I checked my work email inbox one more time. I turned off my laptop and carefully closed it shut. It was the last time I would think about “work”, at least in the sense that I knew it, for the next 7 months. Today was my last day of work before kicking off a “career break.”
My spreadsheets, PowerPoints, and meetings would be replaced with a satchel, a new sense of purpose, and a mission. In a few short weeks, I’d be leaving on a one-way flight to Iceland.
But I had one last email to send. I decided to send a note to my co-workers announcing my plans to travel around Europe for 7 months:
Dear Fellow IBMers and Friends:
Starting tomorrow, I am taking a Personal Leave of Absence through the end of 2012. Don’t worry, nothing is wrong. I’ve just decided to take some time off from work to travel around the world and focus on some of my life goals. While there may never be a perfect time to take a trip like this, there may never be a better time than right now.
I’ll be maintaining a website to stay in touch with friends and family over the next 7 months. If you want to stay updated on my travels, please let me know and I’ll add you to my email list.
Best of luck through the remainder of 2012. Stay in touch!
Ciao for now,
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain
At first, I was hesitant about sending such an email. It wasn’t like I was quitting or retiring (well, I guess this could be considered a “mini-retirement”). And I thought an announcement like this could come off as self-absorbed or boastful. Or worse, it could tarnish the reputation I’d built as a responsible, logical, and sane person. But I genuinely wanted to let the people I had worked beside know my plans and my dreams. And as the Explorifesto states “Share Your Story and the Story of Others.” I’ve learned that incredible things happen when you share your story. So I sent the email.
And the response was incredible! Almost everyone responded, and each response was a boost in confidence and gave confirmation that I had made the right choice:
That is awesome! Let me know if you land in Hong Kong, Warsaw, or London during your travels-I have recommendations for those cities. My personal email address is email@example.com; send along your website-it would be great to live vicariously through your travels.
How exciting! I hope you have a wonderful time. Put me on your e mail list. Live well, expand your territory, and make friends along the way.
Great to hear from you, especially with your news about your travels. You may recall, I was in the Peace Corps (many moons ago) and worked/lived in Cameroon, West Africa for over 5 years. It was a life changing experience, and I have always valued and cherished the opportunities to travel to foreign lands. I’d love to be on your email list. Bonne Voyage !!
Good luck Matt, may the ‘force’ be with you and you find real happiness along the way. Take care, let me know if you are going east… call me for anything. Cheers!
Hey Matt… Great to hear from you… Please add me to the list… Also enjoy your adventures. I can’t wait to hear about them… Take Care…
Good luck. Safe travels. I look forward to seeing your updates on your grand adventure.
This email made me so jealous.
Dude … A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. I stole that from Steve Jobs. Enjoy and keep in touch.
Matt – Wish you all the best on your journey. Please do keep me updated on your travels. Taking time away is a difficult decision but one I hope you find to be very rewarding. Looking forward to hear the highlights of your trip……..Stay safe and live every day to it’s fullest.
Great to hear from you Matt! Best of luck with the trip, hope you have a blast! Definitely add me to the distribution list, would love to see where your travels take you.
Hey Matt … so excited for you and your around the world trip! Would love to get the link to your blog and follow your travels. I have been around the world a few times so if you ever need a local tour guide, let me know and I will see if I have any friends where you are going. Always better to see places from a local point of view, in my opinion! Travel safe. Enjoy the next few months, its gonna be unforgettable!
Matt, I applaud you for having the wisdom to prioritize in this way at this point in your life. Please do add my personal email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) to your distribution as I would like to here about your adventure as it unfolds. All the very best to you in your travels and may God bless your experience. Be safe and best regards.’
Good luck! I am jealous…Take care. Stay well.
Enjoy Matt…..you’re doing the right thing. Make the most of your time….it really goes by fast! Keep in touch.
What a great opportunity! Have a great time and safe travels. I’d love to follow your travels add me to your list!
Wow. Good for you! Something I’ve always wanted to do myself. Have fun and enjoy, but be safe!
Matt, I admire your courage. I even printed out your Mark Twain quote and pasted it on my wall to ponder….It’s been great working with you. Best of luck!
Good working with you for the past couple of months. Good luck on your journey. Stay out of trouble… Go ahead and put me on your list, I would like to see what you are up to.
Sounds amazing Matt, enjoy it!!I love to stay updated on people’s travels even just to get new ideas for where to go to next, if you don’t mind adding me to the email list I’d appreciate it!
Enjoy! I took at LOA for 4 months and it was amazing … take the time when you can.
Fantastic! I knew you were smart. Did not realize how smart.
Wow Matt – that is great. You are doing what most of us just dream (and not do anything about it). Have a great trip around the world and have fun!!! Good luck!
Good to hear from you almost after a year. Good Luck and Best Wishes for the new venture. Definitely add me to your list and would like to know where in the world Matt is? just like NBC does, Where in the world Matt Lauer is? Definitely keep in touch.
I’m happy to hear that nothing is wrong…..I’m jealous that you are able to throw caution to the wind and explore! We hope you come back to IBM once you continue your adventures. Definitely, please add me to your email list so I can keep up with you and travel vicariously!
And my favorite…
Matt!!! YOU ARE MY IDOL! Your Mark Twain quote inspired me on this dull Friday 🙂 Have so so so much fun and make sure to enjoy every moment – take pictures, keep a journal, update your blog! This will be a trip that you will never forget. Make sure you send me your blog link! And also let me know when you get into NYC at the end of the month so we can get together and say hi in person!
Sharing your story is a magical thing. By sharing your story with others, you invite them into your world and enable them to care. And when people care, they help and encourage you achieve your wildest dreams.
To everyone who responded…THANK YOU for caring. I’m thrilled to have you along for the ride.