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Soccer players for sure, but shouldn’t Germany also be loaning us words? With cherries! say British expat comedy writing duo (huh?)

Denglish 3 Collage

Adam Fletcher (bald) and Paul Hawkins at a book fair, in a screenshot from their Denglish video; Paul atop his Batman car in Prague. All photos supplied by Paul Hawkins.

Like other U.S.-based World Cup fans, I’ve been thinking a lot about Germany lately. The nation certainly has been generous in loaning the U.S. national team all kinds of soccer coaching and playing talent. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann is a German soccer legend, and five players on the U.S. squad spent most of their lives in Germany, including one of the team’s star players, Jermaine Jones (his father, an African American U.S. army soldier, met his German mother while stationed in West Germany; they later divorced).

But is it possible Germany should be offering us even more, as in new words and language possibilities? The answer to this question will require the help of today’s guest, Paul Hawkins, a young British expat in Berlin. With his writing partner and fellow British expat, Adam Fletcher, Paul recently produced Denglish for Better Knowers, an illustrated book of German words and sayings that, in the view of this comedy duo, ought to be imported into the English language.

(German, really? Doesn’t it have lots of rules and too much grammar??)

AND WE ARE GIVING AWAY A SIGNED (PAPERBACK) COPY! Just leave a comical comment on this post, to be eligible.

Paul and Adam may be expats but they are tapping into the long and great British tradition of finding comedy in the quirkiness of everyday life, something I came to value during my expat years in the UK (and still miss). What’s unusual about this pair, however, is that they aren’t afraid to dig for material in a country that has long been reviled by the English (see my recent post on the World Cup). It helps, no doubt, that they’re Millennials. But has their creativity also been sparked by the sheer act of being displaced, of having to navigate another cultural and linguistic tradition? Let’s hear what Paul has to say.

* * *


The book was published in German and English, each language beginning at either side of the book, by C H Beck.

Hi, Paul, and welcome to the Displaced Nation. Before you and Adam came out with Denglish for Better Knowers, Adam produced an earlier work, How to Be German in 50 Easy Steps. What exactly was the impetus for this series?
Well, How to be German was sort of this big, happy accident of Adam’s, where he poked and prodded the various eccentricities of his long-suffering German girlfriend, Annett, and then extrapolated his findings to about 80 million people. But to be fair, he’d also lived in Berlin for seven or so years, during which time he’d had lots of humorous experiences with the curious creatures known as Germans. In fact, the book grew out of an article of the same name Adam wrote, full of his observations about what makes Germans German, from their love for sparkling apple juice to collecting insurance contracts and tilting their windows. His post struck a massive nerve and went viral. Adam describes the book as a “love letter to the German people,” who had somehow adopted him for having such profound insights into their national character. Thanks to him, they were no longer being portrayed as eating sausages, drinking beer, and wearing leather shorts…

Is your German not the yellow from the egg?

And Denglish?
Denglisch for Better Knowers is a follow-up of sorts, a kind of “love letter to the German language,” where we get to celebrate and poke fun at Deutsch (even as we struggle to learn it!), in hopefully a way that only dumb aliens to the language could. Oh, and although I’d assisted Adam with the first book, this time around he roped me into being a co-author. I don’t remember why, but I think it might because I have hair.

And the pair of you also run an online business of sorts, called The Hipstery. In fact, that’s how I first discovered you. How does your entrepreneurial venture fit in with the book writing projects?
Adam and I are creative, but we don’t have very long attention spans.The Hipstery has proved the perfect way to exploit these independently useless character traits. It’s a kind of long-running shambles of a gift business. In fact, it’s been a few different things at a few different times, depending mostly on mismanaged excitement, deluded whims, and confused expectations—perhaps the least impressive of which was an actual shop in Berlin, which, by the end of its short, lazy lifespan was only open for about two hours a week, on a Thursday afternoon, sometimes, maybe. We would get excited, make a little product (a poster, a T-shirt, a game, for example) and quickly release it, after which we got bored and moved on to the next thing.


Published in German and English, each language beginning at either side of the book, by Ullstein Verlag.

And at some point the “next thing” became Denglisch for Better Knowers?
In fact, the book began its life as a nice design on a poster, and then one day we saw a lot more humorous potential in the concept.

Let’s talk about Denglisch the word. What does it mean exactly?
Denglisch refers to the increasing amount of English words sneaking into the German language, in place of working, pre-existing German alternatives. It gets used a lot in the German media and tends to consist of ‘”cool”, buzzy, international, marketing-type words such as upgedated, downgeloadet, outgesourcet… Well, our idea was that German has so many great and often humorously unique words that English doesn’t, it should lend us some words, too. In the book, we make a case for our favorite “German” ways to enrich the English language.

With the German language is very good cherry eating

I visited the picture gallery of ten colorful German expressions, watched the promotional video, and even took the Denglish Quiz (got 70%) on the book site. Of all the German words and expressions that appear in your work, which are your top three faves and why?
I guess my three personal favorites would be:
1) Ear worm (Ohrwurm)—describes the phenomenon of getting a song stuck in your head. It’s such a simple, perfect word, it’s amazing English has nothing like it.
2) Hand shoes (Handschuhe)—German for gloves. It’s so lovely. I know this flies in the face of everything I just said about German words that English doesn’t have, but I don’t care. I want it!
3) Is it art, or can I chuck it? (Ist das Kunst, oder kann das weg?)—a wonderful idiom and great example of German humor. I don’t think it needs explaining. It just needs using. It becomes especially useful whenever the British artist Tracey Emin is selling something…

Hmmm… Were there any German words or expressions that didn’t make the book, as the concepts they express are too foreign to be used in English?
There’s quite a lot which didn’t make the book, but I have the time-bothered memory of a deranged old lunatic, so I can’t think of that many examples now. Oh, there was that expression Himmel, Arsch und Zwirn!, which we didn’t include for some reason. It translates literally as “Sky, Arse, and Thread!” and serves as an exclamation of annoyance, like shouting “Damn!” or “Blast!” or “Bollocks!” (if you’re English). It’s pure nonsense (or “nonsense, with sauce,” as you’d say in German), and I guess that’s why we couldn’t include it. You can’t fight fire with fire, and you can’t write nonsense with nonsense, because galactic haircut trouser squabbling. Indeed.

