Ep. 236 Taking time off (my sabbatical journey)


In this week’s episode, Anna gets nostalgic about the sabbatical that started it all, ten years ago…

It’s ten years to the day that Anna set off on her solo trip across South America, a trip that gave her the confidence and the perspective to make some big changes in her life.

In this episode, Anna reflects on…

  • The experiences she had on her trip, and how they changed the way she thought about work and different lifestyle choices.
  • How this trip led to the bigger decision of quitting her job and leaving her flat, and her friends, for new adventures.
  • The value of taking time out to gain a different perspective on your priorities in life.

Tune in for a slightly self-indulgent episode of looking back to the big adventure of 2013…

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com

Taking a sabbatical

Hello there, and welcome back to what I think will be a short episode but a really special and nostalgic one for me, because today, as you listen to this episode, I believe if I’ve got my batch creating, correct and scheduling, it is exactly 10 years to the day, since I headed off on my sabbatical to South America to travel by myself for three months, shouting to anybody who’d listen, adventure is out there.

So I don’t know if you’ve seen Disney’s UP. But the first five minutes if you don’t want any of the rest of it is the most beautiful, poignant cinematography, if that’s the right word, but the there’s beautiful five minutes of any film ever seen. And I cry every time I watch it. So that’s just an aside. But I think that came out around the time that I was planning my trip. And so that became the theme for me, I think it was my first ever blog post, because I started my blog, which then became my professional blog and business platform, ultimately over time, and that was the genesis. And so I just want a little bit of if you could allow me a little bit of nostalgia, a little bit of sentimentality, but were they, you know, hopefully powerful and valuable message about the magic of having the time and space to explore and to reflect. So that’ll brief history, in case you’re not familiar with my story. Why would you be if you’re new to my community, and even if you’re an oldie, you probably don’t think about me as much as I think you do. So let me remind you, I studied, let’s go all the way back to there to university, PPE, philosophy, politics, economics, I did an international relations Master’s, then in Geneva, after doing my undergraduate and master’s at Oxford, mainly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. And that was just another way to kind of prolong put off the decision.

I did a few internships at the UNDP different NGOs and so on that I wanted to do some obviously incredibly important kind of not for profit organizations or un work, I ended up as the story goes in the private sector working in marketing for perfumes at Procter and Gamble. And I always like to say this, and it’s very much true. I had a really amazing experience, the people I met there, the things I learned, it was the best marketing, professional time management writing, I don’t know what else school, and it has opened up all the doors, I’d say that have come since not just because my whole business now is based on the fact that I quit that job, but actually, because of the incredible network, the things I learned and the confidence and the frameworks and all sorts of things, right. So I did have an amazing time, however, I studied something totally different. I was never, you know, incredibly passionate, I see some of my colleagues still working, and they’re amazing. They’re so creative. They’re so passionate about their perfumes and so on. And I and I think wow, you know, that just wasn’t me at the time. So there was a disconnect for me. And I’d done a design role on what we call our lifestyle brands. So one of our cheaper younger brands, I done what we call a delivery role, I still say we deliver a role, which was more of a commercial media focused role on a luxury brand, so higher end, and then I’ve been promoted to brand manager, and specialize in digital marketing. And digital was a very in demand skill, as of course it is now but everything is digital now. And I became kind of an internal consultant, I was quite siloed, as digital was, and sometimes still is, in fact, in the organization.

I didn’t have a huge amount of what I didn’t have really a formal team and manager and so on. He was sort of dedicated to me. And so ultimately, I think that sort of contributed to me, you know, kind of being obviously pushed out, but certainly sort of leaked out as a lovely picture, isn’t it? So I think if I had wanted to stay in if the company would keep me, there would have been things we could all have done differently. But as it was, it was the best decision of my life. But it started with this decision to take my sabbatical. So I think it was one of those things. You know, we always talk about things to people. And we say I really want to go travel across South America. And people will say do it. And other people would say don’t do it, you’re going to die because a lot of people thought it was very dangerous. And it was, but that’s a story for another time. But it was the most important experience. And I think I had this has really taken me aback because this really was 10 years ago, and it was over 10 years ago, I had a lunch because I’m baring my soul here. So I hope no one knows until he I’m talking about him. And it’s totally irrelevant. But there you go. I’ve been recording a podcast episode. So the truth will come out now today. So in the cafeteria where we weren’t, we do often go on sort of lunch dates with people. And there was a guy fancied a bit and he was new. And I thought I’m gonna get out of my comfort zone. I’m going to ask him for lunch. And we did go. And he was very lovely. And I think he was just asking me about something I was talking about.

