5 things I did on my super-sweet sabbatical
I work for a cool company. I’ve been there for almost a decade.
Well, “there” is subjective. I’ve actually been a remote employee the entire time. First from Chicago, where a cursed condo that I assume was built on top of a sacred burial site made for a very pleasant IT user experience. And now from Asheville, North Carolina, where life is so great, it would take an entire blog series for me to detail.
But enough about my personal IT experience, let’s get back to one reason the company I work for is cool: The sabbatical program.
Hyland established its four-week sabbatical program in 2014 to give eligible full-time employees the opportunity to spend significant periods of time away from work while still receiving a paycheck. This gives them the ability to focus on whatever interests them – spending time with family, traveling or learning something new. The goal is for Hyland to show its appreciation for loyalty and give eligible employees a chance to take breaks from work in order to return recharged and re-invigorated.
I felt a little weird while filling out the eForm for my sabbatical request. I already have a generous paid time off (PTO) package and I wasn’t burnt out. Also, I love editing this blog so much, I was kind of scared to go away for a month. Would my coworkers take care of my blog baby?
But man, I love to travel. So does my wife, Barb.
So I completed the eForm. And the reaction from my boss was amazing.
“That’s great,” he said. “Where are you going?”
Barb had never been to Yellowstone and really wanted to go. I had been there once during my formative years. The thing I remember most is my dad attempting to redeem some coupons, forest rangers rejecting those coupons, my dad tearing the little coupons into even littler pieces, throwing them in the air like confetti, and then marching out of the room like he was in some sort of expired coupon parade.
It was a proud moment for my entire family.
Naturally, this episode made me feel compelled to return to Yellowstone. The only thing left to do was pick the month. June seemed like a perfect time, just before the big summer crowds and hopefully warm enough.
Our last really big trip was a decade ago. Back then I had to build a website and send emails to people so they could keep up with our big adventure as we made our way around the world for an entire year. This time, it was much easier. I just came up with a cool hashtag.
Scoop + Barb + sabbatical = #scarbbatical.
Then bad news hit. A week before we were leaving, I walked into the living room while looking at my phone. Apparently, I had a weird look on my face.
“What’s wrong?” Barb asked.
“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong,” I said, slapping my phone down like I had just been caught doing something I shouldn’t have been doing.
Barb picked up my phone. And there for the whole world to see, Weather.com clearly indicated that at that exact moment in time, it was 36-degrees Fahrenheit and raining in Yellowstone.
We usually make travel decisions based on places we’ve never been to, so within five minutes we had consulted a map, 10 different weather apps, and decided to detour to Montana first for five nights, where it was in the 80s. We were driving, so no big deal.
That, plus leaving a day later, would give it almost an entire week to warm up in Yellowstone, right?
The fantastic five
But enough of all that. Let’s hit the road and check out the five top things we did on while on our sabbatical:
1. Visited Montana
“Who knew about Montana?” said my sister-in-law when we sent her pictures.
This was quickly followed by, “Can we meet you guys out there?”
I’m not suggesting my wife and I discovered Montana. I did a quick check, and it looks like the state has been there for a while. However, my wife and I had never been there. So it did feel like we were in discovery mode in Missoula.
We immediately fell in love. Cool city. Cool people. Cool restaurants. Great beer. It was just like Asheville. And, there were tons of great, local IPAs.
Did I mention the great beer?
I was especially jazzed because Missoula has a standing wave you can surf on the river. Although my body board was in my basement back at home. And we were camping, hiking, and biking anyway.
So off we pedaled around Missoula. And out to Rattlesnake National Recreation Area.
Later that week, while talking up our love for Missoula, a local quickly reminded us, “We have three seasons: Winter, summer, fire.”
In Asheville, we don’t have “fire seasons” and our summers last for six months; whereas in Montana, you’re lucky to get two months of warm temperatures. So, all the allure brushed off, but still in love with Missoula and vowing to return, we set out south to Yellowstone.
2. Visited Yellowstone
Bears. And I’m not talking about the football team from Chicago. I’m talking about black bears. And Grizzly bears. I fell in love with them immediately – from a distance.
There were some challenges – including wet, 35-degree weather at night – but camping at Yellowstone for eight nights was awesome. Here’s a list of the animals we saw:
- Two million bison
- 20 elk
- 8 Grizzly bears
- 8 black bears
- 4 trumpeter swans
- 3 baby foxes
- 3 bald eagles
- 3 white pelicans
- 2 wolves
- 1 coyote
No partridges, no pear trees.
3. Went back to Montana
Yep, one week wasn’t enough. So we headed back north to Bozeman.
Bozeman is a bit different from Missoula, but we loved it. The Museum of the Rockies (MOR) is incredible. One exhibit taught us so much about chocolate, it inspired me to eat an entire chocolate cake for dinner. And MOR’s Living History Farm is like stepping back to 1890.
Unfortunately, after a few short days, it was time to start heading back home.
4. Biked all over the place
Like I said, one of the big elements of #scarbbatical was biking – sometimes a little too far. Of course, that was never my fault. For example, during a 30+ miler, I continuously asked Barb if she wanted to turn around.
Maybe I said, “We can turn around,” which is a little different. Whatever.
Semantics aside, I’m assuming you agree with me. And we’re moving on anyway, to the northern tip of the Badlands: Medora, North Dakota! That’s where I went out for a 25-mile solo ride and within 10 minutes, no longer had working brakes.
I gave up on youtubing my way to a fix, so I called my bike shop. Unfortunately, I found out that for the last year, my bike shop knew my brakes had a manufacturer’s defect. This is after I had brought my bike in no less than 10 times to have my brakes fixed. I had done so specifically for that reason the week before my sabbatical.
Needless to say, it was a frustrating ride. Especially when I was a few miles from finishing and found out that the creek I needed to cross was the “Little” Missouri River. After sinking in muck past my knees, I decided to find another route. Three hours later, I was back at our campsite, safe and sound.
5. Attended my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary
50 years. That’s 18,250 days.
You ever do anything for 18,250 days in a row? Me neither. But my parents did it. And they’re still going!
We had a wonderful party on a boat celebrating their amazing achievement. Everyone had a great time, though I still can’t believe not a single one of my relatives fell off the boat.
Back to work, saving the world
So, even though I wasn’t burnt out, taking a month off to rest and recharge was awesome. Such a cool concept.
Even though for me the words “rest and recharge,” mean a three-hour bike ride.
So there you go. One great reason why I think my company is pretty darn cool. But I’m so re-invigorated after my time off, and so happy to back working on this blog, here’s another reason – totally free!
I’m really into nature. I love forests, especially rainforests. So I love working for a company whose main goal is to help organizations reduce their dependence on paper.
After all, this is the 21st Century. File cabinets are a little old-timey, if you ask me. And my company figured this out in 1991.
Yes, we do a lot more than just helping organizations go paperless, but for me, that’s what fires me up in the morning. Helping our customers reduce software sprawl is important, but I’m a tree hugger and that will never change.
Thanks for reading about my little adventure. Feel free to comment with a trip that reinvigorated you.
And let’s leave the paper for the trees!