OooKay! Probably I need to read the book to interpret that last statement. I’m curious, how did you and Adam meet, and was it “collaboration” at first sight?
Despite us both being English and both living in Berlin, in fact we first met in the Czech Republic. Basically, I flew out to Prague on a whim in 2012 because friends of mine were driving a convertible painted like Superman there as part of a car rally, after which they planned to dump it. I told them to give it to me. I didn’t have any plans or ideas what to do with the car… all I knew was that if you can get a Superman convertible for free in Prague, you’d be an damned fool/respectable citizen not to do so. Not long after my arrival in the Czech Republic capital, I posted a message on CouchSurfing…something like, “Hello, I’m an idiot who came to Prague, and I don’t know any one, and I’m bored, and do you want to meet for a coffee or a beer?” Well, Adam, who was also in Prague with a friend, replied to my message, and we met up. We soon got talking about what we did: writing, well, actually comedy writing…actually, fairly absurd comedy writing. And upon realizing we were pretty much writing the same kinds of stuff, in the same kind of style, with the same kind of humor, it wasn’t long before we decided to try something together. Pretty weird, right?

Um, what’s the best and worst part of working as a team?
Writing as a team is mostly very fun. The best part is getting to make and hear jokes all day—as opposed to sitting alone, typing gibberish, and always wondering: “Is this funny…? Maybe it’s funny… I don’t know…” The worst part, however, is when you come up with a hilarious punchline like “Congratulations, Binky!”, only to find Adam wont let you use it for some boring reason like: “It doesn’t make any sense.” Which might be true, of course, but let’s not take Adam’s side here.

Is your English all under the pig?

Which part of the UK do you and Adam come from?
I come from London, or North London, or North of London, or Broxbourne, depending on whether I think you know where it is. Adam is from a different place, most notable for it being totally unmemorable. I guess he’s told me about forty times where he’s from, and the only thing I can tell you about it for sure is it has a dreadful school and might be vaguely near Norwich.

And how did you end up choosing to live in Berlin?
Adam moved to Leipzig for a job around seven years ago and then to Berlin about two years later when he became self-employed. I moved here a year and a half ago, for similar reasons. It’s a great place to live and roam free amongst all the freelancers. We call it the Mecca of Delayed Responsibility.

Do you think you will ever repatriate back to the UK?
I don’t think Adam will repatriate because he was never a big fan of England (small talk, weather, having to think before speaking, etc.) and because he’s increasingly becoming somewhat of a reluctant, and highly unqualified, pundit of German culture—something he’s trying to correct throughout his next book, Make Me German. As for me, I could still imagine living in London, just as soon as I become a mega rich oil-baron oligarch with unlimited Oyster card funding. One key difference between me and Adam is the amount of German we’ve learned. The more time you’ve invested in the language, the less you can bear the thought of wasting it by leaving! He’s a lot more invested than I am…

You said that Adam is working on another book. How about you: any more creative projects in the pipeline?
Yes, Adam is hard at work on his next book, Make Me German, which entails undertaking a series of amusing challenges in pursuit of finally learning enough about Germans and Germany to justify his nonsensical position as a spokesperson for their sense of humor. He was last seen trying to write a Schlager song and Nordic-walking in the most German place of all German places, Majorca. As for me, I’ve just finished a book, which comes out in Germany at the end of August, called How to Operate a Human (Gebrauchsanleitung Mensch, in German!) It’s a fun little book rather like an iPhone manual (except for people), which I won’t be able to read.

What do you mean you won’t be able to read it? How is your German coming along these days?
Mein Deutsch hat sich verbessert, aber ich kann meinen eigenen Unsinn immer noch nicht lesen.

Which leaves me with only one thing left to say: Alles klar!

* * *

So, readers, any COMMENTS or QUESTIONS for Paul? Or do you find yourself nonplussed, without words, for what you’ve just heard? In case his rants have made you curious, be sure to:

YOU CAN ALSO LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW to be eligible to win your own free copy!

Can’t wait to order the book? Paul suggests doing so from the Hipstery site, which offers worldwide shipping.

Finally, should you wish to follow Paul’s brilliant career, he can be found at his author site, Hencewise, on Twitter and on Facebook.

To reiterate, alles klar!

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Two expats in Senegal spin “wax” into Western lifestyle brand

6 Bougies Collage Drop Shadow

Clockwise from top: Six Bougies logo; Kim at the fabric market in Dakar; Megan at a craft fair in Dakar. Photo credit: Six Bougies.

Having repatriated some years ago to the United States, I occasionally still crave the adventure of living abroad. But then I console myself by recalling the Internet journeys I make every week on behalf of the Displaced Nation, in search of international creatives. Those virtual journeys can open my eyes to whole new worlds full of breathtaking color—rather literally in the case of Six Bougies, a siteI landed on from Pinterest several weeks ago.

It turned out to be the companion blog for a business of the same name, run by two American expats in Senegal, the equally bedazzling Kim Rochette and Megan Carpenter.

Kim and Megan are my guests today and will talk about how they came to a life of spinning Western clothes, accessories and home wares out of gorgeous West African fabrics.

In addition, Kim and Megan have kindly agreed to GIVE AWAY A SIX BOUGIES DUFFEL BAG (see photo below) TO THE PERSON WHO LEAVES THE BEST COMMENT! (Wow, a non-book giveaway, a first…)

And one more: Displaced Dispatch subscribers will receive a discount code for use in the Six Bougies Etsy shop. How cool is that? (What, not a subscriber yet? SIGN UP NOW!!)

But before we proceed, I want to make sure you know how to pronounce “bougie.” I initially made the mistake of pronouncing it with a hard “g”—which led to a vision of two American women in colorful garb boogying down the streets of Dakar, Senegal’s capital city.

Outlandish, I know. (Besides, who were the other four?) So take my advice and start practicing now practicing how to say “bougie” with a soft “g”: boo-gee boo-gee boo-gee boo-gee boo-gee boo-gee.

As for why there are six boo-gees, read on. Almost needless to say, it’s a colorful story!

* * *

Greetings, Kim and Megan. Before we get to the meaning of “Six Bougies,” something we’re all curious to know, let’s cover a few of the basics. How long have you been running the business?
KIM: For a little under a year. And don’t forget: it’s “boo-gee.”

In your Etsy shop you describe Six Bou-GEES as “a lifestyle brand that fuses West African textiles, colors and patterns with a Western aesthetic.” What do you mean by a “lifestyle brand”?
MEGAN: We’ve conceived of Six Bougies as a brand that appeals to people who yearn for travel and love to surround themselves with beautiful objects from around the world. Our pillows, neckties and bags can add a little of that spice to everyday life.

