I’m Racing to Make a Difference – Can You Help?

September 9, 2008

The most rewarding part of our last sabbatical was the opportunity to do health care and community development work in the tiny rural Paraguayan community where we lived. It was a clear lesson for me in how important it is to make a difference when you can.

Today marks the official launch of Train for Humanity, a grassroots, non-profit humanitarian organization that combines getting fit with making a difference. I’m honored to be one of the co-founders of this unique project. There a few very simple ways in which you can help – I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to tell you how and why.

Train for Humanity raises funds and awareness for organizations that help alleviate the pain and suffering of children, orphans, and refugees who have been affected or displaced due to genocide or civil war.

Photo: Darfur Peace & Development Organization
Photo: Darfur Peace & Development Organization

Making a Difference for Kids In Darfur

For our first phase, 100% of the funds raised will go to the Darfur Peace and Development Organization. They run some truly remarkable programs.

Darfur is currently the scene of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, the biggest U.N. aid operation, and the 21st century’s first genocide.

The civilian population has suffered systematic destruction of homes, agricultural land, livestock and wells, mass rape and displacement. More than 450,00 people have died.

How TFH Makes a Difference

TFH “everyday athletes” (like me) train and participate in endurance events, such as triathlons and marathons. The money they raise from sponsors online goes to humanitarian causes.

We rely on bloggers and social networking tools to spread the word – that keeps the overhead low, so we’re able to deliver 100% of the money raised directly to the cause.

How You Can Help

1. Sponsor Me

As one of the three pilot project “everyday athletes”, I’ll be running the Niagara Falls Half Marathon on October 26, 2008. You can sponsor my run here. All the funds will go to the Darfur Peace and Development Organization. Our goal is to raise $50,000.

2. Help Spread the Word

Helping isn’t just about money. If you have a blog, a website, a Facebook or Twitter account, or just an email address book, I’d like to ask you to take just a few moments of your time to post, Digg, Stumble, forward, tweet, email, or otherwise help spread the word about Train for Humanity. You can find pre-written blog posts, badges for your site/blog, and other easy word-spreading ideas right here.

3. Become a Participant

We’ll soon be opening TFH to other “everyday athletes”. Anyone with a desire to make a difference can participate – the only requirement is that you take part in an endurance event, such as running, walking, cycling, or swimming. The distance isn’t important. Some TFH participants will run marathons, others will walk a few miles, but they’ll all be making a difference. You can signup here.

Thank You For Your Help

I’m grateful for your contribution, whatever form it may take – a few minutes or a few dollars will make a difference.

Many thanks,


Learn More About:

The origins of TFH (a very cool story), via creator Mark Hayward

The Darfur on the DPDO website

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How Long Should Your Sabbatical Be?

July 25, 2008

Reader S. asks:

“How long should my sabbatical last? Is a month long enough? A year? Does it matter?”

We’ve been asked this question more than once, and it surprised me a bit the first time. The truth is, though, it does matter. Whether you’re considering a permanent escape, a full-on sabbatical, or a mini-retirement, here’s why duration is important, and how you might decide how long your escape should last.

Up To 1 Month

At the risk of getting into semantics, breaks of just a few weeks are really just long vacations. But given that many people have never taken more than a single week off in their entire working lives, these short breaks can be an important starting point.

For business owners, it’s a great way to test-drive being away from things. For workaholics and the chronically under-vacationed, it’s a taste of what life might look like when it’s not fueled by adrenalin 24-7. For many, a month off is the perfect catalyst to start thinking about a longer escape.

These short breaks are a great introductory step. Your cat can probably survive a few weeks with a huge bowl of food, a cat door, and an open toilet bowl. Train him well and he might even water the plants. Your boss will forgive you, and you won’t need to auction off the contents of your home.

The bottom line: A month is a stepping stone to something larger. If six months feels too overwhelming for you, and stops you from taking action, then start small and commit to using your short escape as a springboard to something longer.

1-3 Months

For most people, this is getting outside the range of standard vacation, and so for the first time you’ll have to make more serious workplace and business plans. It also requires a little more financial planning.

The cat and the plants are going to need more permanent arrangements, but you don’t need to sell your car, rent your home or quit your job in order to wrangle a couple of months off. For the first time, though, you’re going to get a real taste of what it’s like to shed some of the mental life load you’ve been carrying.

