Reflections on 6 months of the Sabbatical life.

Jumping Off Point

Have you ever felt like you are drawing from an empty well? The past six years I’d hit my stride career wise and it felt so incredible. I’d laugh when looking back on the years I waffled around in my early 20s. That was until I started feeling like I wasn’t in the right place at 34. All the plans we had made were falling apart. Somewhere between Annchen’s (my wife) visa troubles and me feeling like a cog in a big wheel, we knew the winds of change were blowing. And there we were in Berlin knowing the future for us was not going to be in Berlin. It was unsettling and unnerving for me to realize that I needed to make a change. It was already decided that our home would be in Cape Town where Annchen would pursue her Phd and I going to step into the world of working for myself. But that all could wait. In the midst of excitement and uncertainty we decided to take a time out to fully indulge into the world of travel. I want to take you through some of our travels and share some takeaways from taking time off. If you are looking for travel tips you’ve come to the wrong place. Read our recent post that’s far more useful.

Austria & Germany: Family Euro Trip

It was hard to imagine my sister, brother in law, nephew and niece walking through security and into our world in Berlin. Over the years we’ve managed to maintain a closeness while living far away but there’s been only a few moments of my family visiting my world for me to wrap my head around. Having them come see Berlin and being able to show them around Europe for the first time was a thrill. Traveling with my 9 and 11 year old niece/nephew was so much more rewarding than I could’ve imagined and gave me a glimpse into what it would be like to have kids. They were intrigued and blown away by the small things like riding in the train, walking into shops and beautiful road side stops. It was so fun to experience the world with them. We covered a lot of ground and a lot of McDonalds in just 8 days but it was easily the greatest thrill of our travels to have this time with family in Europe.

Mcdonalds #5 in Zell Am See, Austria

Singapore: I’m gonna be an Instafamous.

Landing at Singapore Airport it was already clear to me just how dialed in this city is with it’s beautiful architecture, design and art. Being in Singapore is easy. People speak english, the food is insanely good and frankly for a city in Asia it feels strangely familiar to this American. What stands out to me the most about our 3 days in Singapore to kick off our travels is how much sharing we did on Instagram. I was dead set on getting something out of traveling and I’m not talking about memories. I sadly have to admit that I was aiming for that 5K/10K follower status. Why? I don’t know… free hotels and stuff.

Bali: What else do you want?

We spent nearly a month in Bali. We chilled very hard in Ubud. Took a cooking class. Dodged some wild monkeys. Hiked, biked, swam and it was fantastic. Balinese people are some of the gentlest and kindest people I’ve met in this planet. A couple weeks in and I have to say that I was really considering staying. Why not? But with all that love for Bali I started to see another side of it. The side that is latent with digital nomads and Instaglam. Where girls are chased by drone filled sunsets and their boyfriends armed with cameras. Look maybe I’m a little jealous, I do not have the six pack or looks to fit in. But I am 100% sure I want nothing to do with a western enclave world in the middle of Bali. 

Us getting sassy for staged photos.

Malaysia: It’s always amazing to connect.

We landed in Kuala Lumpur with little to no knowledge of what to expect. We were visiting family so we put very little work into researching. We spent the week eating such an incredible variety of food. Annchen’s cousin and his girlfriend spoiled us with their time. It was a reminder to me of just how wonderful it is to connect with people. I left feeling so close to Annchen’s cousin that it was almost odd that he wasn’t going to join us in our further travels. It’s special to form that kind of camaraderie.

I thought my cousin was overselling how good these coconut milk shakes would be. No one could ever do that. Pure deliciousness.

Philippines: Doing what you love can be difficult.

The Philippines was a weird last minute part of our time in Asia. We knew it was going to be a gamble weather wise and we dreaded what we thought would be a super turbulent flight. While the Philippines was the least glamorous place we travelled to it was filled with an unfathomable amount of natural beauty.

