August 9, 2019

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4. Annual Leave

Some years ago, I told my boss I was resigning to go travelling. He did not accept this. Not the resignation, which he quickly came to terms with, but the phrasing. Travelling’ was a pretentious byword for an extended holiday. A frivolous use of time. It did not exist - a person was either on holiday or at work. Travelling’ was something invented by gap-year students and lazy graduates like myself to justify having a party in a foreign country as if it was some sort of meaningful pursuit. The only proper travelling was movement, transportation, the morning commute.

I objected to this assumption at the time (not in person - I am too conflict-averse). Life, to me, was about doing what you actually wanted to do, and travel was the most pressing of my desires. Travelling was a calling, an art, a means of tapping into the ways of the soul. Wanderlust is the natural human state, a fundamental need to move unconstrained. I was just the loyal servant of an ancient drive, one that had impelled all of my human ancestors, and perhaps some even older - neanderthals and all them.

I spent all the money I had earned in that job fairly quickly and I was back a few months later. It was fun - I bought a bike in Norway and left it in a Swedish train station two weeks later. Met up with old friends. Rode multiple ferries. Ate. Perhaps it was not the transcendental experience I had planned for and anticipated, but it seemed worthwhile. Better than sitting at a desk in a job I found unfulfilling, I thought.

My take on that interaction has shifted somewhat recently. There was a difference in opinion between my boss and me. Two contrasting ways of appraising work and the world, ambition and the relative value of things. I prized experience, difference, excitement. He prized stability, hard work, commitment.

I did not consider myself unambitious but I was left cold by the job and decided to leave. I didn’t have a plan for afterwards. Certainly, there were things that could have been improved about the work, but a key problem was the headspace I was in at the time. I could have been offered a hypothetical dream job of Professional Football-Watching Steak Muncher’ but would have deemed it unacceptable, simply because someone else would have been telling me what to do.

Trying to understand other people is a critical part of experience, but the warping lens of your own prejudice can obscure the view, clouded further by the day you’re having. My boss was a hard worker, a focussed man who had set up his own business and helped it grow. A good holiday was a means of re-setting before returning to what life was actually about - work.

I don’t necessarily share the opinion, but I think now that I understand it.

But I can’t be sure - ask me next time I go travelling.

If you have a comment, send me an email at

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

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