What triggered one of the most important decisions of my career - A sabbatical?
What started as a random thought early last year was going to take shape through the year and culminate into one of the biggest decisions of one’s career- a sabbatical.
By 2016 I had spent 4 years in a fast growing high tech company in a high-flying job (literally). I used to travel 4-5 days most weeks. Although the travel was demanding sometimes and I was living out of suitcases, I ensured to get enough time for myself to do stuff I enjoyed outside of work. I was also happy with what had been achieved on the professional front and was passionate about my work which made me jump out of bed day in day out. I had worked on a specific initiative ground up over the past couple of years and it was time to reap the benefits of its success. So, you may ask what triggered the move then?
I was looking for another challenge and that was pushing me at the time when one thing led to another. Still unsure where did the epiphany come from but here I am exploring the possibilities.
Was it the Bhutan trip which happened to be my first tour with a group ever. We cycled our way through the country for 10 days and met some of the most beautiful people ever. Everything about the country is so serene and peaceful that we are suddenly awakened from the numbness of the city life we live where we are eternally trying to find a balance but end up integrating everything. Not for a moment, I am suggesting that it was a difficult life but can say I was blessed as it certainly was way more than I had expected. Bhutan helped me open my horizons & look beyond. Was this the epiphany? The entire trip was life altering from the time we set foot on the majestic land and inhaled the first breath of such fresh air. It was amazing how people could be so happy and helpful even with their basic means.
Or was it the solo road trip to Goa that changed something? One thing that these and a few other travels offered me was a lot of time with myself for introspection and asking the questions that get silenced over other priorities. By the end of the year and having spent half a decade in my current organisation, I had made up my mind of taking a break. At this point, there wasn’t any planning on the length, travel schedule if any or financials but I had decided to dive deep into it.
Since then, I have travelled far and wide across the country starting from beach trekking through the serene beaches of Gokarna, to trekking in the magnificent Himalayas. From deep sea diving, snorkelling and kayaking in the Andamans to attending a writing retreat in the Himalayas, from road tripping in the North east to a Delhi-Amritsar cycle ride. The time off has also given an opportunity to get back to a regular fitness routine which includes running, cycling, yoga and trekking. And while you are at it, you meet new and like-minded people, make friends and open your horizons further. That’s just the icing on a sumptuous cake!
Travel helps you step out of your comfort zone and learn new life and survival skills. These come in handy when you go back to your professional life. On travel, I go out of my way to connect with people, start a conversation and always end up being surprised by the common interests people share from across the globe. There is always so much to talk and share that you don't feel that this is your first meeting with that person. Travel also helps you believe in the magic of life when you let it take its course. I met a Belgian couple in Gokarna at the start of the year and we became great friends. However, we could not stay in touch because they liked to stay away from phone or internet. Three months later, we found each other again this time in Himalayas trekking and celebrated our reunion to the hilt. When you believe in the magic of life, you become more optimistic and that positivity rubs off on your work.
Travel also helps you view life's challenges with a whole new lens. We did a crazy thing in Bhutan when we cycled across a suspension metal bridge just wide enough to have people cross in a single file. Even while walking one had to hold on to the side to balance. It was a challenge that we took up and all of us were successful in overcoming our fears and conquering it. The fallout of such crazy adventures is that the same boardroom problems that were the bane of your existence might not seem that difficult to overcome anymore.
I have taken breaks before whether a 3-month break to upskill after my first job or a month long break after my stint with a startup before the last job. Time-offs help you reflect, flush and refresh and reinvigorate to fight the challenges of the next few years. There are theories of a year off after every seven years. I am all for it but I believe every time you want to move careers or jobs, it’s important to flush out the good,bad and ugly of the current role and start with a clean slate and fresh perspective for the new role. An open mind is the basic ask of any new work and time-off helps with that.
All the best with your career break! I can assure you that it’s the best thing you gift to yourself as well as your next employer.