Welcome to our super happy fun round-up of the year - our lovely December tradition where we scoop up the best of everything we've produced and found over the past year, and chuck it in this lovely newsletter, just for you!
And a very special hello to those of you who received our top secret email! Thank you for... well, you know. We're glad you're here. And if you haven't received a top secret email yet, fret not! We're adding you to our "top subscribers" list which means you'll be in line for some special treats and previews next year!
There's a lot in here today, so turn up the festive tunes, grab yourself a mince pie, and take a break from work to have a read of this.
If you've been under a stone for most of this year, or too busy looking at far flung places on Instagram, you may have missed the fact that we are writing a BOOK! It is massive and we've already got loads of contributors on board, sharing their stories, providing useful information and giving other career breakers useful advice.
If you want to be involved and you haven't pulled your finger out yet, just reply to this email and tell us what you want to share - whether that's a tip, your story or even your favourite travel picture. Career break organisations can fill in their details here.
And keep your eyes peeled for when we do launch the book - it's crammed full of career break insights you won't find anywhere else and includes the biggest hand-picked directory of career break and gap year organisations EVER published!
NEWSLETTER NEWS - BIG CHANGES COMING!
We're changing the format of this newsletter from next month. Based on feedback from you, our lovely readers, we're dropping a lot of the sections and focusing more on what we're doing (work-wise, not how many gins we sink on a Saturday night). It will mean we can spend more time adding new stuff to the site as well, making ourselves more useful to you! Nice, eh?
The joke remained the most-complained about section of the year (although one reader said the jokes were improving) - so you will doubtlessly be delighted to know that this is one section that's going to stay!
BEST FREE EBOOKS AND GUIDES OF THE YEAR
Japan Travel is a free ebook by uber career breaker Pete Martin, who is also a frequent contributor to our blog and all-round fascinating man
Travel Europe on a budget - free ebook that we hope is self-explanatory
Seven travel secrets ebooks from Tripbase. Each download triggers a donation to a water charity
101 travel tips that will save you money and make travel easier
Free guides to creating a life of travel when you sign up to Survive Travel's newsletter
40 free tips on changing career from our old friends (and career change experts) Position Ignition
Free ebook on round-the-world flights from vetted and approved company roundtheworldflights.com (so they know what they're talking about, obvs).
Free guide to teaching English in Vietnam from Premier TEFL
BEST FREE APPS OF THE YEAR
Free web app to help you find somewhere to stay - it's like couchsurfing only you can choose to stay with friends of friends and other community members
Free app that provides audio guides to various attractions around the world - WARNING: plays loud and not very good music automatically
Free translator app - ipad and iphone only
Hollieguard is a free personal safety app - it's designed mainly for vulnerable people but can help you feel safe when you're on the road too
Tourlina is a free app for solo female travellers, allowing you to find and meet them
Moovit is a free app for live public transport info, in the UK and a number of other countries
Free app to help you beat jetlag - if you can't medicate your way out of it
Mitty is an app that bills itself as the "only travel app you'll ever need". We'll let you be the judge! iOS and Android
Free app to track your laptop, tablet or phone if it gets nicked (paid plans also available)
OTHER STUFF FROM OUR FREEBIES AND DISCOUNTS SECTION
Loads of discount vouchers to attractions in the UK, USA and Europe - the site will make your eyes bleed but the discounts are good!
Free condoms from Cozy Condoms - travel safely, kids!
Save money on international calls with the Wowapp which promises to share money with good causes.
Free calls and texts with Dingtone - and cheap international rates too!
Free travel discount card if you're unemployed - if you're looking for a job, you can get a free railcard to help offset the cost of going to interview. Link goes to a government page with details of all the free or discounted travel stuff they offer.
Tax relief on your uniform (buying or cleaning it) if you wear one for work, and there's a flat rate you can apply for if you've lost your dry cleaning receipt.
Free currency exchange with the Revolut card.
Free tool to budget your year out. Get it from The Sabbatical Guide when you sign up to their newsletter.
BEST OF THE BLOG THIS YEAR
Your favourite interview this year, and ours, was this shocking story from a wonderful woman named Carly, who got in touch after her disastrous career break. She is one of the most courageous people we've ever interviewed (which is saying something, in this job) and shared her story to help you avoid the same mistakes, which is incredibly generous.
