My plan for a year of life changing experiences

Transformational Travel

I’ve been dreaming of, and preparing for, a year-long career break since I was around 30. Nearly a decade later, I’m finally making a run for it. I leave around August. Below are my initial plans for a full year of meaningful, life-changing experiences.

The first half of the year

My first month or two will be to reset and celebrate. Leaving in August, I will go to my third vipassana (10-day meditation) and then to my second Burning Man. This will be an interesting experiment and a unique experience: following 10-days of sensory restriction with 10-days of sensory overload.

Next, I’ll return to Myanmar for another month or two. In 2013, I met a family living in an open hut village on the banks of the Irawadi river, in Bagan. I took photos of the family, and hope to find them again to give them prints. I’ll do a fourth 10-day vipassana meditation, in its homeland of Myanmar.

Over November & December, I hope to visit Nepal & Bhutan in the himalayas. I intend to hike to Everest Base Camp in Nepal (14 days) and see the Bhutan (7-10 days), the prohibitavely expensive real-life “Shang-ra-la”. I’ll spend a week or two along the Ganga River in northern India, including the spiritual center of Varanasi.

I’ll finish this half of the trip with a yoga retreat in Goa, India over New Years & my birthday (age 40) in early January 2021.

Plans never really work out as intended, but as circumstances change, I have a general idea of what kinds of experience I’m looking for and where to find them. Like any adventure, it’ll be interesting to see how it all goes down.

The second half of the year

A priority for the second half of my sabbatical will be my parents & family. Both of my parents want to take a couple of road trips through some remote places in north america.

At the start of the second half of the trip, I’ll need to take some time to re-evaluate my health, wellness and finances. Do I need to travel more slowly/cheaply? do I have any injuries/illness to deal with? Do I need to transition back to work?

For costs, long term travel works out to average between $1,500 / mo and $3,000 / mo. There are many places to settle into for less than $1,000 / mo. But costs for destination changes, pricey experiences and a more comfortable lifestyle all add up. When I traveled last time, I spent an average of $2,000 / month. After my first six months, I’ll know what my ‘burn rate’ is, if I can make some money while traveling, and I'll know how much longer I can keep going.

When I need to transition back to work, I’ll spend 10-20 hours a week preparing for career return, while traveling slowly for a few months through cheap destinations. I’ll prioritize studying for job certifications, doing coursera courses and reviewing interview skills. I’ll still have plenty of time for exploring. If I needed to settle down for a bit in one place, I’d likely aim for Medellin, Colombia and pick up some Spanish.

I have a few “big” ideas in mind if I can continue to travel. I’d like to visit the ayahuasca shamans of northern Peru, and the secluded city of Iquitos on the amazon river. I’d like to trek through the saharah in Morocco, and see the blue city of Chefchaouen. I’d like to see the northern lights above the Arctic Circle.


Eventually, financial reality starts imposing on me, probably around nine months in.

I’ll need to have 3-4 months to transition back to employment. To re-educate myself and be able to prove to an employer that I’m a good bet. I’ll need to figure out what I want to do, and where I want to do it. I’ll consider returning to software engineering or consulting, and consider living in New York City, Amsterdam or remote positions. Or, I may try to become a freelancer, a photographer, or teach english.

Or I may create a completely different future for myself.

Zachariah Garner
instagram: and @z_acro