Sun, sea and a superb sabbatical!

Rewards for long-term service make me picture big companies, the 80s and carriage clocks…of people like my dad receiving the sort of ‘gift’ they smile enthusiastically about, while posing for a photo and shaking hands with their boss, safe in the knowledge that they’ll never use this so-called gift again.

Here at Octopus Group, I’m pleased to say things are very different. First off, there’s rewards from day one, and at every stage of your career – from promotions and pay rises, to Superstar Awards (read this blog from Jay Jay to learn more) and Campaign of the Month trophies for outstanding client work. But in addition, there’s something special for those Octopedes who’ve been part of the agency for a few years, including a paid sabbatical for those who have been with the agency for over five years.

So, in late December, I packed my case, switched off my email (more on that later!) and boarded a jet plane to the other side of the world.  First stop was Sydney – 36 degrees, beautiful beaches, cold beers, BBQs and time spent with one of my best friends who emigrated to Oz more than 10 years ago.  From Sydney, I flew onwards to Brisbane, and then the Whitsundays on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef…more beaches, clear waters and diving…and a few beers with fellow Octopede, Sammy Jamieson, who was passing through the same area on his own sabbatical. 

From Australia, I made my way to the North Island of New Zealand – breath-taking scenery, wildlife and a fascinating Maori history, plus incredible food and wine.  I travelled from Auckland to Cape Reigna, the northern most point of New Zealand, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea.  I sailed the Bay of Islands, raced along a 90-mile beach and visited the vineyards of Waiheke Island.  It was perfect, and I wished I’d planned a longer visit. New Zealand, I’ll be back.

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From there (and sorry for sounding really, really smug at this point), I flew to the paradise that is Fiji, taking a small boat from the mainland to the beautiful Mamanuca Islands. And while it was snowing back in the UK, I found myself lounging by the pool, snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters and walking on the beautiful white sand beaches, soaking up the sunshine and sipping on delicious cocktails. The remoteness of Fiji and its islands meant that the Wi-Fi was intermittent, so in addition to no email, access to social media was limited, but after the initial panic the peace and quiet of being uncontactable was incredibly freeing! It’s amazing how much energy is taken up with the volume of information in your head at any one time – switching off completely gave me a new perspective. I read books…loads of them and listened to new music and old classics.  My mind felt quiet, calm and I felt the stresses of normal life ease away. 

To complete my round the world trip, my final stop was LA –  a complete contrast from Fijian life.  A vibrant, crazy city, buzzing with energy and full of sickeningly beautiful people!  I embraced my inner tourist, lining up visits to old Hollywood, the film studios, a tour of the homes of the rich and famous, shopping on Rodeo Drive, cocktails at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, celeb spotting and brunches at the coolest places in town.  It was a whirlwind few days, but a fun way to end my trip before heading home.

Having the time to travel, and the space to switch off was amazing. Agency life is busy, and we all feel the effects of that from time to time. Taking six weeks out to relax, travel, see friends and experience new things was such an incredible opportunity, and one I’ll remember for the rest of my life. A sabbatical is such a rare benefit these days, but something we’re proud to offer here at Octopus Group. 

Thank you to everyone at Octopus Group for the opportunity.