Last year I spent 117 days in Southern Africa that changed my life and offered me the chance to become the person I want to be. I took so much back from that experience, I learned so much about myself, what really matters in life, what kind of people I need in my life and what’s important to me and what I value.
117 days during which I was not exposed to hidden agendas, rushing from meeting to meeting and just being stuck in the hamster wheel of sleeping, working, eating and repeat. After escaping from my comfort zone and switching from pilot-operated mode into a self-determined life it was hard to go back into reality and my old life and especially hard to return to my old job.
When I was told that I would crash so hard once back, I didn’t really believe it. I thought that there would not be a reverse cultural shock since I had been away from home for longer periods before and I was always able to cope and I was always looking forward to come back to good old Germany. And also I was sure that doing the travelling after working in Mayana was helping with easing back into reality and Western mind sets.
Leaving I prepared very well, returning…uhm not so much – so BAMMM! I hit the ground. Hard – very hard.
Although four months is not too long lots of things besides myself had changed back home. People had gotten engaged, pregnant, divorced…During conversations with friends I was miles away and mostly wondering why I had been friends with those people in the first place.
Also the bearing at work had changed. My job seemed so pointless and more than ever unfulfilling – what we were working on, what we discussed in meetings and what we worried about was just ridiculous. I used to enjoy my job a lot but I caught myself more and more often thinking “I really don’t care why bother”. Also I will never forget how I was welcomed back “What did you learn during the sabbatical and how will you incorporate the learnings into your scope of duties?”. I was just thinking to myself “Thanks for asking, but I was not on a training for the company!” Instead I just nodded, smiled and made up a typical office-bullshit-answer.
I started to understand when people told me “I thought you’d never come back.”. Getting back into my old life was really ok. But I guess that everyone who got a taste of freedom is entiteld to bitch about their life for a little while and reminice about that time off. To be honest it didn’t take long until I waived trying super hard not to waste too much water and yes, I tossed food again because it was just rotting away in my fridge and also I admit to online shopping buying things I didn’t really need but I decided that this was ok, too. And of course I am mostly back to working a 50+hrs-week and stressing about stupid things – not as much as I used to though. And at least I am aware of it now which helps to get a perspective when taking a second look on things and situations. Maybe I pressured myself a little too much to become a whole different person and change everything about my life after those 117 days in a whole different world and environment.
But my job was really unbareable. I couldn’t take it anymore. And thank God I didn’t have to for that long. I had only been back on the job for 117 days til the day had finally arrived and I started a new job! Coincidence? I don’t think so. 😉
I guess my advice to anyone doing a sabbatical would be to really think about returning to the same job you escaped from for whatever reason. Since September 2016 I met many others doing sabbatical leave and most people seem to want to escape from their job because it’s not fulfilling, it’s too challenging, it doesn’t offer a healthy work-life-balance, it’s too boring or they want to redefine their carrier. I’m not saying one should quit their job and just go with the flow since probably something will come up when returning home. I needed that security net of returning to the same job – because let’s face it: it pays the bills. But I would advice to prepare your return from the sabbatical just as well as leaving. If possible discuss openly with your superiors what opportunities there are for you when returning and how they can support yourself – 117 days is a long time after all 😉