After two weeks and a few days in Northern Germany, I made my way back to Berlin.
Again, there were a few things waiting for me, so I spent some time on organizational things and paperwork. I also squeezed in time for video games again. Overall I just took things more slowly again, did whatever I felt like doing (or not doing).
And of course I had plenty of things to think about. Both my parents and my brother had shared some of their thoughts with me and we had good discussions about my situation and my future. So, I also left some space to mull things over and to allow my mind to maybe settle on a thing or two.
The one thought that definitely kept coming back to me was that I’m already a lot longer in Berlin that I ever expected to be. And I’m not exactly convinced that this is a good thing. There are very few reasons to actually stay here and I have come to realize that living in Berlin also has quite a few downsides. It’s might not be in my best interest to continue this way.
This week I also spent at home in Berlin. It was a mixture of planning, biking, cooking and relaxing. I also squeezed in some time for videogames.
On my bike I explored the Erpetal. I had been there once a few years ago, but afterwards found out that I only saw a small part of it. So, this time I tried to follow it for as far as possible. It’s not the easiest trail to take as there is a lot of sandy terrain, but the sights totally make up for it. Just 10 minutes from my home I suddenly found myself surrounded by natur while driving along a small creek. When I reached the end, I decided to take a bit of a detour on the way back and looped around to the Wuhletal hiking trail, which is my standard go-to when I have no other ideas. I can definitely recommend this route if you don’t mind going a bit slower.
As I am writing this, I’m on board an ICE train to Nürnberg. This starts my first vacation of this Sabbatical. My plan is to spend a few days in Nürnberg, of which I have heard many good things, but which I have never visited before. Afterwards, I will drive further South to Austria, where I haven’t been in years. I hope that mountain scenery will inspire my to pick up my camera again, but also that I can find some serenity to do some thinking.
In a combination of embracing my procrastination and trying something new, I decided not to book my stops in advance. I only have the train ticket and a hotel booking for two days in Nürnberg. Usually when I’m out and about all day, I am quite drained in the evening. So, I will try out how it works, if I plan the next leg of my journey somewhat spontaneously in the evening. This is especially interesting, because I would not call myself a very spontaneous person. Maybe I will regret this decision at some point…
The realization that has me quite excited, however, is that compared to other vacations, this one does not really have a fixed time window associated with it. I do not have to be back at a specific point in time and neither do I feel the need to fill that weeks time of with add much vacation as possible. I’m curious to see if this really changes anything.
The only other item on my list for the next 2.5 months is that I want to drive up to my folks’ place and spend some time with them. Aside from that I only have a few ideas flying around:
Biking to my folks’ place instead of going by train
City trip to Amsterdam (maybe a stop in Belgium afterwards?)
Returning to Norway, maybe take the panoramic train ride from Oslo to Bergen again
For now, I’ll focus on my Austria trip and hopefully I’ll have some photos to share soon. (Although I can’t upload from my camera until I’m home again.)
Before I could start with anything, I had to get used to having so much free time on my hands. It didn’t take very long. However, it does raise the question why it has become such a common thing to accumulate so many responsibilities that it feels like we don’t control our own time anymore.
Time for Tech
Normally, I have very little interest in dealing with technology outside of work. Which is also why some of my gear is not very well maintained. As I had a sudden flare of motivation, I started my Sabbatical with a few chores. For months I had ignored the fact that my PC continuously failed at installing Windows updates. So, in an attempt to finally fix this, I decided to reinstall Windows 10. This was not very successful as something is going haywire and Windows refuses to install properly. I tried all kinds of hardware changes I could think of, but in the end had to give up.
This lead to a new opportunity, however: I rediscovered Ubuntu Linux. Having used it exclusively during university, I haven’t looked at it since then. Turns out: It has gotten even better than it used to be. Originally I installed it for analytics purposes and just to have access to more help articles online. Now it has taken the spot of primary operating system on my PC. We’ll see how long this will last, but for now I’m quite happy with it.
