Sabbatical Time With Diana Pavlenco

I met Diana while living in Lima, Peru; a Romanian friend asked me to take care while in Lima. Back then she was in the middle of her trip around Latin America. I got inspired by her journey path, courage to follow her dream and travel light but build strong memories, so I said to myself: Diana’s story has got to be shared. Hats off Diana for your live experience!

sabbatical-time-with-diana-Trekking in Cordillera Real

Diana doing trekking in Cordillera Real, Bolivia

TravelMore.Live: Tell us about yourself: what were you doing before the sabbatical, how was your life, what were your dreams and aspirations?

Diana: Well, my life was pretty good, I cannot complain, but I wanted a break from my hectic environment.  My dreams and aspirations were exactly these – to travel extensively, more than two weeks, as my job allowed, to visit Patagonia, Buenos Aires, trek in the Andes, have more time for reading and writing and some personal projects, plus to be better at being myself which continues to be an aspiration.

TravelMore.Live: Why and how did you decided to take your sabbatical time?

Diana: To travel extensively was an old dream of mine, but I did not know how to make it happen. I read stories, met people who had sabbaticals, nourish this dream of mine that continued to grow.

After fifteen years of work I had an opportunity, a moment when I requested a sabbatical leave after a finishing a project. Plus I had an open minded boss.

TravelMore.Live: How did you imagined your sabbatical time?

Diana: I imagined I will see all the things I want when I visit an area. Well, it was not the case. Sometimes you are tired and want to rest, sometimes the weather is not appropriate, sometimes is expensive and you have to chose one thing or another. I also imagined it like a once in a lifetime trip. Now I have a changed mindset. I met a French librarian who was for the third time in Patagonia and simply let a door open. I don’t know if and when, but there is a high possibility that I’ll come back in South America, especially because I haven’t been in Columbia by now.

TravelMore.Live: How did you prepare for the trip?

Diana: At work I have announced six months before departure, but worked till last moment. Saturday I finished one project and on Monday I was flying to Argentina. I spoke with people that had sabbaticals and interview them.. I told myself that everything is possible, good or bad. I gave up things and had a light luggage. With this in mind and knowing I’ll trek in every country I bought a custom sleeping bag from Nahanny – made in Romania! – weighing less than 1 kg.

TravelMore.Live: What did you do?

Diana: I gave myself some time off. In three months I have visited Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, then spent a week in Mexico and a week in New York. Then three days in Athens, then a week in Dolomiti mountains for my last trail running marathon. Now I reflect on what happen, enjoy the summer and visit Romania.

TravelMore.Live: Out of all the things you saw, you did, you felt, what was the most meaningful for you?

Diana: Uff, I hate this question! Why do I have to choose?

I had a moment of bliss, I was rambling in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The usual, touristic path was on the right, so I chose left. There was no clear way, but I reached the top of a hill for a better view and just stood there still for a while. Then I noticed a wild horse followed by more of its brothers, all walking with heads down, quietly. The first one raise its head, I saw the white spot on the forehead and for a few moments we just watched each other. There was some distance but for me it was something magic.

To put it more simply – feeling and seeing the beauty of nature, of the big wide world we are living in – the funny penguins in Ushuaia, laughing with an Argentinean in the middle of the night, receive unusual gifts- such as a transport card to go outside Buenos Aires to a concert for locals, the people in La Paz trying to protect me and prevent me against thieves from their own town, spicy traveler’s stories, blue lagoons of Patagonia next to rocky mountains, sharing sugarcane with little Flora, a girl from a remote village in Bolivia, trekking in the mountains with people from almost all continents, having a Kiddush ceremony in the wilderness of Cordillera Blanca mountains in Peru, receive shelter by wonderful Romanians friends in Mexico and New York, climbing an active volcano in Chile.

TravelMore.Live: What are your learnings? How is Diana now, after the sabbatical? How is your life?

Diana: My sabbatical is not over and it’s still me, not sure if I should jump of joy or not.

I am still discovering the consequences.

I have split my sabbatical time in two parts – 3 months traveling and 3 months to look inside, reflect on what I have seen and to work on some personal projects. I am still hungry to wake up and just read a book I want, all these things that were done in a hurry all these years…everything in a hurry. I always liked the saying “Less is more” but I discover new ways to live by it – less cloths (after traveling for three months with a luggage of 7.5 kg and a bag), less social meetings in a week, a new order in the house. Then I want to learn Spanish, it would be a pity after I saw how much we , Romanians, can understand. Also I begin to appreciate the short distances that we have here in Europe between  beautiful places.

I have changed some perceptions about work – funny, isn’t it? – while not working! I saw other functioning models – a German girl that wants to practice permaculture at home and train people, an old Argentinean man who was an engineer for fifteen years, then a cook, then a receptionist in a hotel, people working while traveling, an old lady that was math teacher and now she is having her on company in the field of work security. So many things that we can do without getting stuck. There are not usually the boundaries that we imagine.

TravelMore.Live: What would you say to the ones who are thinking to take some sabbatical time?

Diana: To reflect on their rhythm of traveling and how much they like planning. Some people have a very detailed plan and they stick to it no matter what, other just jump to whatever comes in their way. Most of the people I have met, usually the ones at first sabbatical, said they planned to do more, but then realised it’s too much and had chose a smoother way or made a rule. For instance a friend told me she had a rule – not less than four days in a city. Packing and unpacking, local  trips, reservations, early wake up to catch a bus, a train, a plane all these are becoming tiring at some point, especially if you travel independently like I did, no matter how enthusiastic you are.

I also like to read books or see movies that give me an idea of culture in the countries I visit, even after the trip is over.

Also to travel with light luggage.

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