Doing the unexpected

While traveling or simple spending time somewhere, it is sometimes those simple things often unexpected at all that make the difference. Through years I have learned that a too hasty and too well filled in itinerary may end in disappointments. We will simply never see it all and visit it all. This year I caught myself a couple of times making things totally not planned that unexpectedly ended in catching the momentum, plain and simple.

T h e   S p a n i s h   s u p p e r

In April I went on a short packaged city break to Madrid (Spain). Our plane was cancelled, so we had to make a decision whether to fly next day for only 48 hours or to withdraw. I decided to go. As we finally got there, we made as planned a short walk in the city centre and later on for one hour visited the royal castle (palace). Quite shortly after … both the pilot and the guide gave us three hours of free time. Not very professional, at all. It was around eight. I was simply tired after an idle 30 hours spent between airports and hotels. It was too early to go to a restaurant – they open in Madrid around nine, and too late to do something productive. I managed only to ask the guide whether there are any restaurants open in the vicinity at this hour. He pointed out the direction. Most of my European travels I take alone. If it is a packaged tour the company is not difficult too find. This time it was not so. I found myself on my own without company in the evening hour in a foreign city I was the first time to. Finally, I found a restaurant already open. It was not very inviting, almost empty. I made the order. But, within half an hour or so I found myself in a busy and dynamic place, filled in with people, very polite service, eating a true Spanish stake sipping delicious Spanish red wine. After I finished and waited for my bill the waitress brought me a variety of delicious sweets. The evening that started in a disaster turned into a special one (>>>).

Spanish food. Delicious Spanish stake and a sip of red wine.

O n   a   b i k e   o n   H o l l a n d’s   s h o r e

In September I had a short job in Brussels (Belgium). As it usually ends in a very intensive and busy time, I decided to come there the weekend before. My plan was to take my camera and visit Bruges on Saturday and Ghent on Sunday (Belgium). Not more and not less. Two well preserved medieval cities with plenty to see and photograph. No other planning. But as I got to my hotel on Friday I called a colleague local in Brussels to ask whether they have any party time plans for the next week so that I have could joined them. Yes, they had. On Sunday, they planned to bike in the Netherlands. Instead of a photo session in Ghent I found myself making 60 km on a bike on Holland’s shore. As I often bike, the mileage was not a problem. So unplanned I spent the Sunday in a good company, biking on the Holland’s shore. I had the wind in my hair and the views were tremendous (>>>).


T h e   C h o p i n   a f t e r n o o n   i n   W a r s a w

The very unplanned highlight this year happened however in Warsaw (Poland). On a sunny and a truly hot Sunday afternoon in July I decided to visit the royal parks of Lazienki, including the botanical garden located there. It was high Summer, so I expected to make many photos of beautiful flowers (which I did by the way). I took an express bus that stops only on selected stops. But unplanned as a courtesy for an elderly lady the driver opened the doors at a stop not in his itinerary. Many people got out. Without giving it much thought I did so, too. As it was already in the parks area (it is quite widespread)  in a spur of a moment I decided to go to my destination on foot.  I  did not however reach the royal palace. As I got out, I heard it, the piano music all around. No idea how I made it, but I have simply forgotten that if on a Summer Sunday in Warsaw and in the city centre, this is the must-be place. For the next hour or so I found myself lying on a grass and listening to a piano concert. Catching simply the momentum (>>>).


Enjoying a tasty steak in Madrid, biking in Holland and catching the momentum while listening to a Chopin piano concert in Warsaw. Although unexpected it felt right well where it should have been.

Still on sabbatical. The quiet phase

Half a year ago, willingly or not I sent myself on a sabbatical. I decided to end things at work no longer eager to cope with a glass ceiling. The company, to which I was to switch, went however through some turmoil the same week as I made my mind. As I still wanted to join the team, I decided to wait. Three months later the new executive board was still not sure as to the new company strategy. As I had a short job abroad in September that I was truly interested in and the summer was just at my door I decided not to look for an alternative.

