Lessons Learned from Taking a Sabbatical

After working in the European capital markets for over 25 years, I had grown weary of the toll it was taking on me personally. I felt that I had more to offer the world than the professional work I was doing, but at the time I didn’t know how to achieve that reality. By taking […]

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After working in the European capital markets for over 25 years, I had grown weary of the toll it was taking on me personally. I felt that I had more to offer the world than the professional work I was doing, but at the time I didn’t know how to achieve that reality. By taking a sabbatical I was able to reignite my passions for ocean conservation, and create a life for myself that was ultimately more balanced and whole.


Since I was a young boy, I worked very hard to get where I thought I wanted in life. I spent three years at the lycée St-Louis in Paris taking preparatory classes so that I would have a chance to enroll in one of the esteemed grandes écoles in France. I earned a degree in civil engineering specialized in applied mathematics and computer science, and a masters degree in finance, setting me up to work in the capital markets for some of Europe’s most prestigious financial institutions.

By 2011, I had successfully spent the past two decades building a thriving career on the capital floor of the European markets. But I was working night and day, I hardly got to see my family, and I was constantly stressed. My phone became my lifeline — I was never without it, constantly checking emails even when I wasn’t at the office. The capital floor provided the rush of adrenaline each day, but upon looking inward, I realized that wasn’t true happiness, and therefore was never going to bring me true fulfillment.


Within me, I knew that although my life was wonderful in so many ways, I had the power to make it even better. I began working with my bosses to transition off the capital floor, as I was aware that this was consuming an exorbitant amount of my time and energy. Luckily, because of my dedicated tenure at the company, they were open to discussing options. I was living in London at the time where my company’s main offices were located, but I was homesick for Paris, and so we came to a deal in which I was able to take a new position off the capital floor and move home.

In addition to my move, our agreement enabled me to take a four-month sabbatical. I had always enjoyed sailing, and from childhood had a love for the ocean, so I used the opportunity to rent a 47ft sailboat, thinking it would provide me with the true relaxation needed to reset. The boat was named Cruising Bird, and I sailed her to the Basque Country, Portugal, the Madeira Islands, Cabo Verde, and the West Indies.


In those four months sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, I expected to gain relaxation and return to work with a reinvigorated sense of purpose. What I didn’t realize was during my time out at sea, I would fall deeply in love with the ocean and the biodiverse group of creatures that lived within it. I saw beautiful whales, colorful coral, and a myriad of other strange and wonderful sights unique to the blue depths. But I also saw trash and plastic floating even far out in the middle of the sea, and it angered me to know that we were destroying such a vital part of our ecosystem.

Upon returning to work I did feel a rejuvenated sense of purpose, and was able to spend more time with my family than had been possible before. I was back home in Paris where I had wanted to be, but my time away had given me a chance to re-evaluate my goals for life. My sabbatical inspired me to put my passion for the oceans to practical use. Using that drive as my ultimate goal I began planning, and within two years I was able to retire fully from the banking industry and make the move to Geneva, Switzerland where a more balanced lifestyle is encouraged.


Since moving to Geneva, I have accepted a position as a senior portfolio manager, where I co-manage their global bond total return fund. With our clients being mainly institutional investors looking for a safe, liquid, and diversified fixed income fund, I am able to give them the time necessary to fulfill their needs while also leaving myself room for attention to ocean conservation. 

I am currently involved in two ocean conservation projects, one being a photo book with interviews from over 50 people, made up of both professionals and amateurs committed to protecting ocean life. I am also an executive producer for an upcoming film revolving around the lives of dolphins and whales, intended to be an inspiring dive into their emotions and intelligence to deter the whaling industry. In taking a sabbatical, I was able to create a life for myself that fulfills me personally as well as professionally.

Follow Clement Perrette on Medium and Twitter.

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