Talking travel and ‘Meet, Plan, Go!’ with Lillie Marshall

Interviews — By on September 8, 2010 at 10:23 am

If you’re a follower of this blog, you know that I’m a fan of career breaks and extended travel. If you feel the same way, or if you have even a bit of interest in those topics, then you should know about Meet, Plan, Go! And you should also know about Lillie Marshall.

Meet, Plan, Go! is a nationwide event taking place next week to promote the concepts of career breaks and extended travel. The brainchild of the folks who run Briefcase to Backpack, there are events scheduled for 13 North American cities on Tuesday evening (September 14). Each event is free and is stocked with a variety of speakers, from travel experts to individuals who have taken the career break leap in their own lives. I’m happy to be a part of this event and will be on the panel in Boston.

And that brings us to Lillie Marshall, who is one of those individuals who took the career break leap in order to travel. An English teacher in the Boston school system, Lillie saved her money for several years and then took a year away from work to travel on her own through parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. During her journey, she stopped for three months in Ghana to do some volunteer teaching. Along the way, she also started a blog that, thanks to her sense of adventure and engaging writing style, quickly became one of the internet’s more popular travel blogs. Lillie is coordinating the Meet, Plan, Go! event in Boston and she took the time to answer a few of our questions about her travels and about next week’s event.

Lillie Marshall

Lillie Marshall in Ghana

Lillie, you spent six years working as a teacher and taking summer trips to Latin America and then decided to take a year off for a solo round-the-world trip.  What led you to take that leap?

First, suddenly realized it was possible.  I had lived frugally for six years and saved more money than I thought I would, and thus it was mathematically feasible!  Second, extended travel was something I’d always longed to do, and I knew I would deeply regret it later if I never gave it a try.  And this un-tied-down stage of life was the perfect time!  And finally, I really was falling into a rut at home on many different levels, and needed a “re-boot.” 

I’m happy to say that all my original reasons for the journey proved valid, and each element was satisfied by the end of the trip!  Those 9 months abroad fulfilled and rebooted me, and I return home much more content… and surprisingly, not broke!

You visited both Asia and Europe during your travels, but maybe the most fascinating part of your journey was the three months you spent in the West African nation of Ghana as a volunteer teacher. What was that like?

It was LOVELY.  The students were so wonderfully well-behaved, kind, patient, and hard-working, and my Ghanaian coworkers were so dedicated and diligent that my expectations for students and educators are forever raised. 

It was also a huge education to see how various schools in Ghana make do with FAR fewer supplies and resources than we have in even the poorest school in America.  During a class in a rural school I was doing a project in, one Ghanaian student remarked, “I wish we had a computer.”  Several other students chuckled and said in unison, “But our school doesn’t even have electricity!”

What is one experience from your travels that was either particularly memorable or gave you a new perspective?

It was extremely powerful and enlightening to actually travel through Vietnam after having read and watched so much about the Vietnam War back home in the U.S.  We Americans are so very tied to Vietnam, and yet there is so much about it that is impossible to understand about the country and our impact upon it without setting foot on its actual soil!  It was simultaneously fascinating, heartbreaking, and upliftingly inspiring to travel through Vietnam as an American.

Your trip just ended a few months ago, so what now? Back to teaching, or do you have future travels planned?

I’m thrilled to report that as of yesterday the paperwork is finalized: I am back to teaching English in Boston Public Schools, though in a different school!  I’m suuuper excited to get back into the classroom, and I’m also psyched to continue my blog (it is, after all, both an educational and travel blog), and to keep on traveling during our various teacher vacations!

You’re also coordinating a Meet, Plan, Go! event in Boston on September 14 (which I’m happy to be participating in) that is part of a national movement to raise awareness about career breaks and extended travel. Can you tell us a bit about that and why you think more people would benefit from such a travel experience?

It was terrifying at first to ponder leaving the security of my job and hometown to travel for so long, but those nine months abroad proved AWESOME, and I return home energized, full of perspective, and brimming with new skills.  I truly believe in the benefits of career-break travel, but we all need a little advice and inspiration. That’s why Meet Plan Go is so fabulous: it will give you what you need through great speakers, giveaway prizes, and like-minded fellow attendees!  And most importantly: you’ll get to hear Bob Riel speak! 🙂

Thanks, Lillie! Be sure to check out Lillie’s blog. And, if you’re in or near one of the 13 Meet, Plan, Go! cities, get yourself to an event. If you’re in Boston, stop by to say hello!

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      Bob Riel is a writer and a traveler. Go here to read more about Bob, his work and the Travels in the Riel World blog.

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