On travelling the world and journeying deep into oneself

The holiday season is fast approaching and the vast majority of us will be making the very most of a fortnight off. Mind you, there are some who claim that then they need another week to recover from their holiday! But what if, one fine day, a wild thought creeps into our mind… “How about just packing everything in and setting off to see the world?” If you’re not the offspring of millionaires, though, giving up work completely probably isn’t an option…
Hang on! Maybe there’s a way of combining the two?
Insights talked to Aleksandra ‘Ola’ Wesołowska, content specialist at MakoLab, about exactly that!

How long have you been at MakoLab, Ola?

A year and two months.

Is it true, though, that you left the company nest for a bit longer than usual during your first six months?

Yes. It was after my first three months here, which was also my trial period. With MakoLab’s consent, of course, I decided to take my entire year’s leave entitlement, support that with some unpaid time off and set off travelling for something over two months. Staying in other countries in our caravan, which remembers the days of communist East Germany!

Where did the idea of a trip like that spring from?

I’ll always remember that moment. It was about six months before the trip and my partner and I were lucky enough to be spending a lovely evening in Lviv. It was in November, during a public holiday, a long weekend. We were with friends who we often go with travelling in Ukraine. Little by little, it came out that they had a plan they’d been keeping to themselves. They wanted to buy a minibus and take off on a trip for several months. They still hadn’t decided exactly where they’d head. The Balkans were kind of an emergent thought and we love that region…
“So, why not come with us?”
“So, why not? We will!”
We had our venerable QEK Junior caravan, meaning that all we had to do was buy a better, more powerful car, a four-by-four. At the time, though, it was more of a rallying cry than anything. None of us expected that everything really would work out like we were thinking and that we’d be off, slowing down and drinking in the world. Because we love doing just that. We believed and we worked hard to make the trip happen. The middle of June arrived and we couldn’t have been happier. On Monday 13th June 2022, instead of heading for work, we set off for Georgia.

Weren’t you afraid?

Absolutely not. The only thing that could have worried us or stopped us would have been health problems, ours or in our families. You really can be prepared, better or worse, for anything else. We weren’t scared. We were much more interested in what we’d encounter, the people we’d meet, what we’d see and what we’d learn. All I’ll say is that, as always, the places we’d be stopping in tended to be a long way from the cities and towns. We prefer nature, vast spaces and freedom. And we just couldn’t wait!

OK, so what do the preparations involve? Is it simply a matter of sorting out your private affairs? Or your professional ones, too?

That’s an interesting question because, in professional terms, when we decided to go, we were in a totally different place from where we were around three weeks later. Speaking for myself, I made the decision to change jobs at the end of 2021. And we’d started planning the trip in November.
What’s interesting is that I almost certainly wouldn’t have moved to a new job before the journey, but then I saw the MakoLab job advert. What I’m going to say now is absolutely serious and not just for the sake of our conversation. I wanted to work here. I’d been working on marketing projects for years and, as you know, openings like that rarely crop up in IT companies.
My first thought was “N-o-o-o, don’t go sending your CV right before taking a three-month trip”… that’s what we were planning, while our friends were planning five months.
But then my partner said “Listen, really, why not? I mean, you want to work there, so just apply. If they invite you to an interview, then you’ll have to tell them you’re planning the trip”. Because he was sure that we weren’t going to give up on that.
And that’s exactly what happened. During the interview, I was open about my plans, because I didn’t want to take the job from someone who was more available. But here I am, as you can see and hear! And I’m grateful that my then future employer trusted me.
During those first three months, I obviously prepared a wide range of material, for publication, as well, for the period I’d be away. So I had plenty to do. And, as you’ll remember, what I’d prepared more or less lasted until I came back. I had loads of help from our team and all credit to everyone for that. I wouldn’t have managed without you all! Really.
It was quite a stressful time, because I wanted to prove myself worthy of the opportunity and to say thank you for employing me. And I had to explore a new sector and familiarise myself with everything.
As for the rest, we agreed everything, wrote it all down and then, up until June, we worked our way worked through the list, ticking off the points as we went.

Did you come back with any conclusions or lessons for the future?

Lessons. It’s worth investing in a portable shower. Our bathroom was a massive can of water on the roof of our car. It heated up during the day and it was enough for all four of us to keep clean! But once we reached the high mountains in Georgia and the temperature fell to nine degrees Celsius, things weren’t so easy. And I’m only half-joking…
There’s one conclusion. Life really is simple. We like hampering it and complicating it, though… and we’re very effective at that.
We knew that, we felt it, but we needed that journey to remind us of it. While we were staying in Turkey and in Georgia, we had the chance of meeting and spending time among some wonderful people. They were open and they showed us, reminded us about what really is important. Their world isn’t problem-free, of course, and that’s the result of all kinds of conditions… though that’s not what we’re talking about today. But I knew that the way they work on those problems is completely different from the way we do. And at the end of the day, they head up a mountain or along by a river and look on things with detachment, grateful for what they have. However banal it might sound. So many of us forget about that in our daily lives.
Slowing down came completely naturally to us. We started living more sparingly, more ecologically. As I said at the time, we were drawn to the bosom of nature and that meant free accommodation… the Turkish Riviera for zero zloties. That kind of world, in concord with the natural rhythms, is where we discover ourselves. But I’m not talking about doing nothing. I’m talking about absorbing, about learning, from others and from nature. Living close to nature. Developing harmony. The fact that you can read about that in a dozen… or dozens… of books is a different matter.

So when’s the next trip?

We’re working on it. Our time axis is divided up in a specific way. Not so much in terms of a day; it’s more about the nature of the blocks of time. Last year, we had a break, which doesn’t mean that we didn’t work. On the contrary. Because we had to do some very serious preparation for those three months. Like the people in America who began with nothing special, from zero.
This year is for challenges in our private lives. Pleasant ones, but there are several milestones ahead of us. Plus we’re also making every effort to use our working time as interestingly and effectively as possible. So, this year’s about work and focusing on ourselves and our professional growth.
Next year, we’ll be gathering money and collecting equipment and then, either at the end of that year or during the one after, it’ll be the wide world again! I hope.
Of course, we also love weekend breaks and we haven’t given up on seeing Poland and the world, but we know we need to keep up the pace. So, we will be slowing down, but only in a while. What matters to us is knowing that slowing down, nurturing ourselves, our needs, our minds and the rhythm of our days is, and always will be, number one with us.

Well, we’ll certainly be keeping our fingers crossed for the success of their next expedition out into the world and journey deep into themselves, so that they can carry on discovering what’s really important to us in life and what makes us happy and helps bring us respite from daily life.

Translated from the Polish by Caryl Swift.

28th April 2023
8 min. read

Kamila Braszak

Employer Branding Specialist


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