After 13 years working in a creative consulting firm, Timothy goes on a sabbatical to mark his career transition. His time off helps him heal from burnout, think through his transition, and attain his dream.
I have clarity on my next steps, and I put my former job behind me.
Marking a Career Transition by Climbing 6000m Peaks.
Tell us about your sabbatical:
I had worked for the same creative consulting firm for 13 years. It’s a wonderful company with a rare intensity of work, where most people come through the firm for a 3-5 year “tour of duty.” I found the culture and the work very stimulating and frankly addictive, and took progressively more senior roles in the firm. Over my last 2 years at the firm, I became the head of the firm’s North America business, and then the global managing director. It was an intense period, steering the firm through an acquisition by a much larger company and then merging into the new parent. The role involved lots of international travel, early morning starts through to late evening finishes, and all the pressure associated with leading a firm through major change.
I didn’t realize it before resigning, but I was pretty tired and burnt out, becoming less patient with the day to day of working in a large company.
In a moment of clarity that came to me after a strategic disagreement with the new parent company, I decided to resign and hand over the reigns of the firm.
Once I announced my departure, I decided to take a mountaineering sabbatical. The timing was perfect – I resigned in the summer and spent 3 months transitioning my various roles to replacements – so started to free up in time for Nepal’s post-monsoon climbing season. I spent 6 weeks or so training and getting ready in my home state of California, and then spent 4 weeks in Nepal.
I’ve been mountaineering my whole life, but the past 10+ years was mostly focused on being a father to 2 kids, and my career, limiting me to one or two shorter trips per year. I have always wanted to climb in higher altitudes – specifically 6000m / 20,000 ft or higher. In fact, I had tried to get to that altitude twice before, but failed due to weather and fitness.
Looking through the various guided climbing options, I came across a New Zealand based company called Adventure Consultants who had a “3 Peaks Expedition” planned for November 2022. This was a perfect fit, so I signed up to join the expedition.
I arrived in Kathmandu and met my fellow climbers – 3 other men ranging in age from 30s to 60s – and we met our Nepali guides. We then spent 10 days or so hiking and slowly gaining altitude, roughly 1000 feet / 300m a day with up to 8 hours per day of walking. We then climbed the 3 peaks over a week, with a rest day between each summit day. The first summit was both the most challenging and most emotional – we climbed through the night getting to the summit as the sun rose. The realization that I was “communing with the gods” at this high altitude, surrounded by beautiful mountains and knowing that I had finally attained my dream was overwhelming and very satisfying. I had something of a cold and cough for the second and third summits, but was also stronger and more acclimatized. Above 5500m or so, the air feels thin, and even though I was well trained, I could only take a step or move my ice axe after taking several breaths.
After the final summit, it took about 5 days to walk out to Lukla airport where we caught a helicopter back to Kathmandu. Each day took us to a lower elevation, where the air felt thick and our appetites came back.
In our modern lives, we rarely have long periods of time to reflect.
Walking for 8 hours a day and going to bed when the sun goes down gives you plenty of time to think. After 13 amazing and intense years in my job, I needed this time to decompress and work through the challenges and frustrations of the past 2 years. I came back ready to get back to work and find a new corporate adventure.
List some activities you engaged in during your sabbatical:
– Training period to get physically ready to climb 6000m / 20,000 feet mountains – about 6 weeks
– Travel to Nepal
– 10+ days of acclimatization – daily hikes of 6-8 hours
– 6 days of climbing – 3 peaks
– 5 days to walk out of the mountains and back to civilization
What catalyzed your sabbatical?
Negative event – health/burnout
Positive event – company acquired
How long was your sabbatical (in weeks)?
What kind of work did you return to?
Different company, similar role
Describe any changes you made in your life post-sabbatical:
I’m taking my time to start my next role, rather than jumping into the first opportunity that comes my way.
Why do you think others should (or shouldn’t) take sabbaticals? Are there occasions in life where it’s particularly helpful?
1. In moments of transition or change – a sabbatical gives you distance and time to think. I think doing this between jobs is a great idea if you can afford to take a few weeks off.
2. Before taking major life decisions – this may be challenging but even a short break can help you think through and reflect on the decision
You can connect with Timothy Morey here.
Interested in more career change sabbaticals? You should definitely check out Alexandre’s story.