Sabbatical Shuffle

BITN: Savvy Swede Sails; Vacations Develop; Sabbatical Sculptures

Posted on: Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
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Our interns and executive assistants never sleep. At least since we brought on free coffee as a perk. So here are some recent BreakAways in the News they’ve found worthy of inclusion in this ongoing series…

  • Young Swede sails for change

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate-change activist, has been generating a LOT of attention lately as she sails from Europe to New York as part of her campaign to increase awareness of and action re: climate change. She arrived today—on a zero-emissions sailboat with her dad a crew of 3 others.

Now THAT is one impressive journey! As one of our Sabbatical Suggestions, we state to “Accept Your Mission” when on a BreakAway. Could be to lose some weight. Might be to rekindle romance. Play guitar, learn a language, bake bread. Greta thinks bigger, like, save the world.

Beyond humbling and inspirational, this story brings new profundity to the ending of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

  • Use your vakay for career dev’t

An upbeat career-coaching site called Thrive/Global offers a fresh take on vacation: Use some time while relaxing to boost your skills. At BreakAway, we cheerlead loudly for people to take ALL their vacation time—and might prefer breaks that prioritize the vacate and the shun. Still, whatever works. Right?

Author May Busch offers 5 tips, including set up an easy win for when you get home…set aside time each day for reflection about work stuff that may otherwise get inadequate attention…and, my favorite, think on paper.

It’s trendy, of course, to go paperless (if that’s possible). But Ms. Busch points out what many of us old-schoolers know and practice: You spark fresh ideas—and activate different parts of your noodle—by noodling creatively on papyrus.

  • “Sabbatical” sculpture ignites Burning Man

Burning Man is happening right about now on a dessert filled with tripping seekers and trippy happenings. But you knew that.

We’re unsure of just WHY one of the buzzy sculptures is named Sabbatical by Neophyte Nexus. But it is, and it’s cool. So the interns got excited and are begging for a company junket to the Festival next year. The motion is under consideration.

Meanwhile, check out these top 5 BM installations, including Sabbatical. And maybe—must maybe—we’ll seeya at Burning Man next year!

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Big Entrepreneurs Push Tiny House Getaways

Posted on: Sunday, March 3rd, 2019
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What you see here is indeed a tiny house. For ice fishing, mostly. Similar castles dot Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes by the gazillions for months, and then must disappear by midnight the first Monday in March, as mandated by the MN DNR. We call it a bittersweet sign of spring.

To out-of-towners, this endless trend seems bizarre—further proof of our faraway, Minnesota-meets-Fargo quirkiness. To us (and, trust me, not everyone participates) the allure of the ice house is quite simple. And it’s not the fish (should you get lucky), the c-c-c-cold (most huts are actually heated), or the adult beverages (though the bar is often open).

No, it’s the art of getting away. And honestly, the experience can be beautiful, even magical. I have an interest in one and my shanty shindigs are always packed! Some gatherings chill, read, play games or music, do a date, spend the night. One Sunday sundown tradition with my brethren is singing familiar hymns in harmony. “Take it to the Lord in prayer…

But usually, it’s a party. A Getaway party.

  • Meanwhile, on the East Coast…

Out East, tiny houses are popping up thanks to a venture called Getaway, as created by entrepreneurs John Staff and Pete Davis. Their vision for your less-is-more quest includes natural surroundings, eco-friendly digs, and an unplugging mentality. Any guests spotted using their phones are immediately, and aggressively, kicked out. (Kidding.)

  • “A day off for the always on”

Those seductive words appear as one of Getaway’s website headlines, and suggest the uber-busy lifestyles of their clientele: A day off apparently challenges the calendroid, while turning off devices evidently tests their digitalia addiction. Clearly, these people NEED that getaway! Or rather, they’re just like people just about everywhere.

Check out ongoing press, instagrammers, simple recipes, and T-shirts.

  • Let’s go!

I’ve long fantasized 68-hour retreats with BreakAway experts, good food, and parties (optional). Possible diversions from focus might include yoga, mindfulness, travel planning, and financial coaching. Everyone would leave with an ACTUAL plan. Or, at least depart refreshed and re-faithed.

