The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world. Alexander von Humboldt
In 2016, I quit my well paid job in Switzerland, sold all of my belongings and started the adventure of my lifetime – not knowing where it would be leading to. Over a period of 2,5 years, I circumnavigated the entire earth, visited 34 countries, traveled solo about 70’000 km by adventure motorcycle from the bottom to the top of the world, established a global network of friends and discovered more about my real self than in my previous 37 years of life.
In David Burkus Harvard Business Review (HBR) article “Research Shows that Organisations Benefit When Employees Take Sabbaticals“, he evidently stresses out that not enough employees are taking time off in order to benefit – both the employee and the organization.
Return of Investment (ROI)
The ROI of a sabbatical is priceless and can’t be measured in hard currencies but real and invaluable learning. In a world where artificial intelligence (AI) will influence a significant part of our tomorrow’s society, we urgently need to invest into social skills today in order to be prepared for tomorrow.
Jack Ma, the founder of Ali Baba, stressed out the importance of change in our education system towards a soft skilled approach during the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Education is a big challenge now. If we don’t change the way we teach, we will be in big trouble in 30 years from now. Because the way we teach, the things we teach our kids, are the things from the past 200 years – its knowledge based. We need to be teaching our children values, believing, independent thinking, teamwork, care for others…these are the soft parts. The knowledge will not teach you that. Jack Ma
I visited one of the most prestigious business schools in the world where I learned about strategy, marketing, finance and leadership. I learned how to think outside the box and how to challenge the status quo. Read here more. A sabbatical was the next step of my journey of self-reflection and personal growth, the ultimate school of life which teaches you lessons you will never be able to experience in a traditional class room.
1. Take Risks and Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. John Allen Paulos
During my journey I always experienced my greatest adventures and learned the most while leaving my comfort zone, especially when facing my fears towards new challenges.
Traveling solo on a motorcycle in remote areas of the world where no-one speaks English, arriving at a crossroad in the Amazon where the only possible way to continue the path is via Venezuela (country in a state of emergency, hyperinflation and potential risk of assault) or the Brazilian Highway BR 319 (700 km on a muddy „road“ through wildlife rich jungle), or crossing Nicaragua where political tensions cost several hundreds of people their life are real world challenges.
Overcoming inner insecurities, risks and challenges of the real world makes you a more self-confident leader in any given situation.
2. Think Positive and Stay Calm Even in “Hopeless” Situations
Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results. Willie Nelson
Staying calm in crisis situations of great mental distress is key in today’s leadership functions. In the desert of Baja California in Mexico, in the middle of nowhere with limited resources of water and food, I got stuck in sand with my motorcycle.
Trying to set myself free just made things worse and I burned my clutch, making a further progress impossible. After taking a deep breath and analyzing the situation I packed my essential gear, left anything else behind and successfully seeked for help.
Being positive and trying to stay rational despite hopeless looking situations is crucial.
3. Get Creative
“I’m always doing things I can’t do. That’s how I get to do them.“ Pablo Picasso
During my travels I learned how to get creative when it comes to problem solving. Complex challenges will arise constantly throughout your whole trip… How to solve them?
In New Zealand, I decided to built a camper van without having any prior DIY skills. Like with any other challenges throughout my trip, I learned that a networking and human centred approach is the best way to facilitate creative thinking and to coming up with better solutions than being alone.
- While explaining my camper van project to the airbnb host I got a place to stay offered while using all his tools for free to get the job done.
- While working on the van, I tried to involve guests of the airbnb in the process in order to get new ideas on the construction or to solve together certain problems.
- In the DIY store where all construction material has been purchased, I “sold” the project to the employees and got invited to a “personal workshop” in order to understand more regarding the plumbing of the waste water system inside the van.
Read here all about the whole experience.
4. Cultural Understanding
Travel early and travel often. Live abroad, if you can. Understand cultures other than your own. As your understanding of other cultures increases, your understanding of yourself and your own culture will increase exponentially. Tom Freston
I highly recommend to spent some more time in a specific country of interest while doing a sabbatical and not just simply rushing through in order to gain as many stamps as possible in your passport.