I just finished a year long training in a psychological school that besides extensive knowledge about how to manage teams and how to cope with day to day HR problems, gave me quite a huge insight into my own mindset. So, I coached myself into the downtime. Hereby, I did not have any urgent financial constraints that could have dampened this decision. The latter, although some would say ‘money does not matter’, matters. And today, I am very grateful to all people who advised me on a habit of putting aside.  The last half year was indeed a true time of resting and gaining the life power.

JMA_Paris_67The panorama of Paris. A photo made while on the Eiffel tour. The place, where my sabbatical practically started February this year. As I planned the trip, a month earlier on the New Year, I did not think of quitting. But life plays unexpected scenarios. 

End of June I made a note on this blog on how I was perceiving my situation. Now I can compare those thoughts with my current perception. That time I was keen to arrange for all possible things that I have neglected through years. And I made it. At least the vast majority of them. I would call it an ambitious phase. Aside of my plans for September, later on I was only thinking of how to arrange my free time. More sports was at focus. For a moment, I even stopped making traveling plans. But the latter was rather in line with a rule I caught up once from a friend: ‘if you want to truly travel and sightsee, avoid the high season. Besides, you will save money’.

As the life is full of surprises, two or three weeks after I summed up my three downtime months, I was called by a couple of people, asking me for some advisory services. I accepted two of the proposals. In a spur of the moment I asked a colleague’s wife, who is an accountant, to prepare all documents needed to register me as self employed. So I spent August and September focusing on two truly intellectual jobs plus the short one I was contracted out earlier. Technically it was work. But for a former academic, who once left the university, it was true fun in particular as these were jobs requiring only one or two weeks workload. Thus, there was no feeling ‘when will this end’, as it is the case in longer projects. Besides, in comparison to managing daily operations and people, and constant solving of problems, it was a quite quiet kind of a job. Continue reading

Enjoying sabbatical

From time to time psychologists advise on taking sabbatical to cope with a professional burnout. The idea always seemed quite logical to me (provided that one has the financial resources to take a real downtime). Today, I cannot say about myself that I am burned out. But I was, six or seven years ago. That time I did not even think of taking downtime. I moved however to another country for some time, a step which for an academic was not that difficult to arrange. You could call it sabbatical, as I changed fully the surroundings and people around me. My lecturing work was limited. I focused more on research. The altogether year and a half change made my thoughts more clear. Ultimately it did not however work as a cure for the burning out syndrome. I needed a true change.

As I realised the academic life was no longer appealing to me, I changed job. I managed the change within a time span of one year altogether. It was not easy. Although I did not change my profession, my new job was of totally different nature. From an academic, who felt too alone sitting in the study reading and writing, and only twice a week meeting students while lecturing I turned into a leader of an expert team, with only few time left for research. But we still did the research. We even published. With some ups and downs, mainly connected to managing a bunch of expert brains with strong personalities, it did work out. I regained my life balance. Today, I realise it was not the job, it was the balance. I needed to truly work in a community of people with daily personal contact.

Three months ago however, willingly or not I sent myself on a true sabbatical. I decided to end things at work no longer eager to cope with a glass ceiling. The company, to which I was to switch, went however through some turmoil the same week as I made my mind. As I still want to join the team, I decided to wait. It was not that difficult, provided that now for almost a year I am studying coaching and mentoring. And each two weeks I spent a weekend learning from professional coaches, psychologists and psychotherapists. As we do many practical exercises, I simply coached myself into a downtime.

The funny thing is that after two months of me having disappeared people, with whom I used to work with started to quietly ask me, or those close to me, whether everything was all right with me. Not working professionally for a person with strong professional background seems to be odd, or something similar? Even a good friend of mine, a board member of several companies asked me: ‘just so?’ Only my family (they see what I do with my downtime) and my fellow psychology students (naturally we talk about our experiences) seem not to be worried. But I am OK. Yes I am. And finally, I am starting to understand the sabbatical theory. Continue reading