By: Kaitlin Lowey, Public Relations Sr. Associate
My sabbatical was just what it was supposed to be: a complete separation from work. Time to recharge. I put 6,500 miles between myself and the Enova office and, in total, traveled the equivalent of the earth’s circumference over the course of four weeks.
People back at the office ask me, “What did you do on your sabbatical?” and they genuinely are interested to know. People here are like that — they’re genuine. I typically reply, “I went to Japan and Peru. It was amazing,” because it’s difficult to summarize 24,000 miles of experiences while grabbing afternoon coffee in the kitchen.
But there’s so much more to impart. The really good stuff. Memories that Enova allowed me to create by telling me to pack up, get out, turn off my email and not even think about work for a full month.
Like the fact that I climbed four mountains, each of them both a challenge and a delight, and how I felt a mixture of accomplishment and sadness at the end of each climb because it was beautiful but it was over.
How my mom and I narrowly avoided the Amazon Rainforest’s most deadly venomous snake when it dropped from a vine overhead and missed its target: our canoe. The anger in the snake’s eyes as it sidewinded towards us in the black water, illuminated by the tiniest sliver of moon, lent credit to our guide’s declaration that, “If you don’t kill it, it will kill you.”*
Or how I ate an entire fried fish in one bite (which I learned is common in Japan). When it arrived, stiff as a soldier, its tempura fins propping it upright on the crisp white plate, I stared at it for a full minute. I looked at my husband who appeared gleeful in his knowledge that he would not have to eat it but that I would. I asked flatly, “What do I do with this?” to which he replied with the wryest of smiles, “Just pop it in your mouth.” Sure. Simple. I looked back at the fish, grabbed it with my chopsticks and in it went, fins included. After a moment of deliberation, the verdict: “Hmm…crunchy.”
I’m still processing the day I met 20, non-English-speaking extended family members and felt lost in translation yet totally wrapped in love. We visited the family grave plot and honored 500 years of ancestors buried there, right next to the family home where we later sipped ocha and snacked on bean cake. After exchanging gifts and sharing photos, I squeezed my husband’s hand, thankful that the distance of the world’s largest ocean is no match for the strength of family bonds.
And how can I even begin to describe Machu Picchu? It really is as arrestingly wondrous as your friends’ Instagram pictures would lead you to believe. Wispy clouds swirl around mountain peaks that are so vertical they seem to have jutted out of the ground in one ancient, violent shove, rather than having formed slowly over the millennia. It’s no wonder the Incan people worshipped the mountains and chose this spot to build, well, something — there are several theories about the purpose the ruins served.
All I know is that I’ve seen many beautiful places in the world. When I took the final steps on the Inca trail, the clouds dissipating and revealing that monumental scene before me, I wondered, “How is it possible that such a place exists, and what has humanity done to deserve this?” It was otherworldly.
But the thing about sabbaticals is, like all trips, they come to an end. I returned to Chicago to sit on the grassy shores of Lake Michigan and allowed the sun to recharge me for a few days before returning to work.
The transition back to normal life and work was surprisingly easy. While my sabbatical was a break from work, it gave me time to reflect on my career, and I realized how grateful I am to work at Enova. I have the freedom to contribute my own ideas and the trust to make an impact in my job. Importantly, I also feel supported by the good people I get to work with every day. And in the end, I realized that one of the unofficial mottos we use at Enova is absolutely true: “Life is short. Work someplace awesome.”
*Don’t worry, we didn’t kill the snake. Actually, maybe worry?