I understand that you have a blog that supports this brand?
KIM: Yes, as I try to show with the Six Bougies blog (I’m the the writer of our team, while Megan is the artist), the concept goes far beyond a selection of home wares and accessories for sale. I post about fashion, expat life in Africa, local decor, cultural events in Senegal, and related topics. A few months ago I did a post full of tips on how to have Western clothing made by African tailors. Dakar, where we both live, has affordable tailors at every street corner and a wealth of vibrant textiles for sale at the fabric market. Soon I will write about my attempt to commission furniture for my apartment with local materials from Senegalese artisans, but with a Western aesthetic.

Ah, that sounds like a good example of “African-Western fusion”—true of your product line as well?
KIM: Yes. We use fabrics purchased (and mostly made) in Africa and rely on the expertise of local tailors to execute Megan’s Western-influenced designs, with an international audience in mind. The duffel bags Megan designed are a perfect example of this African-Western fusion, as is our line of neckties in wax.

6 Bougies Merch collage

Six Bougies products: cushion, tie, and duffel bag (we’re giving one away!). Photo credit: Six Bougies.

Please tell me what “wax” is.
KIM: “Wax” is short for “wax print,” which is similar to batik printing. In Africa, these prints are made on colorful cotton cloths, which are mostly industrially produced.

When life gives you scraps…

So, where did the idea for Six Bougies originate?
MEGAN: I had been teaching in Senegal for about a year, acquiring (stockpiling?) wax fabric, beads, and other locally produced goods. It was everywhere, in just about every room and closet of my apartment. But I never had anything made because I was nervous as to how my vision would be executed. But at the end of my first year, I decided to bite the bullet and have 15 pairs of size 8 shorts made in wax. Most of my friends and family (females) are the same size-ish, and I would just give them out as gifts when I went home. They were a huge hit: some friends and family actually wanted more than one pair! That gave me the confidence to start making more products, and eventually transition this into a business.

KIM: About a year ago, I felt the itch to start my own blog on life in Senegal—but beyond the travel blog I had previously updated for family and friends, I wanted to create a space for telling the story of what it’s like for a young, international woman to live in West Africa and travel the region for work, trying to carve out a place in this sometimes crazy and always invigorating place. I also have a great love for design and textiles, which has grown exponentially living in such a tactile, sensory locale. Megan and I decided to join forces and build a brand that melds our passion for West African textiles while also empowering women in the process.

Before we get to the topic of women’s empowerment, it’s high time we learned how you got that unusual name…as I think it relates to that goal?
KIM: We named the business “Six Bougies” after an iconic African pattern by Vlisco that depicts six bougies (spark plugs). A person would wear this fabric to signal that they had a six-cylinder car, a sign of wealth. Eventually, the fabric came to symbolize female empowerment in Africa. Thus “Six Bougies” perfectly marries our passions for design and women’s rights.

Tailors Penda and Adji at work in Dakar

Tailors Penda and Adji at work in Dakar. Photo credit: Six Bougies.

Please tell me that I’m not the only one who mispronounces “bougie”?
KIM: People do mispronounce it sometimes, but it was a risk we were willing to take!

Moving over to your decision to donate a portion of your business’s profits to support and empower women: why that cause in particular?
KIM: In Senegal, tailoring is traditionally a male-oriented career path. Honestly, there aren’t a lot of jobs out there for women, especially single women and/or mothers. So when I meet a female tailor, I try to help them out by giving them business because I know how hard it is to branch out and do something different. And, as Megan and I are both involved in education, we hope to steer our business efforts to this cause as well. We are both very inspired by Della, a similar business based out of Ghana and LA which has really taken off in the past year, partnering with Apple, Urban Outfitters, and Vans to build a veritable social enterprise in Hohoe, Ghana.

“Sew” very happy in Dakar!

Moving on to your expat life in Senegal. What brought you to Dakar originally?
KIM: I first studied abroad in Dakar when I was a junior in college and returned after I graduated. I’ve been living here for nearly four consecutive years. I had always been drawn to African literature, film, and history; and then when I had the opportunity to live in Africa for a semester, I was drawn to Senegal for its complex history with France (I am half-French) and role as as a hub for development in West and Francophone Africa. After studying in Dakar, I was hooked.

MEGAN: I was working at an inner city charter school is Los Angeles as a teacher and decided it was time to teach in a different part of the world to have more access to places that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to reach. There were lots of offers for the Middle East and one for my current school in Senegal. I chose Senegal because the school is highly regarded as a stand out in the region and the country seemed like a fascinating mix of modern yet traditional ideologies. I’ve been here three years and am so happy I took the leap.

What do you like most about life in Dakar?
KIM: I love so much about it! I love the inspiration at every turn—the textiles and local arts, the warm and embracing people, the ocean and cliffs, the music scene. I also love living outside all year round in this coastal, tropical climate, especially after growing up on the East coast with such frigid and long winters! I love how nearly every experience, even and especially the challenges I encounter as an outsider, lead to personal growth. But in many ways, Dakar is also easy; as an expat, I am able to live a comfortable life, eating out, living in a spacious apartment, enjoying all the cultural events the city has to offer, and escaping much of the patriarchy to which most Senegalese women are subject. I am privileged in Dakar and I try not to take that for granted.

MEGAN: Even after three years, there is still so much to discover in this city. I am constantly finding new inspiration in the culture and the people.

Do you ever feel “displaced”?
KIM: I know what you’re saying: what’s a nice girl like me doing living in a boisterous, developing African capital?! It has taken four years, but I have definitely found my niche in Dakar—sometimes to the surprise of friends and family back in the U.S. and France. But there are inevitably moments I feel “displaced,” especially as women living in a patriarchal society. I encounter sexism on a daily basis and there are still cultural nuances that boggle my mind. I’ve written about Dakar’s “Bottom Ten” on the blog.

I also travel throughout West Africa for my “day job,” which entails working extensively in the male-dominated commercial sector. I’ve fielded many advances that might border on sexual harassment in the U.S., and sometimes I don’t feel taken seriously as a woman. In certain settings, I have to be very aware of how my “Western” actions (like direct eye contact!) might be interpreted by men and women of vastly different backgrounds. But learning how to carry myself and to pick up on cultural cues in these extremely diverse settings has also become some of my greatest strengths. I wouldn’t trade these formative experiences for the world!

MEGAN: I’m not going to lie, the first year was tough. The Air France flight I was on landed in the middle of the night, which is when most flights arrive and depart from Dakar. The director of my school picked me up from the airport, which is probably one of the most depressing ones I’ve ever seen, and then drove me through the main thoroughfare, La Corniche, to my apartment, which, in the dead of night, looked like block after block of deserted burnt-out buildings. I thought to myself, “I think I’ve made a terrible decision and how the $@&*% can I get out of here!?” Luckily, my impression of the city has changed dramatically. Getting to know a bit of the culture and cultivating meaningful friendships with locals as well as the expat community has helped me feel at ease.