Our most popular article on the blog this year was called You need a career break - here's why, closely followed by How to get a promotion without doing any real work. Both of which are self-explanatory!
Out of all our guest posts, the most-read was this one from Chris at BUNAC: One man, a thousand girls - working at an American summer camp. It's a great insight into what being a camp counsellor is really like, and includes lots of great pictures.
Our most popular updated post this year was How to avoid the latest travel scam which was updated with the help of Twitter travel experts Mapping Megan, Just a Pack, Pete Martin, Melvin of TravelDudes and Mike of Bemused Backpack. Thanks guys!
Finally, your favourite crowd-sourced post this year was the unimaginatively-named Top travel tips from top travellers, which brought together some really useful tips from Travel With Sim, Going Somewhere Slowly, chocophilenyc, MiradorDesign, Steve Phillips, trot.world, some people in our office, and a load of people on Facebook.
You can read all our blog posts on here - there's literally hundreds of them, so you're bound to find something that you need right now!
And remember to get in touch if you want to be featured next year.
FACEBOOK AND TWITTER
We've been doing a lot on social media this year, and next year will be doing a greater range of stuff, as we're not only moving a lot of the newsletter sections to Facebook and Twitter, but we're also doing more things to involve you lot!
We've been doing various fun stuff over on Facebook, including a caption competition which was popular for a while (especially amongst people who kept winning) but has now been replaced with irrelevant question of the week. We also do an occasional Sunday Chill feature, to help calm you down before the week ahead. The best thing about our Facebook page though, is how our members have helped each other with advice and tips - and helped us too, we've picked up some great info there! We're not name-checking anyone here cos of privacy (rare indeed in Facebookland) but do head on over there if you want to join in.
We've been busy on Twitter as well. Our top Twitter follower by a country mile was Bemused Backpack, expert traveller and great travel writer. He (it's a man called Mike, not an actual backpack), was followed by our own colleague and photographer Mirador Design and world traveller and chocolate expert Chocophile George. After them we have the lovely Lorraine Schofield, ClaimScore (who interviewed us), The Sabbatical Guide, Jennifer Stewart, Tony Restell (who we interviewed), Becky the Traveller, and the simply-named Lisa.
EVENTS COMING UP NEXT YEAR
BUNAC Summer Camp Fairs in Dublin, London and Glasgow, January only. There are FREE CV writing workshops and you could get hired to work in an American summer camp next year!
Projects Abroad information evenings to find out about volunteering overseas. January to March, in various cities in the UK, plus a webinar.
Destinations Holiday and Travel Show, Manchester and London, January and February respectively.
Click here for more details and to book (it's £8.50 but we'll let you know if we score any free tickets)
Adventure Travel Show, London, January. Again, you have to pay but they sometimes chuck us some free tickets so we'll let you know if we've got any going spare!
MESSAGE OF THE YEAR AND TIP OF THE YEAR
We got far too many wonderful messages and tips this year to pick a favourite. We are getting lots more reader contributions in the tips section now, which is great because it means our readers bring useful information that we might have missed, and are good enough to share it with everyone!
Most of our messages are still questions about career breaks, which is great because lots of you have similar ones and answering them here means we can help a lot of you at once. And we are honoured that so many of you take the time to get in touch to say how we've helped you or how great our site is - we really do appreciate your kind words.
Still the most controversial section of the newsletter, the joke's not going anywhere! Here is today's, with both a festive and travelly feel:
Saw a sign in the butcher's window saying "Turkey £29".
I thought "That's even cheaper than EasyJet."
Think you can do better? Tell us your best joke!
It's been an incredibly busy year for us, we've had so much going on with staff changes, writing our book, getting new partners set up and working on some other top-secret bits and pieces (which you'll be first to know about of course).
In all that, our favourite thing by far has been YOU LOT - whether it's responding to something in this newsletter, chatting on Twitter, joining in with Facebook posts (did we ever sort the llama/alpaca debate btw?) or giving us a call to talk through your career break options. It makes what we do all worthwhile so we just want to end this by saying a massive THANK YOU for being awesome.
We're back in January, earlier than usual with our New Year Special. Until then, have a wonderful Christmas and we'll see you next year.
The Career Break Site