He wanted to leave his job at Lehman Brothers but had no idea where to go next. So he requested a six-month sabbatical to 'think' about it. That was smart.
He then spent six months holed up in his London living room playing video games. After his sabbatical expired, he went back to the same job, only even more depressed (and broke) than before. That was not so smart.
I always used that guy as an excellent example of how not to take a break from your City job. While I refuse to advocate running away to the beach, Goa, Thailand, or other places filled with long-term backpackers trying to delay growing up, I have seen that when you're trying to build a strategy for your life, it can be helpful to step out of your typical daily routine for a bit, without necessarily going all Eat Pray Love about it.
Some suggestions for mini-Escapes that I saw work well:
1. Embarking on a guided expedition.
If you're after an adventurous break or challenge, check out Secret Compass. This year, they're taking people away to Afghanistan, Armenia, and Madagascar. Sometimes, being in a completely foreign environment (without cell phones or computers) with completely new faces can have you experiencing a completely fresh outlook on issues that once seemed too heavy to unpack.
2. Taking your own adventure.
Of course, you can also create your own expedition or longer-term adventure. A friend worked on a horse ranch in Botswana for a stint. Another started up an adventure academy outside of Hong Kong after various independent jaunts around South-East Asia.
3. Doing Outward Bound.
Although I did the course a number of years ago, the Outward Bound experience was one of the most meaningful of my entire life. It was like group therapy (for people who hate therapy) in the middle of the wilderness. I did the New Zealand course and the scenery that we got to experience was like being on the set of Lord of the Rings, except with normal humans. The difference with Outward Bound is that it is deliberately designed to be an educational tool.
4. Take a creative course.
If you're after something a bit quieter and more low-key, think about a creative writing workshop at the Paris American Academy (with Rolf Potts). There are also courses like the Web Development Immersive by General Assembly in Hong Kong, or a summer school course at Stanford University in California.
5. Do an online creative course.
If you prefer to be more self-directed, you could always sign up for an online creative course from Creative Live - and rent out an Airbnb flat (or treehouse) somewhere cheap like Barcelona or Phuket and work from there.
6. Hit up a conference.
The way to join the party is to be at the party and conferences are great places to meet a ton of people in the industry you're looking to move into. If you're looking to move into the web or digital media, South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas might be the place to be. If you're looking to get more entrepreneurial, the annual 99U conference in NYC might be a great option.
7. Join Tribewanted.
Tribewanted have a range of breaks designed to help people plot their escape. Most recently, they invited 25 motivated, curious people to come together in Bali, to pilot a new type of startup community - you can read their experiences directly from the site. You can also learn the inspiration behind it here. What I love about Tribewanted is that it has a social element and consciousness that can be particularly valuable if you want a fresh, inspiring peer group to connect with.
I would argue that volunteering locally might be more rewarding long-term, but since I wanted to focus on global opportunities, International Volunteers HQ (IVHQ) is worth mentioning as one of the most affordable options. Of course, you can also reach out to overseas community organizations directly and offer to volunteer with them while covering your own board via Airbnb or similar.
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While some people prefer to take a notebook and pen and lock themselves away somewhere remote, I personally think that meeting and bonding with a whole new group of people can often be essential in figuring out your next move. I also think that being away from a screen for a solid amount of time seems to rewire your brain into clarity.
If your heart is crying out for a break but your head is blocked by logistics then I would dare you to consider how easy a mini-relocation can be with the right tools. You might sublet your place on Airbnb or find a temporary tenant through SpareRoom. When it comes to shipping or storing stuff, check out Seven Seas Worldwide, who can remove all the stress.
As for keeping in touch while you're abroad - with Skype, Google Chat, Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp, it's almost like I learn more about my friends when I'm not in the same country as them. Whatsapp voice notes allow you to capture in a forty-second voice note what would take two weeks to type out in an email.
The world is big and life is short. While change can be nerve-wracking, I've learned from my own overseas stints that anything worth holding onto can never be left behind. A little time and space never hurt anybody. And when you travel to zoom out on life, you often see things that you never could have noticed from the ground.