Time off

You might wonder why I pulled the plug from my normal business life and started travelling  in my motorhome through Europe? Well, me too. I have always worked hard, climbing up the career ladder, taking on more responsibilities, playing corporate politic games to founding my own company and trying to be more successful from year to year. For fifteen years straight.

I guess I simply needed a break. Time off to figure out my next move. A new start. That doesn’t mean that I will never go back to the work life I have had before this trip. I might even be able to enjoy it more having a different perspective. I don’t know. Yet. For now I am travelling and blogging. That’s all I know, and I am enjoying every day of it.

Living for two months on the road now, exploring Europe, meeting wonderful people, eating great food, doing every day something different, not feeling bad about relaxing in years and simply not having a plan gave me a lot of time to think to also review my previous life. I know, it sounds a bit like Eat Pray Love – just in Europe. And without Julia Roberts. But let me share my personal story and thoughts with you.

Change is coming up

I feel that a change is coming up. A process has started and I can’t really grab it. So I started to do some research on change processes in life and stumbled upon a theory from Professor William Bridges, a change consultant, that I feel connected with.

According to him, life change is going through 3 transition stages:

  1. Ending, Losing, and Letting Go
  2. The Neutral Zone
  3. The New Beginning

Let’s examine each stage in more detail.

Stage 1 – Letting go

This stage is often marked with resistance and emotional upheaval, because people are being forced to let go of something that they are comfortable with. At this stage, people may experience emotions such as fear, denial, disorientation, uncertainty and a sense of loss.

Believe me, I know exactly what this feels like: When I decided to sell the main assets of my company and started to liquidate the legal entity at the end of 2017, I felt a great relief at first.

Shortly after bad feelings, which I have never experienced before sneaked into my life. I thought a lot about what went wrong, why did people let me down, was it the right decision anyway to start my own business and more importantly what could I have done differently or simply better. These thoughts were accompanied by very strong feelings of frustration and anger. It took me a couple of weeks to accept that thinking about the past is not helpful at all, and that I have to move on and let go.

This was the time I decided to pull the plug, get into my motorhome and hit the road to Greece.

Stage 2: The Neutral Zone

In this stage, people affected by the change happening are often confused, uncertain, and impatient. Depending on how well you’re managing the change, they may also experience a higher workload as they get used to new systems and new ways of working. This phase can be considered as a bridge between the old and the new.

Halleluja! This is exactly what happened to me. I left my home, my life and started to travel through Europe. I became a blogger. No plans and expectations just the excitement for something new. Sounds great, right?! Nope.

Being two weeks on the road, somewhere in Albania, I felt totally overwhelmed. It hit me right in the face. I started to doubt my project and thought of it as a “schnapsidee” – something I haven’t thought through enough and now I was stuck in the situation. In my motorhome, somewhere in Albania. All by myself. This was also the time I got really sick. I got a legionella infection and had to go to a hospital for treatment. I felt strong resentment and sceptism towards my plans, had low morale and a low productivity level. You can tell from a two week gap on my blog. No posts, no social media activity, no cute pictures. Nothing.

Luckily I am a very stubborn person and I love to finish what I start. So I didn’t turn around to go back home and simply dealt with the situation. After a couple of days, I felt more creative, innovative and less scared of the change happening. Just the opposite. I felt great encouragement for my journey and my blog, and I started to write again. At least two posts per day. Wow – how productive. That’s great. Nope.

Apparently, it’s just a part of the transition process. According to Bridges,  this is a distraction to finish stage 2 successfully. You think you are super motivated and productive, life is great, you have made the right decision, you are on your path to happiness now.  Until it hits you again. I was working really hard on my blog, driving at least 400 kilometers per day to get as much out of my trip as possible.

Until I was really exhausted. I started to sleep in in the mornings, took naps at lunch time, went to bed before 9pm and just couldn’t motivate myself to start writing again. This was the time I started to write posts such as toll systems in all the countries I have been cruising through on my way to Greece – interesting, hm? Or not.

Thank god I found a wonderful place in Volos, Greece right at the beach with no one around. I stayed there for almost two weeks and just chilled. Again, didn’t work on my blog, didn’t hit the road and make miles. Just Fiete and I, nature and my hammock. But this time I didn’t do anything because I was doubting myself or the trip, or I was too exhausted. I started to feel great again.

This stage sounds harmless, as it is simply called “neutral”. But I can tell you from my experience that it is a rollercoaster of feelings and emotions, ups and downs. I am sure that this phase was what the professor called the bridge between old and new. So off to something new now.

Stage 3 – The New Beginning

The last transition stage is a time of acceptance and energy. People in this phase start to embrace the change initiative. They’re building the skills they need to work successfully in the new way, and they’re starting to see early wins from their efforts.

At this stage, people are likely to experience a high energy level, they are open to learn and discover something new and they feel ensured.

Cheers to the New Beginning!

Only if you successfully go through all 3 transition phases, life change can really happen. According to Bridges. Well, I am pretty sure that I am at the stage of a new beginning now, and I am thrilled to figure out what it is exactly. I still don’t know yet, but at least it feels much better this time than when I started my trip through Europe.

I am writing you from Delphi in Greece, sitting on top of a mountain overviewing ancient sites. And I know for sure that this is exactly where I should be right now.

Cheers to the New Beginning!