Be prepared for: some eye-opening insights into your life, and the appearance of a strange voice inside your head that asks a lot of tough questions about what you’re returning to at the end of this short sabbatical. And be forewarned – that little voice doesn’t like evasive answers.

3-6 Months

For me, this has always marked the entry into “true” sabbatical territory, although everyone has their own definition.

When traveling, I’ve always found that by the three month mark a place begins to feel more like home. You’ve had an opportunity to make relationships and become involved in a community. If you’re planning to do volunteer work, three to six months is also an opportunity to make a more significant difference. Also, most short term volunteer programs require you to pay to jump on board, but when you get into longer time periods, a lot of new doors can open up.

If you’re relocating to another country, you’ll also discover that your language skills are really going to kick into gear after 3 months. You’ll find your ear warming up to foreign sounds, and you’ll develop solid confidence in your ability to speak.

Watch out: Once you crack the three month mark, that little voice inside your head is going to start making sense. You might never look at home the same way again.

6 Months and Beyond

Once you begin to crest the six month mark, some important changes start to happen. For lengthy escapes like this, you’re dealing with a whole different kind of preparation. Most people can’t just cobble together a year’s worth of time using a few sick days, unused vacation and some good grace from their employer – this is serious time off.

In Escape 101 we used the idea of “big rocks” as symbol of the difficult to shift, inertia-heavy things in your life that might hold up a sabbatical – things like your house, cars and job. The first thing you’ll notice when you plan a longer sabbatical is that you start to look at some of those big rocks differently.

People planning long absences are more likely to sell their cars, rent or sell their homes, and go on indefinite leave or quit their jobs altogether. Business owners make sustainable changes in the people and processes of their companies, as opposed to patching together more temporary solutions.

The result of course, is that the different type of preparation that goes into a long career break tends to create a different type of experience while you’re away. You’ll have fewer ties to your “normal” life, and less mental baggage as a result. The cat, the car, the boss, the house, the banking – in order to escape for up to a year or more, you’ve had to move beyond band-aid solutions for those things.

When you leave briefly, all those things still exist. When you take six months or more off, you need to solve those things,and the result is an extraordinary peace of mind that’s difficult to find any other way.

In the End, A Regular Vacation Won’t Cut It

Sabbaticals are about time. Doing something “crazier than usual “with your standard two-week vacation isn’t the same. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but you’re not going to get into the good stuff until you’ve really escaped for longer.

The message here is this:

The longer your sabbatical, the greater and more enduring the benefits.

If you’ve never taken a decent vacation, then do it. Book the time now. You need it, or you wouldn’t be reading this. A short sabbatical beats no sabbatical at all. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that a good vacation and six months off are the same thing.

The great thing is that you can start small. Try to double the longest vacation you’ve ever had, and you’ll notice some significant benefits. Double that a couple of more times, and you’re into sabbatical territory and a whole new way of looking at your life.

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Welcome to Escape 101!

March 31, 2008

If you’re like most people, you’ve dreamed of one day just leaving it all behind. It turns out you can, and this is the place to start.

Escape 101 started out as a website to help promote our latest book by the same name. It didn’t take long, though, to realize that we still had a lot more to share on the topic of sabbaticals and lifestyle design.

The purpose of this blog is to help you make your way toward the the life that you want, and in the end, that requires change. You might do it in big leaps, or you may do it in small steps, but either way we’re here to help.

Your First Steps

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Check Out Escape 101: The Book

Escape 101 Cover - Small

You’re not alone in dreaming of a sabbatical. Escape 101 has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The Miami Herald, and been endorsed by best-selling authors like Timothy Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek).

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Creating the life you want is a lot easier (and a lot more fun) with some help. If you’ve got questions about sabbaticals or lifestyle design, contact us anytime. We really don’t mind.

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Great Reasons to Subscribe to Escape 101

March 4, 2008

I’m convinced: The best thing about blogs is that you can subscribe to them. Here are some great reasons why you should subscribe to Escape 101.

  1. It’s Risk-Free. There’s really no downside to having our updates delivered to you. Subscribing is free, we don’t spam, we’re committed to protecting your privacy, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Just like that.
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  3. It’ll Help. That’s a bold claim, but we really believe that if you’re looking to change you life for the better, particularly by taking a sabbatical or making changes to improve your work-life balance, then what you find on this site is going to help.
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