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Taking a Sabbatical

John Ennew

Sept 14 2016

Chapter Lead John Ennew and family relaxing on sabbatical in Bagan, Myanmar

Three months ago, I heard that there was going to be a new policy in the office. Anyone who has worked for the company for five years is given three weeks additional holiday to be used in conjunction with two of our own. This 5 weeks is not optional, it is compulsory.

There is a further rule, there is to be no contact with work during this time.

I'll admit, I was apprehensive. How could I not have contact with work for 5 whole weeks, not even to check emails? How would the projects get done? How could the people in the office possibly cope without me? Or what if everything goes amazingly well and they decide they don't need me whilst I'm away? What if everything goes so badly without me there that there is no company left when I get back?

I went home and told my family, looking for support, but they were all super excited. I mentioned the project stuff and they didn't understand. They reminded me that whenever we go away on holiday I'm there with a laptop open. My partner tells me that I need to be able to 'let go' of work, relax properly and use the time to go travelling again, something we've wanted to do for a really long time, but not had enough holiday time to be able to do it.

Getting ready for over a month away from the office was quite hard work. I had to get my projects into a state that they could be handed over and looked after for that amount of time. My colleagues were all very supportive in this, they were all wanting to make a success of the idea since they are also very excited about the prospect of doing it themselves in the future. It was hard letting some clients know about my upcoming extended absence as well but they all understood and agreed it was a great idea and opportunity for me.

My partner and I have two young children (two daughters aged 9 and 6) had decided to do a travelling holiday, visiting Thailand and neighbouring Myanmar (formally Burma). We did a small amount of planning, enough to book the flights and the first night in Bangkok and decided to leave the rest of the 5 weeks to chance.

For anyone like me who did some travelling holidays 12+ years ago, the biggest thing I found thats changed is the mobile phone. Whereas last time we'd be relying on maps and locals to give us all the information, now its all available in your pocket. Here are some of my favourite apps and other tools for making travelling easy.

You can purchase a tourist SIM card in both Thailand and Myanmar for £20 which provides unlimited 4G internet across the country. GPS and offline maps (Maps.Me) show you exactly where you are and where the nearest cash point, train station or bus stop is. Booking.com and airbnb give you lists of places to stay with reviews so you can always go to the best places and where you know they have a room and know the price before hand. Trip advisor provides you with lists of things to do near to where you are which you can read about en route.

The whole experience was very rewarding. We particularly liked Myanmar with some of the highlights being the Temples of Bagan and a trek across country near Inle lake. The people of Myanmar love children and I think Western children are a bit of a novelty at the moment. We were often stopped by people asking to have their picture taken with us.

After 5 weeks, I returned to work feeling recharged and refreshed. Doing something very different like this allows you to develop your life experiences and provide you with some different outlooks. Its been good to reflect on work and life whilst away from the office and think about how I could improve both. I've taken up a sport within a few weeks of returning, something I've been meaning to do for years.

I'm grateful to Deeson for providing this opportunity and look forward to doing it again in the future.

John Ennew

About the author

John Ennew

Technical Director