clarks on tour 2017

Life after sabbatical: what’s the story from here?

September 26, 2017
iceland volcano

I’ve placed far too much pressure on this post. My first in a long while, too long a while, I had to draft with pen and paper. This post has been on my mind for weeks. Yet every time I’ve had a quiet moment, I’ve felt too knackered to take the laptop out…or too scared.

I drafted this post sitting in a campsite common room in Iceland while our devices were charging. Hot chocolate brought a welcome treat and much needed warmth. Iceland, though only at day five into our road trip, had already become a highlight over this whole, six month adventure. I now sit in a hotel room in London, with a cup of tea in bed and enjoying a slow start to the day. We arrive home, back to Brisbane at the end of the week.

iceland volcano

Taking in Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland.

I’m so excited to be going home. But terrified as well.

The sabbatical has been a journey, not only physically, but one of personal growth, understanding and acceptance. The sabbatical has delivered by the way of scratching the travel itch, personal development, emotional recharge and mental reset. And it is for all these reasons I’m afraid to go home. I’m afraid of every day life going back to the way it was before the sabbatical. I’m not talking about making significant changes such as a new job or a move, but the small habits that amount to time away from what is really important. I don’t want mindless TV watching, social media scrolling or more than one mid-week takeaway. But on reflection of those fears, those things were symptoms of burn out. Emotional and mental burnout and a life that was too full. I’m not going back there.

I have a better understanding of what I like and don’t like, and what my life and hectic schedule of commitments were doing to my well being – mentally, emotionally, my relationships and what I was achieving (or not achieving) each day. One thing I do know now is, I can’t keep going the way I was before the sabbatical.

So all this thinking about how I’d like my life to be after the sabbatical, I’ve thought about the next chapter for Notebook + Tea. Where do I take my story? Where do I take Notebook + Tea? What will I write about? Where do I pick up from?

The answer to the last question is right here.

I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself over the last six months. Last night my husband and I caught up with a fab bunch of people we met in our first two weeks in South America. The girls and I reflected on how much we had learned about ourselves through travel and how powerful travel is for self-discovery and acceptance. I revealed that not working for these six months (apart from my conference presentation in the UK) has been one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. Not working. Not being associated with libraries, doing library work, checking library world Twitter every day, work emails. Nada. Who was this Alisa girl outside of libraries? Turns out she’s a pretty cool chick. 😉 We ‘cheers’ to that.

The sabbatical gave me head space, time away from the ‘every day’ and the pressure brought in from work, social media and that general sense of conformity or the ‘shoulds’. The sabbatical gave me physical space in that I’ve been living out of a bag of limited possessions and wardrobe for nearly six months. My schedule has been cleared and I have a clean slate going forward. I’m slightly cautious of that clean slate, determined to integrate and put into practice all that I’ve learned, realised and listed as wanting more of in my life.

I’ve enjoyed this extra space so much, I want to keep some. Where my story goes from here is sharing how I make space, keep it and ‘be’, be able to breathe, process and experience in the space.

Life after sabbatical will be about slower, more intentional and simpler living.

Making space

Physical decluttering of our home started in preparation of the sabbatical. We had a garage to tidy and make room for a mate who house-sitted for us; wardrobes to put away; bedside tables to empty and a home office to pare down. I did some digital decluttering on the road. I sorted through Evernote, email inboxes and folders, files on my computer, and will continue when I arrive back home. Making space will also include my schedule, commitments and what goes back into our home and wardrobes. I aim to make space to take better care of myself such as taking the time to plan our meals for the week and attending more barre classes (soooo looking forward to these!). Making space is about feeling lighter and able to make better decisions.

When I started my new job at the beginning of the year, I purged my work wardrobe and got rid of anything I didn’t feel good in or had held onto for too many years. This process left me with what I loved to wear, what fit me and what I’d purchased from the university’s corporate wear catalogue. I LOVE my limited work wardrobe, and have (almost) enjoyed my limited wardrobe on the road. I packed multiple layers that mixed and matched depending on the climate and overall, this has worked a treat. I mean to continue this process throughout my home after sabbatical.

‘One thing at a time’ will be my mantra.

flamingoes in bolivia

Braving the windy cold in Bolivia.

