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Love. Life. Work. And Sabbaticals

This week our Business Development Director, Claire talks about her quest to balance life goals with career aspirations

I’ve always been a pretty driven person, having a path mapped out in front of me since I graduated Uni about 12 years ago, and even if the direction changed I still kept two steps ahead of myself in terms of where I wanted to be. Generally, I feel like I have achieved most things I have set out for with a bit of hard work and determination, however 12 months ago myself and my fiancé Nicola went through a life changing experience that made us take a look at what we had, what we wanted and what made us happy. This led to us setting off on a 3 month adventure around the world to open our eyes to what else life had to offer. Hands down, best decision we ever made.

I was surprised at how quickly you can switch your mind off to all of the things that engulf you in day to day life. Scaling Machu Picchu and canoeing down the Amazon definitely helps with the ‘out of office’ feeling, but there is a bit more to it than that. It gives you a sense of freedom that you know you can return to in your head, or even for real, when the adventure is over. Before the events that made us take the trip, I would never have seen myself travelling like that, for that long – purely because I didn’t see how I could fit it in. When you’re on a career path and you love your job, and your settling down in your personal life, you don’t necessarily search for anything that will disrupt that; but this did exactly the opposite for me. Having made a 3 month break work in all areas of my life I almost feel a sense of peace that there is an escape there if I want or need it in the future. And despite the majority of people telling us that we wouldn’t come back and that this would be the last they would see of us, we somehow knew that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t about running away or leaving anything behind us, it was all about pressing pause for a bit and feeling like we had rebooted. I know a lot of people aren’t as lucky as I am, and I’m extremely grateful for that. I was able to take a sabbatical because of the closeness of our team at Spark, and because it was important to Nicola and I, it was fully supported. We sat and planned how we would make it work together, which feels like the ultimate reward for your hard work and loyalty.

Now I’ve been back in work for 8 weeks, I can honestly say that I have managed to maintain a more laid back approach to work and the challenges it can throw at you on a daily basis. This may not last forever, but for now I am thinking more clearly and have a slightly different perspective – one that feels a lot more positive and energised. The people you meet and the sights you see when travelling can be truly life changing and that doesn’t leave you easily. You feel like your eyes have been opened, and sharing that with someone that feels the same, and pushes you to get the most out of every single day makes your trip (not matter how long or short) unforgettable.

And thanks to Instagram (but unfortunately not the Go-Pro that now lives in the coral reef of the Whitsunday Islands) those memories are easily accessible when the clouds of Manchester start creeping in.

Claire Critcher

24th April 2017