Back to Work

tiny house

As Told to Christina Tatu
Images Courtesy of Katherine Hodsdon

Katherine Hodsdon ’11 and her husband Mike ’10 have returned to their corporate jobs after taking a year off to travel the country in a tiny house.

Former Integrated Business and Engineering students Katherine (Glass-Hardenbergh) Hodsdon ’11 and her husband Mike Hodsdon ’10 recently returned from a year-long cross-country adventure, visiting 34 states in their custom-built tiny vacation home on wheels. Both Hodsdons took the leap of leaving their corporate jobs to pursue their dream of travel.

They returned to their home in Boston on March 21; and both started new roles with their previous employers in April. Mike returned to the software company Hubspot as a solutions engineering manager‚ and Katherine returned to Acadian Asset Management as vice president and portfolio manager of the responsible investing team.

Their tiny house is now a stationary retreat parked at a seasonal campground near Old Orchard Beach in Maine. Below‚ Katherine‚ who was the inaugural chair of the college’s Undergraduate Dean’s Advisory Council‚ answers questions for Lehigh Business about what it’s been like returning to work and regular life.

What did you learn from the trip that you were able to apply to your career?

I’ve learned that life‚ and especially new experiences‚ take time. I am forever a “time optimist‚” believing things will take me about a quarter of the time they actually end up taking. On the road, daily activities tended to take longer as well. For example‚ to make dinner you needed to figure out where the grocery store was‚ what time it was open‚ how all the aisles were organized‚ and if they even had the items you were looking for. As I begin a new role at work‚ my travel experiences are a good reminder that learning new things and developing a new routine often take time.

map of trip

Can you describe what it was like to leave your career and jump into a cross country trip?

It was awesome, but quite scary! Despite all our planning and careful deliberation‚ I was really scared that I was ruining my career and would be making myself unemployable after taking a year off. Once the announcement was made that I was leaving to travel‚ a number of my colleagues shared how they too had taken time off from their careers at various points. It was incredibly comforting and reassuring to see all these people who had successfully navigated taking time off.

How is the transition back to work life? What’s been the biggest challenge?

Some days are great and some days are a bit overwhelming‚ especially because my husband and I took on new and challenging roles while also adopting a rescue puppy. It’s really nice to be home again‚ where we can plug back into our local community‚ see all our friends and family and enjoy our new roles at work. On the other hand‚ I think the combination of coming back from a year off‚ a global pandemic and a new role have been occasionally overwhelming. Coming off the road‚ Mike and I also realized that attention is like a muscle. After spending a year away from work, we needed to build up our ability to sit in front of a computer and do focused work again. We’re both getting there‚ but it has taken some time.

Katherine and Mike Hodsdon

What advice do you have for someone planning extended travel?

Extended travel is not the same as a vacation. When you go on vacation‚ chances are you either paid someone to plan it for you‚ or you spent a few minutes here and there over several weeks. When you are traveling for an extended period of time‚ life can’t be put on hold that long and you probably need to do a lot more planning on the fly while traveling. Bills still need to be paid‚ you’ll likely want to keep in touch with people‚ you’ll need to figure out where you’re staying the next month‚ and what’s interesting in the current area you’re visiting. Extended travel is great‚ but it has a different cadence than a vacation.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were to plan such a trip again?

I’d try to be better about getting off my phone. In these current times, it’s tough to get rid of completely because phones are so useful. You use your phone to figure out where to eat‚ where to hike‚ how to get there‚ what to do and, of course, to capture memories of your trip. Phones also help keep you connected to family‚ friends and what’s going on in the world. With all these great benefits‚ it’s easy to get sucked into the digital world‚ which perhaps means a bit less connection to the present moment.