FD Buyer: ‘We Only Know Today’

Discussion
Feb 10, 2012

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Dairy Buyer magazine.

Joe Kent took a leave of absence from his job in January 2010 to travel through Central and South America with his wife, Eleanor, and daughters Olivia and Nyla, then 10 and 4. The trip, from February through August of that year, was a life-changer not only for the Kents, but for many of those they happened to meet along the way.

By any measure, it was a daring and unusual move. Joe was 41 at the time, and the sales and marketing director of Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Foods in Austin, TX. When he announced his plans, some people wondered if he were ill or simply crazy. But the decision came after much thought. Eleanor’s father, who had worked hard all his life, had taken ill and died the previous summer, before he could enjoy retirement. Joe, who is now heading sales with InnovAsian Cuisine, says his father-in-law’s death was the catalyst that moved him and his wife in “search of a challenge, some time together, a ‘nomadic’ education, a view of the world through the eyes of two young girls and the opportunity to share and learn with others along the way.”

That’s actually a quote from a wonderful website that chronicles the family’s trip and what led up to it.

No, the Kents are not independently wealthy or benefactors of a big will. They lived below their means for about 10 years, saving for something just like this. One spark behind the Journey was Soles4Souls’ acceptance of the Kents as distributors, allowing the family to take 450 pairs of shoes to a childrens home in Guatemala. The Kents traveled pretty much randomly throughout eight countries in Central and South America, finding non-luxury hotels along the way. In each country they visited, they made a point to give back in some way and help people who needed it. The girls got to see how lucky they were to be living in the United States, and everyone grew spiritually.

Joe shared in his note, “And now, as we sit on a dock in lovely Guatemala, with the most breathtaking views of a lake, surrounded by three glorious volcanoes, watching our girls dabble in the water digging for clay, in a little Mayan village … it all seems so perfect … so right!”

As Joe related his story, a planned 15-minute interview stretched quickly into an hour and a half. I told him he was outlining what has been a life dream of my own, and he said my reaction is common. (So why don’t we do it?)

“People get in the rat race, and it’s challenging to find the time to do something like this,” Joe told Frozen & Dairy Buyer. “But it was great taking a break. Someday we’ll do it again — it’s not ‘if,’ but ‘when.'”

Discussion Questions: Are radical departures from daily existence such as the one described in the article a valuable tool toward achieving work-life balance or is it generally an over-romanticized ideal? What prevents people from following in the Kent family footsteps? Should companies encourage sabbaticals?

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10 Comments on "FD Buyer: ‘We Only Know Today’"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

I’ve ached to do this for years, but never had the courage. Joe in fact changed jobs after his trip, although his old employer would have welcomed him back. This isn’t so much about work-life balance as it is about life experience. Sure, companies should encourage sabbaticals, but it takes courage on their side also. I still plan to hike the Appalachian Trail after I retire in a few years, but wish I’d done a few of the trips like Joe did over the years. Regrets? Yup.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 3 months ago

Sabbaticals: To be or not to be. One’s real life is so often the life that one does not take. But there are also those who create continuing moments when work-life balance happily occurs. Not all balancing travel is geographical. Think about it.

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Companies should encourage sabbaticals. They are a wonderful way to take a break, get a fresh perspective and rejuvenate. They don’t have to last for many months; 4-8 weeks can work magic.

I particularly like that the Kent family gave an altruistic slant to their journey. You can’t go wrong giving something back.

Joan Treistman
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

The Kents’ trip is more of an education for their children and themselves that countless years in school. Almost every minute is a learning experience. The fact that they used their time to give back to people of Guatemala and experience that simple gesture makes their life profoundly more meaningful.

I believe any travel is educational … for adults as well as children. I also believe we all need a break, whether it’s a few days or a few months to relax and recharge. We notice how the Europeans have allowed themselves more vacation days than Americans.

Many can’t be away from those who depend on them for daily living. Yet I hope they can find a few days, a day, even a few hours to have a very different experience. Those moments when facial muscles relax and the mind can be consumed experiencing something totally different are to be considered a treasure that endures.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
10 years 3 months ago

Yes, companies should encourage sabbaticals to allow harried execs to renew and recharge.