Since visiting Brazil as part of my business school’s discovery expeditions and 4 months of traveling and living in this beautiful part of the world during my sabbatical, I had the privilege to gain a deeper understanding of the country, its people and culture.
Read my full article and experiences here.
Be open minded, curious and listen, be ready to learn and flexible towards new cultures in order to be prepared for future cross-cultural experiences and learnings.
5. Become humble
If you aren’t humble, whatever empathy you claim is false and probably results from some arrogance or the desire to control. But true empathy is rooted in humility and the understanding that there are many people with as much to contribute in life as you. Anand Mahindra
Going for 2 weeks to beautiful holiday destinations will most likely not give you the same satisfaction and learnings as traveling long term through developing countries.
Spending most of my time in Asia and South America, I learned how to put life more into perspective and become a more humble person than I used to be.
When I asked the manager of a Vietnamese hotel at the beginning of my journey to show me 20 different rooms in order to test the softest mattress, I slept later on in a self built camper van in New Zealand, in a hammock together with 300 other people on a ship on the Amazon river in Brazil or simply in a tent when camping in the nature of Alaska’s mountain ranges.
6. Give Back
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. Pablo Picasso
We are privileged to grow up in developed countries, to receive education or health care for free. Basic needs which are necessary to make this a better world. A lot of people on my way had not the same luck just because they grew up somewhere else under different conditions.
During my journey, I met a lot of people who were offering their unconditioned help in order for my journey to progress. Experiencing such an offer of good will changed myself and deeply anchored my need to give back to society.
In the Guajira desert, one of the climate’s extremest and poorest regions of Colombia, children are simply happy because of receiving some water. Read here more about the people and their life in the Guajira desert.
7. Don’t worry, be happy!
I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened. Mark Twain
Overthinking and worrying too much about possible future scenarios can be paralysing and harmful to personal progress.
I found it important to be aware of certain challenges which gave me headache and approached them in two possible ways:
a) Make a profound analysis and search for an appropriate answer or
b) Take on a calculated risk where the infinite result is not foreseeable
However, as Lao Tzu mentioned: “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”, it is crucial to get started and don’t waste time being worried about things which might never happen. Many times things turn out to be completely different in the end and a new solution needs to be found. Just take the first step!
I would rather die of passion than of boredom. Vincent van Gogh
Going on a sabbatical will open your eyes and lead yourself to invaluable treasures. When I quit my job I could not answer the most basic question on what my hobbies were? I was living for my job which made my life pretty lonely.
The sabbatical made me a more balanced person while discovering photography and adventure motorcycle traveling as my new passions.
9. Become realistic
Being purely driven by optimism in South- or Central America can literally cost your life. Dominik Reinhard
noun: optimist; plural noun: optimists
a person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or the success of something.”only an eternal optimist could expect success”
a person who believes that this world is the best of all possible worlds or that good must ultimately prevail over evil.
I have always been and am by definition an optimist. This kind of mindset significantly helped me to overcome any challenges in the past. However, optimism possess also the risk to falsely estimate situations or project turnaround times, set unrealistic expectations for team members and not delivering as promised. What could possibly lead to a project failure at work, could literally lead to death in South America.
In São Paulo I visited a favela in order to learn about a NGO’s activities while suddenly a police squad was approaching the scene. Read here what happened next.
During my sabbatical I learned when it was time to take off my “optimism” glasses – to get more realistic – and when to take them back on again.
10. Get rich
Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead. Charles Bukowski
Coming back to my first chapter of the article and the ROI of a sabbatical…. The investments of a sabbatical are unequivocally significant. However, I gained memories and personal growth which no one can take away from me anymore. They are simply priceless!
Deciding to do a sabbatical makes you belong to the richest people of the world.
I hope this article was useful to you. Let me know what you think…
I am the founder of zenmotero, a source for adventures and life learnings that motivates and prepares to live a more successful life. Join my free newsletter to stay updated.
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On another note
I am considering to write a book about my life learnings and stories from my adventure. If you are interested and might want to participate in the progress of this book, please sign up to the form below and make sure to send me an email with your feedback, suggestions, etc. 🙂