Sabbatical Stories: In Search of a Better Work-Life Balance

Jeff Adams filled the transition period with challenges, adventure and passion projects.

This post was selected for inclusion in our Future of Art and Work series in December 2016. The series, sponsored by Microsoft Surface, selects some of our best posts exploring the topics of how art and work will look in the 21st century. This post was originally published in July, 2016.


Who hasn’t, at one time or another, considered taking a break from it all? Giving your two-weeks notice and taking time to travel or go back to school or pursue a new passion (or discover what your passion even is). For most of us, financial concerns, family obligations and societal expectations quickly put a pin in that dream bubble—but not for all. Those that manage to take the leap have lived to tell a pretty impressive tale. Sabbatical Stories features a few of those individuals: live vicariously through their journeys, or use them to inspire the beginning of your own. 

EVERUP: What prompted you (or finally pushed you) to make the decision to take a sabbatical?

Jeff: I was working in wealth management, and a career with frequent re-organizations led me to give myself permission to relax and quit worrying about things I couldn’t control and focus on the team I was leading, as long as I was enjoying the challenge.

How did you prepare financially for your leave from work?  

I had four years of serious plan-ahead time. I increased the deferral of my compensation and savings to provide a cash flow that would allow us to accomplish our goals.

The boathouse Jeff restored on Lauderdale Lakes in Wisconsin.
The boathouse Jeff restored on Lauderdale Lakes in Wisconsin.

How did you spend your time during your break?

First, a ‘Passion Project’ where we restored a historic boathouse in Lauderdale Lakes, Wisconsin. We set up a website to help the local residents be a part of our project. Second, I spent time giving back. I served on the National Board of Back on My Feet. Ran marathons around the world to raise money and spread awareness, co-hosted the Antarctica Marathon in 2015 and 2016 to help others accomplish a goal I had achieved in 2013. I also took a two-month Mindfulness Program with my wife. Hosted our daughter’s wedding at The Boathouse that we had restored, did a lot of rock and ice climbing with friends, and went trekking in Patagonia.

Ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado.
Ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado. 
Photographing Humpback whales in Antartica.

When you eventually came back to work, was it a difficult transition?

I did not return to my previous career, I started a completely new job. I was interested in a better lifestyle balance with more of a passion-based focus. I joined Marathon Tours and Travel an international adventure travel company that specializes in running vacations to all seven continents. There were no difficulties. I had been a client, then friend and then advisor to Thom Gilligan the CEO and Founder of Marathon Tours–so expectations, understanding the issues and priorities were all aligned. Thom and I have very complementary skills and styles.

How did it impact your career?

I found a better balance between lifestyle, job satisfaction, health and family … life is back to being an adventure!

The first dance at his daughters wedding last August in the ballroom of the Lake House he restored.
The first dance at his daughter’s wedding last August in the ballroom of the Lake House he restored.

What are your insider tricks on how to make the most of a sabbatical and use it in a positive way moving forward in your career?

Have interests that make your sabbatical rewarding emotionally and spiritually. Make sure you are going towards something … not away from something. Prepare financially and emotionally. With the benefit of career experience and maturity use this transition period to identify opportunities that will: challenge you, balance your psychological income and your paycheck and help others.



Sabbatical Stories: Using Breaks From Work as a Way to Recharge, Reflect and Re-educate

The Importance of Being Purposefully Purposeless

Sabbatical Stories: When Finding Your True Passion Fuels a Career Change