The Life Sabbatical Coach | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
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Lynsey Addario and the late Marie Colvin
Can't Live Without
Friendship, laughter and my passport.
GET TO KNOW TARA
Meet Tara Quinn. She is a certified personal career coach with a passion for working with clients who dream to take time off to travel, work, study or volunteer abroad. Learn more about the avid traveler herself in the following extended interview.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
The spark of inspiration that eventually became Three Month Visa Coaching and Consulting grew out of my own incredibly transformational year-long-round-the-world travel sabbatical. Back in the early ‘00s, I was dealing with a significant amount of career burnout and was longing for a mindful pause to breathe, recharge and figure out my next steps. Determined to find a way to hit the road, I spent years putting in long hours in order to save for my trip and gathering up the inspiration and strength I would need to eventually strike out on my own year-long-round-the-world adventure in 2004-05. That extraordinary journey, which spanned three continents and tens of thousands of miles, taught me an incredible amount about the world and about myself. I came home with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of purpose and self and started to hear rumblings from other people who wanted a “life sabbatical” of their own. After taking a position with a consulting firm in San Francisco, I began to learn about the world of executive coaching and, one evening while packing up my desk to head home, I glanced up at a postcard from Brazil that I had hanging in my workspace and had a genuinely striking lightbulb moment. It was then I realized that career coaching could be a fantastic vehicle for helping people use travel and sabbaticals strategically – to serve and grow their careers, rather than being a damaging blotch on their resume. That very evening, I wrote the first lines of a business plan, began researching the best coaching training programs available, registered a domain name and even sketched out a rough draft of the design that would eventually become my business card. And almost 14 years later, the rest is history!
What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?
When I first proposed the concept of “career break coaching” well over a decade ago, the idea of taking a mindful break and/or travel sabbatical during one’s career just wasn’t as accepted as it has become in the years since. To be fair, this was well before the days of “Eat, Pray, Love” or the proliferation of travel blogs or Instagram-worthy vacation photos being uploaded into the cloud for all to see. As a result, I got quite a bit of push back about my idea and whether a successful business based on it was even viable. During those early days, it was difficult to trust my vision and believe – truly in my heart – that I was right; that I was on to something. So, I just gathered up as much inspiration as I could find. Books like “Tales of a Female Nomad” by Rita Golden Gelman and “Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts became the inspirational fuel that I could draw on when doubts began to creep in. Over time, as I began to work with clients, their accomplishments became the beautiful evidence that spurred me on further – seeing their lives and careers transformed by their travels and receiving their emails and postcards from the road were like little bursts of oxygen throughout my day. I had an idea – and even though I was early to the table and it had taken a while for everything to “click,” in the end, it was working.
What do you love most about your job?
Partnering with amazing clients and being able to see and share in their learnings, progress, victories and success brings me immense joy. It truly is an honor to support people who bring their hopes and dreams to the table and ask me to work with them as they take steps towards their vision. Seeing the concrete results of their efforts is so meaningful because I’ve had the privilege of seeing all the care, dedication, vision, hard work, courage and perseverance that went into bringing those dreams to fruition. It’s rare that we have that type of insight into what went on behind the scenes of a major accomplishment and it’s wonderful to celebrate alongside my clients as they embrace new horizons in their lives.
Early Bird or Night Owl
Apple or Android
Mountains or Beach
Left Brain or Right Brain
Staycation or Vacation
Describe yourself in three words.
Work in progress.
Your life philosophy is…
I’m partial to Conan O’Brien’s assertion that “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” You have to put in the time and effort – the blood, sweat, and tears – and you need to live with as much empathy and compassion as possible and treat people well. If you can manage those two things, most of the rest will sort itself out.
What is the best piece of advice you received?
No matter how good an idea you have (and/or how hard you work at it), some people just won’t understand you or what you’re doing, and that’s okay. Those people just aren’t your tribe. Believe in yourself, cherish the people who do get it and just keep going.
If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?
Well, if someone seriously wants to hand me an airline ticket, I’m happy to spin the globe and travel pretty much anywhere! That said, Egypt is currently at the top of my travel wish list for the culture, history and outstanding scuba diving opportunities.
Name a book you read that positively shaped you.
“Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert came out at a pivotal time in the earlier days of my business. Namely, a time when I wasn’t seeing as much initial traction as I had hoped to find around the idea of transformational travel and/or career sabbaticals as a vehicle for personal and professional growth. Just prior to that book’s release, I was at a crossroads and considering that I might need to change my niche and forget about the whole “help people quit their jobs to travel” endeavor because the market at the time just didn’t seem to get it the way I had hoped. But then “Eat, Pray, Love” arrived, a memoir about a woman taking time off for a round-the-world solo adventure rooted in her own hopes for growth and learning, and it was a runaway phenomenon. Seeing the enthusiasm with which that book was received showed me that I truly was on to something, albeit a bit early to the table. Shortly thereafter, sabbatical coaching clients came knocking, wanting to strike out on life-changing adventures of their own, and I’ve been helping them get off the couch and onto planes ever since.
If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?
I would likely still be in the healthcare field (where I worked for several years prior to moving into the consulting industry and launching my own coaching practice).
How do you unwind or relax after a long day?
Quality time with friends or a good book and a glass of wine.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
I’m a fan of Paulo Coelho’s reminder that “One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” I also love Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s line “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” I would urge people to take whatever dreams or visions they might have sitting dormant and just begin to take steps towards making them happen. When it comes to achieving big, gutsy goals, even the tiniest of daily efforts add up immensely over time and your future self will thank you for starting today.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Over the past several years, two things have truly improved my life for the better. Those being taking semi-annual travel sabbaticals of my own and embracing a renewed commitment to community service and volunteering. The first empowers me to “walk the talk” for my clients and to prioritize my own personal and professional growth through lifelong learning and love of travel. The second helps me root even more deeply into a community that I love and give back to a city that continues to mean a great deal to me, and which has taught me so much about the joy of coming home.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
Take a break. While I know it might not always be possible to hit the road for an extended travel sabbatical, even a “lighting round” pause to renew, recharge, and/or refocus can make a world of difference. Depending on how much time is available, I try to “right size” a renewal break and do something which brings me joy. Even with just a few minutes, I can connect with a friend for a quick phone call or text exchange, take a refreshing walk and breathe some fresh air, listen to a song I love, watch a few minutes of great standup comedy, research a future travel destination or make a cup of tea.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)
I would say that the most important investments I’ve ever made are the time and energy that have gone into building strong relationships, both personally and professionally. Beyond that, I can also say that I truly don’t regret a penny I’ve spent on travel and/or education. Both have been incredibly worthy investments that I know will continue to pay dividends for years to come.
Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?
My first job in San Francisco was with a boutique consulting firm and I was fortunate to be placed on a team with a terrific manager who I truly admired and looked up to for her outstanding leadership. When asked, I’ve described her as “The perfect mix of Harvard MBA brilliance and hippie chick.” She was a leader who set very high standards for her team and drove for success and results while also maintaining and projecting an incredible sense of humanity, empathy and humor. I’ve always remembered the wonderful example that she set and am grateful that I had the opportunity to contribute as a member of her team.