Keeping space

This part is largely about priorities, habits, setting boundaries and taking pressure off myself to do all the things. I need to be conscious about what goes on my plate. As I am passionate about my work, I’m easily taken by new ideas and projects. ‘One thing at a time’ will be my mantra. Keeping work at work during the week will be challenging, but absolutely necessary if I’m going to embrace the other parts of me. I will be enlisting some assistance from a few colleagues, family and friends to achieve this. Keeping space will help me to be more present, available to my relationships, as well as headspace to work on my writing projects including Notebook + Tea.

‘Be’ in the space

My life before the sabbatical didn’t have enough space to just be. Thinking back, everything seemed rushed. I thought I had slowed down a bit, but not even close to enough. Being in the space, to me, is a guilt-free cup of tea on the back deck, or a spontaneous chat and drink with a friend, even mid-week! Being in the space I create is about feeling, being exposed and vulnerable, sitting with emotions, doing nothing sometimes and free from all the ‘shoulds’.

The journals I’ve kept on my travels will serve as reminders and I look forward to going through them again and pick out details and lessons to share with you. Settling back into routine (oh, thank the Lord!) will also be a process in itself. I certainly don’t estimate the challenges of re-entry that lay before me.

Though physically exhausted, I’m happy with where I am right now. I’m happy with all that I’ve achieved, seen and done on sabbatical. I feel so blessed to have been able to do this with my best mate and husband. These past six months have been insane, incredible, epic. A deeply personal, life altering experience.

I’d love to hear about any questions you might have about my sabbatical – how to plan and do one, my experiences….give me a shout! xo

Couple travel: a packing list

June 5, 2017

My husband and I are on a 6 month traveling sabbatical through South America, UK and Europe. We’re coming up to the end of our South America leg, so this post has been a long time coming! I promised a fellow Spanish class member and friend I’d share our travel packing list.

We hadn’t travelled for more than a few weeks in 8 years (UK and Europe for 3 1/2 months). So much has changed by the way of travel since that time. We now have smart phones, there are countless travel blogs and other new travel resources and apps, new bag designs, etc. True to form, I put in hours of research into what we needed to pack – what is useful, wardrobe tips and what was reasonable to take for the 6 months. I mostly looked at travel guide publishers and blogs and I couldn’t find an exact fit, so I created my own that suited our style and needs.

Striking a balance

I believe we’ve struck a balance between bare minimum and taking the kitchen sink. We needed to cater for various climates, from the near and below zero degrees, to summertime in Spain and Portugal. I will be ‘conferencing’ in the UK, so I needed to bring suitable clothing for that too. I also wanted to take a few supplies with me, such as enough facial cleanser, cotton buds and BB cream, mostly because I like to spend my days seeing and experiencing stuff, not hunting down the nearest pharmacy. And I suppose to lesser extent, I like a few, basic self-care rituals in my daily routine uninterrupted. I’m sure we break a number of ‘travel packing rules’ but I don’t care. I’ve taken advice on board and this is what I’ve come up with.

Luggage gear

I’ll start with our luggage bags. We set a limit – one check-in bag, one carry on and a small cross-body bag. I bought myself a new bag, the Osprey Meridan 75. This bag has so far copped an absolute flogging and is still going strong. There is the main, 55L convertible duffle, then the 20L detachable day pack. When I say ‘convertible’, this means that the bag has both wheels and shoulder straps for whenever I need to put the bag on my back. (So far, I’ve only had to use the straps once in the Amazon jungle.)

I’m so in love with this Osprey bag and I’m so glad I spent the $350 or so on the quality. My lightweight Antler suitcase is seriously running the risk of being replaced!

What I love most about this bag, particularly the main one, is the inside compartments so I can easily separate packing items, the sturdy wheel frame and the padding down the sides.

I’m comforted by these features as my bag is hurled into the luggage compartment of a bus or flown around by baggage handlers in airports. As you can’t lock down the day pack to the main bag, I check-in the main bag and use the day pack as my carry on.

My husband has a slightly bigger bag combination. On the morning we flew out, he swapped out his backpack for his Ripcurl wheelie duffle bag. Not something you’d see me doing! The switch has paid off, as rarely does he need to carry it, though I’m sure it will need replacing once we arrive home. I couldn’t tell you the volume of this bag, but I know it’s bigger than my generous 55L Osprey, possibly 80L (similar to this one). His carry on is an Osprey 26L hiking rucksack (black).

