Sabbat­ical: Simply coming back?! – How to return from your career break

Due to own experiences Katharina Grau, systemic coach from Hamburg/Germany, knows how difficult it can be to return from a sabbatical and to "entirely arrive" at home. Her advice: "Listen to your inner voice." Learn more in our blog

Travel Guide

Between 2009 to 2010 Katharina Grau was backpacking in India, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand for more than six months. Afterwards she returned to her job in PR and marketing in an agency in Hamburg, Germany. At the end of 2011 she departed again: This time she almost spent 2 years in South and Central America.

Today 35-year-old Katharina works as a systemic coach and guides sabbaticals, helps with changing processes and also advises how to strengthen your professional profile. Moreover, she moderates workshops for teams or executives discussing topics like motivation, health and communication. She knows that it can be a great challenge to return after a long stay abroad. In her opinion it is important to listen to your inner voice.

„Most of the time we know exactly, what we need to feel comfortable and to return to our old routine. But even more often we tend to focus on circumstances from outside like a professional concerns or obsolete dogmas that keep us from listening to this inner self.”


In this context it seems quite paradox that most people deal with this problem even though many of them have traveled alone to work abroad or go on a sabbatical, and therefore constantly dealt with exactly this topic: Their needs. Where can I sleep? Where do I get my next meal? With whom can I become friends and build up a social surrounding? Apart from our usual surroundings – literally off the couch and right into an adventure – you will get to know foreign cultures, other languages, smells, dishes as well as people and above all – yourself and your needs. No matter where or how far you are traveling – you will always take yourself with you.

Therefore, it is even more interesting that even long-term travelers and expats report major difficulties with coming back and getting used to their former daily routine. Shouldn't it be especially easy for us right now to know what we need and what is good for us?

From her own experience, as well as from numerous conversations with travelers and expats Katharina has put together a list of ideas that have helped her with her return and re-entry to her new/old daily life of which we would like to present two in this blog. Nevertheless in Katharina’s opinion there is not “the one and only” solution for this problem as it depends on your personality and how you are planning your return.


1. Bucket list for back home

During a journey and longer stays abroad you will inevitably develop new perspectives. You will sharpen your gaze and broaden your horizon. It is quite common that after a journey people want to preserve bits and pieces of this feeling or the lifestyle during the journey.

Do: Make notes in your diary or send yourself an e-mail with a list of things you want to do or keep doing when you are back home. This may help you to preserve memories, experiences and a certain behaviour that you became fond of during your journey and that you would like to integrate in your daily life.

Don't: Don't be too hard on yourself if you have only been able to achieve a few things on your list after a few years. “I don't know what happened to my projects 'guerilla-gardening in my street' and 'organizing a neighborhood-exchange-base'. At least I managed to fulfill the task 'regular movement in the nature' in form of 'going outside on a semi-regular basis'”.


2. Take your time for reflection and exchange

Do I return to my old job? Would I consider taking another job within the company? Or am I looking for new challenges? As said before: New perspectives will bring new ideas. Who knows how you will feel after your time-out? – Maybe also something completely different from what you would imagine right now. It can be quite helpful to compare your own former perspectives with those from afterwards and also to exchange with others.

Do: Take your time. For once to keep thinking about these questions and on the other hand you should also take some time to talk about your ideas (also the crazy ones) to friends, colleagues or maybe also to a professional coach or a career advisor. It is also very important to collect as many information as possible as only sufficient research will help you to move in a certain direction after returning home.

Don't: Don't expect to find a quick solution. The best gift that you can give to yourself in this process is patience. Everything needs its time.

Katharina Grau – Auf dem Weg. Coaching & Kommunikation

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