Taking a Year Off
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Frank took a few months and just listened to his gut. When he reached San Francisco, he decided to volunteer at a few environmental organizations – a cause he cared about deeply since interning with the Environmental Protection Agency during law school. One day while working with the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, he set out with a team to rescue a sea lion that had become entrapped in a gill net. "There was nothing more real than the physical challenge of working with a wild animal in danger," says Frank. "It had been a long time since I worked at something I was excited to get up and do again the next day."

Instead of going back to Atlanta, Frank moved to Malibu, where he cofounded the California Wildlife Center, a nonprofit that has responded to nearly 4,000 wildlife emergencies around the state. "You aren't going to see what you truly want to do in your life sitting behind a desk," Frank advises. "If all you know is that your life is leading you somewhere you don't want to go, you may need to take a leap of faith and walk away before you've figured out what you're going to do next."

At 26, Steve Rosenthal quit his job as an engineer for AT&T in New York and bought a one-way ticket to Nepal. His travels took him through Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. One week out of that year stood out as the most memorable. In a small village in Kenya, he met up with a friend who was in the Peace Corps and volunteered to help construct a medical clinic.

"For that week I was treated as a co-worker and as part of the community," says Rosenthal. "I was no longer the tourist walking through the marketplace with a big dollar sign on my back." Rosenthal was so taken with that experience that during his time in India he started Cross-Cultural Solutions, an organization he now runs from the States that has since placed 7,000 volunteers with short- and medium-term volunteer positions overseas.