Now, the packing list!

travel packing

Tech gear

  • (my) DSLR camera, plus a couple of polarising filters and basic cleaning products.
  • 18-55mm lens
  • 70-200mm lens
  • (his) GoPro
  • Laptop
  • Kindle x 2
  • Mobile phones
  • Polaroid camera (for my journal), plus film
  • Noise cancelling headphones x 2
  • Chargers
  • Portable charger/battery
  • Mini tripod
  • SD cards x 2
  • External hard drive
  • Universal adapter (we ended up buying in Lima, Peru, because our old ones weren’t sufficient)


We agreed that we weren’t the kind of travellers who’d bring only 2-3 pairs of socks or underwear. We’re all for a minimal packing list but this advice was taking it a bit too far for us. How does anyone survive on that small number and not 1) do laundry every night, or 2) smell a bit…off?? Plus, socks and underwear don’t take up a lot of room and can go a long way in making you feel fresh. Other than that, don’t ask me what my husband brought, but here’s my list. I’ve included some of the brand names, as oftentimes travel blogs link to brands we can’t get here in Australia.

  • 1 x jeans
  • 2 x hiking pants (one pair converts to shorts)
  • 1 x trackies (Bonds)
  • 1 x denim shorts (Just Jeans)
  • 1 x skort (Kathmandu)
  • 2 x dresses (both can easily be worn with or without tights)
  • 1 x floor length skirt (Betty Basics from Birdsnest)
  • 1 x board shorts
  • 1 x sleep/ workout shorts (Bonds)
  • 1 x pair of swimmers
  • 4 x pairs of tights (Bonds and Voodoo)
  • 1 x knee length socks
  • 4 x thin socks (Bonds)
  • 4 x woollen/ hiking socks (Kathmandu)
  • 12 x underwear (Bonds and Under Armour – fabulous quick dry ones)
  • 1 x thermal long sleeve
  • 1 x thermal short sleeve
  • 5 x short sleeve shirts (Just Jeans, Under Armour and Bonds)
  • 2 x long sleeve shirts (1 x Country Road basic; 1 x Just Jeans lightweight print shirt)
  • 3 x tank tops (Miss Shop)
  • 2 x sports crop tops (Under Armour)
  • 1 x sports bra (Under Armour)
  • 2 x t-shirt bra
  • 2 x belts
  • North Face fleece jumper
  • JAG zip up hoodie
  • North Face waterproof warm jacket
  • black cardigan
  • lightweight, black blazer (for ‘conferencing’)
  • 2 x (lightweight, cotton) scarves
  • hiking boots (Merrell)
  • thongs/sandals
  • ballet flats
  • runners (Rocksport)
  • sunglasses
  • hat
  • gloves
  • beanie
  • a few pairs of earrings

We’re not the kind of people who can survive on three pairs of underwear.

Toiletries and first aid

  • the usual – facial cleanser, tone and moisturiser, BB cream, deodorant, body lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, dry shampoo, shampoo and conditioner, hair product, hair bands and bobby pins, razor, tweezers and nail clippers, blush, eye liner, concealer, eyebrow brush, mascara, cotton pads and buds.
  • glasses
  • contact lenses and solution
  • menstrual cup, cleaner and sanitary supplies for one period (buy more on the road)
  • medications
  • water purification tablets
  • voltaren
  • difflam
  • sunscreen
  • Advil
  • Deet/ insect repellent
  • assorted band aids
  • gastro medication and antibiotics
  • Hydralite tablets
  • Ural sachets
  • Vicks inhaler

Also, I packed a ‘carry on’ version of a toiletry bag in case my luggage got lost (which it did on the way to Quito, Ecuador). I have facial wipes, feminine wipes, roll on deodorant, a few bobby pins and spare hair band, contact lens solution and case, mini hair product and BB cream.

