The company I work for recently unveiled a worldwide paid sabbatical contest specifically designed for its team members. The gist of the new program is built around the two opposing ideas of taking or giving. You can either live a dream, or you can give a dream.
To live a dream would be to go and do something you have always wanted to do but have never tried. The example we were given was to learn a foreign language in the country where that language is spoken. To give a dream would be to give your time to help others achieve their dream. Helping to build a house with an organization like Habitat for Humanity was the example they used when announcing this contest to everybody at work.
I use the word contest because you have to apply before the end of August, then, “A panel will review submissions from eligible Team Members, and select 10 winners based on the impact that the proposed sabbatical will have on the Team Member and/or the community.” The fortunate winners are supposed to be contacted by the end of September. It is an exciting opportunity for a select few team members to win a four-week paid sabbatical.
If we use statistics from 2016, the company I work for had 169,000 employees worldwide. Offering ten team members this sabbatical is roughly 0.0059171597633136% of the workforce. Now I’m not much of a gambler, unless you count ingesting things from the refrigerator a few days past their expiration date, so I like those odds!
I submitted my application last week and decided to go the route of living a dream. I was honest and simply suggested that Emily and I would love to travel back to Ireland for the full four weeks to explore, take pictures, and possibly delve a bit deeper into my family’s Irish genealogy.
Wish me luck, send your positive thoughts my way (or if they influence people, send them towards the judges), and let’s hope I hear from somebody before the end of September.
You can read my application answers below (the questions and maximum word count are in bold).
Briefly describe what you would like to do for your selected sabbatical. (500 words or less)
My proposition for the sabbatical is to visit Ireland with my wife, Emily, for four weeks. During our time there, I hope to take photography workshops, document our experience through my blog and social media, explore Ireland and its culture, visit old friends and make new ones, and research my family history, all while sharing the aloha spirit.
In 2014, Emily and I took a two-week holiday of a lifetime to visit the Emerald Isle. It was one of our first big adventures together and our first time to Ireland, which had always been at the top of my bucket list of places to visit or live. However, our visit was so much more than I had expected. It was like coming home.
During our travels, I had arranged to propose to Emily in the ruined castle of a family friend in County Kilkenny. It was a memorable proposal and always makes for a great story when we retell it (like how I was so nervous I put the ring on the wrong hand). Emily said yes, and our lives have been blessed every day since.
Since that brief but life-altering trip, we have longed to return to Ireland and spend more time there. I even went so far as to apply and interview with some of Hilton’s properties in Dublin, but I was heartbroken to learn that Americans are currently unable to secure work visas due to government limitations in the hospitality field.
I am an amateur photographer, and I took pictures throughout our vacation to Ireland, but we only stayed long enough for me to begin to capture the feelings of the country and its people that I wanted to record through my images. Staying in Ireland for a longer period of time would allow me to take a few photography workshops led by professionals and attended by like-minded photographers. Meeting new artists, learning new photography techniques, and visiting epic locations, ones rarely seen by tourists, would enhance my collection of unique and beautiful images.
I have another, more personal reason to spend time in Ireland, and that is to research my family lineage. We did not have time to delve into my genealogy during our adventure, but with more time, I could take what pieces I have of the Irish side of our family tree and try my best to find out where we came from in County Cork, and possibly meet long-lost relatives.
Emily is a teacher, so she and I have opposite work schedules. When she is on vacation, the resort is busy; therefore, I cannot take time off from work, and we cannot travel together for extended periods of time. Having four weeks together exploring Ireland, seeing family, making new friends, taking photographs, blogging, indulging our love of music, sharing a few pints, and learning about my family’s past sounds like heaven on Earth to us.
Mahalo for considering my application and for offering this program to dedicated team members.
How would this experience be meaningful and have impact on you and/or others? (500 words or less)
Ireland is a country that still has wild and unexplored areas that need to be visited and documented before they become altered. I love taking photographs, and have grown so much as a landscape photographer since our holiday to Ireland over three years ago. I cannot wait to revisit the many small towns and jaw-dropping landscapes we visited, only this time armed with better equipment and more experience. (I was a top 25 finisher for the Team Member honors card contest with a picture from Ireland.)
I write and maintain a blog (www.cyngle.com) to highlight my life on Maui, as well as our travels throughout the Hawaiian islands and on the U.S. mainland. I also share my love for photography through an Instagram feed dedicated to showcasing my original photos (@holoholophoto), so another grand adventure would give me more stories and pictures to share with my audience.
Being able to research my family’s history would be a dream come true to my mother and my aunt, who are both fiercely proud of their Irish heritage. Both of them have never been to Ireland, so if I was granted this sabbatical, some of the money would be used to fly them to Ireland to help me research our genealogy. For too long, our family history has survived only on stories and rumors. It would be lovely to have physical proof through records, photographs, or living descendants that would bring these enduring stories to life.
One final benefit to taking a four-week holiday would be that we could “pay it forward,” and allow an interested team member family to use our Maui home for their Hawaii dream vacation. There is no point in letting our beautiful house sit empty, when we could give back and allow others the opportunity of a lifetime to enjoy this island paradise we are so fortunate to call home.
What is currently preventing you from achieving your “Give a Dream” or “Live a Dream” goal? (250 words or less)
Being unable to take more than a few days off during the summer months always prevents my wife and I from taking a big adventure holiday together. In fact, as I sit here at the computer and fill out this form, my wife is back East, visiting her family for ten days, while I stay at home on Maui and work. We have found it difficult to find an ideal work-life balance during the first few years of our marriage, but we are dreamers and our dreams keep us focused on our goals, whether they be adventure-based or career-oriented.
The dream of sharing another adventure with my wife in Ireland is enough to feed my soul for many years to come. Every day, I spend with her makes me a better person, and I wish we could take more vacations together to create more memories while the opportunities exist. We both love our careers, and we are building a strong future financially; however, we definitely need more travel adventures to give some balance our lives.
UPDATE: OCTOBER 8TH, 2017
I was not selected as one of the top 10 winners of the sabbatical, nor was I considered for one of the 20 runner ups, who were awarded $1000 or $500 to put towards a charity of their choice. There is always next year…assuming they try this program again.