Out of Office: Norman, Années de Pèlerinage

Our Out of Office weekly feature profiles brave souls who have taken the plunge in balancing both a career in a 9-6 full time as well as pursuing a fulfilling travel lifestyle. 

Ballroom at Opera Garnier, Paris

Ballroom at Opera Garnier, Paris

Norman has visited more than 50 countries and looks back on over 30 years of travel experience. When he is not reclining in the pool of a fantastic luxury hotel or exploring one of the most remote corners of this planet, you will find him writing about his experience on his blog, named after famous Hungarian composer Franz Liszt's famous set of three suites for solo piano called Années de pèlerinage, which roughly translates from French into ‘years of pilgrimage’. 

1. Where do you work and what’s your role?

Actually that is quite a tough question or rather hard to describe. I am running a product management team for a stock market service provider. It basically boils down to writing a lot of e-mails, spending a lot of time on the phone and telling others what to do. On a lucky day, I even get some concept work for a new product done.

2. Tell us something interesting about you people don’t know.

How about this? Most people probably don’t know I am also writing opera critics. And I am a hopeless introvert.

3. How many days of leave do you have?

I am quite lucky. Here, in Germany and at my company we get 31 days of paid leave. Which is awesome, because there’s an average of 13 national holidays on top of that. And since that is not enough, my company decided to send us all together on a paid ski vacations (3 days) each winter. It is truly awesome for team building but obviously also caters to the needs of the travel fanatic I am.

4. What’s your most memorable moment on a short trip?

I can’t possibly answer that. There are just so many. I try to leave my hometown Munich at least once a month. Last year I decided to visit the Spreewald forest on a whim. It’s an ancient nature reserve in the heart of Germany virtually untouched by international tourism. Never imagined it to be so beautiful. I actually just wanted to sort of tick it off from my list and now I am already planning my return.

Skiing vacation with work

Skiing vacation with work

5. How many trips do you take a year for leisure?

I usually go on two short vacations (1 week) and around five extended weekend trips. But no matter what, I always try to squeeze in one big trip of 3 or 4 weeks. It might eat away a big chunk of my paid leave, but I feel this is the best way to really get intimate with a country! Plus, I want to add real value for my readers. Finding the best photography spots, the best secret sights, etc. – that just doesn’t happen in 24 hours.

6. What’s the one thing you’ve learned in your job that traveling won’t teach you?

I learned that work can be fun. Yes, really! A company gives you the unique opportunity to work on bigger projects, things you would never be able to do alone. Most people regard work as a necessary evil. But they often forget that a good job will teach you a sheer endless amount of practical lessons university or school will never be able to teach you. To put it quite bluntly: I would never have been able to start a travel blog if I didn’t acquire the required skill set at work. Oh, and I also learned that colleagues can become friends (and even travel mates).

Coral Beach in Isle of Skye, Scotland

Coral Beach in Isle of Skye, Scotland

7. Conversely, what has traveling taught you that you won’t learn in your job?

I want to stress that I truly believe work teaches you just as invaluable lessons as travel does. I am not a big fan of the quite sentimental perception, travel would be in any way better. In fact, it’s a lot worse, because it’s mostly self-guided and there are no colleagues to ask for a mentorship. That famous quote “travel teaches you lessons no money can buy”, always sounded like an all too easy and cheap way to convince yourself to stop working.

That being said, I absolutely love the way travel broadens your horizon. Different cultures approach the same questions and problems in different ways. When you come back home, you can apply that knowledge to your job and gain a (possible) huge advantage over your competitors.

8. What’s your #1 tip about how to maximise travel out of your hectic schedule?

Take. Your. Time. I guess that’s easy to say with so much paid leave, but still, I’d like to remind everyone that there is no need to squeeze all your traveling in one gap year or in all the weekends in between 20 and 25. If you live smartly, most people in the western world will reach the age of 80 and nobody ever said you can’t travel until the very end.

My advice also has another dimension: I personally feel it is so much better to spend 7 days in Paris than touring through France in 7 days.  The sheer amount of sights you see on a trip doesn’t define its quality. Feeling stressed, rushing from one hotel or transfer to the next, won’t teach you any lessons, won’t recharge your batteries.

Khiva, Uzbekistan

Khiva, Uzbekistan

9. If you weren’t traveling what would you be doing at home?

Why? Traveling, of course! *smirk* Really, I mean it. To me, traveling is best described as a mindset. It’s too simple to reduce it to the mere fact of crossing great distances. Chances are pretty high your hometown and its surrounding area hold tons of beautiful surprises for you. I live in Munich and millions of tourists come here to drink beer, go to the Oktoberfest and enjoy the beautiful Bavarian mountains each year. Why not be a tourist in your hometown for once?

10. If you could change one thing in your life right now, what would it be?

Obviously, I’d like to travel more. But good, sustainable, and ethical travel is expensive. So I guess I am asking for a better-paid job with more days off. Though, I really shouldn’t complain. And I guess I should heed my dad’s counsel there. If you want more money, work harder. Wishes never got any work done!

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