I wanted to write a book and I travel around America and I’m going to credit my entire career.

Pivot If this hot guy at work, you don’t know who you are, who somehow and I forget the exact words, but somehow was because he was new. And he didn’t know me basically prompted me to say basically Oh, great, why aren’t you doing that? And so, off, I went, inspired by my crush from work to ask my boss for a sabbatical. And because I was in no man’s land, I was sort of at the end of my digital role. That wasn’t an obvious next step for me. It actually worked out really well for the company. So she said, Yes. So ah, off I went. First of May, May, June, July, the month before was the most stressful of my life. I was packing up my flat because basically, I had decided even though it wasn’t quitting my job, I basically packed up and handed handed back as you do in Switzerland, my apartment, I put my stuff into storage, I got rid of my cats, because I’d be really allergic to my cats for years. So that was the right thing to do. Dusty and Lunar, they were cool. And they were rebranded seek freedom Brunhilde, I believe by the quite eccentric, lovely man who took them. I hope they’re okay. They’re probably not okay, now, are they 10 years later. And I was also performing in Chicago. I was the understudy of thingamajiggy, whatever the main character is called Roxy. And so I was learning the whole role, but I was also one of the murderer asses, and trying to think which one I was now, I think, anyway, that’s, I’ll think about that later, won’t waste your time with any more of my anecdotes.

But as I told you, I did say it was going to be a sentimental, sentimental episode today. So I was doing Chicago, I actually had a really bad migraine halfway through our dress rehearsal, I burst into tears. And I’m not in any of the photos from the second act from that because I had to hit home. It was awful. But positives are this DiGiCo was amazing. It was my last show. So it’s also 10 years since I did my big musical show, my theater, which I really miss. It’s just not quite a priority for me in my life at the moment, but I will make time for it again. And off I went to travel. So I was packing up my flats. my amazing friend Stanley. He was in the theater group really helped me pack up the flat like late at night after one of the rehearsals as well. And I stayed with him and his wife the night before I left and off I went early in the morning, got a photo of me there looking quite tired heading off to, to to to Ecuador. So I started in Quito.

My dad actually joined me for a couple of weeks we went sailing in the Galapagos, you can tell that I had money in those days to do with these things.

I had a lot of money savings from living quite a cheap life and with a very generous salary from my corporate days. And this was a huge so I mean, this feels very privileged, and I apologize, but it was obviously, after years of working hard, I didn’t have any obligations, didn’t have children didn’t have mortgages, that recession, you have a car at a really cheap flat, and so on. So not for any, like incredible saving power that I had or anything but I did have money to spend on this. So we did that I wanted to go out and Machu Picchu that was the kind of adventures out there from up. And so I did the four day Inca Trail hike, also did the Salado uni, that are worth X. And that was a bit of a mix of Swedish Spanish in Bolivia, and basically went eight countries in three months. I would love to go I sort of just dipped into Brazil and didn’t want to spend too much time there because I knew that Brazil required much more time.

So I’d love to get back to Brazil and my time spent quite a bit of time Argentina, Peru. Paraguay had not so good experience there. Uruguay, Chile. Is that it? Bolivia I mentioned an Ecuador Of course, I got my Panama hat, which is not called the Panama hat in size XXL there and Ecuadorian. So what and So enough with the reminiscing, I wanted to just to have a point to this episode, talk a little bit about what that time gave me. Time space, that whole experience. So it obviously basically gave me confidence that I could travel by myself because people, including people of South America said, Oh, that’s really dangerous. You should you should do that, you know, and I got by with my little Spanish I’ve been learning. And it was amazing. I don’t know if I would do that. Now get on all these random buses take taxis in the dark and pretty much hitchhiking and all these dodgy things I was doing. So you know, also, because it did have quite a few hair experiences.

