Sabbatical in the Rearview Mirror

It’s no surprise to those of us who work here that GFM is the No. 1 place to work in America, according to OUTSIDE Magazine. From unlimited “trusted time off” to an annual teambuilding offsite with Outward Bound, not to mention an onsite treadmill desk (my favorite!) and Beer Club every Thursday afternoon, we’re truly lucky to be part of the GFM culture!

Carissa McCabe takes a photo while waiting to cross the second ferry to whale watching in the Bay of Fundy while on sabbatical from GroundFloor Media.

Carissa McCabe takes a photo while waiting to cross the second ferry to whale watching in the Bay of Fundy.

That’s why several of our team members have been with 15-year-old GFM for at least 10 years – a milestone that earns employees a four-week, paid sabbatical to take some time off to reflect, rejuvenate and reconnect. In August, I became the fourth GFM team member to enjoy sabbatical and I divided my time between home and two weeks visiting family in Nova Scotia, Canada. Whether you’re lucky enough to have an employer who offers a sabbatical program or whether you’re simply able to slip away from the office for a short vacation, I compiled a few reflections that I hope provide some inspiration to take with you on your trip – or to simply plug into everyday life!

It costs nothing to be nice, and you’re sure to make a lasting impression

Upon our delayed 2 a.m. arrival in Nova Scotia with two tired kids in tow, we were frustrated to find our car rental company closed. When the young man at the rival rental company noticed we were looking a little lost, he quickly sized up our stack of luggage and offered us a personal ride to the hotel on his way home. I know that sounds a little scary, but he was genuine in his approach and when we politely declined he helped us reach our hotel and immediately arranged for a free shuttle. I’ll never forget his eagerness and genuine concern to help after what I can imagine was a very long shift, and you can bet we’ve got his company top of mind next time we travel!

Even rotten apples have a sweet spot

A farm we visited in Nova Scotia had giant, old apple trees that – as apple trees do – had plenty of seemingly useless rotten apples sprinkled on the ground around the base of the tree. The owner of the farm encouraged us to grab as many of the rotten apples as we could carry and bring them to the “apple golf” area she set up facing a big empty field. There were tee boxes and a selection of old golf clubs, tennis rackets and baseball bats, and visitors were welcome to play with the rotten apples to their heart’s content! My family spent at least an hour (kids included!) whacking rotten apples into the field – taking tons of photos and slow-mo video as a keepsake. What a great reminder that you can take something seemingly old and useless and turn it into something wonderful if you just shift your perspective and give it a new use.

Things might not go according to plan; they might go even better!

One of the most anticipated parts of our trip was whale watching in the Bay of Fundy. The day we selected for the exciting adventure turned out to be cold with fog as dense as split pea soup and I was so disappointed. Regardless, we got on the boat and headed out into the fog, where the guide said we’d get away from the shore, kill the engine, and the 30-40 people on board would need to be as silent as possible to see if we could hear the humpback whales blowing air out their blowholes. This didn’t seem likely, and my mood decreased – until that magical moment when in complete silence bobbing on the ocean where I couldn’t see 10 feet from the boat I suddenly heard a loud “whoosh!” and my kids and husband looked at me like it was Christmas…We saw six whales that day and I’ll never forget it!

Working together, small changes can have a big impact

From hotels to homes to public beaches, the provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have implemented an extensive trash, compost and recycling program. Every disposable item is carefully considered before being discarded, and I was amazed to see how seamlessly my Canadian relatives worked this into their daily lives as it takes a lot of thought and effort! Not to mention, the bins at the public beach were tidy (I can’t count the trash bins I’ve seen at American beaches overflowing with every kind of item all shoved into one bin) and I watched even newbies like me and my family carefully consider the detailed signage in public spaces designed to help us all make the right choice. While the day-to-day habits are small changes in the grand scheme of things, the entire province working together this way is making a significant difference for the environment.

Family is everything

No matter how amazing your place of employment, working full time is hard. The 40 (or more) hours a week you spend with clients and colleagues often outnumbers the waking hours spent with family and friends or focused on personal needs. My sabbatical provided a great chance to reconnect with family and served to remind me that I work hard to not only satisfy myself, but also to provide for my family in ways that include experiences like traveling to Nova Scotia. Back from sabbatical, I’m working hard to be more present with my family outside of work hours. Being away for four weeks was a good reminder that while I’m an important piece of the puzzle, the team kept chugging ahead without me. I’m terribly lucky to have teammates I can rely on to allow me to take a breather. Now I can’t wait to repay the favor as they achieve 10 years at GFM, too!

Want to know more about GFM sabbaticals? Read about Ramonna Robinson’s sabbatical to Croatia and Italy earlier this year!

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