At this point I’m also really surprised by how well games run on Ubuntu. This used to me a major hassle and was one of the reasons why I moved away from it when I graduated. Looks like this reason is gone. Awesome!
I did not quite stick to my “every other day” rule yet, but I still got moving a bit:
Tour 1: Mittenwalde
On Monday I spontaneously found an interesting course on Komoot and decided to give it a try. I cycled towards the South and ended up going around Berlin’s new airport and then all the way to Mittenwalde, which is a small town in Brandenburg. It doesn’t have a lot to offer, to be honest, but was a good goal. And I had a nice break and a small lunch at a local bakery there. The trip was longer than I originally expected and took me almost the entire day. But it was great. The countryside outside of Berlin has a lot to offer.
Tour 2: Berlin Wall Trail
Berlin maintains a walking and cycling path along the line that used to be the Berlin wall. I had cycled small parts of it before sort of randomly, but wanted to deliberately try to follow it for a bit. I drove South from Köpenick and joined the trail at the Teltow channel. I followed it (and lost it once) all the way to the end of Treptower Park, where I decided to turn around and drove my favorite route back to Köpenick.
The Berlin Wall Trail has been improved over the years with small parks and long “green stripes” along its route. Even when it goes through densely populated areas of Berlin. Quite enjoyable to dive and also interesting to see where the wall used to pass through.
And before I forget: I also took care of a couple of things I had procrastinated for way too long. Top amongst them is that I finally bought a new umbrella and installed it on my balcony, so I can actually use and enjoy it even when the sun is burning down! Transporting a long package on a bike is always an interesting challenge (see photo below).
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In May 2021 I had several conversations with colleagues, who had recently returned from a sabbatical or were in the process of planning one. The idea stuck with me and after a while I decided to get the paperwork started. My rationale back then was that one year later I would have gone through a fairly exhausting project and also would have hit almost 7 years with the company. Both good reasons to take a break.
In case you’re not familiar with the concept:
A sabbatical has also come to mean a lengthy, intentional break from a career. The popularity of sabbaticals for non-academics has increased in the 21st century: 17% of companies offered some sort of sabbatical policy to their employees in 2017, according to a survey by the Society For Human Resource Management. There are very few norms and expectations for non-academic, or professional, sabbaticals. They can be paid or unpaid, affiliated with one’s employer or self-directed, and have a variety of durations, from several weeks to over a year.
In my case I could pick between different models with my employer and decided on saving 20% of my salary for 12 months and then taking off 3 months, while I would continue to receive 80% of my salary.
Now that the “saving period” is over, my Sabbatical has started on July 1st. And even though the project I had planned for turned out much less exhausting, I’m still super happy that I had the foresight to set up this break for myself. Throughout the past months and years I have piled up quite a few fundamental questions that I struggle to answer in my daily routine. Here is a small taste for the kind of questions I mean:
Is the place work has in my life okay?
Do I want to stay in my current industry?
Is being a team lead the right occupation for me?
What is my next career step?
As expected, a lot of them center around work and the infamous “work life balance”. There are also a few more that are a bit more personal. If stepping away from work for a while will help me with those remains to be seen.
I have been thinking about how to make the most out of these three months. My plans changed a lot in the year leading up to it. In the end, I actually did not make any concrete plans as that turned out to be too difficult. Because I’m not sure what to expect or what exactly I want and need.
There is a high risk that time keep rushing by and I find myself at the end of my Sabbatical empty-handed. Here are a few things I want to try to avoid this:
I will try to post regular updates here, mostly as a recollection for myself, but also as source of motivation.
One of my goals is to be more active, so I’ll focus on squeezing in some kind of physical activity at least every other day.
Any private considerations or insights I will record in my private journal, which I usually neglect way too much.
Whenever possible, I will try to take at least one photo of everything I’m doing.
I want to do a couple of smaller vacations during the 3 months (e.g. city trips).