Wisdom//

I Took 6 Months Off to Disconnect From Work. Here’s What I Learned.

I took a deliberate break, even when things were going well. Here's why you should do the same.

Westend61/ Getty Images
Westend61/ Getty Images

When I published my first post here last year, I wasn’t sure that there was going to be anything else to write about. I’d outlined my life’s story, which in a nutshell sounds like this; I quit my job, got rid of my stuff, and traveled the world. I’ve been living like a nomad ever since. That was my story. Pretty life-changing. I thought that was enough. Or that that was it. But you never stop exploring, rediscovering and reinventing yourself and the world around you. And so it happened that after that initial life-changing decision and everything that followed, life turned upside down once again!

It didn’t start out to be super “life-changing”; I just wanted a break. It happened naturally as my contract finished and my freelancing gigs had dried up. I didn’t feel like worrying or spending time looking for new clients — for now. And for the first time in two and a half years, since being a “digital nomad” I could “get away” with being completely offline. I didn’t need to always be online or available. The phone could be switched off and the laptop stowed away! All I wanted was to have a bit of fun for the summer.

It all started with crossing another thing off my bucket list

Back in April, on a train somewhere in the south English countryside, I was discussing the summer’s plans with a friend. The event calendar was rather elaborate and I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage all the logistics, jumping from festivals to retreats to seeing friends all over Europe. So I came up with the idea to buy a car and drive around Europe, something I had been wanting to do for years. I bought a car that I could sleep in, if needed, to make sure the trip stayed within budget. Oh, and a great tip for managing a small budget whilst on a road trip; offer carpools to share fuel costs. It’s easily managed with an app in Europe.

I’d worked all winter and by the 21st of June, my start date, I’d saved up enough cash to be able to take off like that. I was a little scared about the lack of income, though. As for the first time in almost three years, I didn’t create invoices in July. Nor in August, and so on. So no money was coming in… But whatever income I missed, I made up for in experiences. I got to spend one of the hottest European summers mostly outdoors, dancing with old friends, road tripping with new friends, driving through the Spanish Pyrenees, a place I’ve been wanting to visit ever since I was 7 years old. By the time my two month road trip was over, I figured I should take the rest of the year off. Money wasn’t going to be an issue if I just watched it carefully, and finally I had the freedom to go to some more remote places without worrying I wouldn’t be online, available for clients to reach out. Spending some time offline turned out to be an amazing gift to myself! 


The best part of taking time off “normal life” was to experience a life without obligations.

Going with the flow

Being the boss of my own time again allowed me to think about how I wanted to spend my days. For a good few weeks, I felt somewhat guilty for frivolously living my life without much consideration for what I’d spend my time on. Specifically about not creating anything or being of service to anyone. But once I let that go, there was space to simply enjoy being. Being happy, being thankful to see so many beautiful places, being with my friends, being 100 percent available and present with anyone I met. I let go of prearranging anything, anything at all. If I happened to be somewhere, close to a friend’s place, I’d contact them. If they were available, then that was good. If not, then that was also fine. The usual controlling and pre-planning habits of this freelancer went out the window. And guess what, everything worked out just fine. Always. I finally learned to go with the flow, however cliche this may sound.

Sleep — the simple solution

With this flow and peace with myself that I didn’t need to be productive every day, or at least for this period I decided to take off, I released a huge amount of pressure. I also learned the importance of pacing myself a bit more. I suppose I always knew this, but never really practiced it before. Working sleep into my schedule and allowing myself to rest (what a simple solution!) has worked wonders for me! Always suffering from “fear of missing out,” sleep was usually the thing I compromised on first. However with this newly discovered flow and peace, priorities changed. Take naps if you can’t get a full night’s sleep! Chasing all the fun becomes a chore when you’re exhausted. This year at Burning Man, I finally discovered that giving into sleep actually enables me to have more fun when I am awake. The best solution for me this summer was carrying around an eye mask wherever I went. Pull it over your eyes any time of day and rest, it works!

Another trick; when you can’t seem to fall asleep, think of everything you are grateful for that day, starting from A through to Z. And don’t just think of one word, think of an experience, a conversation you had, or a meal you made that day. I usually never make it through to Z.

Seeking stillness

All this time spent driving (I drove 8,000 kilometers in eight weeks), I sunk into deep thought about “what’s next.” Thanks to a ton of audiobooks and podcasts I listened to during those lonely hours on the road, I got some serious thinking time in. Did I really want to go back to consulting in 2019? What to do after the six months were up? How should should I earn my money? What’s my purpose? I knew consulting wasn’t it, but it pays the bills nicely. Perhaps I’d find my purpose by asking nature, through plant medicine. I’d always been curious about Ayahuasca. Though from the stories I heard of people, I wasn’t supposed to chase this experience. It was going to call me at some point. And this summer it did. Thanks to someone I met during my road trip, I was introduced to a place in Ecuador where they organize plant medicine retreats. All the practical stuff such as time, place and money aligned, and since I still had no work obligations, I was able to commit to a twelve day retreat. I hadn’t been to South America for a couple of years and it all just seemed to add up. So off I went to Ecuador.

A new direction

And so, on the 21st of December, at the start of winter and six months after I started my road trip, I feel like a completely new person. My time in Ecuador was only supposed to last four weeks. I ended up staying over three months. Why? To put it simply, I attended a shamanic retreat and my brain got rewired. Old habits and thought patterns were broken and replaced by new ones. I enjoyed my retreat so much that I ended up staying to volunteer. I was able to do this, again because I had no other obligations. For once, I hadn’t planned ahead or scheduled my year completely. I stayed because it felt right. I was able to join in on a few more ceremonies, which offered me an insight into what is possible if you really listen to who you want to be, and what you want to do. I learned what it is like to really love what you’re doing.

In the many books I have read and podcasts I have listened to, successful people tell you that once you find a job you love, you never have to work again. Well, here’s another cliche, and it is true, and I am grateful for having experienced what this feels like. I won’t get into too much detail here, but I gave up some pretty horrible habits and thought patterns, which made way for a new focus, for new ideas, for a new appreciation for everything!

Take time to see what’s possible when all commitments to your former life disappear.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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