Updated: Nov 20, 2019
What if you could slowly explore a new city, having brunch at a different café each day, meeting new people, doing yoga. No agenda, no meetings, no emails. Just three months of Brunch. That’s what Maud did… this is her story.
Rewind to 2016. Maud was sitting in her Amsterdam home, wondering how she was going to get herself out of the deep rut she was in. Maud had lost her energy, confidence, motivation. She’d lost her mojo. It began after an unfortunate accident that left her with a serious concussion. That concussion led to insomnia. Not being able to sleep meant things started to fall apart.
“You don't really become a fun person when you don't sleep. So, it was a bit of a strange, lonely year. I felt like there was this wall around me that I couldn't really get through. I just felt stuck.”
Maud was lucky enough to be working for Philips, who have a sabbatical leave policy allowing employees to take three months unpaid leave every three years to recharge. At the time Maud didn’t know this. It was actually a friend from work that told her about the sabbatical policy. Suddenly, a light went on for Maud. She knew that’s what she needed. A break to get her mojo back.
“I think, you live your life surrounded by a group of people, by your family, by your work. You just walk your path. And at some point, you just look around and you just don't really see what’s possible anymore.”
“I knew that to get myself out of that situation, I had to open myself up more. And that would give me new inputs, new experience, new people and a new outlook. That’s what I was looking for.”
Maud - Project Manager at Philips
Dec 2016 - Feb 2017
Living like a local in Melbourne and a trip through the outback.
Even though Maud knew she needed a break, it took some courage to commit to it.
“It was just a fear of taking a leap to just go somewhere by myself. You feel like you’re leaving safety behind. I've travelled by myself before, but every time it's nerve wracking. You don't know where you're going to end up. You don't know if you're going to meet people you’ll like, you just don't know. And I've never not had a good time, but you never really know what's going to happen. That's the fear.”
In the end, it was Maud’s coach who helped her think it through asking questions like “why wouldn't you do it? what's holding you back?” When Maud couldn’t really come up with any good reasons for herself, things became clear. She had to do this. She had the conversation with her boss, submitted the application to HR, and got the approval.
Maud was also really clever in the way she arranged it with her annual leave allocation. She had 5 weeks’ vacation each year, all granted at the beginning of a calendar year (common in the Netherlands). By splitting her sabbatical leave over two calendar years, she was able to use the two allocations together – 10 weeks! She also was able to buy some additional annual leave. This meant that her salary continued during the sabbatical. In addition, she rented out her apartment on AirBnB and was earning more than the cost of her mortgage, giving her some extra cash. The result? Her sabbatical cost her exactly the same amount as if she’d just stayed at home living normal life. That’s sabbatical pro-level planning!
Six months after she got the courage to put plans in motion, she was on a plane bound for Melbourne, Australia. A place she’d always wanted to explore. “I got to Melbourne and I had no fixed plan. All I had was a return ticket three months later”
Originally Maud had thought she’d explore Melbourne for a week or so, then travel up the Eastern coast of Australia. A couple of ‘trial’ nights in hostels with the drunken 20-somethings of the Australian the backpacking scene, and her idea quickly changed. Maud had also discovered there was a scene she was much more interested in getting into – brunch!
"I would go to yoga in the morning. And then when I came back, it was brunch time. There are so many great places. I just went to one café one day, and then I went to another the next day and then I realised, “wait, there's so many more! I just have to cross them all off my list”. And that's what I did.”
An added bonus of her time in Australia was when her brother came to visit. They took the opportunity to explore the outback together. They found a small group tour and went from Melbourne across the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. Then from Adelaide right through the middle of the Australian desert, visiting Alice Springs and Uluru, continuing all the way to Darwin in The Northern Territory.
“It was so nice to experience that with my brother. To get to know each other in a different way, as adults. And now to have that shared memory.”
So did Maud find her Mojo? Absolutely!
“When I came back I had so much new energy. I was happier. I just felt more confident. I felt like I had reacquainted myself with me.”
At work, her team welcomed her back with open arms. Happy to have her back, curious about her experience.
“The Head of Operations from our design group invited me to talk about my sabbatical experience in the next global team meeting. Now I hear of people taking or planning sabbaticals more often. I feel like it's becoming more and more open and accepted at Philips. I even came back and got a promotion, which I thought wouldn’t happen.”
And what’s Maud’s advice for people considering a sabbatical?
“If you’re thinking about it, just go. You will never be disappointed you took the leap. If you take the chance, you get to do something new, meet new people, see new places. And that's always going to be worth it. You learn, and you experience so much more than if you're just in an office. Just go!”
Beyond a Break exists to help people navigate their way to a sabbatical and supports organisations to create better sabbatical programs that recharge their people. If you need a break, have a look at our services and free resources, or simply get in touch. We’re here to help you find a way to take a break that goes beyond.