crew File, a free Web resource that links yacht crews with sailing opportunities around the world. You don’t need sailing skills or experience. Captains will often accept novices, if they have the right attitude, and teach them everything they need to know to be a competent deckhand and day skipper.
Price: Some boats accept “donations” from volunteers, but you might even get paid if you find the right gig. Registration is free.Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed
Cash In Your Investment In the National Parks
You’ve been paying taxes for years. You own the national parks—now you can enjoy them.
Where: Camp for a nominal fee, or stay in an inexpensive park cabin (usually about $30 a night) and take classes offered by the U.S. Park Service. Study the technical aspects of winter wildlife photography at Yellowstone National Park, learn new fishing techniques from the marine biologists at Biscayne, or hone your wilderness orienteering skills in the Great Smoky Mountains. Almost every park offers some kind of class, from printmaking with the park’s artist-in-residence to poetry workshops.
Stretch Your Savings with Yoga Teacher Training
Striving, materialism, greed, and attachment—how did those work out for you?The antidote can be your new meal ticket.
Where: Yoga teacher training is available around the world at prices to suit any budget, but if you can afford it, do it in style at Absolute Yoga on Thailand’s palm-canopied Koh Samui island. Some of the instructors are former investment bankers, so they’ll know just where you’re coming from. Take classes in yoga philosophy, anatomy, Ayurveda, and meditation, then swim in the infinity pool, sweat out your toxins in the steam room, and enjoy a four-handed massage in the spa. They say that most graduates recoup the cost of the tuition within four months. Bonus: yoga’s a recession-proof career. The more stressed-out the world becomes, the more yoga it needs.
Price: The 200-Hour Yoga Alliance Certification Course, with accommodation and meals, costs about $5,000.Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed
Finish Your Novel in a Medieval French Village
Have a half-written novel sitting in your dresser drawer?Dust it off at a writers’ retreat in the Languedoc.
Where: Find inspiration at La Muse writers’ retreat in Labastide-Esparbairenque, in the heart of Cathar country in the Languedoc. Its location in a quiet, secluded medieval village means there are no distractions here beyond the rustic food, the local farmers’ markets, the nearby wineries, and the company of other writers. Bonus: writing a scathing roman à clef about your former employers will make you feel much better.
Price: Rates for three-week retreats range from $975 to $1,365, depending on the room. In winter, you can barter for your room by working several days a week—your tasks might include building stone walls or gardening.Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed
Do Good Works with Woodwork
Work with your hands and help children in need in a Venezuelan Peace Village.
Where: Learn basic carpentry, acquire fluent Spanish, and help children with special needs by volunteering at a Peace Village center for handicapped children in Santa Elena de Uairén in Venezuela, in the heart of La Gran Sabana National Park. You’ll help construct a playground and therapeutic horse-riding facilities, renovate rooms and gardens, and learn wood- and stoneworking techniques. The small, high-altitude town—surrounded by cloud forests, orchids, bromelias, spectacular flat-topped mountains, rivers, and tropical waterfalls—enjoys a perfect, temperate climate year-round. Your hosts will provide guided conversational Spanish language opportunities as well as formal Spanish classes, one-on-one or in groups.
Price: Accommodation and meals on the Peace Village grounds cost $750 for the first week and $230 for each additional week. Longer stays are encouraged.Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed
Become a Chef—Or Just Eat Like One
Immerse yourself in Italian culture while acquiring the world’s most lovable job skill.
Where: Study the classic repertoire of Italian cuisine at the Casa Ombuto, a restored luxury villa high in the tranquil hills of the Casentino valley, just south of Florence. You’ll make gnocchi, roll pasta, bake pizza in a wood-burning oven, prepare a wild boar with polenta, and whip up a warm lemon pie with Italian meringue—welcome additions to any job-seeker’s resume (and if these skills don’t get you a job, they will at least make you very popular). The cooking lessons don’t start until a civilized 3 p.m., so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the pool, the gardens of fruit trees, and the golden Tuscan sunshine.
Price: A one-week class is $2,750 (based on double occupancy), including all expenses apart from airfares.Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed
Work the Slopes
Losing your job doesn’t mean you have to give up skiing. It just means you have to make skiing your life. Hardship duty, we know.
Where: The Base Camp Group (44-0-20-7243-6222) offers ski instructor training courses around the world from Banff to Verbier, at prices to suit every budget. It provides coaching on the slopes, exam preparation, instructor shadowing, work experience, and credentials in first aid and mountain safety. When you finish, you’ll have an internationally recognized qualification, and you’ll even get job-interview coaching and access to Base Camp’s extensive online job vacancy database.
Price: A six-week course averages about $5,000.Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed
Save the Whales, or Whatever Else Needs Saving
Your high-flying job left a Sasquatch-size carbon footprint. Repaying your debt to the planet will be more fun than running it up ever was.
Where: Protect the world’s endangered animals and habitats by volunteering with Earthwatch (800/776-0188; firstname.lastname@example.org). You’ll work with crackerjack scientists on a field research or conservation project in one of 50 countries around the world. You can band penguins in South Africa, tag endangered sea turtles on the beaches of the Pacific, or—our favorite—snorkel for science while monitoring coral reef health in the Bahamas. Paddling through the bathtub-warm, crystalline waters near San Salvador Island is bound to be a serious improvement over preparing the budget figures for the 10 a.m. marketing meeting.
Price: The cost of participating in a project ranges from $700 to $4,500, excluding airfare.Top Vacations for the Newly Unemployed