“Having some time off and away from your real life gives you time to see what’s working, what’s not working, and what you want to change, and allows you to try out different approaches to live.” — Christina Wallace
I admit it, I was a workaholic — fully and completely driven to obtain an impossible, unattainable apex called career satisfaction. Back then, I felt I was getting closer to it with every challenging project completed, every new skill mastered, or every job promotion offered. But I never reached it. I was on autopilot, a soldier to the cause of career success.
In 2000, a friend asked me to join him for a holiday to Indonesia. I immediately thought he was mad for even suggesting a three-week hiatus from my job, but something deeply rooted within me caused a burning desire to go. I struggled with the pain of leaving work for this length of time. Would it stifle my momentum? Would it affect my career progression?
After considerable coaxing by my friend and significant planning to organize my leave at the office, I gave in. I saw the time away as an achievement in itself. After all, would I ever have an opportunity to go to Indonesia again? This was a personal challenge too important to pass up. I was exhausted from the job and I realized my last holiday was almost 18 months earlier. I needed this badly.
The trip was the first time I’d been in a country outside the Western world. Everything was completely different from life back home. I was scared by the unfamiliar, crooked streets of Ubud, where stray dogs roamed and motorbikes meandered dangerously close through the narrow pathways. At the same time, I was completely in awe of the beauty of the lush green emerald rice fields, the distinctive Hindu temples, and the friendly people. I got frustrated when people couldn’t understand my attempts to speak Bahasa Indonesian, but later realized I was experiencing a new part of growth, I was just on training wheels.
After exploring Bali for three weeks by hiking, trying new foods, learning the customs of the country, meeting new people and admiring the views so different from what I knew, I returned home forever changed.
I learned more than I could have imagined about the world, and most importantly about myself:
- The world challenged me to be more open, to listen, to understand something so much bigger than my own selfish existence.
- I discovered I had been living through a narrow, closed perspective. My life was about doing a good job at work to receive a bigger title and make more money, but how was I actually contributing to the global society?
- Not once did I worry about what was happening at the office. I focused on what was in front of me, which often meant using my street smarts, or asking for help — latent skills I rarely used back home.
- I got uncomfortable because the experience was unfamiliar. I used to do things to stay comfortable and in control of the situation. I soon realized that by remaining in my safe zone, I wasn’t growing.
What I gained was perspective.
I thought about my career differently. It was no longer a pivotal part of my life, but a complement to travel and discovery. It was at that time, I changed my life.
Do you feel your blinders are on and they’re narrowing your focus?
Perhaps a trip could rattle your senses to discover the world and yourself.
What has brought you a new perspective on life?