Other travel gear

  • collapsible water bottle
  • water bladder (for hubby’s hiking pack)
  • pencil case with a stamp set
  • Moleskine journal
  • Lonely Planet ‘South America on a shoestring’ (which is going home after this leg)
  • a few carabiners
  • mini sewing kit
  • duct tape (don’t laugh, surprisingly handy!)
  • door stopper
  • pillow case (I put my clothes-filled packing cube inside it on the Lares Trek to use as a pillow)
  • micro fibre towel
  • laundry bag and line
  • exercise band and tennis ball (for trigger pointing)
  • dry bag (13L)
  • sleeping eye mask
  • headlamp (Anaconda)
  • torch
  • ziploc bags
  • travel documents(!)
  • sleeping bag x 2

Wow! That seems like a big list! But surprisingly, fits. Well, at least into mine, with a few things put into my husband’s bags. 🙂 The first aid kit is packed in his, while I pack our spare toiletries. I carry the laptop and he carries my DSLR.

I think what people ultimately bring comes down to priorities and what they want out of the trip. For me, I  wanted to document the trip, particularly with a nice journal to write and paste things in. Also as mentioned earlier, I didn’t want to be doing laundry every few days. Other items are just plain common sense for where we’re going, such as a headlamp and dry bag for the Amazon jungle, medications and water bottle.

I have much more to say about the topic of travel packing and would love to share my tips soon on what we’ve found most useful, not so useful, my beauty products and maintenance, and wardrobe tips.

Stay tuned!

The Lares Trek

May 24, 2017

The Lares Trek in Peru was both the hardest thing I’ve done, and the best thing I’ve done in my life. The Lares Trek is a 33 kilometre (or 34, or 35, depending on who you speak to) hike over three days (two nights) and reaches an altitude of 4900m above sea level. The hike begins near Lares town and finishes in Ollantaytambo, before taking a train to Agnes Calientes for the night and seeing Macchu Pichu. My experience of the Lares Trek, 22 months post hip replacement, is a personal feat I’ll never forget. 

On a side note…

Goodness me! It feels good to be back at the laptop writing again! I haven’t posted in what, two months?! To be honest, it’s not like I haven’t been writing at all. Over the last couple of months on our traveling sabbatical, I’ve been quite content writing in the pages of my journal. I intentionally didn’t place pressure on myself to blog and after a break, I’m happy to be here. Documenting my experience doing the Lares Trek was a ‘must do’ for the sabbatical, so here goes….

Like many others who do the Lares Trek, the Inca Trail or any other hike that pushes personal capabilities and boundaries, this feat had its own significance for me. I wanted to challenge myself and re-gain belief in myself and what what I’m physically and mentally capable of these days.

The journey for me, started years ago. At the time of the Lares Trek earlier this month, I was 22 months post hip replacement. My post-op recovery of hiking whenever we had the time, pilates, yoga and barre classes, plus the previous five months working with an exercise physiologist worked together in preparation.

Perthes Disease

At 14 years of age, I was diagnosed with Perthes Disease in my left hip. I was a competitive, national level gymnast at the time, and back then, Perthes Disease and even hip disorders generally, were largely unknown nor understood. There wasn’t much that could be done by the way of treatment at such an age, so I had to just ‘live with it’. I carried on with life as normally as I could, even doing a three month overseas trip at 22. From here though, my hip – movement and flexibility, declined more and more rapidly, until I had enough. The pain in my hip would wake me up at night and I couldn’t enjoy a night out, or even a walk around the local markets. My hip was a constant source of pain, not only in the joint itself, but in my lower back and right knee too. I managed to hide most of it at work and from those not within my circle of family and close friends. I still had much to be grateful for, don’t get me wrong, but doing something became a matter of quality of life. I wanted my active lifestyle back and I knew that one day, I wanted to be an active Mum and have active pregnancies. I knew something could be done, so I sought it out. In 2014, I saw my surgeon in tears. Three years later, I’m a brand new woman. But coupled with my losing Mum 2 1/2 years ago, I had a way to go in regaining some self-belief.

Day 1: 9 kms

I started the Lares Trek optimistic. A slight incline for most of an afternoon. I replayed my exercise physiologist’s voice over and over again in my head- engage through the core, push through the heel. I was tracking towards the back of the group (of 18 year old whipper-snappers with too much energy), but I didn’t mind too much at that stage, enjoying the scenery and visits through the local villages.

We could take about 6kgs of gear in duffle bags, in addition to our day packs, and these were loaded onto mules and horses. Porters are generally not used on the Lares Trek. We packed minimal clothes, basic toiletries and our sleeping bags.