Do you sometimes feel more comfortable in Dakar than you do back in the U.S.?
KIM: For now, Dakar is home to me. I have a solid group of friends, a real sense of community, and I live here with my boyfriend. But I’m able to travel back to the U.S. two to four times per year for work and holidays, and I relish these opportunities. To be honest, I feel comfortable in both countries. I grew up living between countries—France and the U.S.—and I think this has conditioned me to adapt easily to new environments and transitioning between them. That being said, I do plan to “settle” in the United States eventually, and suspect that reintegrating into American life will be challenging as I moved to Dakar right after graduation and haven’t really lived a typical adult life in the U.S. I’m sure it will be more difficult to build the kind of community you find easily with fellow expats living abroad. We’ll see if life goes according to plan!

MEGAN: When I first moved to Senegal I was in the downtown area people watching and spotted two young talibé boys, probably around seven or eight years old, having an argument. It escalated into blows but then was quickly broken up by a passerby, who was only a few years older than the boys. Watching this teenager mediate the fight instead of walking by like nothing was happening (or worse yet recording and posting it on YouTube) made me feel good about being here. The way people treat each other feels a little more humane, a little more civilized.

Words to sew by…

Was opening up your own business something you always wanted to do?
KIM: Honestly, its not something I had ever really considered! I studied Political Science and envisioned working in the development sector. And now I’m doing both… building a creative business while working as a consultant on various development initiatives.

MEGAN: Being an entreprenuer is in my blood. My dad has started several companies and family dinner conversations often included new business ideas. When I went to Summer Art Camp in high school I used my fake ID to sell cigarettes. I had a streak of badass in me back then 😉 I also set up a impromptu face-painting stand with my friends at an art festival, donation based. Between those two enterprises I made a killing that summer and was able to afford…you guessed it…more art supplies!

During college I studied fine art, mostly drawing and painting, which I now teach. Making paintings for example can be extremely consuming (time and otherwise) and has the possibility to take over your life, while making jewelry is instantly gratifying as well as therapeutic. So I really enjoy making jewelry and designing totes and accessories in my spare time.

What has been the biggest challenge?
KIM: With a demanding “day job,” it has been challenging giving Six Bougies the time and dedication the company really needs to get off the ground. I’m transitioning to pursuing freelance projects so as to devote a lot more time to Six Bougies in 2014—which I’m very excited about!

From a business perspective, it has also been very challenging developing reliable systems to support our creative pursuits. For example, it can be difficult to find tailors who are consistently available for work or willing to teach other women the skills necessary for making our products. In Senegal, most tailors are men so we are still trying to develop the most sustainable system for training women that we can work with longer term.

MEGAN: Kim summed it up pretty well. We are working on sustainability and exposure!

The most fulfilling aspect?
KIM: As the primary blogger in the duo, I absolutely love connecting with people through my posts, especially women who are moving to Dakar or are interested in following a similar path. And as Six Bougies’ social programs develop, I really look forward to the deeper connections and impact we will hopefully make in our Senegalese community.

MEGAN: I love it when people buy my products and really LOVE them. When I see customers wearing the products I make, it makes my heart smile 🙂

“Sew” much fabric, “sew” little time!

If you could do anything else, what would it be?
KIM: I already feel rather stretched, so for now I’d just like to work on Six Bougies and my other professional endeavors to my best ability and see the fruits of that labor!

MEGAN: I think I have the best of both worlds right now, but I would love to be able to be in my studio more and really dedicate time to my personal artistic pursuits.

What’s on your bucket list?
KIM: I have always wanted to live in Madrid and become fluent in Spanish—need to brush up on those high school courses! And I want to attend graduate school in the next couple of years. Let the applications begin…

MEGAN: Actually taking the leap and traveling for a year…or longer.

Do you have any advice for others who are thinking about setting up their own lifestyle brand and selling fashion/homewares? For instance, you’re selling your merchandise through an Etsy shop. Is that working for you?
MEGAN: Etsy is great for where we are at right now, very small scale. I think if business continues to grow and we need to do more shipping overseas, we may have to change our distribution system.

Do you have any big plans, travel or business wise, for 2014?
MEGAN: I’m traveling to Nigeria next month for a volleyball tournament with my students. Then the trifecta of New York, Texas, and California to see family and friends later this summer. As far as the business goes, I’d like to focus on perfecting the quality of our goods and hopefully getting them into boutiques in Dakar and New York.

KIM: I miss traveling for pleasure! I have a trip to South Africa planned for April with my mom and I’m thrilled. I also look forward to growing Six Bougies and pursuing my professional passions more freely. 2014 is going to be good, inshallah 😉

* * *

Inshallah, indeed. Readers, has this interview boo-gee-ed, I mean sparked, any thoughts or questions? Make your comments colorful, why don’t you…there’s an African-Western-fusioned duffel bag on offer!

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Talking to Sharon Lorimer about starting up a business on the art of being an expat

Sharon Lorimer CollageAnyone who has been an expat has probably thought about, at some time or another, starting up a business to help ease other expats into the notion that they are now international residents. But how many of us have the knowhow and the guts to act on these thoughts?

Sharon Lorimer, a Scot who lives in New York City with her American husband, did not think of herself as having an entrepreneurial mindset until she went to business school. One thing led to another, and almost before she knew it, she’d founded doshebu, a business providing services to various kinds of clients looking to go global.

Now let’s meet Sharon and talk to her about this turn of events in her life. We know that the force of love took her to New York, but what swept her down the path of launching her own business venture?

* * *

Hi, Sharon! It’s always good to talk to a fellow New Yorker, especially a displaced one! What brought you here from Scotland originally?
I fell in love with an American. After a long-distance love affair, we had to have the big talk about where we wanted to live. We were both just out of school and thought there would be more opportunities in New York than in our hometowns of Edinburgh (mine) or DC (his). So I came to New York to get married.

What was the first chapter of your life in the Big Apple?
We joined the dotcom boom: I worked for an Internet advertising agency, and my husband, Kim Khan, has done a variety of jobs, including establishing a bureau for in London. We were in our late 20s and had a vibrant, creative life, with lots of international friends. But then came the dotcom bust, and we started to reassess our lives and the extent to which the dotcom model aligned with our values. I searched for the right business for me but couldn’t find a fit. In 2004, I decided to get an MBA and after graduation in 2008 I started doshebu.