I had my heart set on one thing in Philippines, scuba diving. I’ve had this strange relationship with scuba diving. We did our open water course as I learned that I got the job at Shopify. We did our advanced course as I quit my job at WooCommerce (a few months later). And now following the most recent transition we would finally get back into diving again more than two years later. I’ve been obsessed with the ocean since I was small child. Diving in Thailand, Egypt and Cyprus was amazing but had a few moments of underwater anxiety which I overcame. In the past few years I’ve become more aware of my thought life and learned a lot about managing anxiety. Something I think I’ve experienced my whole life but didn’t understand. With this two year gap in diving I was particularly nervous about diving. One really doesn’t know how they will feel until you do something. I spent the night before our dive in Moalboal meditating, reading about underwater anxiety and trying to stay positive. If you ask Annchen she might just say I was quieter than normal, she’s always cool as a cucumber. The dives went great and we did another 3 days of diving in Oslob and Bohol. I still have a healthy dose of fear when I dive, I’d say it’s almost become my routine. Perhaps the pre-dive fear gives way to excitement when I actually realize that I’m fine and not only fine but incredibly happy. It feels good to survive. It’s just odd to me that I can love and fear something so much and perhaps that’s part of the fear. Knowing that if I let fear in and have a bad experience it could mean that diving represents too big a risk for me. I hope that is never the case. When I face my fears it’s strength to strength. This is a reminder that spills into other areas of my life and brings me great hope.

Whale shark diving in Oslob, Philippines.

Turkey: Once special always special.

We love everything about Turkey and Istanbul. In a time where we don’t have a ton of close friends it was so nice to spend a few days with our dear friend Dilan. With her we saw a very different side of Istanbul and of course, a ton of cats. We ate entirely too much breakfast and rolled entirely too many cigarettes. This is what you do when you are in Istanbul. Our first travel love and forever favorite city (besides Cape Town of course).

Standard procedure in Istanbul.

Egypt: All that I hate.

We scored a sweet deal at the Hilton in Sharm El Shiekh which was our biggest splurge ($70 a night) in our travels. The diving never disappoints in Sharm although the town is pretty depressing. It’s a shell of what it was (in it’s hay day) but apparently that’s been good for the ocean :). My experiences with tour operators in Egypt sadly has been horrible. We did a day trip down to Cairo and it’s safe to say I will never return. Pyramids check, Nile River check, been nice to know you. The swindlers, scams and sales people are all just too much for me. All the wonder that exists is driven to the ground by people harassing you non-stop. This includes the people we hired to show us around. I wish I had nicer things to say but I can’t say I’ve had a worse travel experience in my life.

Those are the smiles of frustrated tourists.

Oman: Sun, time, sunsets and stars.

Walking the stunning beaches or deserts of Oman you can truly feel like you are the only person alive. Only Oman and Iceland have left me with that feeling in all our travels. Peace and serenity mixed with all little bit of sleepy villages. We had the chance to visit Oman for 4 days in early 2018 and decided we would spend nearly a month there in October. In this month we camped about a dozen nights. We’d drive and just pull over and camp, for free. I haven’t felt so in tune with nature in years. The days at times would drag on for what felt like 48 hours. Honestly we were bored at times because it’s so hot but there’s not exactly a ton to do. Nothing will stand out more than being on Masirah Island, a desolate, mostly undeveloped island east of Oman. At night we pitched our tent to get our first sunsets in Oman. As the sun faded the night came on strong. I didn’t know you could experience that kind of black by the beach. The crabs would come out in full force and in the darkness you became so suddenly aware of all that’s alive around you. The stars revealed themselves like a blanket being draped above. For hours we were dazzled by the prospect of meteors. All of the sudden a bright light hit us from behind as the moon rose over the hills. As the light grew the stars began to fade out. I’ll never forget these hours. I’ll forever try to remember how small I felt.

Have you ever seen this color blue in the sea? Muscat, Oman.

Cuba: Disappear.

We’ve become so use to figuring it as you go traveling. As long as you have a local sim and a couple different atm/credit cards what can go wrong. Things like Uber, Airbnb, Google Maps and TripAdvisor have made it all so easy. Cuba is an exception to all of that. And honestly good for Cuba. It was nice to be free’d from the pressure of checking our phones, our phones were reduced to cameras. Cuba delighted all the senses. Much like a trip to Vietnam in 2017 I was challenged with a narrative for history and life that is so different than what I was taught growing up in the US. Cuba made me think a lot about economics and society. The Cubans we met seemed somewhat conflicted themselves with the duality of loving their healthcare, education and country but seeing the cracks in it as well. I’d highly encourage everyone to visit Cuba unless you hate music, drinks, food and incredible people.

Isn’t she pretty and how cool is this space.

Mexico City: My God I love Tacos.

