Sabbatical Itinerary

After some months of careful crafting (budgeting, flight booking, convincing clients they don’t need me anymore and parents I am not abandoning my wedding) I am officially on a three month sabbatical.

It feels amazing! I was a bit stressed and emotional pre departure (sorry LOML) but I am on the road now and it’s as if the world of work has totally evaporated and been replaced with real life.

The Itinerary:

Day 1 (8 Sept): flight to Shanghai

Day 2-4: 53 hrs in Shanghai

Day 4: flight to Thailand (sleep in airport hotel)

Day 5-11: Hanoi and Halong Bay, Vietnam with my sister (also on sabbatical but in Sandton)

Day 12-14: Train journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh with (2 nights on train broken up by 1 night in Citadel city of Hue inbetween) I am writing this from the train so as usual I’m a few posts behind my actual movements – will catch up soon and write in real time I promise. 

 

Day 15-20: Sydney, Australia with my girls

Day 20-25: Road trip up to Byron Bay and back with the realjessharrison

Day 25-27: Back to Sydney for one last w end

Day 28-33: Bali for solo time: beach, yoga, raw + not raw food ( Wedding day approaches)

Day 34-38: More Bali or silent retreat in Thailand (tips for 3-4 day silent retreats in Bali or Thailand welcome please)

Day 39-49: Back to Harlem for LOML time

Day 50-75: South Africa for family time pre wedding

Day 75-81: week in SA on ‘safari’ and in Cape Town with friends and family pre wedding

Day 82: Wedding!!!

Day 83-89: recover from wedding

Day 90: Let’s not talk about it

The goals of the sabbatical: 

Active goals:

  • Be fit and healthy: Do yoga every day, eat fruit for one meal (currently loosely in observance):

  • Blog regularly (currently in observance)
  • Develop the habit of reading more (currently at 7% – too many other fun things to do):

Passive goals:

  • Have one or more life revelations (but don’t think too hard about the meaning of life while on sabbatical)
  • Absorb elements from travels to incorporate in daily life when back in New York/find inspiration

Overall, my objective is to enjoy the experience of travel and to appreciate all new things ‘in the moment’ (very yogi lingo, sorry), initiate good habits that can be maintained when back to normal life and spend special time with family and friends, especially my parents, sister and family who are normally so far away.

Thank you world, LOML, sister, friends and fam for supporting this adventure. The objective I’m doing the best at right now is enjoying every moment in the moment!

Enough boring lead up and more fun travel stories to come next time.

The Sabbatical Dilemma

So we got engaged and I was on cloud nine. I was floating through the streets of New York imagining myself the star of a RomCom – glancing down at my ring, brushing back my hair with my left hand unnecessarily and generally feeling very pleased with myself.

But there was a little niggling question surfacing underneath the powder puff…’What about my sabbatical?’

The LOML and I had talked about it, but that was before we were engaged to be married. Could I still take it? Could I desert my fiancé or worse, husband to flit around the globe? And what was he thinking? Did he assume I was taking it, or not?
When I mentioned it to others they said things like: ”Look, you have bigger things to think about now.” Public opinion was not on my side. So no sabbatical for me then I guess? No first time in Asia, no visiting mates in Australia, no silent retreat, no hanging with my family in South Africa? Obviously I wanted to be married more than anything else in the world but I sort of still wanted the other things I wanted for myself before he proposed.
So I spoke to the LOML about it about a week after we got engaged, almost jokingly, with some eye fluttering thrown in for good measure; ”So what do you think this means for my sabbatical?” He wasn’t opposed to the idea but seemed to be more interested in putting together some of the other pieces of the puzzle, like when and how we were going to move in together and where and when we would have a wedding. Oh yea, the important stuff! We were able to make some big decisions quickly, like:

  • we would move in together asap to start the new year and our new life together
  • we would get married in South Africa over Thanksgiving 2015

And because those are not the kind of decisions that self actualize we then started to put the energy required into making them happen. We moved into a wonderful one bedroom apartment in Harlem on Feb 1st and started feeling our way around the industrial machine that is the wedding industry.

I didn’t mention the sabbatical again until a plane ride back from LA in about March, when I suddenly felt the need to unburden myself of all the unknown factors flying around in my head, like were we having an engagement party, what should I do about hints of job offers, when would my Greencard arrive, would my mom enjoy our planned RV trip around Arizona, what did I want to do with my life and what did this all mean for my sabbatical?
So the LOML and I wrote things down – what I was worried about, what my options were to address them and what the timing for some of those options was. A good thing about dating (or being engaged to) someone older than me is that he’s already had most of the thoughts I’m having now about 10 years prior and has good advice to offer.