What kinds of services does doshebu offer?
While still in business school, I conducted primary research in International Human Resource Management. The services doshebu provides—to corporate leaders, individuals and families, businesses (human resource units), governments and NGOs, and importers/exporters looking to go global—are based on the gaps I identified in the market. I’ve designed an individual program for each market sector. Expats who are interested can find more information on our Services page. And our online learning site has lots of free resources. We want to build a community there and are continually adding information that you can access for free.

You’ve been out of Scotland for some time. Do you ever feel “displaced”?
I feel most displaced in the places where I’m supposed to be feeling most at home. I find it tough to relate to people who don’t have similar life experiences. Sometimes other Scots don’t even believe I’m Scottish. How do you convince someone you’re not pulling their leg and are actually from the same place as them?

Do you feel more comfortable abroad than in the UK?
Usually when I strike up a conversation with someone who’s traveling the world or living abroad, I find we have lots in common. My husband is the same way. If we encounter foreign tourists in the city, we always want to tell them about really cool places to go and the history behind those places.

Expats as “warriors”

Where did your idea for “doshebu” come from?
Doshebu is an expression of my life experience. When I first moved abroad, I had no idea of how difficult it would be. I packed my suitcase, got my flight, and turned up at my fiancé’s house. It took me a while to realize how unprepared I had been. While I didn’t think of myself as an immigrant, I experienced the loss of status that immigration causes. Lots of expats approach international assignments in that way. Whenever I reach out to talk to others, I can see there is a lot of work to do to help us all understand what moving abroad has done to our lives. These days, I like to think of myself as a pioneer and imagine myself living in a “boundaryless” world, where people live where they want and do what they feel is meaningful to them.

I understand the name for the business is based on the Japanese samarai moral code, Bushidō?
Kim is a black belt in the martial arts. Both of us have experienced the trauma of moving countries (Kim is from Virginia originally but has lived and worked in the UK and Singapore), and we think that living abroad requires something of a warrior mindset. While most people anticipate having a change in lifestyle, they are unprepared for the idea that not everything will be straightforward. For instance, some locals may not appreciate you or your values. Warriors are trained to go into hostile situations, and doshebu’s products address that possibility by educating you and discussing methods of coping. Thus the “way of the warrior” has become the “art of the expat.”

Was opening up your own business something you always wanted to do?
No, I was totally daunted. Although I’d witnessed my grandmother and mother start businesses, and admired them for that, I always shied away from taking that kind of responsibility. But now I feel the desire to build something of my own that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my efforts and dedication.

What has been the biggest challenge?
There are two main challenges I face:
1. Limited resources. It’s always tough no matter how big the company is, but it’s really tough when you’re a start-up.
2. Motivation. When you have to motivate yourself and there isn’t a reward at the end of the day, it’s tough to figure out how to keep going. I have to keep reminding myself of how far the company has come—it is no longer a research project but a living company; and I dream of a future when other people think it’s a great company, too.

Expats as artists

The most fulfilling aspect?
Doshebu is an Internet business and there is a lot of technical work behind the scenes. But we called it the “art of the expat” because we find that people who go abroad tend to become more creative and have more diverse interests. I enjoy trying to foster a sense of this in our clients and their families. It can be an advantage to their companies—for instance, if they make a more creative presentation on their work; but it can also be about one’s personal journey, connecting you with your creativity.

If you could do anything else, what would it be?
I’d love to make movies. I wrote a screenplay a while back, and as a photographer and writer, I love movies.

FromtheGlobalScottishKitchen_cover_tdnI see that you’ve created some cookbooks and photobooks under the Art of the Expat brand. My favorite is The Global Scottish Kitchen, with recipes for things like Cock A’ Leekie Udon.
Yes, my next book will also be a cookbook, called Coop du Monde. It’s a step-by-step guide to spicing up the traditional British Sunday Roast. It’s also about helping you be creative in the kitchen by explaining how to experiment with flavors.

In addition, I’m working on another photography book—about graffiti. I want to explore the idea of street art, the photographer and the graffiti artist as being the same person.

You can check out my various books on Blurb.

What’s on your bucket list?
I want to buy a small island and build a house on it. I like the idea of being able to build an environmentally-friendly house. But we’d have to have liquor—Kim and I have also written a book about home-style cocktails, based on our world travels and conversations with bartenders, bon vivants and drinkers. AliasNickandNorasHomestyleCocktails_cover_tdnHmmm…maybe I could sell moonshine in the local market?

* * *

Ah, said like a true entrepreneur, Sharon! Thanks so much for talking to me about your work. I must say, I find your take on “going global” truly refreshing. Readers, any questions for Sharon on what it’s like to be an expat doing a business on behalf of other expats? Fire away! Or if you want to recommend a home-style cocktail for her collection, I’m sure she’d appreciate that, too. For that matter, aren’t cocktails part of the recipe for a successful expat adventure?!

STAY TUNED for the next episode in the online expat novel, Libby’s Life, to appear tomorrow.

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Images (clockwise from left): Sharon trying out her Bushidō technique(?!) outside of Gaudí’s cathedral in Barcelona; being a tourist in Venice; enjoying a stein of beer at the Oktoberfest in Munich (on the cover of her photography book Oktoberfest); and how the table looked for her and Kim’s 10th-anniversary celebration (note the tartan tablecloth!).

Entrepreneur Daniel Abrahams: From London to Israel, start-up nation of the world

Daniel Abrahams CollageToday we welcome Suzi Dixon to the Displaced Nation. Though it is her first time guest posting for us, Suzi is well known among expats and other internationals for her articles and blogs in The Telegraph and Huffington Post. Here she tells the story of British entrepreneur Daniel Abrahams, who decided to move his Internet start-up from London to Tel Aviv. Suzi has also kindly agreed to allow us to pose a few questions of our own to Daniel, from our “displaced” perspective.

Kate Allison & ML Awanohara

Brits looking to move abroad face a decisiondo they look for work or start their own business? But what if you’ve already got a business back home in Blighty? Times are tough globally and, particularly for those with a business still in the start-up stage, a move throws up all sort of added pressure.

I spoke to Daniel Abrahams, co-founder of, who recently relocated this thriving internet start-up from the Google @ Campus in London to TechLoft in Tel Aviv.

Their business is expanding rapidly. and its sister site,, have already helped more than 1.2 million visitors find a fairer and cheaper deal on both travel money and international payments.

However, the opportunity to move their headquarters to Israel, known as the “start-up nation,” for three months was hard to resist.

“We want to be immersed in one of the most dynamic and successful startup hubs in the world,” Daniel said. “During our stay in Tel Aviv, we will meet face-to face with other high impact startups, entrepreneurs, and investors. In the first week of being here, we’ve spontaneously met literally dozens of high impact, high potential companies that are only too happy to knowledge share.”

