Follow Your Travel Dreams

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

One of the coolest sites I've found this year is called Ottsworld - Travel and Life Experiences of a Corporate American Runaway. Published by Sherry Ott, the site explores Sherry's travel adventures since she quit her corporate job a few years ago. Isn't it a traveler's dream, to give it all up and just GO?

Sherry Ott - Ottsworld 


This site shares the real-life experiences of a woman who did - and has had such life-enriching experiences since she made the change.  It is a daily reminder to me that we don't have to do ANYTHING but figure out what we *want* to do, and then figure out a way to do it. Life is for living! From the photo of the week to Sherry's travel tips, adventures, and posts about her life, this site is a treasure.

We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Sherry about her's what she had to say...

Sherry Ott - Ottsworld

WE: Please tell us about your OttsWorld Travel Blog,

SO: Ottsworld is a complete history of my travels for the last 2 ½ years.  When I left my corporate career behind in order to travel around the world, I wanted a way to be able to record my journey, and stay in touch with family and friends.  I’ve always kept a paper journal as a way to cope with and record my everyday life, so this was a chance for me to move it to the digital age! 

Sherry Ott - Ottsworld


However, as I started to travel I was amazed and sometimes overwhelmed by what I saw and experienced.  I thought about all of the people back in the US working at their corporate jobs who didn’t travel abroad, all of the Americans who didn’t have passports and had never left their own culture, all of the people who simply see the world through what is fed to them via the sensationalistic news outlets, and I all of a sudden felt a need to share what I was seeing with the rest of the world; through my eyes.  What I saw in the world wasn’t exactly what I expected. 


Sherry Ott - Ottsworld 

Africa wasn’t scary, the different religions of the world weren’t evil, the kids weren’t all destitute, malnourished, and unhappy, the Chinese weren’t my competitors; for the majority of the people I met and interacted with, we were just all trying to do our best in this world and get along.  I didn’t understand all of the cultures at times, but I could appreciate all of them.  I wanted the share this perspective with my family and friends who didn’t have the opportunity to do world travel. 

Sherry Ott - Ottsworld

It then grew from a simple way to communicate with friends and family to strangers contacting me with questions and comments; all of a sudden I had a following and I loved it.  I’ve always loved writing, and now other people were actually enjoying my writing, it was a pleasant surprise!

Sherry Ott - Ottsworld

The site mainly contains my travel memoirs to 23 different countries plus some travel across the United States.  It includes topics such as solo female travel, cultural differences, voluntourism, long term independent travel, culture shock, book reviews, and a ton of photography.  Mainly it follows my journey from stressed out corporate executive to chilled out backpacker/teacher.

Sherry Ott - Ottsworld

WE:  You've got quite an interesting travel background - can you share some
of it with us, please?

SO: It wasn’t actually that interesting until about 9 years ago when I got my first passport at age 30!  Prior to that I was one of the statistics; I was an American who had never left the country.  I got my passport because I had a co-worker invite me to his home town of Istanbul, Turkey for a week.  After that trip to Turkey I had caught the bug of international travel.  I loved the newness and the adventure of it all.  After that, whenever I had vacation I used it to travel abroad to places in Europe, Central and South America, and Australia.  These were just short 2 week trips through pretty typical tourist destinations.  The one consistent thing about my travels is that I never was ready to come home at the end of my vacation.  With that in mind, I decided to do what I missed out on in my 20’s – take a gap year and travel the world. 


Sherry Ott - Ottsworld


On my career break I traveled to 23 countries including the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia/Oceana.  I spent the majority of my time in Asia covering India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.  For the first time in my short travel life, I traveled to undeveloped countries, and I stayed in hostels.  Sometimes I traveled alone in a traditional ‘backpacker’ style going from cheap hostel to hostel, sometimes I traveled with a tour, and sometimes I traveled with friends who came to join me during their 2 week vacations.  The great thing about being older and taking a career break is that you have a bigger budget to travel with and can splurge more frequently!

This was my chance to follow all of my dreams and try new things.  Therefore I did a number of unique things such as climb Kilimanjaro, go to a sailing school off the coast of Italy, kayaking in the Milford Sound New Zealand, snorkeling in Sinai, trekking the Great Wall, enroll in cooking  and language classes in Italy, take a photography class in Laos, and volunteer in India and Nepal.  After all of this, can you blame me for not wanting to come back home?

