Monday, 22 September 2014

How to Negotiate a Second Sabbatical Leave of Absence

I thought I should write this since it’s always something that people seams to ask me when they find out I did not quit my job. More bewilderment jaw dropping action seams to follow when they found out I manage to get an even longer (1 Year) sabbatical then my last one (6 Months).  Some facts that need to be known …. Both sabbatical leave was taken from the same company that I have been working. The first one was taken after working in the company for 3 years, and the second one was taken after returning from the first sabbatical 2 ½ years later. 

How the F*ck did I Get It … most company would have fired me by now ….

The above is the usual or somewhat usual respond I usually get from friends and family and it’s always followed some eye rising question speculation that I did some backdoor illegal / under table means to get what I wanted. Well …. Getting a sabbatical is more an art then technicality anyway ….

If I would summarized my way of getting a sabbatical the second time it would go like this

1.    Mental Preparation
If the first big trip requires you to prepare yourself mentally to save up, quit your job, jump into the unknown world of backpacking and visiting places you never dream off let alone do it solo … then the second sabbatical requires preparing your boss and bosses mentally to accept that you are always going to be asking for things that are not of the norm.
You see the first time is easy …. most of my friends and family thought I was insane yet they had this glimmer in their eye telling me they kinda understand that it is a passion, a mid-life crisis or whatever and could consider it as something one would do only once in a lifetime.
So I prepared my Boss, bosses and company that one day I may do it again. 1 year after resuming work I requested plenty of leave of absence … 3 months, 1 months which was all rejected and I continue working but the seed was planted. 2 years later I told my boss to get a replacement for myself … giving him ample of warning that I would be leaving.
Constant reminder, and full of words of encouragement to my management team that I would be going regardless if they grant me or not the sabbatical leave. In my own words … they had 3 months to grant me the approval of my sabbatical else I would approve it myself by resigning.
So it was set in stone mentally to the Bosses head that there was no way to stop me from going on another world tour.
2.    Timing
Requesting a sabbatical is tricky. You don’t want to be the bastard that just chuck all the workload over to your boss and fellow teammates and leaves for a holiday. Since I work project base it’s always best to leave during a project ending … i.e finish your duty and go but then again I was assigned to a 7 year project 6 months prior to my departure. In the end it was agreed that I would help set up the project before I leave, a half-way point …. So I left the project to fellow teammates with big smiles and good wishes of seeing them in a years’ time.  
3.    Why I Need The Sabbatical instead of Resigning
One part that the company could not comprehend was that if I was so determined to go on the trip to the point that I would resign to pursue my world tour why was it then I was asking for a sabbatical?? Well since I am a Malaysian working in Singapore with a work permit a sabbatical means I would not require surrendering my work pass and hence I would have proof of employment during travels.
You never know how tricky it can be trying to cross borders with a jumper profile. Plus without resigning I would not have to go through the trouble of clearing income tax prior to leaving a foreign country which could hold up my paycheck for a few months while I was en-route … lastly as I know from past experience … a sabbatical is less hassle than resignation
4.    Why it’s Good for Company to Gives Sabbaticals
Not only do I need to convince my boss and bosses why I wanted to go on another world tour plus a longer one at that I also had to HARD SELL that it is good for the company to give sabbaticals. There is no loss to the companies that gives sabbaticals since a no pay leave is granted. All benefits from the company during the period of the sabbatical is considered void so technically the company loses nothing by giving sabbaticals.
Reputation wise it look good for a company that gives sabbaticals. Proven fact by the amount of compliment my friends and family telling me how fortunate I was to be working with a company that grants such ridicules requests. To the younger generation it’s definitely a plus point but hopefully I won’t set a trend and be blame for it.
In conclusion … Its good PR to gives sabbaticals …. No loss to company but value gain in reputation
5.    Acceptance
So after months of coxing / threatening / negotiating / they finally agree to give me a sabbatical of 1 Year … don’t be surprise if your sabbatical leave becomes a companywide rumour and gossip ….  Give it time … the envy will lessen with time and true friends will await your return
6.    Farewell with Blessing is always Better than F*uck Off
This is a little extra that I learn this time round. It’s very tempting to say F*ck Off and throw that letter you been wanting to so much just so one could go for a long extended trip but leaving on a good note is always better than burning that bridge. I make my trip a part of my teammates, friends and family which they track me through facebook and this blog. I get text and msg even as I travel asking for advices or even giving me tips and help when I reach places they have been before or have friends and relative.

For those who do not understand … some people whom are unable to do what we do in visiting the world …. They visit the world through our stories …

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Dream Gets Bigger - Saving Up for the Second Sabbatical

It’s been 2 years and 6 months since I came back from my first sabbatical.

1 year 6 months since I started this blog.

