How to tell family and friends you are leaving the country for a year

Guess what?

As my wife Jammie and I have just gone though the process of telling employers, friends and family that we are leaving the country to travel the world and do service projects for a year, I thought this would be a good time to talk about what worked and what didn’t. So here’s a list of dos and dont’s for spreading the word before you hit the trail:


Hustle – Don’t take forever. If need be, schedule your important conversations. Make sure you get in-person conversations with anyone in your inner circle that is close by. Call loved ones that are far away. These critical conversations should not take more than a few days. Everybody else can find out via email. So as to protect privacy and avoid undue snooping, Bcc everyone so that people can’t tell who else is getting the email.

Sequence – The order in which you have your conversations is critical. At work, tell your boss and any other management first, THEN send out the “dear colleagues” email. Get the order wrong and you will look clueless and unprofessional.  With family and friends, start with your inner circle first.  Get that wrong and you’ll have some hurt/mad energy to fend with.

Keep it lightYou have thought a lot about your big move. You thought through all the pros and cons. You’ve agonized over all the details. You’ve second guessed yourself, gone back and forth. In the end, your transformational trip (rightfully) triumphed over the idea of more time on the hamster wheel. But most people don’t need to know all this. Keep it light. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel and do some good.” Nuff sed.


Forget people – I know it is hard to remember everyone as you make your round of announcements. But be as deliberate as possible about this. Make a list of everyone that should know. Follow the above instructions RE in person and email communication. Then hit the social networks. This should cover most people.

Overthink – It is easy to overthink who to tell and how. My wife Jammie and I were nervous about telling her dad about our plans. Would he approve? What would he say? How do we even bring it up? In the end, we just went for it. We said we had an announcement. He thought Jammie was pregnant! When we delivered the news, he got into it and was super excited. We could have skipped the agonizing.

A final word. Once you get started, spreading this kind of news becomes easier and more polished.  So make it easy on yourself by taking a “rip off the bandage” approach.  Good luck.



Bjorn Karlman