A significant break from the norm can be both healthy and can serve as a catalyst for inspiration and increased job and life satisfaction upon your return to ‘normal’ life. It does not require 6 months off and touring through foreign countries. A simple long weekend to do something you wouldn’t normally do can do the trick (and doesn’t require a sabbatical), i.e. going white water rafting, bungee jumping or similar pursuit. Or just a quiet retreat if that is unusual for you. If this idea inspires you, quit dreaming and do it. Life is indeed too fleeting to wait for a more convenient time.

Ian Percy
Guest
10 years 3 months ago
God bless the Kents! Their kids will be positively impacted forever. We are not all blessed with such favorable circumstances unfortunately. Then again most of us haven’t tried. Now to the topic. The only people who are “balanced” are in their graves and we’re not even sure about them. There is no such thing. Life is a constant dance from one side to another. Walking is a matter of constant unbalance; what makes it work is progress. There are four seasons, each one off balanced. This is how all of life works. Hopefully you love your work and you swing over to it. At home you love your family and you swing over to it. The key is are you making progress in both swings? When you’re on your Blackberry all during your daughter’s soccer game you’re screwing up your business AND your daughter. Where you spend TIME is NOT the metric of “balance.” Spending 40 hours a week in a job you hate isn’t balance. Spending lots of time in a stressful and unhappy… Read more »
Roger Saunders
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

A beautiful story, and a great message … the beautiful story is the one of the Kent family experiencing the “adventure of living” and making an impact on their own personal relationships as well as that of others. The message is, take a risk … it’s worth it.

Kudos to Warren and Frozen & Dairy Buyer Magazine for sharing both the story and message. And, YES, companies would do well to provide sabbaticals. McDonald’s has offered that opportunity to associates over the years. It brings associates back in a stronger physical and mental state.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

I have an attorney friend whose firm encourages, almost mandates, that partners take a 6 month sabbatical after each 10 years of service. The time away is taken without prejudice and the experience of my friend was very positive when he took his leave.

If we could recreate the business culture in North America, I would encourage some version of this throughout business. Recharging the batteries doesn’t really happen on a 2 week vacation. The perspectives earned while “keeping your perspective” can be game changers on an individual level as well as bring benefit to employers.

As they say, few of us will ever die wishing we had checked our email one last time….

Tony Orlando
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

I applaud the move, and all of us who run a business should take time to smell the roses, because it is necessary for our sanity. My father worked 7 days a week when I was a kid, and missed out on a lot of stuff with his 6 kids, and will NEVER get that time back. I take my vacations, and try to enjoy fun stuff when ever I can, and it always makes me ready for the challenges when I return to work.

You don’t need millions to escape either, as simple things cost very little to just relax. Volunteering at a grade school reading program, or talking to graduating seniors at your local high school will give you the healthy perspective you need to treat your employees, and your community better.

I’m heading to Vegas Sunday for the NGA Convention, and even though I’ll be working during the day, the night time will be enjoyable. Anyone going? Let me know, and we’ll have a drink….

Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 3 months ago
I’m not sure that what was described is necessarily a tool towards work-life balance. To the Kent family, it certainly wouldn’t be an over-romanticized ideal either. To some, however, it would be. What prevents most people from following in the Kent family footsteps? Their job! Should companies encourage sabbaticals? That’s up to each company and it is entirely related to the type of business. Most businesses do not stop for six months to a year. In fact, likely none do. Everyone has their own idea or concept of a sabbatical. According to Webster’s, it is an extended period away from one’s customary work especially for rest, learning, or to acquire new skills. Did the Kent’s trip accomplish those things? The answer is mostly subjective. Gaining work-life balance is a challenge. Nevertheless, it can be accomplished without sabbatical for an extended period. It can happen in an evening, a weekend or a week. For some, they may choose like the Kent’s did to take the extended time. Is that or should that be a requirement or… Read more »
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