Greetings from New York! Every year I disappear into the Big Apple for a couple of weeks to a month for a creative sabbatical. Most of my friends will usually scream “What’s wrong with you sabbaticals are for old people?! Come back to work like the rest of us!” My response is falls somewhere along the lines of “Peace out!” I wanted to share with you the video that started it all “The Power of Time Off” by legendary designer Stefan Sagmeister.
Recounting Melly’s 1st Sabbatical
I was introduced to the idea of a sabbatical right before I graduated college. I thought the concepts that Sagmesiter shared were interesting and the best reason for traveling on a wimp. I didn’t act on his ideas until much later though. Months after graduation I landed my first retouching job where I would sit at a desk processing 500+ files a day. None of these were creative projects either, there was a lot of turn the background to #FFFFFF and resize/crop the image to various sizes. Needless to say I hated my life. Then one day during my lunch break –I think I had a mouthful of noodles I booked a ticket to New York for two weeks and then turned in my two weeks. I was done. Although money was good, I knew I couldn’t stay at that job. I saw my future, I knew exactly who and what I would become, and on top of everything my hatred towards life was growing exponentially. Seriously when you wake up and curse the sun for rising you know you’re not following the right path in life.
I was on a mission in Manhattan: to find clarity. It’s funny how all the noises and voices of everyday life can cloud your mind. It was incredibly relieving to leave my evil desk job, but that relief was soon filled with “OMG what am I going to do now?!” I couldn’t hear myself think. Everyone else’s opinions and expectations brought me to a point of utter confusion. I couldn’t even tell whether or not I still loved photography.
Then off I went into the concrete jungle and all of a sudden I all my answers. I selected New York for my sabbatical locations for a number of reasons.
- – Public Transportation works!
- – Delicious food
- – Art scene
- – Seasons
- – Diversity and plenty of people I can couchsurf with
- – New York mentality (I appreciate the no BS attitude)
- – Inspiration is everywhere!
It’s surprising how not having a car can be so freeing. Without a vehicle I was free to go anywhere without worrying about where I was going to park. Being physically and a timezone away also did wonders. Since I told everyone back home that I would be gone for sometime my phone was pleasantly quiet. All of sudden I didn’t have that nagging feeling of pleasing my social circle. This allowed me to focus 100% on myself to reflect and reprioritize my life. I enjoyed the process so much so that creative sabbaticals are an annual thing for me. Every time I end up returning feeling more secure with my identity and what direction I’m going down. My advice to taking your first sabbatical:
Above is a crappy photo from my Blackberry Curve 8530 (oh yeah who else misses BBM?) This was a photo taken during my first couch surfing experience with a Summer Google Intern staying in the dormitory section at the New Yorker. I packed one pair of Converses, a stack of clothes and toilettes in my Chrome Rolltop Backpack, and carried my 5D Mark II + 50/1.4 around my neck.
If you’re going to do sabbaticals like me –cheaply/on-a-budget. Traveling light is the way to go. I got around (and still do) by jumping from couch to couch and/or hostels. When you’re constantly moving around you’re forced to pack and carry only what’s necessary. All luxuries are left behind.