When it came to making the decision, Daniel turned to a good old-fashioned list of pros and cons. The pros won out and, now, he wants to inspire other Brits with a business big or small to take the plunge.

“You’ve got to focus on the pros,” he said. “Think of the Serendipity Factorif the opportunity arises to move overseas, perhaps that’s happened for a reason? It’s an opportunity to build your company culture and widen your network. And, with advances in technology, there’s no reason why you can’t have your PR firm, accountant and admin in London while you relocate. That’s where cloud computing excels!”

Moving also keeps you on your toes. “Getting too comfortable in one environment can be your own worst enemy,” Daniel said. “I want to see the world and new business environments. There’s also a good chance that you may be able to find and nurture local talent you might not otherwise come across.”

*  *  *

Thanks, Suzi! And now, our curiosity aroused, we have some questions of our own for Daniel.

Daniel, thank you so much for joining us! As we’re not all finance types here, can you please explain in a nutshell what your business is all about?
Launched in September 2010, and are award-winning comparison Web sites for foreign exchange. Every day, we help thousands of expats, overseas property buyers, students, businesses and holidaymakers find a fairer deal on travel money and international payments.

How does your startup compare to businesses offering similar services?
We help our visitors access the sharpest currency rates on the market via our proprietary comparison platform. The rates quoted are wholesale exchange rates provided by FCA-regulated currency companies. We’re trying to make awesome currency deals accessible to the everyday consumers and not just reserved for big institutions transacting in the billions.

How did you get the idea for the business?
My co-founder, Stevan Litobac, and I launched the business after being ripped off on foreign exchange. I was travelling in Australia, and Stevan was holidaying around Europe. We couldn’t believe the somewhat ludicrous exchange rate markups banks and airport bureaus were adding to the “real” rate of exchange. After doing some research, we found this was a $400 billion dollar per year market that was in desperate need of innovation.

Our USP is the custom-built technology that our tech teams have built. We are neither a bank nor a broker, and can therefore be truly independent and impartial when finding our visitors the best-value currency deals.

At the moment, our business has eight staff members, pretty much split down the middle between tech and marketing talent.

You say that the opportunity to move your headquarters to Israel, known as the start-up nation, for three months was “hard to resist.” Can you say a little more about that: did you seek out the opportunity, or did it come your way?
Absolutely. Israel has the largest proportion of startups per capita in the world. It is a thriving country that is home of some of the most exciting technological innovation the world has seen. In Tel Aviv, there are thousands of startups and many accelerators. Every day there is another type of meetup happening, from marketing to development. The buzz was a great draw for us.

We did seek out the opportunity. We saw some other startups do similar temporary HQ relocations and this inspired us. Israel is also a great fit in terms of location, being only five hours from London and not too far at all from our partners.

In making your decision, you made a list of pros and cons. What were the main items on each list, and how close was the contest?
Here’s the very shorthand version of the list:


  • Amazing tech community
  • Great startup ecosystem
  • Only 5 hours from London, and much closer than the Silicon Valley (another strong contender)
  • Great for team bonding
  • Good place to freshen up the working environment to stimulate creativity (serendipity factor, experience of living in another country, minor time difference, stunning weather, beach).
  • Other startups have succeeded in doing similar relocations.


  • Leaving parts of the team back home.
  • Uncertainty about how our partners would react to the move.
  • Delay in taking new office space.
  • Slowdown in growing the team back in London.

With such a big move, we obviously took a long time to consider whether to do it. I think the biggest “pro” that swung our decision was the sheer excitement at immersing ourselves in such a dynamic “startup nation.” We’re so glad we did it. In our first month of being in Israel, we celebrated a record month revenue wise. This was definitely validation we’d made the right choice!

Now that you’re settled in Tel Aviv, what would you say are the main differences between working at Google @ Campus in London to TechLoft in Tel Aviv? Are there any similarities?
TechLoft is a much smaller co-working space than Campus. However, they share the same principles. There is lots of collaboration between the companies during and after work hours. I’d say there are definitely more on-site events at Google Campus whereas in Tel Aviv you normally need to travel to the relevant meetups. Also, the more intimate size at Techloft means you really get to know everyone on the floor, whereas at Campus you are constantly meeting new people.

What do you love the most about living and working in Israel?
First of all, I love being able to wake up, put a pair of shorts on and run on the beach or ride my bike on the promenade before work. It’s such an incredible feeling living in a city that has such an outdoor culture! The food is sensational and the people are nothing but warm, charming and friendly.

The tech community here is so switched on, and the entrepreneurs are a lot more mature than those back in the UK. As most have already been through their military service plus graduated from uni, would-be entrepreneurs can often be starting their careers in their late twenties. Every day, we’re meeting fascinating potential service providers or being introduced to relevant people who can help us build our business. I love the “culture of introductions” out here, with entrepreneurs and investors willing to open up their Rolodex.

Do you ever feel “displaced” in Tel Avivwishing you were in London instead?
Great question! There are definitely cross-cultural differences between London and Tel Aviv. In Israel, we have a saying about people talking dugriwhich means no holds barred, to the point, straight. The culture is FAR more direct, and people are pretty aggressive when airing their thoughts. This shouldn’t be mistaken for being rude. Israelis call a spade a spade!

In both a business and social settings in London, it seems people are far more formal and polite compared to Israel. Meetings are actually held on time (something we miss), and there is a lot more structure to the meetings themselves.

Still, I have never really felt displaced. My co-founder Stevan and I, together with the wider team, have quickly adapted to the pace of life in Tel Aviv, and the community has welcomed us with open arms.

Can you give us a concrete example of how your business has been enriched by taking it abroad, and would you say that working abroad has made you more creative?
By taking MyCurrencyTransfer and MyTravelMoney away from the safe harbours of home, we’ve become travellers ourselves, and as such have started experiencing a lot of what we previously only half absent-mindedly tweeted, retweeted, liked, blogged or quoted on our social channels. Travel challenges and settling-in challenges have taken us out of our comfort zones, whereas before we were taking the tube to work and back mindlessly. We’ve also started using our own personal travel pictures and journals as inspiration for our community discussions, so we’re way more authentic as a brand now, I believe.

Another way that it has made us creative is in search of local experts. Israel has some of the smartest tech and marketing people in the world, and we feel a sense of urgency in meeting them before our time here runs out! We have identified two or three key individuals whom we’ll be hiring in Israel to assist with our digital marketing activity across both MyTravelMoney and MyCurrencyTransfer. They are experienced hires and will have a direct impact on the growth of our business. Having two thriving offices in both London and Tel Aviv is a medium to long-term goal of ours.

