Around the World on a Sabbatical

I was born in a small Appalachian town with an adventurous spirit and a dream of big travels.  Growing up we never traveled further than a few hours by car.  I was 17 when I first saw the ocean and flew in an airplane.  Moving to Massachusetts for college, I had hopes of studying abroad my junior year, but sadly, my mom unexpectedly lost her job and that dream was no longer realistic.  But a seed was planted, and the desire to live abroad and see more of the world became a tangible goal that I would one day achieve.

kristina traveling on sabbatical

  After a decade of putting my travel dreams on hold, I made a promise to myself that things would finally change

Eventually, at age 29, I decided to enroll in a full-time MBA program that offered international experiences.  After a decade of putting my travel dreams on hold because they seemed too difficult, too scary and too expensive, I made a promise to myself that things would finally change.  During my first year of business school I completed a Homestay in Costa Rica, took a 2-week course in Egypt and Turkey, and visited a friend in Paris.  I also applied for a study abroad program in Barcelona during my last semester.

kristina elephant thailand

I was accepted into that program and spent 4 fabulous months living and studying abroad in Barcelona.  My wanderlust was unleashed as I hopped around Western Europe, visiting as many places as I could.  Eventually I completed my MBA and re-entered corporate America.  Here, I resumed the life I had been living before business school, where all of the exciting things you hope to see and do go on the “one day” list (as in “one day” I’ll take a food tour in Paris or “one day” I’ll play with Elephants in Thailand).  As my list grew longer, I became frustrated that I wasn’t really living my life the way I wanted to, and after 18 months of dedicated saving, I quit my corporate job and took off to see the world.


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During the next 20 months, I traveled around the globe and saw many new and exciting things.  I also spent months visiting friends and family that I hadn’t found the time to see in years.  It was a truly amazing experience.  Throughout this time, I felt a range of emotions:  proud, excited, nervous, doubtful, brave and powerful.  But above all these – I finally felt free.

kristina sabbatical year

I spent this magical time playing with the elephants in Thailand, living like a local in Buenos Aires, practicing my Spanish in Colombia, eating my way through Italy, discovering the magic of Provence, becoming a certified yoga instructor in Bali, falling in love with Vietnam and seeing the awe-inspiring majesty of Angkor Wat.  

   The Sabbatical experiences still live on within me and shape my life.

kristina bike ride sabbatical

This Sabbatical experience was incredibly empowering.  We can all do so much more than we often think is possible.  I faced challenges during this time and there were hard days, but I have no regrets and can’t imagine my life without this experience.  I scratched off a lifetime of “one day” items and did things on my own terms.  I also learned to trust (both the universe and myself) – leaps are scary but they often lead to more magnificent places.  I witnessed so many moments of grace and kindness and broadened my perspective of the world.  Three years later, these experiences still live on within me and shape my life.  I am forever grateful that I took a chance on myself and did that things my soul kept begging me to do.

About the Author


Katrina McGhee is a professionally certified life coach and budget travel expert who inspires her clients to create richer, happier lives.  

After her initial career as a healthcare actuary, Katrina moved on to pursue an MBA with a full-tuition fellowship and later began a new career in market research.  Eventually realizing the corporate grind was not for her, she saved $40,000 in just 18 months and embarked on a 20-month sabbatical to travel around the world.  

Post sabbatical, Katrina is using her talents and own life experiences as a life coach to help others get “unstuck” and move forward too. Katrina also co-founded a budget travel business, Attacked by an Atlas, and spends her time helping people have remarkable experiences for significantly less money.

Katrina’s clients praise her compassionate and positive approach that is always accompanied with a side of laughter and entertainment.  Her perspective on career breaks, managing money and international travel has been shared across various websites, blogs and podcasts Brit+Co, The Scott Alan Turner Show and


  • Susan says:

    Love it! Thanks for sharing your story. It’s inspiring!

  • Harshit Raj says:

    A dream is always worth fighting. I remember how things changed before and after my first trip. A walk down the memory lanes.

  • Iram Khanam says:

    How magnificent!
    Working meticulously for 18 months to enjoy 20 months of utter bliss…
    This is truly an inspiring​ travel story!

    • Katrina says:

      Thank you, Iram! And yes, working meticulously for 18 months to enjoy 20 months of what I really needed was a beautiful gift. Thank you for letting me share my story with you!

  • Prem says:

    How inspiring.
    Living free without any strings attached. We can learn so many things by travelling. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Katrina says:

      You’re welcome, Prem. Thank you for reading. I love that it inspired you. I can’t wait to see what you decide to make possible…

  • JSatpathy says:

    This is not only a travel story, but a story of sticking to rigid goals , achieving unbounded freedom, and the ability to challenge yourself to take a leap out of the box. kudos !!

  • Tharikha says:

    An absolutely beautiful and inspiring story. It makes me wonder where else you can go from here. In fact, it makes me wonder how I can do it too.

    • Katrina says:

      Thank you, Tharikha! That was exactly the point… if I can do it, you can do it too! I hope you’re making a plan to make your dreams come true. Thank you for the wonderful comment!