A Sabbatical Year: Lessons Learned

Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa

Being as this the first post after a One Year Sabbatical Trip, I decided to write my reflections and lessons learned from the experience of working on-the-go.

The email trap

Traveling  forced me to stay away from my email for several days. While this may sound like a terrible thing I believe it was actually a blessing in disguise since it pushed me to sort out what was really important and prioritize my tasks better when I took control of my inbox. Email, as many exotic electronic tools should be used in moderation;  I invite you to experiment by checking your email once per day only. I assure you nothing will happen; you can actually get other more important things done.

When time is limited you tend to adjust to the circumstances automatically. I found out that I could squeeze a full week of work in 2 days, just by focusing on the most important tasks at hand and making better use of time when it was available. Computers are wonderful tools but they can also become a great distraction as Jason Fried states in “work doesn’t happen at work” .

It’s not luck

People often tell me how lucky I was to have a job that allowed me to work and travel. I think it has nothing to do with luck. I decided how I wanted to work and that’s what I did. Whatever it is that you do, you can always accommodate and give priority to yourself over your work. If your dream is to take a sabbatical, there are ways to make it happen for your particular case.  Own your life… don’t let life own you.

The tools are out there

Today is probably the easiest time to travel without loosing control of your business. It might not be as comfortable as your office but once you get used to it you will find great rewards by giving it a shot.

It can be cheaper

In my case working abroad proved to be cheaper and sometimes more profitable than back home. Independent web designers like myself often find ourselves in between crazy work load periods and very stagnant periods. When the latter happens in my case, it is more cost effective to be in a remote island in Thailand than paying my mortgage in Miami.

The hardest thing

I must confess the hardest part was focusing on work when it required my attention. When you travel your body and your mind are somewhere else which makes it harder to concentrate on work related matters rather than the day to day tasks of the trip. Yes, traveling long term is a job in itself, specially is your trip is low-budget like ours was.

Its just like meditation

When you travel for more than 3 months you start seeing your life from a distance. To me it’s like entering a long meditation period where you are physically and mentally away from your routine. I cannot stop encouraging everyone I see to practice this exercise of detachment at some point. Try it, you will discover colors you didn’t even know you had and you will sure find inspiration from other people and cultures for your projects. Work will find a way to survive if you allow it.

Work…retire..work…

When I heard Sagmeister say this in “The Power of Time Off” I was astounded. The traditional concept of retirement had acquired a total new meaning. Who wants to retire only one time when you are old and rich? I prefer retiring every now and then while I’m still young.

I look forward to working with you!

If you have a project you would like to discuss, please drop me a line.