It was always important for us to establish a legacy, and not just simply be here for three months, go back to London and not leave anything behind in Tel Aviv. The talent here is too rich to waste.

You say that “getting too comfortable in one environment can be your own worst enemy.” Are you definitely going back to Britain? Where else would you like to go?
Staying in an all too comfortable place might not be your worst enemy, but it certainly limits your experience and potential for serendipity. As they say: to be lucky, you need to go outside. And outside can mean going to a new meet-up or going to an altogether new country. We will be back in Britain, we see it as our base, as a lot of our target market are based there, so having a stable office there for the business makes sense for us. Where next? Who knows! We like Israel for its people, warm weather, nearby beaches and its rich history. San Francisco might not be so dissimilar to that perhaps?

With the knowledge of hindsight, would you do anything differently? What were your biggest challenges?
I don’t think we would have done much differently to be honest. We organised all of the logistics before leaving the UK, which also happens to have been our biggest challenge: office and apartment rental, things like that. Once we arrived here, however, it really wasn’t too far apart from what we were used to back at home. There are slight differentiating nuances between Britain and Israel. For example, there aren’t such huge supermarkets here, and there’s no chip and pin, just sign the receipt (if they even ask for that!)—all the little things that are fun to learn about a new place!

What piece of advice would can give someone who’s thinking of moving to Israel and starting up (or relocating) a business abroad?
If you have the desire to do it, I’m sure you will find a way. If you’re not sure or a bit “iffy” about it, then chances are you won’t regret doing it at the end of the day, so skip all the thinking and start planning. The only disclaimer I’d put here is that we were quite mobile before we even moved; we’re essentially three guys with three laptops, and you could put us anywhere with a WiFi connection. If we had an expensive office lease, then we may have weighed up the pros and cons of the costs of keeping the lease/cancelling it early, but that’s about it. We’re a much bigger company now in terms of staffso we’ll give some tips next time around when planning a bigger company relocation!

* * *

Thank you, Daniel! Readers, what about you? Do you have any more questions for Daniel Abrahams? And how do you think you’d feel about being a “trailing entrepreneur”?

STAY TUNED for some more great posts next week!

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Images (clockwise from top left): View of London and the Thames (morguefiles); ice cream bicycle, Google London campus, courtesy Clive Darra on Flickr; presentation on Israel’s start up culture, courtesy Frank Boyd on Flickr; view of Tel Aviv from Old Jaffa (morguefiles); Stevan Litobac (L) and Daniel Abrahams (R).

Talking to expat entrepreneur Alison McGowan about cracking the hard nut of Brazil’s tourism market

Hidden Pousatas Brazil CollageAlison McGowan is rather famous among us expats in Brazil: a foreigner who has settled here and “made it” as an entrepreneur. Her business is called Hidden Pousadas Brazil. Pousada literally means “place to land” or “place to stay”; but as McGowan explains on her About Us page, unlike in Portugal where a pousada is usually a luxury inn in a restored historical building, in Brazil the concept encompasses a much wider range of price and accommodation.

Alison has visited and vetted many of Brazil’s pousadas on behalf of Western tourists who might be overwhelmed by a country of Brazil’s size and complexity. She offers a set of well-honed marketing services to pousadas that come up to her standard, consisting of an English-language Web page on her site optimized for Google, from which they can receive direct bookings. (She will also add social media and PR for a further fee.) And she provides an English-speaking interface for those pousada owners who lack the requisite linguistic skills to attract foreign guests.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Alison’s pousada business, too? Word has traveled far and wide among the English-speaking world thanks to some choice publicity. Seth Kugal chose to include it in his write-up on Brazil for the New York Times‘s Frugal Traveler series, urging those looking to make Brazil more affordable to try

a rare English-language pousada site nicely curated by an expatriate Englishwoman, Alison McGowan.

And the intrepid Michael Palin, while he finally added Brazil to his itinerary with a four-part BBC series last year, gave a shout-out to McGowan for her “gorgeous pousada” recommendations.

Yet her accomplishment can’t have been easy. According to recent data, 40 percent of Brazilian start-up businesses do not survive for more than two years after opening due to the “excess of laws, regulations, taxes, paperwork…”

I caught up with McGowan recently on behalf of the Displaced Nation and peppered her with questions about her business success story. Any wannabe displaced entrepreneurs out there, listen up!

Olá, Alison! Tudo bem? Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for the Displaced Nation. How long have you been working in Brazil?
I established Hidden Pousadas Brazil in 2008 but have a long history of working with and in Brazil dating back to 1979 when I was sent out to set up the first office for Oxford University Press. In 1984 I decided to return to UK but continued working with Brazil over the next 18 years before returning to the country definitively in 2002, bringing my old business in educational marketing—called Florence Associates—with me. This lasted me very well until 2008, when the increased use of broadband Internet and students booking direct with schools effectively put paid to the business model. Hidden Pousadas Brazil was a very lucky idea which came to me at just the right time. It never occurred to me to go “home” when the other business ended.

Let’s go back even further in time. What first attracted you to the country both of us now call home?
I lived in Paris for a year in the early 70s and that was where I first discovered Brazilian music, and Brazilian musicians. I fell in love with both!

What do you love most about living here?
I love the people, the attitude, the optimisim, the energy and the light.

As an Englishwoman, do you ever feel “displaced”?
I rarely feel “displaced” but had one such moment yesterday when I realized I had spent over a thousand reais paying company bills which were actually optional. My Britishness and desire to be up to date with payments had blinded me to the possibility that anyone would or could legally send an official demand for something which I actually didn’t have to pay.

Have you reached a point where you now feel more comfortable in Brazil than in Britain?
I feel totally comfortable in both countries and move easily between them, partly because I am pretty well bilingual and understand both cultures very well. People here often refer to me as a gringa carioca—basically a foreigner who is at the same time someone from Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian musician friends just introduce me to others as a fellow musician. Nationality isn’t usually mentioned.

You said that Hidden Pousadas Brazil was a “lucky idea.” Where did it come from?
I was super stressed from running a huge cello festival in Rio and asked a friend for a recommendation of somewhere to stay where I could just chill out in peace for a while. He immediately told me to go to the Pousada Santa Clara on Boipeba. I had no idea at the time where Boipeba was or indeed what a pousada was, but I went and discovered paradise—a traffic free island with endless deserted sandy beaches fringed by palm trees and a lovely, friendly pousada guesthouse to stay at. I thought if this paradise existed there must be other paradises in Brazil, and I reckoned I knew quite a lot of people who would like to be in paradise if they only knew it existed! Hidden Pousadas Brazil was born.