It introduced me to people outside of my bubble. And this was huge.

The people I met had totally different life experiences. They were young, they were old. They were single, they were married. They were divorced children, no children, retired, unemployed, very much outside of my immediate circle. And this is the biggest reason why this kind of trip is so powerful for you. Because you’re going to meet people who aren’t in that same. You know, for me kind of academic corporate space, right? You’re going to meet incredibly interesting people who may or may not you know, somebody was working on a potato farm that wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do. But it certainly opened my eyes to different possibilities. So that was huge. It gave me access to these bucket list adventures. And in fact, I watched the film the bucket list with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman and that was what inspired me to write my 100 things to do before you die list which I think still is one of my top performing blog posts, I still kept even though it’s not quite relevant to my business anymore. And in fact, even some of the bucket list things on there are, they’re very travel focused, I think, and some of them probably aren’t so meaningful to me anymore. So I probably should revisit that. But the interesting thing is, it’s less, less valuable for me now, because I kind of am living more in alignment with where I want to be, at the time writing a bucket list.

And writing these aspirational goals really helped to nudge me out of my comfort zone to get me working towards things that were really important to me again, and to go on adventures and things that was huge. I obviously read a lot of books, I had my Kindle with me, I read blogs, I don’t think I knew about podcasts, or if even if there were podcasts in those days, but I immersed myself in sort of personal development, career decisions, and so on. And above all, it was just a break right after years of school and university, and I did actually take a year off after uni as well. But I did a lot of work then, and, and all this work at the big corporate company. So, you know, time and space to explore is massive. And so my encouragement to you, and this is, especially if you’re at the beginning of you know, hesitating about maybe quitting your job starting a side hustle, maybe you’ve been made redundant or have that on the cards, you might be taking a package. You know, maybe if you and your partner wants to do this a long time, I don’t know. But start with potentially even a day off, right, it doesn’t have to be three months, six months a year to have to quit your job and move to barley as I always kind of say a bit tongue in cheek, a day off a weekend away a week, if you can, it could be so low, it could be a structured retreat ordered organized by a coach or something. I mean, I’ve wanted to do that haven’t really found any good ones. So I’m quite tempted to organize my own by now it’s a lot of work. And but you know, getting out of your usual environment, meeting other people having some time and space for yourself. Of course, if you can, a longer sabbatical is amazing.

I just spoke to someone on LinkedIn who has quit their job, in fact and gone off. But and isn’t, you know, thinking about the next step yet. And if you can have that, that’s incredible. But certainly even a weekend or a week away is amazing. And it’s not just a holiday, you’ve got it, you’re doing it sort of for the the more with more intention, I guess, to give yourself this time to explore. And, you know, I can give you exercises, and I have question prompts, and so on. But at the most basic, I’d really encourage you then during that time to listen to podcasts, to read books to journal, to reflect right to learn something new and to do something you always wanted to do worst case you come out of this. And you’ve ticked off one of those bucket list things right, that you’ve always wanted to do. And, you know, for me, what happened is halfway through that sabbatical three months, my boss and HR called me up about the next assignment.

It wasn’t inspiring, I felt really tense about the idea. I talked to everybody who would speak to me and I tried to get advice from friends and parents and family and so on. And ultimately, I went with my scariest, most instinctive, intuitive, least kind of rational decision ever made, which was them to quit my job. And I tried to get some gardening leave my previous HR director actually said that I would be able to I didn’t get anything at all. And I know a lot of my nightmare a bit better about this. But it’s so long ago now. I had colleagues who quit and got an amazing package and then use that to start a business and so on. And Switzerland, unemployment is super generous, but I was very much. It was more the principle of the thing. I wanted to draw a line, I left the country, I didn’t take the unemployment, I didn’t get any package and so on. Right. So it wasn’t the most sound financial decision, but it was the right thing for me emotionally, spiritually, whatever you want to call it. And I’ll probably come back I’d definitely commit later in the year with my 10 years since I actually quit my job because I guess it’s officially that sort of, I don’t know if we count September, October, but watch this space for maybe a mini podcast series of what I’ve learned over the last 10 years later in the year. But that was huge for me, I don’t think I would have known pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to just quit my job. Just like that from being in a comfortable corporate job to quitting my job.