How do a traveller gives up his backpack and settle back in life, work a routine job, and somehow don’t get the urge to throw it all away and do it all over again? One day when it does happens and I could say for certain that my exploring days are over maybe I’ll put a post up then but for now the feet is still on fire.

Saving Up the Second Time

While I have read my fair share of how to save up TIPs from the internet and find them most helpful but doing it a second time is a whole new ball game. The first time is the easy part. Life’s saving are there to be used, unnecessary assets to be sold, things to cut down and get rid off and lifestyle to be change to save more money.
My Lonely Backpack
Saving up the second time however after coming back nearly broke the first time when you don’t have any of those extra layers of fats (i.e. things to burn / sell / cut down) can be challenging. You have learned the basics the first time so the second time saving should be easy right?? Not quite so … when there is no sudden plus to your saving for let say cutting back on Starbucks coffee or cancelling that useless subscription that you don’t need, and you are already living on bare minimum; suddenly saving becomes a grinding task

Saving is not going to get faster and there is no more ways to optimized. Years of saving is needed if you ever want to get enough for that second trip …. OMG

Temptation of Finding Alternative Cash

This one was real … I was already optimizing my living lifestyle to bare minimum with the occasional spurge to keep my mind sane … so what was next? What could I do to speed up the process allowing me to hit the road a second time? Naturally I started looking for ways to earn additional income. Was it even possible??? Would that be a clash in interest with my current job role? Am I even violating any of my obligation to my current job?? The dilemma was always there while thinking of means to make more cash

Well humans are interesting creatures … if you want something bad enough you will find away. So I started looking for alternative income source. Seriously started looking but there is only so much hours a week one can work his ass off. Nope I taking two jobs was out of the question.

What about get rich gimmicks ?? Investment or even those work at home with an internet connection marketing which is everywhere nowadays …. Too bad I was still a wuss when it comes to using internet to make money and have no sense or rather will not risk investing hard earned save money on a possibility ….

At present my adventure is under countdown and in exactly 2 years I will have saved enough to kick start a second adventure …. I look at it this way … every bad decision will delay the departure. Countdown is set but a bad investment that ties you down can set back that dream a few years. Even a few months can be a disaster since one can never predict the future and there are so much temptation out there that the longer one procrastinate the further the dream will be.

So it happened to me as well … why it took 2 years and 6 months instead of exactly 2 years … well many reasons I would say. Indulgence … occasional splurge else I would go insane … one must keep his social life active to stay sane or at lease for me … but more than that I was trying to get additional income … the only legal way I knew that would not infringe any of my working ethics or my contract with my company. GAMBLING …

Casino … all the hopes and dreams of a lifetime … if only that magical $100 and with some skill and some luck maybe.. Just maybe I could double it … and maybe again just win enough to travel the world another time.

I told myself this justification every time I step foot into the casino … plus indirectly the casino also serve as an indulgence to keep me sane … with some hope of setting off early … but oh well 6 months late is still better than never …

Hope is all there is

I can say this to those who are struggling to lift off the ground after the first big journey …. Make your choices carefully… it is easy to settle in and somehow before you knew it you are tied up and are unable to travel due to obligation but there is always a way, never give up …. Remember the dream … if its precious enough … one will find a way

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Going Back to Work & Life – After a Sabbatical

End of my trip after 6 months + traveling around, I had to go back eventually back to my stoic lifestyle, work, friends and family. It is very hard for me to describe the feelings that I had coming home. Somehow life on the road had become a routine and in such it became the home.

Home or where I used to stay and work (Singapore) or where I grew up (Malaysia) had a different meaning.


Everyone wants a piece of the story … only a piece

Despite the increasing number of adventurers and acceptance that traveling the world is becoming a norm, it is still a rare sight that a friend / family member goes vagabonding especially when you are from south east asia. It does not happen often thou nowadays it is more easily accepted.

The first difference I notice was the expectation of a wild Indiana Jones story. If you have traveled the world you are expected to come back with a tale or two. Eventually in any meet up or get-together the question will pop up sooner or later.

“Tell us what is the ……( Insert Imagination here )….. most/crazy/memorable/horrible ……… thing that you had come across while traveling ??”

The questions comes in different forms and times. Even after a year being back from my travels I still get them. Even if you don’t speak of your vagabonding adventure sooner or later the question will pop up. It’s a natural conversation filler. However … only a piece at a time … that is what I learned after a while. No matter how exiting my adventure was to myself their attention span could only last a story or two. So I learned not to join one story to another …. Live in asylum that your adventure is your own to cherish and does not need to be advertised.

Work Work Work ….. Somehow it’s not that important …

I used to think that work is an important aspect of ones life. In a way I still do but coming back from a long travel shed a light on the need for work. You will always need to work to sustain oneself but where you choose to work and what you choose to do is entirely up to you.

