What made you do it?


Last week my boss sent out the email letting everyone know that after 8 long years I had finally decided to hang up my suit and start my big adventure. This sparked a barrage of congrats and questions, the 2 most common of them being “Where are you going?” and “What made you decide to take the leap?”

The Decision

The where is easy, Playa Del Carmen in Mexico but I digress… The how or why I made the decision is a tad harder. Everything I’ve read on taking a sabbatical has shown me that everyone has their own reasons. My original life plan was to save for a deposit on an investment property while working my way up the old corporate ladder until two things happened to make me question that plan:

  1. London property prices rose quicker than I could save
  2. My boss resigned and a colleague asked me if I was going to apply for his job

On one hand the idea of bigger challenges was appealing yet the concept of walking the tightrope of office politics associated with that level was anything but. The realisation that I was unlikely to ever be happy in the direction I was heading was both terrible and wonderful at the same time. Several months later and it’s only wonderful.

Around the same time all this was going on, a good buddy of mine that I’ve spent many years travelling with decided he’d had enough of London and was going to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico to get his SCUBA Diving Instructor qualification.

"You know you could come with me..."
“You know you could come with me…”

Over several pints we discussed what this decision might mean for him and what life might be like during and after the trip… Goddamn it sounded good! Just as I was contemplating just how good it sounded he, casual as you like, suggested that there was no reason why I couldn’t go with him…

I scoffed, laughed and moved the conversation along but the seed was sown.

Having grown up in Oz I’ve spent a lot of time living close to the beach and miss it hugely. Oz is where my love of diving grew from and my fascination with marine life. I’ve also long had a passion for photography so an opportunity to be exposed to all of these things on a daily basis was simply too compelling to ignore, almost…

Ocean Reef Beach W.A.
Ocean Reef Beach W.A. Home! I spent almost every morning and afternoon here for several years.

Excuses Are Not Reasons

I spent months finding reasons why I had to stay. At the time, in my head, they seemed so important however in hindsight they were simply excuses. Luckily I have some fantastic people in my life, not least of which is my girlfriend, who helped me talk through them all.

  1. I can’t go, I have a mortgage – rent the apartment out if necessary
  2. I’ve spent over 10 years building a career – you’re not happy, it’ll be here when you’re back
  3. My girlfriend can’t leave – she’d hate it if I didn’t go because of her
  4. and so on

The core difference between a reason and an excuse comes down to priorities and sometimes we prioritise things to the point where there no longer appears to be a choice. Children, for example, rightly become your priority over hobbies and other passions. Fortunately I have no such responsibilities and thanks to several people and an open mind to get through the fear of drastic change, I was finally relieved of my excuses.

Your Choice

Several people have spoken to me about wanting to take a sabbatical. They worry about asking for time away from the office. I tell them, “What’s the worst that can happen? They say no!” That’s the answer I received. I’ll do a later post on how you can increase your chances of approval but think hard about what you will do and how you will feel if your request is refused.

Being without a proper income is a scary thought! Figure out how long you can afford little or no income. Keep in mind it’s possible to travel for less than your current living expenses.

Losing the job security I had been building for years felt like such a big risk until I took a step back, looked at the market and realised that job security is a complete illusion!

Having a mortgage to pay off without regular income. This one’s a tough one! Each person’s position here is different so my advice to you is get professional advice. I spoke to a Real Estate Agent, checked my Ts & Cs of my mortgage and spoke to my mortgage advisor, several times, before I got comfortable with the plan.

Taking The Leap

To those of you thinking about a sabbatical, be brave! Are your reasons really just excuses? Planning a sabbatical is much easier once excuses are eliminated so find someone you trust that will help you look at why you should rather than why you shouldn’t. As cliché as it sounds, a pros and cons list can also be really useful here.

When I can I’ll share the plans I have made, the tools that helped me prepare and the articles that I read along the way but until then…

Ciao for now!

p.s. A big thanks to Steffi and Phil for your support! 🙂

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