The food was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe the creations the cooks came up with in the middle of nowhere! We didn’t go hungry. Soups, pancakes and local dishes. And I fell in love with muña tea, an Andean mint tea that assists with digestion and coping with altitude.

camping site

Lares Trek, Day 1: campsite

We slept in tents at community campsites run by G Adventures. We rented small air mattresses and used our packing cubes filled with clothes as pillows. Though relatively comfortable for where we were and tired, for the life of me I could not sleep.

Day 2: 14 kms

I knew Day 2 was going to be brutal. After the briefing, I felt even more nervous and scared. I guess my mindset wasn’t the greatest from here. The plan was, starting at 7.15am and 3900m:

3 hours uphill to reach a lagoon

2 hours uphill to reach the summit at 4900m

1 1/2 hours downhill to lunch at approximately 2pm

2 1/2 hours downhill to camp

I’ll note here that I started the Lares Trek after two weeks with a cold and taking cold and flu tablets. The altitude played havoc with my sinuses and within an hour, I struggled to breathe but I was managing.

lares trek hiking

Lares Trek, Day 2: getting there…

I went slow, tried to find my own pace between keeping moving and enjoying the scenery around me. The aforementioned ‘whipper snappers’ almost ran up the mountain and set a ridiculously fast pace. Because I wasn’t keeping up with them, despite my own limitations and setbacks, I felt like I was failing. I began to think I wasn’t good enough to be there and that I hadn’t done enough to prepare for the challenge. The guides would frequently ask me if I was ok, which added to my frustration. (though I understand it’s their job) I still found some determination. Whether this was out of mental toughness or an inability to ask for help, I couldn’t say. All I needed was to go slow. The guides reassured me that going slow and to enjoy was the way to do the Lares Trek, but each time they asked me if I was ok seemed to go against this. I felt like something was wrong with me.

What surprised me wasn’t that I felt this way, but that I was quick to believe all these things about myself.

The altitude took effect near the rest point at the lagoon at around 10.30am. My glutes had fatigued beyond reckoning. And I knew I was compensating with my quads and lower back. This ‘less than perfect’ scenario, falling short of my high expectations of performance wasn’t good enough. I had pushed and pushed but my head got the better of me.

I thought I was tougher. My husband thought I was tougher. The truth was, I felt the enormous weight of everything I’d been through over the last 2 1/2 years on my shoulders. I was ready to curl up behind a rock somewhere and cry.

In my slightly dazed, frustrated and fatigued state, I agreed to be put on a horse to the summit. I didn’t want to let the group down, despite letting myself down in doing so. I took the horse on and off for the remaining 1 1/2 hours to the summit. (Yes, the estimate was 2 hours but the whipper-snappers took less time.) I had to walk when the way was too steep and too dangerous for me to be on the horse. On the horse, I was first in our group’s procession and often alone with the spanish speaking horseman who led me. The horseman was a sweet and gentle soul, aged in his fifties and wore sandals. His hands were calloused but I took his hand each time I climbed on and off the horse. And each time, he’d put my feet in and out of the stirrups.

After everyone reached the top, we did an offering to Mother Earth, or Pachamama with coca leaves, managed a group photo before the hail and snow storm battered us.

The downhill trek to lunch and the campsite passed relatively uneventfully, apart from my stunning tuck-and-roll down the mud in the forest. No video, sorry. Luckily, I still had my poncho over me from the snow storm, so minimal damage was done.

That evening I beat myself up. I failed. I cheated. I didn’t complete the trek.

Day 3: 11 kms

An easy day, all downhill. A day for reconciliation and making peace with myself. My mind was left to wonder about, and conclude a couple of things.

  1. I may not have been a strong as I thought I was, but I am stronger for having gone through it. I now have a better sense of how far I’ve come post Mum and hip replacement; a better sense of my capabilities and who I am as a person. I may be beat down from time to time, but I always pick myself up.
  2. ‘Going well’ can only be measured relative to your own self. Every time my husband encouraged me and said I was ‘going well’, I didn’t believe him. (That was sh*tty of me, wasn’t it?) That was because I was comparing my progress with the young whipper-snappers. I was going well, relative to what was both for and against me. Each of us has our own story, our own set of circumstances and challenges. No one else can compare. So the next time you think you’re not going well in life, in career, whatever, re-assess by looking at your journey so far.