I knew so little about Mexico City. We had the absolute pleasure of having my friend show us around. There’s so much to love about Mexico City. Of course the food is incredible. In just a few days I managed to eat 20+ tacos (they are small and I’m … big). But we all know Mexican food is good. Mexico City is a super beautiful city with stunning parks, statues, buildings and nature. The people are vibrant and friendly. 2 days in Mexico City was a joke, next time I’ll spend at least a week there.

Reuniting with my favorite Mexican at the best possible event.

USA: Home is where the heart is.

I’ve been spoiled to get over to Los Angeles at least 2–3 times a year since moving abroad. With 6 months off and a move to Cape Town in front of us I was not going to miss another Thanksgiving or Christmas with my amazing family. In spite of my Green Bay Packers sucking it was amazing to have about a month back in Ventura County. An extended trip that didn’t include working while visiting was new and fantastic. Being an adult and spending mornings with my parents is so special. I love the bond that we share even if it’s bound by cross continental hellos and goodbyes. Christmas in Lake Arrowhead (mountains) was easily the highlight. My sisters, brother in laws, their kids and my parents all crammed into a cabin. We were spoiled with snow Christmas morning. Memories of the kids playing in their sandals and freaking out about the snow will forever be imprinted in my mind. That kind of joy is unparalleled. 

Magical Christmas morning snow. We’ll be talking about this for years to come.

Guatemala: The Beauty of Not Knowing.

Years ago in London we became good friends with a guy from Guatemala so when he invited us for new years it was no brainer. We arrived with next to no knowledge about our plans, what a fantastic way to travel. A few of our friend’s friends made the trek over to London and we formed a fun little crew of 6. We had such an special time with this diverse group of friends. The views over Lake Atitlan blew us away. The thought of a volcano erupting kept us on our toes. I couldn’t have asked for a more fantastic group of friends to ring in the new year with. 

Best crew of 2018 and 2019.

Mozambique: All I want and the End.

Tofo Mozambique is my favorite place on the planet. Towards the end of six months we were scrambling to cram in a few last trips. Tofo boasts stunning white sand beaches, giant sea life and a quaint african village meets expat community. It’s tropical, it’s remote, it’s beach bliss. Armed with our scuba experience we couldn’t wait to submerge into ocean wonderland. It was magical although we’ll have to get back there to spot some giant mantas. It was such a joy to end our travels alongside Annchen’s adventurous mom and her fiance. To top it off we snuck in a day in the Kruger National Park where we saw more than a days worth of lions, rhinos, elephants and of course birds. Have you ever been to a game park with bird watchers? It’s a whole new world.

Ended our travels with this insanely sweet Airbnb in my favorite place on the planet. Tofo, Mozambique.

Cape Town: What are you doing here? 

So now it’s time for the real challenge, putting down some roots. This isn’t something we’ve done in the past four years. While we’ve lived in London and Berlin we’ve really been all over the place. Living in Cape Town in itself is not a challenge, this city is stunning. But getting use to more of a routine and rebuilding a life here is something we’re really excited about but know it will come with a big time of adjustment. Annchen will be undertaking her Phd at UCT and I’m going to start a company paired with consulting. So all that to say, please come hang out with us. We have an extra bedroom, come visit Cape Town. Seriously, do it. We’ll be here.

Closing Thoughts. Should you go travel the world? Will it change your life? 

Traveling doesn’t change you. Most of the moments that should change you don’t feel as special as they should in the moment. It’s a realization that comes with time. So travel to me is an investment in memories knowing that our time on earth is short. Traveling didn’t reveal many epiphanies to me. It did however afford me time to truly reflect big existential things like thinking about who I want to be and what things mean to me. 

Travel and time with an entrepreneurial runway in front of me was interesting. I decided pretty early on that I am not going to work but at times streams of ideas and creativity would hit me. 

Traveling also can serve as an avoidance of reality and I spent plenty of time wondering if I’m making a huge mistake taking a career time out. At the same time though it gave me a chance to experience so many different ways of being, so much so that I could imagine myself living and thriving outside of the career frame I had been in. It’s funny how important we think we are. It’s funny how small our little tech worlds can be. There’s so much going on outside of there. 

But no traveling full time is not something I’m interested in. There’s only so much self indulgence one can handle before you start feeling distant from purpose. We don’t want to be a mile wide and inch deep kind of friends or people. 

So go and see the world. Leave only footprints (hehe). It might help you see yourself differently. It will challenge you. It will delight you. It is addictive. It is fantastic. But it’s just a part of a broader story. And as the time passes the memories will grow grander and the stories wilder.

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