Tips to Make Your Sabbatical an Unforgettable Experience

My first year in PR I remember people saying that if you can make it one year in an agency, you can make it anywhere. Those of us who chose a career in this industry know the daily pressures of client expectations, event planning, crisis communications, the media grind and long hours. While fast-paced and exciting, PR can also be draining. That’s why when SHIFT gave me the opportunity to take a month-long sabbatical in recognition of five years here, I embraced it with open arms. A lifelong wanderlust, I decided to head to a location that I wouldn’t be able to travel to during a typical one-week vacation.

After much debate, I landed on both Vietnam and Thailand. I have always been interested in Vietnam’s history and heard great things about its food and culture. The second, Thailand, I have dreamed about since seeing Beaches in the ’80s. After shoving way too much clothing into a backpack, I made my way to Asia. The sites, scents and experiences I had over the next three-plus weeks are something I’ll never forget, and I learned a lot along the way:

  • Take a digital detox – This was fully necessary for me. As PR professionals, we are attached to our phones 24/7 and it gets exhausting. While I did keep in touch as much as possible with my wonderful fiancé and closest friends (because come on, who can ditch Snapchat for that long!), I tried to stay away from reading emails that didn’t need urgent response, bills, etc. It took a bit of getting used to, but was the best way for me to embrace Eat Pray Love mode without any stresses from home. Remember, if it’s an emergency, people will find you.

  • Get out of your comfort zone – Not many people get a full month off from work, or want to fly to Asia for just a week. So, the reality of picking a far-away destination was that I’d be traveling alone. I’ve been to a number of countries solo before, but after jet lag and my ride not showing up at the Vietnam airport (with no local currency to my name), it was certainly a bit of shock. After a difficult first few days, however, I began to open up to everything around me and have an amazing time. Also, when in doubt, drink…

  • Embrace every minute – Traveling abroad can be eye-opening and incredible. While everything may not go smoothly, you’ll be left with memories to last a lifetime. Vietnam is rich in history, and has a society still largely rooted in the past that I found fascinating. In Thailand, I fell in love with the people, food and natural beauty that’s everywhere. I bathed an elephant. I ate a scorpion. I fired an AK-47. I slept on an overnight boat and train. And, I met a lot of friends along the way. Try to be present in each moment.

  • Prioritize your priorities – Duh, right? But for me, the opportunity to self-reflect is not one I often take with my busy work and personal schedules. This trip helped me think about what’s important in my life, both day-to-day, as well as bigger picture. I came back to Boston with a new focus. Do what makes you happy.

  • Be thankful for what you have – I ended my sabbatical in my home state of Ohio. My fiancé’s family is also from the O-H, so we took a few days to catch up with loved ones who we don’t see enough. It was a perfect way to cap off the time, reminding me of what truly matters. In a world where not everyone is as fortunate as us, appreciate the amazing things and people right in front of you.

Thank you to SHIFT’s senior management team for allowing me to take advantage of this unique benefit, and to The Perkinettes for covering my work and supporting me in this adventure!


Julie Staadecker
Account Director


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