I may not have been a strong as I thought I was, but I am stronger for having gone through it.

lares trek

Lares Trek, Day 3. Feeling a bit better about my efforts, I brought out the Nikon. Finally.

I thought about the horseman and wondered, ‘what if he was sent by Mum?’ As a kid, my Mum would saddle her horse and lead me and my sister out for rides at her Dad’s property. She’d place our feet in the stirrups, ensured we were sat properly, holding on. In some way, I thought perhaps the horseman was Mum lending me a helping hand. Maybe she thought it was something she could do, being so far away. I hoped she was proud of me.

After lunch on the third day and before we all left for town and the train up to Agnes Calientes, my husband gave the horseman our remaining bag of coca leaves for looking after me. Locals chew coca leaves for extra energy. He took the bag gratefully.

macchu pichu

The reward…Macchu Pichu, Peru.


I’d like say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone – family, friends, colleagues, for encouraging me on this journey and inspiring me to keep going. I wouldn’t have achieved this much without you all.

I’d also like to give a shout out to physio, Chris Brady, for referring me to the fabulous Dr Malisano; Stephen Boyd Physiotherapy, and exercise physiologist Rachel Evans and physio Flick at Inspire Health Services. Go team! Thanks so much.

Thank you to my husband for allowing me to use his photos in this post. 🙂

Sabbatical overwhelm

March 14, 2017

I’m writing this on a Saturday morning. I did half an hour of yoga earlier. Part of me was screaming, ‘What?! You have no time for yoga! There’s too much to do!’ The other part of me, fortunately, won by reasoning with this madwoman that I really needed to move, stretch a bit and put my mind together to calmly face my ‘to do’ list.

There is a lot to do. I haven’t done a ‘over a cuppa’ for February because there’s just been too much on mind. But be rest assured, I’ve had a cuppa beside while I wrote this post. 😉

Before I leave…

My departure marks a deadline for a research output. I need to write one more literature review and these bad boys aren’t easy. Literature reviews never seem to get any easier, no matter how many I do. A literature review is a piece of writing that identifies key studies, discussion points and developments within a field of study. Literature reviews tells a story of what’s been done to reveal the gaps where the current or future studies will fit. Enough about literature reviews.

Some will know I am chair of an advisory committee to the board of my professional association. My vice-chair and the other committee members will no doubt be fine without me. I’ll be on email, though sporadically. But there’s the 2016 annual report and a review of the committee’s manual, and an update to be provided to the board before I leave. I also need to brief my vice-chair on the duties I can and can’t do while away.

A presentation proposal I submitted to a conference in the UK earlier this year has been accepted. Another task added to the list, as I need to have the presentation almost done so there this not much to do on the road before submission in June. This is a very exciting opportunity to make my first international speaking appearance and hopefully make some new connections. I will be presenting on behalf of the advisory committee and the professional association (Australian Library and Information Association) about the issues around engaging the new generation of library and information professionals into conversation about our practice and contribution to the research literature. What’s perhaps even more exciting is that *the* Librarian of Congress is the opening keynote. I will be in such awe!

Then there’s the bits and pieces of travel planning and preparation, like

  • spanish homework and practice
  • compiling and making copies of travel documents
  • finishing tidying and clearing our house for the house sitter
  • organise money arrangements
  • appointments with the exercise physiologist and physio
  • packing and buying last minute things
  • etc

…and all this in addition to the full time job. Phew!

 Feeling overwhelmed

All this past week I’ve felt I needed a paper bag to breathe into every time I looked at my ‘to do’ list. I haven’t felt this overwhelmed in a long time – too much to do, so little time. And I’m known as a productivity ninja. But over the years, I’ve come to recognise this pattern of overwhelm, or train of thought that happens when I reach this point.

Feeling overwhelmed starts with ‘OMG’, followed by procrastination and distracting myself (cue Instagram, Twitter or anything else that’s shiny and has caught my eye) because I can hardly believe I’ll either 1) get on top of it all, and 2) make a deadline.

The biggest reason why I feel overwhelmed is because I don’t believe. This, together with my insanely high expectations of myself that I can’t see a way to scale them back to a normal and healthy level and focus on the ‘done’. Even ‘done’ takes time to achieve.

