What I Learned On Sabbatical

The truth you only see when you’re on the outside

In early August I found myself at a house party with a handful of friends. While people all around me chatted in the kitchen, my mind drifted to the next morning, when I would be flying home from the three-month sabbatical that allowed me to circle the globe with my fiancé Tehillah. During our travels through South Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia we lived with no cellular access, only occasional wifi in hotels and cafes, and I didn’t participate in a single work call or meeting until returning Stateside.

My friend Sean looked at me and asked, “So what did you learn on the trip?”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“I want to know what you learned. Did you learn anything new about solar, wind, compost?” he pressed.

My mind went completely blank. Truthfully, I hadn’t cared to seek out anything new about those spaces. This trip was about something entirely different. I went on this trip to learn how to be truly, profoundly happy. And to tell you the truth, that’s what happened.

I didn’t end up addressing Sean’s question right away, but now that I’ve had time to reflect, I have some answers.

Here is what I learned

I learned that my day is much better when the first thing I reach for in the morning is my fiancé rather than my phone.

I learned that checking Facebook, Twitter and instagram when I lay awake restlessly in the middle of the night has never once helped me fall back asleep.

I learned to play one song on repeat during a special moment, so that I could perfectly recount every sensory part of that experience later by listening to that one track again.

I learned that carrying a Jenga set for months in a backpack is worth the weight.

I learned to stop beating myself up when I make a mistake because life will do that for me.

I learned that laughter is life’s most valuable currency.

I learned that sadness takes many forms, but all of them are conquerable.

I learned that every person I encounter is fighting an important battle that day too.

I learned that simplicity is difficult to discover.

I learned that fewer relationships means deeper relationships.

I learned that listening intensely is a more important skill than speaking immensely.

I learned that small acts of personal generosity are just as meaningful as big ones.

I learned to value the wisdom of those who came before me and the audacity of those who will come after me.

I learned how lucky I am to have the sister, brothers, mom, and dad that I do.

I learned that a higher power resides in everything we do, see and experience.

I learned that I’m ready to be a husband but not yet ready to be a father.

I learned that true love between two people is sacred and holy and worthy of worship.

I learned that the only constant in life is that every day we can evolve by learning.