While describing my upcoming extended career break to my friend Eli, he understandably asked “Why?”. And as I embark on this new chapter in my life, I’ve tried to answer that question, both for him and myself.

But first, let me put some things in context.

I just ended an incredible five-year adventure as the co-founder & CEO of TOTSY.com. (You can read some posts from this period.) Five years of joy, of doubt, of ups, of downs, of excitement, of fundraising, of awards, of risks, and of walking this thin line that separates success from failure. It ended very recently – not in the way I could have imagined 5 years ago – but we definitely grew the business to a point I never thought we would when I first started with my partners.

On the personal side, I became single in January after five years with my ex-girlfriend.

Sometimes there are many signs around us that are telling us something very specific if we are open to hearing and seeing them. Somehow today, the constraint of running a large business and the obligations of a long & committed relationship are no longer a part of my life.

So I have decided to go away – Six Months – Far – Remote. In very simple & probably challenging ways. The six months started a few weeks ago, and as I write this from France, where I am visiting my family before the big travel begins, I feel the urge to answer Eli’s question: “Why?”.

In a country like the US, where the average American takes just two weeks holiday every year, taking six months off is often considered “extraordinary” or even “crazy”. To quote a few of the reactions I’ve heard: “Aren’t you afraid to go so far away?” – “Don’t you think it’s risky to leave the work scene for so long?” – “It must feel scary to go alone for such an extended time.” – “Isn’t it dangerous to go to some of those countries?”.

Fear, fear, fear. In the US we live in such a fear-based culture. Just turn on the TV or open any newspaper if you ever doubt this. So making a decision that is NOT based on fear is a challenging endeavor in many ways.

So Eli, here are my answers:

1. I felt the urge to give back. After having the incredible chance to build Totsy, receive all those awards, and meet & work with some of the most incredible technologists and e-commerce people, I wanted to find a way to give back my time and my skills to those who need it the most. So part of this extended travel is going to be spent working for various NGOs – from taking care of dying people in the organization of Mother Theresa in Calcutta to teaching English to young monks in a Tibetan monastery in Nepal. And also raising awareness and $$$ for my favorite NGO, ToiletHackers.org

2. I felt the urge to step back. When you are working 24/7 for so many years, especially in a city like New York, you can lose sight of a true or more whole vision of the world. You see things only through your close environment. And like a fish in a fish tank, you start to believe that the fish tank is the ocean. So going away allows you to realize the ocean is just a little fish tank. Ok, not a bad one I agree, but still, a fish tank.

3. I felt the urge to look at things differently. This is probably the most difficult thing to do when you are “trapped” in a career. How can you filter opportunity – like hearing a story from a friend in a very profound & very different way than your usual outlook on things? Our brain is hardwired in such a way that our thinking process is automated to such a point where we are not in control. Think about the cappuccino you have every morning and try to resist passing your local Starbucks and not have the desire to buy one.

4. I felt the urge to question what I really should do next. In some ways this is linked with the need to step back and look at things differently. But this is where putting myself in places where I will have time to investigate myself is needed. So part of my time is going to be in retreat places where you are “forced” to do nothing but to look inside.

5. I felt the urge to mark this new life transition with a big symbolic trip. There was a time, and there are still places, where “rights of passage” were/are an essential part of a persons development. As a child in some tribes in Africa, you had to go kill your first animal alone and with the most simple of knives. This was done to force you to face your own fears. The inside “beast” we had to fight was in fact much more dangerous, and invisible, than the lion we had to kill.

So are you ready to ask yourself WHY not take this step?

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  • GAUTHEREAU Inno et Jean Pierre
    Posted at 13:37h, 12 June Reply

    Tu te poses de multiples questions : nous te souhaitons de trouver les réponses que tu attends lors de ce long périple …..
    Sache que ton bonheur est en toi et aussi autour de toi grâce à tous ceux qui pensent à toi et qui t’aiment.
    Bon courage !
    Prends bien soin de toi !

    Ton papa et ta maman qui t’aiment très fort.

  • Alex
    Posted at 05:46h, 13 June Reply

    N oublie pas ta lance dans ton trip mon Ewok. Peut etre j aurai la chance de te retrouver quelque part pour partager un peu de ton voyage les prochains 6mois ! May the force be with you. Alex.

    • ggauthereau
      Posted at 05:29h, 16 June Reply

      Avec plaisir 🙂

  • Sam
    Posted at 14:40h, 13 June Reply

    Nice space to read a bit of your thoughts. We need those 6 months break every now and then. I’m rooting for you and looking forward to hear about your adventures! Enjoy Asia!

    • ggauthereau
      Posted at 16:19h, 13 June Reply

      Thanks a lot Sam 🙂

  • Eli
    Posted at 16:48h, 13 June Reply

    Thanks for the answer and I am envious of your upcoming journey. It seems we all have a road to travel and I will you the best of luck on the upcoming one.

    • ggauthereau
      Posted at 16:53h, 13 June Reply

      Yes we all do. Thanks for all Eli.

  • Stephanie Lauffenburger
    Posted at 18:57h, 15 June Reply

    Après notre rencontre à New York, j’ai suivi avec intérêt et plaisir ton succès professionnel.
    Je te souhaite le meilleur dans cette nouvelle étape de ta vie. Je vais continuer à suivre “your journey” … de belles photos en perspective !

    • ggauthereau
      Posted at 05:29h, 16 June Reply

      MERCI. Je serais tres heureux de vous revoir! Amities, G

  • Melissa
    Posted at 21:57h, 15 June Reply

    You are not “crazy” for doing this.
    But you are still a crazy person in general though 😉

    • ggauthereau
      Posted at 05:31h, 16 June Reply

      “Some people never go crazy, What truly horrible lives they must live.” Charles Bukowski
      So I take it as a big compliment 🙂
      G 🙂

  • nicolas
    Posted at 23:32h, 18 June Reply

    Bon vent mon ami. N’oublie pas que la destination n’a pas grand importance pour le cerveau. Seul le trajet compte. La destination n’est qu’un pretexte pour le trajet…
    la bise


    • ggauthereau
      Posted at 04:14h, 19 June Reply

      Yes there is no destination. It’s ALL about the journey… Living in the present, and not the futur 🙂
      Thank you mon Ami.

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  • Jean
    Posted at 21:32h, 03 August Reply

    At 50 I left France and came in America for almost the same reasons. The best thing I ever did. May the ” gars de l’U” be with you.

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  • Emilie
    Posted at 20:08h, 16 December Reply

    Rassurée par ce que je viens de lire car moi aussi, je fais cette même transition. C’est très déstabilisant et difficile de lâcher-prise au pilote automatique. J’espère que tu as trouvé réponse à tes questions. Merci pour ce texte.

  • Roger Vargas
    Posted at 13:36h, 18 October Reply

    Thanks for the writing, I’m from lating america, especificaly from Venezuela. I’m on the search of my oun.. I’ve been trying to move from here to any other country but my oun beast does not allows me…. We are creators of our own reallity and we only have the power of braking the paradigsm …so, you are an spectacular prove of it.

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