So we came up with a plan, including dependencies and contingency and agreed that I would ask permission from work to take a sabbatical starting in September for 3 or 4 months, knowing that I would have the option to decide not to take it closer to the time if I decided it wasn’t what I wanted. Before applying for the sabbatical, I thought a bit harder about whether it was what I really wanted. The desire to see the world, while still there, was not as strong as it had been when I was single and even less now that I was engaged. What was the point? The LOML couldn’t leave his business to travel with me, what if he ended up feeling deserted in the months before our wedding? Was it worth risking the beginning of something so important? He was supportive in theory but how would he feel once he was left eating freezer meals on his own for 3 months…? On the other hand I didn’t want to regret not doing it, sacrificing something I’d wanted for a long time and feeling resentful once I’d popped out two kids and had ‘responsibilities’. It felt like now or never. I needed more reassurance that the LOML was fully supportive though, so I quizzed him and tried to give him the option of saying that deep down he thought it was selfish of me and bad timing. But he seemed genuinely supportive. He compared it to when he’d done his MBA – he thought it was good for people to take some time out to reflect before major life transitions, in this case my transition to wifedom and potentially a career change. Yes! No wonder I love him. The final test for me was whether he would take an interest in itinerary planning and share in my joy in the preparation phase – I didn’t want it to be an isolating activity. He said he would love to. Sold! I applied for the sabbatical to start after Labor Day (7 Sept) and finish after our wedding (just before Christmas). Three whole months of glorious transition.

It was approved, and after 7 years as a Management Consultant, today is officially my 7th day on sabbatical (more details of what I’m up to coming soon).  Here’s hoping it does wonders for my blogging output, and of course my future marriage!

image

A Little Something Special

Image

The LOML and I got back from South Africa to a freezing cold winter in New York. I was happy that he’d liked the country and met my family. I’d also had time in South Africa to think about my goals for 2015 ahead of the usual Jan 1st New Year’s resolution frenzy and had settled on: 1. get engaged and 2. tone up my flabby tummy. Our talk about living together was my first proactive step towards resolution no. 1 and the ball was now in his court to come up with a way to make the experience feel special. For resolution no. 2 I signed up for Class Pass with the intention of doing lots of barre and tummy intensive things.

Two weeks before Christmas the LOML asked me if I was free for a full day surprise sometime that w end. I hadn’t made any plans yet (I love plans) so I told him I’d stay free (I also love surprises). As usual I asked for hints and the hint he gave was: “There is a risk of failure”. For my girl brain, that statement could obviously be interpreted as he was going to propose – the risk part being that I might say no. But I also knew that his clues are never decipherable and told myself to quiet my girl brain.

That Friday he picked me up from work so that we could drive to see our friends’ new baby. When I asked what present he’d picked up for the babba he looked sheepish, and I almost snapped that if he’d forgotten he should’ve told me so that I could’ve got one. But then he revealed that we weren’t going to visit the baby after all. Aha – my suspicion that babies sleep at night was confirmed but where were we going? We were going on our surprise, he said as he started to look a bit stressed and pretend he wasn’t making wrong turns. As we headed towards Brooklyn, a long line of questioning caused him to reveal that we were flying somewhere! But what about my clothes and passport? He had snuck into my apartment and stolen them (quick mental check – state of apartment thankfully ok that week). The surprise getaway, he said, was in honor of my upcoming birthday, which, being so close to Christmas and New Year, often doesn’t get the attention I would like. I was impressed that he was being so proactive, especially since at our one year review in August, birthday performance was highlighted as a development opportunity. At this point he revealed that Puerto Rico was our destination as we were apparently running late and I had to call Jet Blue to get us on a later flight. Now this was at a time when I was in Greencard purgatory and unable to leave the country so he had apparently called about 8 immigration attorneys to check whether Puerto Rico is considered US soil and in typical lawyer fashion, they’d said they thought so (hence the risk of failure).

We arrived in San Juan in the middle of the night and were whisked away in a taxi heading North after some secret dialogue between the LOML and the car dispatchers. T-40 mins to secret destinantion. As we got closer I thought I’d have another go at clues. This time his response was: “It requires lots of trust” On the one hand I thought ‘Oh crap, I hope its not some extreme couples-rain-forest-zip-lining thing’ and on the other hand I thought, ‘What requires more trust than committing to a lifetime together?’ Calm down girl brain! He’s only just met your parents and didn’t have any time alone with them to ask if he could marry you plus you’ve only been together just over a year and thats how long it took him to ask you out, so there’s no way its happening this w end.

