Things I learned in a 4 month sabbatical while traveling the world

Sunset over the Cambodian rice fields.
(This never got old.)

When I was a kid, my best friend’s sister, Jamarys, had a quote on her door: “In the silence of not doing, when you slowly begin to listen, then anything in life can be your guide“.  The quote has stuck with me for a very long time, and after months of listening to the screams of silence, I can attest to that.  There’s nothing like a few months alone to get your bearings.  You may not figure out everything, but you’ll likely point your ship in the right direction— and that alone is worth the price of admission.

I learned a lot of things in four months of wandering aimlessly.  Although not all of them are fit for print, some are.  I recommend everyone take an extended period of time off.  It can be immensely beneficial, but if you can’t or are just curious about what I took home with me, here are a few things that stuck:

  1. Endless umbrella drinks get old after a week.
  2. Puerto Rico is not a country, and if it is, nobody knows where it is.
  3. Doing nothing gets exhausting after two weeks, but after a month, you build up endurance, after which it’s fucking awesome!
  4. When you don’t spend all day hunched over typing, you can sleep on a rock hard bed every night with no pains whatsoever. (Maybe it’s time to rethink my workstation).
  5. Chinese think all brown people look the same: “Puerto Rico?  That’s nice.  At least you didn’t join ISIS”.  I wish I was making this one up.
  6. Reading is awesome.
  7. The Kindle is the 8th wonder of the world.
  8. Eating fancy food every day is exhilarating.
  9. U.S. politics are a joke.
  10. A world without Amazon Prime is possible, though not as fun.
  11. Smart phones are the 9th wonder of the world.
  12. It’s really hard to run from the internet nowadays.
  13. The U.S. is a very expensive place to live.
  14. The only people that think the U.S. is #1 are people in poor developing countries…and well, Americans.  However… I am extremely lucky to have been born in a high income country. Nothing I’ve done in life (hard work, studying, etc) compares to this simple truth. So, stop thinking you’re special, you merely won the ovarian lottery.
  15. Naps are great.
  16. I love programming and working on interesting projects.
  17. You’re going to get sick at least once in Southeast Asia (OK, maybe three times). However, that’s no reason not to come, the food is amazing.
  18. After but a few short weeks, life slows down dramatically.  It takes you 3 hours to have breakfast, and you start putting things like “buy deodorant” and “have lunch” in your to-do list… just to feel productive.
  19. No matter where you travel, you bring the same old problems with you: so deal with them, sooner rather than later.
  20. I miss being continually stimulated mentally, so much that I had a tendency to come up with stupid projects just to fill time… So I might as well get paid for doing what I love.  Lucky me!

p.s. Yes, I realize #3 and #20 are contradictory, but such is life.  It’s not all black and white :-).

3 thoughts on “Things I learned in a 4 month sabbatical while traveling the world

  1. I have been really enjoying your writing. It seem like it comes very naturally to you.

    My wife and I have been traveling in South America for the past 18 months and really enjoying it. I left my civil engineering job and am now doing a lot of contimplation about what to do down the road. It’s great to read about others doing things differently.

    I would love to read more. Thanks.

    1. Hi Todd.

      What is it with engineers retiring early? I think we as a group are over represented in the retirement community :).

      I know how you feel about “what next”. I wish I had better answers. I discovered I really wanted to go back to work, though that may change in the future :).

  2. Very nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing for your feed and I’m hoping you write once more soon!

Comments are closed.