• My Sabbatical Journey: Adventure & Connection

    by Lance Gunkel CFP® CFA Managing Director | November 13, 2023

    Every five years, Syverson Strege offers its employees the gift of a sabbatical. It's a chance to step away from the daily grind, recharge, and gain fresh perspectives. In late summer, I embarked on this journey, and it was an experience that left an indelible mark.

    My sabbatical began with a road trip to the picturesque Topanga Canyon in California. Set amidst the solitude of the canyon and the rugged beauty of its surrounding mountains, I found it the perfect place to start my journey. Each morning, I'd drive to the ocean to run along the water's edge, while in the afternoons I'd explore the foothill trails on long, contemplative hikes. The week was an enjoyable connection with nature, allowing me to clear my mind and refresh my spirit.
    One day, I even ventured to Santa Monica for a surfing lesson, which turned out to be a comical display of my lack of coordination on the waves. Yet, it was a lesson in humility and a reminder that growth often requires stepping out of one's comfort zone.

    From Topanga, I flew to Seattle, where I stayed with a good friend and former neighbor. Together, we explored the breathtaking trails around Seattle and embarked on a memorable hike to Hurricane Hill Ridge in the Cascade Mountains. The grandeur of the mountains was a stark contrast to the tranquility of Topanga, but both environments spoke to the importance of connecting with nature.

    Returning home briefly, I savored moments with my family before my sons Will and Pete started school. Our family trip to Decorah included biking around the town, hiking the scenic trails, and strolling along Decorah's Water Street. It was a reminder that the simple pleasures of life and quality time with loved ones are some of life's greatest moments.

    Next, I flew to Atlanta to reconnect with college friends. Our days were filled with laughter, and I made sure to find scenic trails to run during the daytime. Evenings were reserved for stories, drinks, and the kind of camaraderie that only old friends can provide.

    The final leg of my sabbatical took me to Spain to celebrate my wife Carolyn's and my 20th wedding anniversary. We started in Seville, a city we both fell in love with during our college days. Walking through the narrow, winding streets of the old city, visiting the Alcazar and Seville Cathedral, we felt like Sevillians for a moment in time. Our journey continued to Granada, where we marveled at the beauty of the Alhambra and shared a magical dinner with a view of this architectural wonder. In Madrid, we dined at StreetXO, an eccentric restaurant run by a celebrity chef, savoring both the food and the vibrant atmosphere.

    There was a thread of self-discovery and connection through each leg of my sabbatical. Initially, I felt compelled to make the most of every minute, packing my schedule to the brim. However, the solitude of Topanga Canyon taught me the importance of slowing down and savoring each moment. It was OK to take things at a more relaxed pace, as it allowed me to fully appreciate the experiences I was having.

    Moreover, I realized that while solo adventures were enriching, they became even more special when shared with friends and loved ones. Seattle was made more enjoyable by the company of my friend, Atlanta felt like home when I stayed with college friends, and the time in Decorah was highlighted by the laughter of my family. Spain, with Carolyn by my side, was an unforgettable experience.

    In essence, my sabbatical taught me to slow down and immerse myself in life's moments, whether they be in solitude or with company. It was a journey of reflection, gratitude, and the understanding that sharing experiences and laughter with friends and family is what makes life truly special. I will endeavor to spend more time connecting with friends, past and present, as I was reminded how much they add to my life.  

    As I returned to work, I carried these lessons with me, knowing that they would not only enhance my personal life but also influence the way I approach my role as Managing Director, helping me better connect with both colleagues and clients.

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