Until then, ice fishing will do. As will Getaway’s tiny houses. Sign me up!

THINK TINY!

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BITN: Billionaires & Sexless Women BreakAway Bigtime; Americans Broke!

Posted on: Saturday, January 12th, 2019
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Start seeing Career Breaks! They’re OUT there, perhaps calling YOUR name. While the interns have been busy digging up these highlights, the first story hardly requires a bevy of underpaid minions—because it’s getting a LOT of online ink. Clearly, human nature remains fascinated with the rich and fabulous.

Did you know that the top 1% worldwide now has more $ than the rest of us combined? They must find that boring. So they’re seeking rare-critter safaris (with helicopter spotters to make sure they don’t get skunked), dancing with the sharks, and RTW family adventures with nannies and tutors in tow.

In general, the more exotic and extraordinary the itinerary, the better. Think: Bragging rights. This story going viral proves, we believe, that the even 99%-ers (who must have everything) harbor getaway fantasies. That’s the good news. We wish the well-heeled happy trials. And hope we all can afford a BreakAway someday.

  • Women put sex on hold

Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga are doing it. Or rather, they’re NOT doing it—and are thus are part of a trending “sex recession” caused by women taking a sex sabbatical.

As this website preaches, BreakAways come (or don’t) in all shapes and sizes. And each one needs a mission. For the ladies who abstain, reasons range from rebooting careers to redefining Mr. Right to rethinking the partying and promiscuity morass. In the case of Ms. Minaj and Ms. Gaga, it’s all about bumping up creativity.

As of press time, 800,000 employees of Uncle Sam still work without pay while our Wallbuilder in Chief plays Russian Roulette with people’s livelihoods—which includes another 4.1 million contractors who depend on the business flow. One longs for days of compassionate civility. But meantime, we gain new insights into the budgetary train wreck crushing so many Americans (and our gov’t).

Like, 78% of US workers live paycheck-to-paycheck. So do 10% of those making more than $100K. (CareerBuilder.) And as BreakAway and some of our media partners reported months ago, 61% in the US have no plan or nest egg should a 6-month emergency emerge from the shadows.

Once again, we implore our dear readers to practice Fiscal Fitness, whether you work for Uncle Sam or yourself. Not only will you increase your odds of surviving an unexpected, “You’re fired!” you’ll also have a better shake at a dreamy break.

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BITN: Chance Takes a Bible Break; Moms go to work; Shrinks talk bucks

Posted on: Monday, December 17th, 2018
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The interns have been busy again seeking BreakAways in the News. And they got VERY excited by the news that Chance the Rapper is taking a break from his break-neck schedule to study the Bible. Other take-your-time related bits keep hitting the telegraph, fax, and carrier pigeons. Read on for news and inspiration…

Few rappers—or rock stars of any stripe—have incorporated gospel choirs and sheer spiritual jubilation like Chance the Rapper, so it’s no surprise that he’s serious about his faith. He also claims that the arrival of a new nephew has inspired him to take family and leadership more seriously. Chance has been lighting up charts and fans alike for some time now so…good for him. Oh yeah, he also claims he’ll use this time to stop smoking. Good for him.

  • Break time is over, Mom, so get back to work

An impressive site called Know Your Value dishes tips about re-entering the workplace for women in their, say, 50s. After, say, raising kids and getting lost in the laundry room for, oh, 20 years. One interesting suggestion: Don’t ask for help with technology. (HELP!?!)

Ginny Brzezinski serves as the site’s comeback contributor, and points out that there are as many as 5 generations in the workplace now—and that comebackers may find themselves reporting to someone half their age. Shocking, perhaps. But a small price to pay for the priceless privilege of raising your progeny.

There are only about 250 who practice this craft. They charge $100 – $400 per hour. They can help couples who argue about things other than kids, chores, and sex. And that’s a BIG market, so they’ve found a niche that begs the question…what took you so long?

