We may be preaching to the converted, but have you ever thought of asking your boss for more than your annual leave quota? Many businesses have finally cottoned on; a flexible work/life balance means keeping you super sausage workers onboard longer term, and career breaks are often part of the work perks.
We caught up with our lovely Bristol-based AQ, Lynds Fineran. Literary Festival Programme Manager in her average week, she wanted to take some time off without setting fire to her career.
You decided to go away last year (hurrah!). Why?
I did! I wanted to take some time out, to ease my itchy feet without giving up a job I love. I was largely responsibility-free in my personal life, and I couldn’t be certain it’d be the same next year. So, I popped the question.
Did you find your employer supportive, inquisitive, or a bit of a party pooper?
Timing was key – there was a natural gap in team changeover. I have a very supportive boss who understood why I wanted to take this time. I work in a festival cycle that naturally has a quieter period of the year where I could slip away without causing too much damage. If it’s viable for a business, I think it’s a great option. I imagine that employees stick around far longer after a such an experience, with trust on both sides being rewarded.
Tell us a little bit about what you planned to do?
I’m lucky to work for an organisation with a growing international presence so I pitched the idea of taking a three month leave of absence to mix personal travel and represent them at some international events and meetings. A bookish tour through Boston, New York and San Francisco kicked things off, followed by van road-tripping around New Zealand and Tasmania.
Did you stick to the plan, or shake it up along the way?
It was a bit of a plan as you go affair! I’d planned the US portion, and a flight to NZ a couple of weeks in, but that’s about it. It was an incredible feeling landing in NZ knowing how open the next two months were (how often do you get that as a grown-up?!). But, it did mean I had to be more on-grid than I wanted: I had to carve in coffee shop time booking travel and accommodation, working out with friends which days I’d be in town, setting up meetings etc. when I’d have rather been out exploring. A bit inevitable given the work factor but more advance pre-trip prep would have cut this down.
What did you feel was the wildest part of your trip? Did you try anything new?
Not especially ‘wild’, but I did van living for the first time and LOVED it. The sense of the unknown, and freedom of carrying your bed with you, knowing you can go anywhere, stop anytime, spend an extra night somewhere because you’ve found a kickass view… dreamy.
In NZ and Tasmania, I’d be out of phone service for days at a time; it was pretty blissful knowing I wasn’t due anywhere or needed by anyone. My days consisted of driving, hiking and spending my evenings cooking dinner on a camp-stove, reading, writing and stopping for a beer by wherever I’d chosen to pull over. I also slept under the stars at Bay of Fires.
Any tips for adventuring as a solo lady?
Go easy on yourself. When you travel solo, you’re doing everything: planning, navigating, budgeting, sorting your gear. Some nights I’d beat myself up over taking a wrong turn or screwing up in some way. I’d recount the day’s activities and realise that I’d driven for eight hours straight, done a hike, repaired my van, haggled with a mechanic, cooked, washed my clothes… all likely on minimal sleep and without a proper meal. Remember, you’ll feel more resilient and able to problem-solve if you’re eating and sleeping well – a lot of problems on the road look smaller after a nap and a snack!
What was your favourite thing about having the chance to take a sabbatical?
It was a way of not giving up a job I love whilst getting to have an adventure. Because I could plan some relevant work in too, taking time out actually helped develop my career and confirmed that I was in the right job. I was also excited by my life back home, so I realised I was living in the right place too. I didn’t pine for home whilst away, but I felt content about coming back, and reenergised about what I do, and what my life looked like back in the UK.
Kit question – was there something you found super helpful for life on the road?
Nothing life-changing, but a sarong was surprisingly useful. Bath towel? Beach rug? Plane blanket? Makeshift dress? It does it all and takes up no room.
What advice would you give to a fellow AQ who’s thinking about going on an adventure on her own, but isn’t sure?
Do it! I heard this quote once, ‘If it scares you a little and excites you a lot, do it’ – I think this really nails that feeling of teetering over the edge into something unknown but having a real spark in your belly about knowing it’s the right thing to do. If you feel like that about something, it’s probably a sign to go for it. I imagine my trip was very easy compared to some AQ solo adventures: I felt safe, in English-speaking places with no language barriers. For your first solo trip these things can help build your confidence in believing you can do it.
Also, a few months off work might feel like a big chunk of time, but once you’re home and back in the swing of work, life, friends and family commitments, it will feel like no time at all. I don’t feel disadvantaged by taking the time out. I’m really glad of that window of incredible trip memories to look back on.
Lynds’s words echoed with our own solo travel experiences. It can feel like you’re giving up a lot by going away sometimes. There’s also that fear of giving up comfort and security for a while. But ultimately, you’re far more likely to regret not asking for time out than creating time for it around your career.
Lynds was interviewed by Bristol-based AQ, Ciara who loves to travel, hike and fuel up on ice cream. She works as a copywriter, balancing getting outside with some solid couch time, writing about wild adventures and personal growth.