Here’s an example – literature reviews. I have a love/hate relationship with the little ba*tards. I hate research when I find myself in tears on the floor of my study because I fear I can’t do the task. I’m frustrated that I haven’t broken through the muddiness of theory and data and nothing makes sense. This is similar to how I feel when I’m overwhelmed.

Breaking through the ‘overwhelm’

I’ve come to recognise overwhelm as a break through point. This point is when I’m about to hit my stride. I finally stop with the snow balling thoughts and pull my head in. When I feel overwhelmed, I try a few different things.

  • Don’t look at my ‘to do’ list every 20 minutes, or just frequently, or try to re-arrange the ‘to do’ list so it looks even more organised. This doesn’t get sh*t done. The list ain’t going anywhere, that’s why I wrote it down in the first place. Unless there are things I can push back or take off that list.
  • Think about why I feel overwhelmed. Is it the volume? Is it my own expectations? A deadline? Combination of all three?
  • Have a cup of tea. It’s amazing how much my mindset can change if I just pause, take a breath and have a cuppa.

When we become anxious or overwhelmed, our minds can start believing our thoughts, and these thoughts, when given more and more attention, can snowball out of control. We start to believe those thoughts. Our thoughts are not facts. So the next time you feel overwhelmed, have a cuppa, think about what’s on your plate with a more rational mind and then proceed with a plan of action to tackle that list.

What is a sabbatical? And why go?

March 11, 2017

In three weeks, my husband and I will board a flight bound for South America and our six month sabbatical will begin.

I wondered whether I should publish this post. Not everyone will agree or support our choice of packing up and traveling, and that’s okay. I realise a sabbatical is not a conventional choice. It’s not the norm. Not what you’re supposed to do after you get married.

What some may not realise is that this sabbatical has been over two years in the making. From serious thought to bringing the plans together. This sabbatical and career break is a big deal for both of us. We didn’t make this decision lightly. We made subsequent decisions about our daily life, money and careers to arrive at this point. Before any plans or bookings were made, figuring out our ‘why’ was important.

Every person who has taken one, or plans to take one will have different reasons. I don’t feel the need to justify our choice, but I realise some might be curious about this choice and wonder whether a sabbatical might be for them.

What is a sabbatical? What is a career break?

Basically, a career break (or sabbatical) is dedicated time away from a career to go do something else for a while. This might be travel, study, raise a family, volunteering, etc. Some people or websites use the term ‘sabbatical’ to mean pretty much the same thing, but there are organisations out there that have sabbatical policies for their employees. My workplace has something to that effect, but unfortunately, and rightly so, I don’t qualify as I’ve only just started. Though it’s nice to know that the option is there if I wish to take it in the future.

Why go on sabbatical?

In short, we can’t *not* do this. We have the means and the opportunity. When will a time like this come again?

When I first thought about this idea, I just wanted to ‘p*ss off and be somewhere else for a while’. I wanted to find out what I was capable of, what was important to me and clear the slate to create a life where I was happy with what I did. At this time, I was completely miserable in job and clearly wanted to escape. I felt muddled with my career. I didn’t know where I was heading.

The ‘just be’ part has been the common thread throughout these past two years or so for why I wanted and needed this sabbatical. Though there are some other aspects to the ‘why’ that have evolved over time.

  • Letting go – I find letting go and just ‘being’ equally challenging. Always have. Not being productive EVERY SINGLE DAY feels like failure. Not living up to my own exceedingly high expectations of myself. This is tough to admit. Heck, I’m even worried I won’t blog or journal our travels perfectly! ffs.
  • Learn – I want to learn more about myself – perspective on what’s important, patience and my capabilities. I want to challenge myself and push through the discomfort. For example in South America, we’ll be doing the Lares Trek on the way to Macchu Picchu. The Lares Trek is approximately 33 km and reaches an altitude of 4550 feet. I’ve been working with an exercise physiologist the last four months to help with my movement patterns and functions following my hip replacement in 2015. I have doubts. I have fears. Learning to back myself is important to me and my development as a professional too. Over the last two years or so, I’ve seen this lack of confidence all too evident in my professional work and manner. Time to change this.
  • Bring inspiration – Towards the end of last year, my feelings about my career direction and general lack of self worth were symptoms of burnout. Again. And I didn’t see it coming. Again. But because this burnout had nothing to do with my workload. This time, this burnout was emotional. I had pushed through life and kept busy following Mum’s passing because that’s what everyone else does, right? I felt that by keeping up and keeping on going I was coping, that I was simply going through the experience. A recipe for self-destruction if you ask me. By doing something totally different from the day-to-day, I hope to bring back inspiration for both my personal life and work.