It was a series of fortuitous events, going for a lunch date with the hot guy asked me for this vertical being then a way that was my One Step outside my comfort zone. See what I did there. That’s my brand name, one step outside business name. One step was to go traveling, then the next step was to quit the job. Then I did actually two years of consulting, then I discovered coaching, etc, etc. Right? So, you know, again, if you’re at the beginning of the journey, sorry to put you off, but there will be some twists and turns and it won’t look exactly as you thought if you’re further on, you’ll know that already and hopefully it’s reassuring that it does just take longer sometimes than you think some people are very lucky and they they fall into things. I certainly landed on my feet with my digital marketing and was very successful financially in those two years. But I then kind of quit that to to get even more freedom flexibility and fulfillment as I wanted. What I’m discovering now, of course, is that it’s not just about the big dramatic breaks and travels. So in the subsequent years when I was doing the consulting, I did huge lucrative consulting contracts.

In fact, this sounds very appealing right now. And then in between, I go off I went to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, I stayed in Marina Bay Sands that was called Marina sands bay that amazing you know, boat kind of infinity pool hotel in Singapore. I still friends in Melbourne and Sydney Sydney is like one of my favorite places in the world. I went to New Zealand with a friend who was living there for two years with her boyfriend now. husband, father to her lovely son. And we went on a road trip around the North Island did a road trip my aunt along the Californian coast. I mean, this is not this is just I’m just dreaming back to this incredible. These incredible few years I paddleboard down the Mississippi and down the Thames and all sorts right. We whitewater rafting down the Grand Canyon River and we flew in helicopter and I flew in a plane that my friend Ali had incredibly was able to pilot somehow and I dare to go with him and all these incredible things. But but you know, that’s so long ago now actually. And it’s not about necessarily those big things. And that’s kind of a closed chapter. But I also have that kind of adventurous hippie inside of me. In fact, when I was initially starting my blog, I was playing around with names like I think hippie with a handbag or you know, hippie and heels or something because that was a juxtaposition of the two aspects of me as a mother. Now I use that as a bit of an excuse. I’m aware of that, that the big adventures aren’t so possible.

But I’ve done a few trail runs, you know, we can go camping for a weekend, maybe some paddleboarding, hopefully with the kids as they get older. And I’m hoping to bring back those little adventures, little retreats that a little spa weekend with a friend, maybe I’ll do a writing retreat at some point as well. You know, so it doesn’t have to be if you’re not in the position that I was in a very fortunate position at the time financially, initially with my job, and then with my consulting contracts, to go through this very expensive, adventurous phase. But we can do little things that aren’t so expensive, that there’s still quite a lot of space and time. So there you go, thank you for sticking with me through what was I don’t even know what to call that nostalgic, sentimental, privileged stream of consciousness about my sabbatical. It was nice, thank you for allowing me to dwell on my memories, it was the most incredible thing and opened up everything that’s happened since. But again, you know, in case, in case you’re not convinced taking time off, whether it’s a day, a weekend, a week, a month longer, if you have that opportunity.

And I get this again, again, with clients, by the way, who did my incubator, and then want to launch straight and you know, they’ve quit their job and they want to join the accelerator and they want to, you know, push, push, push, they actually realize, I need a bit of a break, you know, they’ve been in that job for a decade or more, again, like me, school, university, and so on, and they need some time I’ve got a couple clients, I’m thinking now who are living similarly, adventurous lives as well. And maybe more simple life as well. Might be temporary might be ongoing forever. And so you know, give yourself a break if you get the opportunity or in fact, if you can take the opportunity, do it. If you’ve done it, if you are going to do it. If you want any more information or inspiration or any of those things, you know, I’ve got questions and exercises you can explore books to recommend and all sorts of I’ll share with you my bucket list if you want. Just email me podcast at one stepaside.com where you can connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn wherever we’re connected. So thanks for allowing me this indulgent episode. We’ll be back with more of a typical one next week. But here’s to sabbaticals and taking time off. Here’s to the ongoing journey. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.


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