Our Senior Intern Supervisor first heard about this on public radio’s wonderfully quirky Marketplace. And it catches our attention because, obviously, the #1 reason people don’t take a sabbatical is…money. Despite that most folks who would consider the idea will make millions over their lifetime. So yes, they need budgeting shrinks, saving shrinks, and spending shrinks.

Therapy is never cheap. But if it saves your marriage and/or money (and/or saves your BreakAway dream from dying), it’s worth every penny.

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Concert Therapy: Live Music Kicks Ass Over Yoga!

Posted on: Friday, November 9th, 2018
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | One comment

This site encourages everyone to break out of their comfort drone and dive into experience. The off-screen kind with fresh sounds, sights, smells, surroundings, and homo sapiens. In a perfect world, we do this by traveling the world for 3 months every 7 years or so. Meantime, we maintain our practice with music and things.

For lots of guys, diversion practice features lots of fishing, hunting, sports, beer, and Captain Morgan. For women, such activities trend toward yoga, book clubs, retreats, chardonnay, and Tupperware parties.

IMHO, however, few things bring release like live music. Regardless of your gender. In the Twin Cities alone, hundreds of venues are routinely packed despite spendy tickets, pesky scalpers, and spilt beer. Euphoric fans fill the streets, bars, and eateries hours before (and after) the show. And—never mind that funky fog—there’s a palpable buzz in the air that few pursuits can match.

  • Boost your well-being by 21%

I’m not sure how, exactly, one quantifiably measures well-being—but sign me up. Disclosure: the study last spring that got much ink was commissioned by London’s famed 02 Centre, a big player in the industry and perhaps not a completely unbiased source. Still, there are many such studies floating around. And they all agree on findings like…

  • Attending a concert every 2 weeks may increase your life span by 9 years
  • Going to live music boosts your mood much more than yoga or walking the dog
  • Listening to music increases your dopamine level by 9%

Those are impressive numbers. But beyond any fuzzy math, this live-music buff rejoices in the way that a concert brings people together like few other things can, especially in these contentious times. Regardless of work, religion, or politics, giddy fans routinely stand up, scream, sing along, and leave feeling at least 55% better than when they came in.

02’s study asserts that regular attendance is the key—as in, seeing a show every 2 weeks or so. While that might sound ambitious, most any hobby or pastime that promises to elevate your life experience takes some commitment. And is worth it.

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BITN: Dads Don’t, Professionals Won’t Take Time-off Plunge

Posted on: Wednesday, July 25th, 2018
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BreakAways of all sorts continue to generate news, and (possibly) progress. Work perks like flex time, telecommuting, and parental leave gain traction here and there, while travel and entertainment are booming as people ‘go out’ and the economy hums on.

Yet people still seem to love their jobs. Or have a love/fear relationship with their job (in)security. Here are just a few noteworthy news bits passed along by the MYBA interns, starting with dads who seemingly rather cuddle their computer than their own earthling offspring…

  • Daddy leave won’t leave the building

Here’s the good news: From 2015 to 2017, paternity leave offered jumped from an average of 4 weeks to 11 weeks.  Now for the bad news: Only about 56% of employed men even qualify. Worse yet: Most men just say no. While 2/3 of women use all their parental leave time, only about half as many men do.

Why not? 1/3+ worry it would jeopardize their career; ½+ think it might show lack of commitment. As one Silicon Valley exec sagely comments, “If you don’t take it, it’s borderline idiotic.”

The dilemma is getting attention, from HuffPost to CNBC to a new book by Josh Levs, a former journalist (now blogger) who took legal action against CNN for their biased policies. In this election ‘year of the woman’…in this time of too many men getting spanked for impolite tendencies…in this era of #metoo women roaring, it’s noteworthy that not all men get their way (or even equal treatment) all the time, and that somebody cares about that, too.

Unfair benefits benefit nobody, people. Stand up for your rights!