Was opening up your own business something you always wanted to do?
Had I not lost my rather well-paid job in the UK, I might not have started down the entrepreneurial path. That was the original stimulus. But now that I’m on my second business, I can’t imagine working for someone else again!

What’s been the biggest challenge of running your own business in Brazil?
The most challenging part is undoubtedly Brazilian bureaucracy and tax system. It is both expensive and time consuming to get it right.

The most fulfilling?
Meeting so many satisfied travelers who have been choosing pousadas and trips just using the recommendations on

If you could do anything else, what would it be?
I can’t imagine doing anything else right now. Once Hidden Pousadas Brazil is in a mature phase and is no longer challenging, a logical step would be to move into consultancy, public speaking and training for pousada owners, but whatever I do would still have to allow me extensive travel in offbeat Brazil!

What’s on your bucket list?
Right at the moment a few pousadas on deserted beaches in Piauí, Ceará, Maranhão, and Rio Grande do Norte are beckoning; also some places near the capital city of Brasília such as Pirenópolis and São Jorge in the neighboring state of Goias, as well as in the historical cities of Minas Gerais.

It sounds as though you still have a lot to explore. Have you left Britain behind, or will you go back to live some day?
I will be here in Brazil for as long as good is good, but I still go back to the UK twice a year, and could easily run the business the other way round, living in the UK and coming over to Brazil a few times a year.

Do you have any advice for anyone else wanting to be an entrepreneur in Brazil?
I wouldn’t do it unless you speak Portuguese fluently, understand the culture, have tons of patience, considerable money and support behind you, AND see a gap in the market for that brilliant idea you are passionate about! If you’ve got all that then go for it! The rewards are enormous.

We understand you are creative in another way: as a travel writer. Do you have any books planned?
I have plans for two forthcoming books: one just entitled The Hidden Pousadas of Brazil and the other on foreign immigration and entrerpreneurship in the Amazon in early-20th century Brazil (title still to be decided).

É boa pra caramba! We look forward to featuring one day on the Displaced Nation.

* * *

Readers, I found talking to Alison McGowan quite a trip! Do you have any questions for her before she ventures off in hot pursuit of the next Brazilian paradise? You can also follow Hidden Pousadas Brazil on Twitter, like them on Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube station, where the latest video shows Alison giving advice for anyone planning a trip to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014 (coming soon!) or the Rio Olympics in 2016. As an avid football fan myself, I have only one comment to make on Alison’s creative enterprise: Vai Brasil! O Brasil é o número um! For the purposes of today’s celebration of Alison, this football rallying cry may be translated as “Go to Brazil! It’s the number-one country!”

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, about a theatrical enterprise…

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Images: (Clockwise from Alison McGowan’s headshot) Pousada Araras Eco Lodge, in the northern Pantanal (home of the Hyacinth Macaw); Pousada Uacari (in the Mamirauá reserve, home of the uacari monkey); Pousada de Selva Mato Limpo (in the hills of the Serra da Mantiqueira); and Hidden Posadas Brazil logo.

BOOK REVIEW: “The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook” by Jeffrey Jung

careerbreak_coverThe author of today’s reviewed book, Jeff Jung, was one of our featured Random Nomads last May. We caught up with him again at Christmas, shortly after The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook was published.

TITLE: The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook
AUTHOR: Jeffrey Jung

Website: Career Break Secrets
Twitter: @Career BrkSecret
Other: Facebook page, YouTube channel

FORMAT: Paperback, Ebook (Kindle)
GENRE: Nonfiction, Travel
SOURCE: Review copy from author

Author Bio:

Host of the new global TV show, The Career Break Travel Show, and publisher of, Jeff Jung is the world’s leading career break expert. Originally from Fredericksburg, Texas, Jeff became an international traveler at the age of sixteen with his first trip to Australia and, when he left a successful marketing career for his own career break, became a “true citizen of the world.” He lives in Bogotá, Colombia.


The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook is your indispensable tool for dreaming, planning, and finally taking your trip of a lifetime. Filled with tips, stories, and photos from around the world, the Career Break Traveler’s Handbook will both excite you and prepare you.”

(Source: book description)


Six years ago, Jeff Jung, like many other people, was experiencing dissatisfaction with corporate life.  Business trips abroad racked up frequent flyer miles and provided a temporary escape from the office cubicle and constant phone calls, but those were the only benefits of his adult experiences of travelling. Faced with years more of a work-life balance teetering heavily on the “work” side of the scale, Jeff wondered if he had 

“made a bargain with the devil, building a successful career while sacrificing a satisfying personal life?”

More to the point:

“How was I ever going to engage with the things that really mattered to me: time for myself, for my family and friends, time to pursue my personal passions?”

A throwaway question from two friends provided the catalyst he needed to do something about this unsatisfactory state of affairs.

“What’s it going to take to make you happy?”

In answer, Jeff quit his job four weeks later, although it was several months before he set off on his trip. Planning is all — which is where this book comes in. It’s one thing to dream about getting away from it all, and another thing to do it right.

Based on Jeff’s own experiences, plus those of other seasoned travelers, this book offers advice on aspects from the mundane (budgeting and saving for both the trip and your return, when you might be out of work for a while) to the slightly morbid (make a will; go through details of insurance and finance with a close family member or friend; appoint someone to have power of attorney). There are tips on emotional aspects, too: how to stop talking yourself out of this wild idea, or how to deal with people who, out of concern or jealousy, aren’t as enthusiastic about this adventure as you are.

As you would expect, much of the book covers advice on preparations and the trip itself, such as managing money on the road, dealing with unexpected loneliness, and adjusting to being free again. It also includes specific tips such as “White headphones are an unmistakable marker of an iPod. Replace them with black ones” which might not occur to you at the packing stage and won’t be much use occurring to you when a mugger is running away with your iPod and unsaved photographs.

The final part of the book deals with your return trip, your re-entry into your old life, and how you can turn that “dreaded résumé gap” to your advantage.

It’s worth noting, however, that after their life-changing travels many career-breakers — including the author — don’t re-enter their old life at all but instead make a new one.

Word of wisdom:

On persuading yourself:

You only get one shot at life. Are you really sure you can’t take less than 3 percent of your working life to do what you want to do, to reconnect with yourself and pursue personal passions?

On reasons for going:

This is not a time to run away. It’s a time to run to something.

TDN verdict:

With many companies starting to see the benefits in offering paid sabbaticals to their employees — nearly one-quarter of Fortune’s 2012 “Best 100 Companies To Work For” do so — career breaks, we hope, will become more common. This book will help you make the most of yours.

STAY TUNED for next week’s posts!

Image: Book cover — “The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook”

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