After backpacking and surviving on bare minimum for so long, material things no longer has the same value. A cheap watch will do the work of an expensive watch. It does not really matter I guess as long as the job gets done. Surviving on bare minimum for a long time helps change the way I look at things. If I can settle for a cheap watch that works fine I won’t have to work twice as hard to buy the expensive ones.

Now I work to save up for the next travel …… the next adventure became my expensive watch ….

Work for your own beliefs … and not others ….

Adjusting to the comfort known as Routine

It’s amazing how much comfort one can get from just knowing where he will sleep tonight and every other night for the next dunnu how many months. If there is anything I don’t miss after coming back from my trip … it’s the routine in simple things. Where to get my food, where to sleep, where to get laundry done and how the transport works

Thou the problem about routine is that time is optimized …. Suddenly time is slowly being packed up again with work with chores, duty and hobbies and things that you wanna try …. Eventually I ended up in the same place again …. Not enough time to do everything. Every once a while I take a pause to remember the time on the road …. Never do we have enough time to see the world ( its huge ) but we learn to accept and focus on the thing that is here and now …. Appreciate Rome when in Rome … do not think of places that you could have visit by cutting short the time in Rome.

Appreciation of anything takes time …

Having a Social Life again ….

This is a big one I guess. Being alone for 6 months means no responsibility …. With the knowledge that the mass majority of the people that you meet will never see you again makes you more true to oneself. I so appreciate the ability to not bother about taking care of another person’s dignity or as we call it here in Singapore/Malaysia Face/Muka/. The Asian community is very vain in nature and offending someone within a circle will definitely come back to haunt you unless you are immune in some way.

While I do slowly integrate back into the culture of Social manners …. I also reduce my level of tolerance to accept peoples shit …. Life is too short to please everyone …

That said what I missed the most while traveling was companion of good friends who never judges and are able to share a part of your history …. Hence the easiest part of being home is having friends that you already know and don’t need to introduce yourself over and over again.

When that Travel Itch Starts again

One day Some Day … it will come ….

To those who have done a long term travel beware this is a disease that is incurable an insatiable. For those who have tasted it …. It can never be forgotten …. Even short term travel have the same effect, a 3 days holiday today and after sometimes the crave for another holiday will follow. Long term travel is no different just a little harder to fulfill financially.

For me it had come pretty soon. Maybe because it took me nearly a year to write the full cycle of the 6 month travel in a year …. (I am not that focus … tend to forget to write) … but even as I am typing the final entry of my six months travel I am already planning another sabbatical.

To infinity and beyond

Application for sabbatical to my company has been done and route charting is already in progress …. So I guess this blog is going to be well fed for another couple of years with my stories.

Hope to those who have been following has enjoyed this humble Malaysian Backpacker … An Asian perspective on Long Term Travel 

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Backpacker Became the Tourist ….. Seoul …. Land of the Soul …. Korea

It was something of a welcome to be back in the Asian part of the world where all the people don’t immediately look at you and single you out as an outcast. Of course this only last as long as you don’t try to start a conversation since I don’t know Korean hence immediate labeling as tourist.

Seoul was the one and only stop where my parents decided to crash and hijack the trip. So I met them there and toured around Seoul and somewhere partway we ended up in Jeju island as well. As I thought that the trip was crashed I wouldn have to do much planning but alas I forgot that parents expect you to plan things for them …. Luckily planning things on the go for 6 months running give you some basic survivor tips

Emergency Tour Tips

Tip 1. Just go straight to the nearest tourist information booth you can find and pick out a day tour or 2 days or 3 days (however much days you have) and just pay the money … the rest is just tune out and enjoy the ride

Tip 2. Declare today as No Map Day …. Walk Walk Walk around and whatever will be will be …
(note: be careful if you need toilet break for walking far far away can get a little tricky with toilet issue)

Tip 3. Hire the Tout. I Don’t recommend this but sometime if your USD/GBP/YEN/etc money is just big enough … especially in some parts of south east asia …. The tout may actually be worth hiring in your point of view …. A few extra dollars for a personalized tour guide Dedicated to Boot

It helps if you have money to spend I guess … yet I have manage to self-entertain myself thought my travels with very little spending.

So I used all the three above and somehow manage to scrape an itinerary together in 2 hours …. Spend one day in Seoul with walking around …. Popping out the maps at urgent times only …. Used tip 1 on 2nd day in Jeju Island and manage to get a day tour by your very own friendly neighborhood taxi driver recommended by the tourist information center and in the middle of the trip by taxi got touted to detour to other places as well …. Hola ….

I am now a tourist in Korea …. Sightseeing …. I guess I will have to come back again to see the actual heartbeat of Seoul ….