  • Fly away, but leave the laptop

So says Star Tribune travel editor Kerri Westenberg. Makes sense, right? What’s the point of vacation if you don’t vacate your baggage (so to speak)? And these days, ‘work’ seems to be mostly screen-centered (like everything else). Yet, increasingly, people bring their laptop (and cell phone and WORK) with them when allegedly getting away from IT all.

Ms. Westenberg cites some heavy reasoning to temporarily cut the connection, including that 9 out of 10 Americans state their happiest memories took place while on vacation. (And no, the other 1/10 weren’t necessarily on the job.)

She also mentions a respected heart study that found that men who skip their vacations are 30% more likely to have a heart attack. And get this: Women who refuse to vacation are 50% more likely.

So take this medicine from Dr. BreakAway: Use your PTO and you’ll definitely live larger, and likely live longer. Or you can skip your prescription and end up with a broken heart. Literally.

Dosage #2: if you want to fill your head with happy memories, take your time. Work matters, and makes money! But what good is money if it won’t buy free time?

Moments make memories. Take one and make one.

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BITN: Traveling phone-less, working less, and eating together more

Posted on: Thursday, May 3rd, 2018
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BreakAway themes continue to gain traction in the Real World. Here are some favorites, starting with the seemingly unthinkable idea of tour groups that ban cell phones.

  • Radical Sabbatical Idea: Hang up and hang out

BreakAway was among the first to proclaim that the sky is falling (but nobody is noticing) when phones began to take over the world, the driver’s seat, and even travel and leisure. Want a break from phone-y living? Here’s a tour group for you. Off the Grid founder Zach Beattie says, “The entire focus of the trip is mindful travel.”

In a WashPost article, columnist Elizabeth Bruenig makes a compelling case that Americans need to let go of our obsession with work. She questions the new DC wave of “work requirements” for governmental aid. She reminds us that in other democracies nearly everyone “enjoys the kind of leisure time only our highest paid workers can afford.” And she asserts that we overstate the “dignity” of work and overlook the “dignity of rest.”

Meanwhile, here in MN, local writer Kevyn Burger reminds us that the family meal may be on the Endangered List, but is more vital than ever: “Children from families that routinely sit down to a meal together suffer less depression, obesity and substance abuse.”

Hey, it’s good for parents, too. I’ll eat to that!

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Travel During Terrorism?

Posted on: Monday, July 25th, 2016
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | 2 comments
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My son finished his first year at Princeton and promptly set out for his walkabout—5.5 weeks of backpacking and hammocking his way through Denmark and the French/Spanish/Italian Mediterranean. Nice (France) was already in the news for terror threats that affected Euro Cup soccer games. Then they made headlines when a Wacko mowed down hundreds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 84.

My boy arrived right after the first drama. He’d moved on before the Bastille Day tragedy. But it leaves a dad to wonder: Should I worry?

Of course. That’s what dads do.

Yet this stuff isn’t exactly new. And even when terrorism isn’t flaring, fears and threats persist. Some are relatively benign, but memorable: The time some Italian went ballistic at me on a train—no violence, but close—and I have no idea what set him off; strikes in Paris and Rome that look (and sound) edgy and can cancel critical travel plans; fights and gangs in front of your face (in US cities, of course).

As travelers, we move on. Literally and metaphorically. But as travelers, we also strive to be wise—embrace reality rather than feign Pollyanna.

Years ago, I created the Five Five-Word Mantras for seminars, speeches, and workshops. My thinking was more on preparation for complications and interruptions than global violence. Yet the advice applies, even to these extreme times:

Mantra #3: When all else fails, punt.

Before or during your Getaway, the Bad Thing could happen. A “What-if?” could become a “What Now?” If so, drop everything and tackle that problem. Put your Sabbatical on the back bench, or just plain punt. You can take another run at it later in this game we call Life.”

