A Break From Me

A couple of weeks ago marked the one year anniversary of my returning to the States. You all know, well those of you that have read it, about my struggles abroad and how I’ve quite honestly been happy since coming home. Now, usually about this time I start fidgeting and getting antsy because I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust, but not this time. No, in fact this time I want to go abroad, but leave myself behind; a personal sabbatical if you will. I don’t mean to say I want to drop everything and pop overseas again, because, honestly, that’s getting to be extra; what I mean to say is that I need this. I need to get out of this monotony because it’s 100% for the birds. I’m not looking to discover new places on a map, but new places I’ve never been within my mind/body/soul. As much as I don’t want to go abroad again (I mean let’s face it, I’m getting older, and I’m way too lazy) I believe I will have to. I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt like that before but there is something telling me to not stay wedged in my comfy supportive hole here in OK. That this M.Ed program is not the business and doesn’t need to be completed to accomplish my goals. What are these goals? I don’t know. I’m not great at keeping up with checklists and things of that nature, but a broad genre to be interpreted as the soul sees fit seems great. Perhaps I’ll go abroad again and teach, who knows. But here are a few things I’ve in mind:

1) Energy
2) Connections
3) Appreciation
4) Health
5) Relax/Take it easy
6) Explore
7) Read
8) Hobbies

I believe these are all doable in some way shape or form and will be exponentially valuable to me in the long run. I also don’t think that I’m doing any of these at the moment nor have I been for more than a year now.

There’s never a right time to break away from your current situation, but you’ll be happy when you do. Has anyone tried something similar to what I’ve just tried to express in words? I think this guy sums it up rather brilliantly and served as a great guidepost for me.

Michael WolfeFive startups and counting

This question is not academic for me. I have taken several sabbaticals, including a six-month sabbatical with my wife in Europe when I was between startups in 2001, a three-month sabbatical with my wife and two kids in Europe in 2007, and now we are about to launch into a one year sabbatical in Barcelona, Spain for the 2013-14 school year.I also know many other people who have taken sabbaticals, anywhere from a month to a year. Some with kids, some without. Some rich, and some poor.Sabbaticals are a paradox. To go into them with a to-do list of items to improve your life and career turns them simply into another form of work, one spent checking items off of a to-do list, or, more likely, feeling guilty that you aren’t checking those items off.Sabbaticals are instead about unstructured time wandering and exploring without specific goals in mind. But (this is the paradox) this is often exactly what you need to improve your career. Simply getting away from your day-to-life can lead to:

  • Appreciation – many things about your day to day life may be awesome as they are, but you need to get away from them to appreciate them. Each sabbatical I’ve taken has made me enthusiastic about coming back to my hometown (San Francisco) and rejoining the tech community, which I love.
  • Realizing you need a change – or, the opposite can happen. If you dread returning to your normal life, that is a signal that you need a change. If you aren’t enthusiastic about your career even when you are most refreshed and recharged, you never will be again.
  • Energy – getting away from your career for a while can help you come back completely recharged and ready to tackle new challenges.
  • Connections – sabbaticals can give you time to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and appreciate the ones you have even more.
  • Health – a sabbatical is a great time to get in shape plus establish a set of good habits that can see you through busy times.

For our upcoming Barcelona sabbatical, I am planning on doing the following:

  • Travel – I think you simply have to get away from your normal life to make a sabbatical worthwhile. We will be headquartered in Barcelona next year but plan to travel around Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
  • Relax – Take time off. Cook, drink wine, read. This is putting “money in the bank” for a future day when I am back in the throes of a busy job.
  • Family time – we will get a ton of time together as a family, enjoying our new surroundings and traveling around Europe.
  • Learn a language – in our case, the whole family is learning Spanish. I cannot tie this to a specific career goal, but building skills have a funny knack of paying off in the future in unexpected ways.
  • Do some hobby projects – I want to bone up on my technical skills by learning Node.js and doing some iPhone programming. This would be very hard to do during “nights and weekends” when working full time.
  • Take some classes – either online classes or in the local business schools. Perhaps product design. Definitely Catalan cooking.
  • Write, blog, and Quora – keep building my professional network, stay sharp, and stay current.

What will these lead to? I have no idea. And that is the point.

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