Sherry Ott - Ottsworld


WE: You've changed career paths, from corporate to teaching - is there a particular mindset that you had to switch from, to be a more intercultural person?

SO: Changing from high stress NYC corporate desk life to international backpacker/teacher has been a big adjustment; this should really come as no surprise.  I think the biggest change that I still even now sometimes struggle with is patience.  In corporate America you really don’t have to be patient about anything.  I used take the subway to work and never wait more than 5 minutes for it to arrive.  I’d immediately have any information at my fingertips with the internet.  There was an ATM on every corner.  My assistant ordered my lunch and had it delivered to my office within 10 minutes of me asking for it.  I could walk down the street and read/understand every sign.  I had my dry cleaning delivered to my apartment along with my groceries.  Gone are these days where I had everything at my fingertips (on a keyboard or my cell phone).  Things that used to take me a few minutes can now take hours to figure out when traveling/living internationally.  You learn that the rest of the world has an immense amount of patience to wait for things that we in America would never consider doing; at least not without bitching about it.  International travel has taught me how to be patient, slow down, and simply be happy with little victories such as learning how to cross the street in Vietnam!  It has reset my expectations to be more in line with the rest of the world and be a little less American I suppose. 

When I lived and worked in America, specifically NYC, my job sort of defined who I was.  What you did for a living was extremely important.  The first questions people ask you in NYC is “What do you do?”  I have found that as I travel and live in Asia, this job identity becomes less important.  Strangely things that I didn’t think were very important have much more ‘weight’ now in Asia; specifically the fact that I’m unmarried.  The first question people ask me now is “Are you married?”  I answer “No” and 99% of the time I get the follow up questions “Why not?”  In addition there is a change from being self centered to being family centered.  As a manager in America I would talk to employees and let them know if they did something well that they should be very proud of themselves.  However as a teacher teaching adults in Asia, I now praise people by saying that their family must be very proud of them.  This emphasis on family impacts how the locals understand my answer as to why I’m not married.  My answer is usually “because I haven’t found the right person yet and I enjoy my freedom.  I can do what I want, when I want to.”  People normally look at this answer and don’t consider me self centered and selfish (which in reality I probably am!), but instead they wonder what my family is going to do about this disgrace!

Overall the hardest change that I’ve had to endure in the change from corporate world to the ESL teaching world is the payscale and fact that I actually have to think about using correct grammar now!  Like most native English speakers, I don’t remember 80% of the grammar that I learned as a kid and I have gotten into really bed habits thanks to email and sms’ing! 


Sherry Ott - Ottsworld


WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

SO: My initial year long career break turned into an indefinite career change.  I ended up traveling for 16 months and I spent one month living and volunteering in India.  The volunteering experience was my favorite thing that I did during my travels and it was because of that experience I got my CELTA certification when I returned to the US.  I wasn’t yet ready to go back to the hustle and bustle of the corporate world so I decided to delay it longer by continuing my international adventure and try to settle somewhere abroad for a bit.  I chose to teach ESL in Vietnam since it was one of my favorite countries that I traveled through, I loved all of Asia, and it was close to my sister and her family in Singapore.  Now I’m trying to adjust to the challenges of living abroad in a semi-developed country as opposed to simply traveling through a country; the two things  are vastly different!  I’ve also been making an adjustment from volunteer teaching to teaching esl for a paycheck which is also quite different.  I’ve been living in Ho Chi MInh City for 5 months now and it is full of victories and setbacks.  Each day seems to bring a new lesson which is really all I can ask for.  As long as I’m learning and experiencing new things I will continue this journey!

I have also partnered with 2 other people who have had similar career breaks/changes as mine and we have started a new website for corporate Americans who are looking to take a career break.  It’s goal is to offer inspiration and guidance for planning a cultural career break.  It will hopefully join together a community of Americans who want to go against the social norm of working their whole life until retirement age and get them traveling now while they can;  a mini-retirement of sorts!  Not everyone has to change their career like I did, in fact many people can take a break from their career and then go back and work again in the US.  Career breaks have many benefits in this ever expanding global world economy.  Taking a gap year isn’t just for the young or the British and Australians!  We are hoping to inspire more Americans to see and experience the world outside of their office and television set.  A break doesn’t need to be career deflating, it can be career defining! 

Please visit, sign up for our feed, and get inspired to take a career break!

WE: Thanks so much, Sherry! I appreciate your insights into such a life-changing adventure. What a great interview!

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