Final thoughts

I love to travel. I want to see and experience more of this world because life wasn’t meant to be lived in one place. My husband and I are very lucky to have found each other, as we both value experiences. This sabbatical is not one long holiday as others might see it. Far from a holiday, this sabbatical is an investment in ourselves, our lives and our relationship. Sure, there’ll be some fun times, but there will also be days I’ll want to quit, pack up and go back to my comfort zone.

Free of ‘to do’ lists, I’ll no doubt see each day differently, and see different details. This, and perspective on what brings joy and what is important to me will bring inspiration. And maybe some clarity on how to move forward, with work and daily life.

2017, bring it on!

January 5, 2017

A new year brings optimism, opportunity and a fresh start. I’ve been looking forward to 2017. Excited, yet overwhelmed by what’s in store. Keeping well and achieving goals will look like challenging my self-belief (and growing some), balancing and managing my energy across all I have planned, committed to and want to do, and generally, smashing some goals.

After spending the better part of last year wondering about my next career step, next fitness goals and patiently awaiting for 2017, a couple of big, big things came together in 2016’s final weeks.

The first thing is a new job which I start next week. Unexpected opportunity, but awesome.

The second thing is having made the first travel bookings of what will be a sabbatical.

Yes. A sabbatical. A career break. Overseas.

A new job and a sabbatical this year?

Well, the two coincided. The sabbatical has been in the works for over 18 months or so. But I couldn’t, not have applied for this job. The job description could have been written for me, if the comments from colleagues and peers were to go by. And I really hope it is. I feel like this job is an indication of having ‘arrived’ in my career and profession, stepping into ‘big girl shoes’. I no longer feel like an early career professional. I’m now a professional who is hired not only to experience and grow but also to impart my knowledge and expertise and make an impact.

I was up front with my plans in the interview, and was prepared for my plans to be a deal breaker. All I could do was be honest and put my plans on the table, out in the open. I was fine with not getting the job because 1) I knew the sabbatical is absolutely the right thing to do for me and my husband and I’s relationship, and 2) if I didn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be. Turns out, one of the interview panel had taken six months off in the past and she described it as the best thing she’d done for her career. I was not expecting that!

I’ll explain more about the sabbatical in another post, but for now, I’ll just say I’m terrified of this trip, which is all the more reason to break out of the comfort zone and the ‘every day’ routine, to just ‘be’ for a while and come out the other side a better person and a more effective professional.

My word for this year

This year is full steam ahead and is about enjoying the jigsaw puzzle pieces that have finally fallen into place. My word for 2017 is ‘oomph’.



It’s time to embrace and enjoy, be present and commit to all that is important to me. This includes bringing out my best self when it comes to my new job and facing challenges during the travel adventures. I’m ready to give my all.

By living with this word, I hope that by the end of 2017 I will have:

  • developed strategies for sticking to my priorities and not allowing myself to over commit
  • achieved more by focusing on less stuff (not be so scattered)
  • more writing done
  • built self-confidence

My 2017 would be awesome if I make strides in the new job, make the most of the sabbatical by letting adventures unfold, love each day, keep a journal (and this blog) and still have energy leftover at the end of the year for all the homely things I like to do for Christmas such as baking, decorating and hosting family and friends.

Goals for 2017

  1. publish six blog posts a month
  2. climb Machu Picchu
  3. present at a professional conference
  4. make at least one, behind the scenes, international library visit
  5. keep a travel journal
  6. limit the number of freak outs when travels don’t follow the plan

If you haven’t set a direction for 2017 or set some goals, I recommend setting yourself up somewhere quiet for half an hour with a cup of tea, or other beverage of your choosing (mine was a glass of red 🙂 ). Try not to think too hard as this is more about taking a pause to consider your intentions for this year – the ‘what’, not the ‘how’. Consider what might be different for you if you embraced your word; what might stop you and how you can overcome obstacles such as bad habits or patterns of thinking.

I wish you all the very best for 2017.

What do you hope to achieve? Are there any changes you’re looking to make? What new habits will you develop to better take care of yourself?