  • Five Takeaways from that Five-Word Mantra
  1. Bad things happen. Terrible things too. Even in Nice, France.
  1. Shit can hit the fan before or during your BreakAway. Risk never stops, and long-term travel exposes you to more than you can logically list.
  1. Practice, with self-talk and chat with friends, working through what you would do and get courageous, savvy strategies ready for the scenarios you fear most and variations of what-might-be.
  1. If the Bad Thing hits, drop everything. Say to yourself (as suggested in another Mantra), “I knew this might happen.” Put your (new) plan to work. As Winston Churchill said, “Keep calm and carry on.” And, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
  1. If need be, “Put your Sabbatical on the back bench, or just plain punt. You can take another run at it later in this game we call life.”

Recent random violence is eating away at our souls and taking large tolls on everything—including travel. But is this new? No. It’s just more terrible, unpredictable, and (for lack of a better word) televised.

My son is home safely, in New Jersey. But who knows what evils lurks there? That guy on the train didn’t assault me. But might not a stranger with a gun tomorrow?

Life is short. Change never rests. Maybe there’s no such thing as a Comfort Zone.

All the more reason to travel. Happy sails.

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11 Long-Living Lessons from #TBEXinMN

Posted on: Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | One comment
TBEX, aka The Travel Blog Exchange, held its annual USA conference last week right here in the Twin Cities. The days were packed with speakers, sessions, networking, partying, and of course, all things blogging/SM/podcasting/etc. Some serious sponsors lined up to show themselves off—and show the travelers a good time.

My wrist hurt from taking notes. And my head hurt from trying to absorb all the info. As the only career-break evangelist in attendance, I both owned my turf and found myself defending the validity of BreakAways for work-addicted Americans.

But I gained good ideas to put to use—and happily share these fave 11 takeaways.

You meet the most interesting characters at a TBEX conference!

You meet the most interesting characters at a TBEX conference!

  • 11 TBEX takeaways 
  1. Avoid headlines like “11 Things I Learned.” So says Tom Bartel of the Travel Past 50 blog and past publisher of this metro’s City Pages. He’s right! (That’s why I rarely do it.) Tom’s session on writing with emotion included high-ed-level musings on literature and composition. Refreshing reminders in this age of txtng!
  1. Minnesota is cool—not just cold. This biased local saw our surroundings in a new and bright light and was blown away by the hospitality, generosity, and richness of our towns. Standing O to the many tourism and visitor orgs that made it happen, and made it easy. But don’t even think about hosting such an event in January!
  1. The Mall of America is here to stay. Before this Church of Spendology opened, some friends and I placed bets on how many years MOA it would succeed. We were all wrong. The place appears is clearly thriving and expanding. High 5s to comrade Leif Pettersen—travel writer, blogger, juggler, and happily employed MOA Tourism Communications Manager who worked his butt off and shook 555 hands.

Travel author (and pal) Doug Mack gets his mind blown by Leif Pettersen’s MOA-goggles.

Travel author (and pal) Doug Mack gets his mind blown by Leif Pettersen’s MOA-goggles.

  1. Closing keynote speaker Andrew Zimmern is The Real Deal. This I already knew, as I used to play poker (get it?) with him (thanks to a mutual friend). But the menu of things he’s shuffling these days? Other-worldly. Transformative. Inspiring. Well done, Zim!

Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern—The Real Deal.

Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern—The Real Deal.

  1. E-books offer a viable way for us writers to get the word out quickly and affordably. And they keep getting more popular and do-able, according to Linda Aksomitis. There’s already a free one on my site (355 Days, about a one-year sabbatical in the Virgin Islands and Europe). But I’ve got two more drafts to polish up for publishing…if I can just find the time and, uh, stick-to-it-iveness.
  1. Canadians are mighty fun, friendly people—and many were there. Thanks to Jillian Recksiedler and the Travel Manitoba folks for some rollicking opening-night hospitality. And bless forward-thinking Canada for building the profound Canadian Museum of Human Rights. Nice to have such nice neighbors to the north!
  1. Bloggers who obsess about analytics may have it all wrong, assert the good people behind Travel Green Media and Green Global Travel. Better to have an engaged community than countless short-sighted eyeballs.
  1. Video is the new photo; FB and IG are the new photo album; and digital advertising will soon bury TV—according to Sara Meaney of bvk, a super-savvy ad agency based in Milwaukee. Her presentation on curating content your audience craves was packed with powerful info, even it made one worry about the future of the written word.
  1. It’s a good thing Lou Mongello left law. “We are storytellers,” he shouted from all  over the stage as he told some great stories and shared smart tips. Who knew you could ditch the law firm and make a mint as a Disney expert and entrepreneur? Lou! That’s who!