My internal dialogue was shut down as we pulled into an immaculate lush rain forest garden and the Ritz Carlton, Dorado Beach emerged from a haze of splendor. We had arrived at an ex Rockerfeller playground and Beyonce’s hideaway when on tour in Latin America. I love birthdays!!

imagePiet from Belgium sped up in a golf cart to welcome us – he had arrived on vacation 8 years prior and never left. He asked if we were celebrating anything special. Nah, just a w end getaway the LOML said (he’s obviously not that into free gifts). Piet showed us to our ocean-facing suite, including gigantic bathing suite with outdoor shower and a bath tub so big even a tall person could enjoy it. For a couple whose preferred accommodations up to this point had been tents, friend’s sofas and Airbnb, this was setting the hotel bar very high indeed.  We washed off the airport grime amongst the Birds of Paradise and by the time our sleepy heads hit the pillow we didn’t even mind the deafening sound of the crashing waves (nature – so noisy!).

image

image

The next morning, I was brusquely awoken by the LOMLs face in mine. Wake up he said, its time for an adventure. I was given permission to use the bathroom before setting off in our robes outside. Outside, as in, where there were people. Maybe he didn’t realize I didn’t have clothes on underneath but it looked like he was walking toward bicycles. He led me passed the bicycles. Phew. Down a garden path towards the beach. He wasn’t saying much so I made chit chat about the birds. On the one hand this was all so weird that my girl brain thought he might propose, on the other hand, he was acting very normal and he is very good at surprises, so this was probably just a romantic pre breakfast walk, all part of my 5 star birthday treat. Calm down Sylvia.

Then we got to a pagoda facing the Caribbean and I thought, ‘Ok, he’s definitely not going to propose – this location is waaay too perfect’. So we stood in the pagoda in silence watching the sea, in nothing but our bathrobes. “Oh look, surfers”. More silence (he doesn’t always feel the need to comment when I say something self evident). I love a bit of nature in the morning but this was getting painful, so I sat down on the ledge.

image

“You know how I said I like going on adventures with you?”, he asked.

“Yes….”

“Well I want to go on a really big adventure with you”

Girl brain: Ok this really sounds like the preamble to a proposal

Silence

“When we were in South Africa I asked your father for permission to marry you…and he said yes. Now I want to ask you”

Girl brain: Oh shit, this is it!

More speech saying nice things I wish I remembered but I was just waiting for the part where he gets down on one knee and actually asks the question (and to see the ring of course).Then he did. He got down on two knees and said:

“Will you marry me?”

Just like that, will you marry me? I looked at him after a long stunned silence with very wide eyes and said:

“Yes.” (obviously).

He was holding a ring box but he hadn’t popped it open yet. He may have said “Don’t you want to open it?” and I may have said “Aren’t you supposed to?” And he did. I looked at it and thought ‘that’s not my Gran’s ring – where did he get it?’ But I think (I hope) I said “It’s beautiful”. As it turns out the ring I was looking at was his Granny’s. A very strong and special New Yorker I’d heard lots of great things about. It was perfect.

image

We returned to our luxury oceanside terrace and ordered breakfast and felt like we were in possession of the world’s best kept secret. He had mentioned the night before that nobody knew where we were. Something about that made me refrain from whatsapping my sister to brag about the retreat and we decided to bask in our top secret for another day before telling anyone. This was probably the best decision we made that w end. Having 24hrs to ourselves to digest how we felt and feel the essence of our relationship change was probably the most intimate experience I’ve ever shared with someone. And our relationship had changed. There was no more ambiguity about how we felt about each other. No doubt that this was what the other person wanted. We could say things now that were better left unsaid before. We had formed a unit. Just like that.

And just like that, what feels like the best period of my life began. Immediately after it happened I felt ecstatically happy. I had received exactly the thing I most wanted and precisely when I wanted it – the ultimate synergy of satisfaction. I just couldn’t understand why the tears hadn’t come as he was proposing or immediately after but I guess emotion takes time to process. At breakfast the next day while he went to get a croissant I watched a family sit down together near us and the tears began to flow. I was crying at the thought of us being together, forever, multiplying or not multiplying, getting old, but always together. It felt like all the big moments that were yet to come had been concentrated into that very moment. It was time share the significant news with our families.

He had said he’d find a way to make moving in together special, and he did. It just far surpassed my wildest expectations.