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Posted May 11, 2018

sabbatical story new zealand

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When we announced that she was one of 12 people chosen to participate in the pilot of our Expedition sabbatical program, VP of Corporate Marketing and Communications Jessica Roy says, “If you told me I’d be able to take a month off from work, I’d have said ‘no chance!’” But that’s just what Expedition enabled her to do, and once the initial shock wore off, she set off to create a sabbatical experience that would be nothing short of “amazing.”

To begin her planning, Jessica made a list of places she would like to visit. Her options spanned the globe and included destinations like South Africa, Paris, and New Zealand. It was the latter that positioned itself as Jessica’s top choice after a conversation with a longtime friend solidified her desire to visit the country.

“My childhood friend called and asked if I’d like some company on my sabbatical,” Jessica recalls. “She was also interested in New Zealand – neither of us had been before – and suggested we do a hiking trip. Exploring the outdoors was appealing to me, and my friend sealed the deal when she proposed we end our trip with a visit to New Zealand’s notable wine country!”

Doing More of What You Love

Before she started her career, Jessica taught for Outward Bound and spent much of her time hiking, camping, sailing, and canoeing. Her sabbatical thus served as a way to “get back to myself and do more of what I love outside.” To fully absorb the experience, she aimed be “in the moment” every day of her trip – a big change for someone whose job is often focused on planning for the future. So aside from connecting with a small group of family and friends, Jessica took a digital holiday while abroad, which she says proved to be “very refreshing, because I’m fully tethered when I’m at work.”

Jessica’s stay in New Zealand covered both the north and south islands, and included hiking through the spectacular landscapes of Tongariro Crossing, Abel Tasman National Park, the Rob Roy Glacier, and other breathtaking environments. She and her friend made a point to experience the country’s metropolitan side as well, visiting cities like Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. And of course, there were the final days spent touring vineyards in Marlborough on the south island.

Jessica says you never know what’s going to happen when traveling, and a prime example was a large cyclone that hit New Zealand during her visit. In fact, it struck while she and her tour group were hiking in the woods, forcing them all to zig and zag as trees fell around them. When they finally made it to the end of the trail, they discovered that the road had been washed away. Luckily there was a pub nearby, and everyone made the best of the situation, turning a potentially stressful moment into a favorite memory of the trip.

Reflecting on her other favorite memories, Jessica pointed to the country’s landscape and locals. “New Zealand is so beautiful from a naturalistic point of view, with stunning scenery at every turn,” she remembers. “While I loved the outdoor aspect of the country, what was most memorable were the people. Kiwis are so lovely and personable. Their ability to seize the moment and have fun made a lasting impression.”

Back on WEX Time

Over the course of her travels, Jessica says she was waiting for her sabbatical epiphany. Instead of having it while she was away, she was struck after returning to the office. “There is a phenomenon I call ‘WEX years,’ and it describes how quickly things move here,” she observes. “As a growth company, this is a high-paced environment where time just flies, which I love. My sabbatical gave me a new perspective that has added a bit more of a pause to my day. I find myself more engaged with my work and reacting on autopilot less frequently. Having the privilege and opportunity to disconnect and go as far away as possible from my everyday life gave me the space to make that happen.”

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