A CEO’s Semester Abroad

/ February 13, 2019 February 13, 2019

My family and I were fortunate to be able to do a “semester abroad” when our 17-year old daughter decided to study in Toronto for the first half of her junior year in high school.  She was seeking a temporary change in her learning and social environment but wanted us to go with her, so we were lucky enough to be able to modify our work obligations to take advantage of her invitation!

There were a lot of reasons to love the experience.  First and most important, our youngest daughter was interested in spending time with us!  We moved to a new city, into a sparsely furnished apartment, living without all our ‘stuff’ – and experiencing joy just because of where we were, who we were with, and feeling liberated from our excess (channeling Marie Kondo!).   We lived with greater intention – in a new place, so it required us to notice more about where we were and where we were going.  We noticed people were more courteous, and we became conscious of stepping up our game.  We used our phones less in public, made eye contact with greater intention, and waited for the WALK sign at traffic lights, like everyone else.  These lifestyle changes extended to our personal and professional lives as well.

It seems that the majority of Canadians see themselves as working for a better society for all, and from our conversations with people we met, we learned that among others things, this embodies the philosophy of providing universal healthcare.  Tommy Douglas (The “father of Medicare”) is widely regarded by Canadians as the Greatest Canadian of all time.  It also speaks to fair wages, a fair work-week, and a reasonable ‘expectation’ from employees.  It speaks to balance.

As I often do, I came away inspired, and believing once again that there’s more we can do – in our personal and professional roles, and as citizens as well. My message is by no means profound, original, or impossible to implement now that we’re back on the other side. As employers we can lead by example.  We can give our employees more opportunities to change their physical location – whether by more vacation time, more work-life balance, or more opportunities within their job structures.   As leaders we should care more – because driving a culture of respect, kindness and generosity not only yields favorable business outcomes – but because it’s the right thing to do, and it feels good.

I’m interested in hearing from anyone with similar experiences – and continuing the conversation.


To see more pictures from Marcos’s time abroad and other adventures follow him on Instagram @marcos.at.exude