Today, I closed a chapter in my life, and opened another.
After two and a half years working in Rome, and five months in the Dominican, I thought it was time to try something different. Today, this evening, I start my sabbatical, until the end of the year. To begin with.
Sabbaticals are not new to me. I took the first one back in 1993, when I decided to work on an Antarctica project. I took another break in 1997, to go to the Antarctic again. And yet another one in 2006, for 13 months, to sail across the Atlantic, and start writing down some of my past adventures, both for work, and in my free time.
Some questions people ask me:
1. A sabbatical, why?
Life is too short not to enjoy it. I have always done things because I enjoyed them, and enjoyed things I did. I let destiny lead me. I have been fortunate in that respect. It always turned out OK. I always ended up in a place, doing things I wanted to do. Sure I took risks, often giving up "my secure life", for something more risky. But I always landed back on my feet. I am fortunate to have an employer who allows me to do this (even though for my first sabbatical, I had to quit my job), a supportive family and friends who understood my choices.
For all the previous sabbaticals, when the time was right, I made the call. I never thought twice, and never regretted it. Armed with the past experiences, this one was no different: the time was right, it felt right, so I took the decision. Because life is too short not to do what one likes doing.
2. For how long?
Well, this sabbatical will run at least until the end of the year, but is extendable up to two years.
3. What will you be doing?
First of all, I want to spend more time with my family. We lived together in Uganda, but as I started to travel a lot, Tine and the kids moved back to Belgium. Since 1999, we have been a "shuttling family". Up until 2006, I was fortunately to work "two months on, one month off", so I could spend a total of about four months per year at home. After my third sabbatical, I moved to Rome, where I could no longer work "part-time", so I saw the family less frequent. Now is the time to spend more time at home.
On the other hand, since about three years, I engaged quite a bit with social media. It became a hobby. And more than a hobby. I would like to see how far I can stretch the use of social media in the nonprofit sector. Almost like making a job out of my hobby.
Which is not new to me neither. Back in the 80-ies, I graduated as a printing engineer, but engaged in computing as a hobby. While I did my civil service, as a conscientious objector, I worked in an ecology laboratory making computer programs, and started to write for computer magazines. Two years later, I started a job as a systems engineer.
Around that time, I picked up ham radio as a hobby. Later on, in 1993, I quit my IT job, and stepped into the humanitarian aid sector, as a telecoms engineer. Again taking up my hobby as my job.
Now is the time to see if "my social media" hobby can be more than a hobby.
4. Yes, but practically, what will you be doing?
There are a number of projects I have lined up where I will be reporting on certain events, as "a social reporter", registering events or situations, and using that "input" to "broadcast" it on different media: blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and if things work well, pieces for TV or radio. Things are starting to shape up, so stay tuned.
On the other hand, I want to expand my network of blogs, their content and functionality. I definitively want to expand BlogTips to explore the horizon as to what can be done in the nonprofit sector with social media. How to use this new medium to bring the nonprofit sector's message. Be it for advocacy, fundraising, knowledge management or as a way to engage people.
There is also something brewing in the area of technology solutions for nonprofit causes. There are a number of ideas I have been playing around with since a while, as IT projects, where there seems to be a number of people (I call them "the good and the willing") would like to engage on.
For the rest, I have the agreement with my employer to call me in, when there is an emergency. Setting up things, heading a relief effort, that is what I am good at, and where I can contribute the best.
5. Where will you be?
I will be shuttling between Rome and Belgium.
6. How do you have ends meet, financially?
Since I started working, my family and I always made choices to live the moment. We have not invested a lot in fixed costs, like a house - we don't own a house, or any property -. When we earned money, we set it aside. When the time was right to spend it, we spent it. Money was never an issue. Maybe we were fortunate, although, there were many times where we could barely 'make it'.
During my 20 months of civil service, I earned US$150/month. Tine was still studying. There were times we did not have enough to eat. I think there have been four or five times, where we spent pretty much whatever we had. Each time, we 'started from scratch' again, but we never felt that as a burden. We always enjoyed what we did.
Picture courtesy Shot From the Hip