Entertaining entrepreneur Lou Mongello asks the hard questions.

Entertaining entrepreneur Lou Mongello asks the hard questions.

  1. Digital nomads are everywhere all the time. Some of them are even getting paid to wander. Just ask Mike, whose road trip just keeps going and going…
  2. TBEX rocks. My expectations were modest. And one hears mixed reports about such gatherings from our oh-so-worldly tribe. Yet this event was first-class—one of the best (and cheapest) investments around. Their tagline, “The Future of Travel Media” is both ballsy and spot-on.

Stay tuned. And please support your local travel blogger.

But please remember to unplug from your screens and explore the real world too!

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WORKFORCE: America’s Fear of Time Off Increases

Posted on: Friday, May 27th, 2016
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment
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If you’re lucky, you have fond memories of getting away on Memorial Day and other holidays—and maybe heading off for a family vacation every now and again. If you’re really lucky, you’re still creating fresh memories. But many people aren’t. The latest numbers on our time-off habits give new meaning to the phrase workforce.

  • As technology advances, free time retreats

A recent Boston Globe story on Americans’ fear of vacation profiles hard-working folks, interviews psychology pros, and basically leaves the reader exhausted enough to beg for a vacation. “I’m the kind of person who sleeps with an iPhone under my ear,” proclaims one entrepreneur. “People are worried about work piling up while they’re away,” explains a leader of Project: Time Off.

  • May you live in interesting times

Unsurprisingly, vacation numbers stayed pretty static until about 2000—when tech tools became workaday-common and people turning into “work martyrs” became equally prevalent. Employee and general dissatisfaction has skyrocketed (just ask Trump and Sanders), while travel pros will tell you vacationers are often more concerned with excellent wifi than comfortable beds.

If you’re still with us (and not tending work emails), choke on these digits, courtesy of Expedia and a host of credible researchers…

500,000: Number of unused vacation days annually in the U.S.A.

$52,400,000: Value of those unused vacation days

47: Average work-week hours per person

6: Number of days it takes to significantly reduce stress levels

61%: Work while on vacation

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  • Sabbatical programs also suffering

One of this entrepreneur’s fantastic ideas is sabbatical consulting. Help a company launch a program? I have, but they quit when their numbers go south or a recession hits. Coach travel-craving professionals how to run away for 55 days? Done that. Yet most 5%-ers won’t step off the treadmill (while my vagabond mentors find a way regardless of bucks and buts). Apparently, our DNA has gotten rewired. For work.

Employers still shun the sabbatical, too. According to a recent overview, the number of companies offering long-term breaks has stayed stagnant for years. About 13% offer unpaid extended breaks; about 5% have a paid program. If you check out the various “Best Companies to Work For” lists, the number grows to about 20%.

“Fatigue sets in, rigidity applies, and all creativity and innovation are lost.”

But my formal and informal research finds that, for the most part, it’s a perk that’s rarely employed, yet remains on the list for recruiting and retention purposes. As one friend at a major-league firm with a sabbatical program told me, “I wouldn’t even think of asking HR about it.”

She also suggested I not contact them to help make BreakAways work for everyone. Including the corporation. And their bottom line. “There are stories about people who left for three months and came back to a demotion and a crappy office,” she lamented.

“Fatigue sets in, rigidity applies, and all creativity and innovation are lost.” So states Lotte Bailin, an MIT researcher and author of the book, Breaking the Mold: Redesigning Lives for Productive and Satisfying Lives.

Fatigue? Rigidity? Lost creativity and innovation? That sounds like a burned-out, bummed-out workforce. Vacation won’t kill you. But your job might.

Summer is here, and here’s proof: Happy Memorial Day!

Go make some memories.

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