I went on three consecutive weeks of leave and this is what happened

It's now been almost a year since I relocated from London to Sweden, but it still feels pretty fresh. I reckon it's because I haven't yet gone through a full year of all seasons, festivals and other happenings that are bound to be different in Sweden from what they are in London. One such thing is annual leave - although I technically only have seven more days of annual leave in Sweden than I did in London (30 versus 23), most people in Sweden take about four consecutive weeks of leave during the summer. Yep, that's a full month's worth of leave in one single go. Last time I had that much time off in one go was before I started my first job, age 14. In other words, it's been 14 years since I last went more than one or two weeks without having any work to do. Committed to my newly found Swedishness, I decided to take a full three(!) consecutive weeks off work during July and August. Mind you, once I went on leave most of my colleagues, and indeed Sweden at large - or so it felt - had already been off and away from the office for about two weeks. In other words, I was already pretty relaxed as I went on holiday, as opposed to stressed out and on the verge of a breakdown as was often the case when I went on leave in London.

Nevertheless, having never done this before, I decided to look at how I was affected by being detached from work for so long. Here's what happened:


WEEK 1: ITCHY REFLECTION

  Three days and four books into my holiday

Three days and four books into my holiday

I went to Kos, Greece, with my sister and her two kids. Three days in I started getting a bit itchy and couldn't believe I was going to do basically nothing for three weeks. However, knowing that I had another three weeks of nothingness ahead allowed me to look back at the previous six months and actually spend a good amount of time thinking about my key learnings, drawn from achievements as well as fuck-ups, both in my professional and personal life. Going on leave for just a week doesn't really mean you get a fundamental break - it's just a blip in a longer time period, and chances are you'll also try to cram as much stuff as possible into that one week to "make the most of your holiday", meaning you'll have less time for reflection. I had none of that in Week 1 - in fact, I was borderline bored only a few days in.

This might explain why I'd towards the end of Week 1 already found enough peace to make a plan of what I hope to achieve and want to change in the coming autumn. We're all very good at making quarterly and annual plans for work, but most people don't seem to do the same for their personal lives - and I know I certainly didn't back when I was living in London, simply because I didn't have the emotional bandwidth that's needed for that sort of reflection.


WEEK 2: HOLIDAY STILLNESS

  Ten days in and all fun and games

Ten days in and all fun and games

I went to Lisbon with a group of nine friends and felt completely switched off from work. This was a pretty active holiday with loads of surfing, tennis and half marathon training, so there was a lot less time for reflection and reading than in week 1. We essentially spent a week just playing games and making afternoon cocktails, and it's some of the most fun I've had in a long time. I think we spoke about work once in an entire week - but we still had plenty of other conversations and activities going on, which forced me to remember who I am and what I like doing outside of work. This was the week when I was reminded of my love for heated debates, feminist literature and - who would've known - sports. I even signed up for tennis lessons in the autumn he he so we'll see how that goes.


WEEK 3: ONWARDS (AND A BIT OF CHEATING)

  18 days in and feeling somewhat clueless

18 days in and feeling somewhat clueless

In week 3 I was moving houses - very exciting, particularly considering that I moved into my first own (!) piece of real estate. I also started mentally preparing for going back to work by going to the hairdresser, getting my nails done, and essentially just removing any trace of me having lived in a pool for the past two weeks. I was getting seriously excited about going back to work - and then a prospective client got in touch and wanted to meet up for a coffee. There may or may not have been a nervous giggle from my end, and a brief thought as to whether I could still do my job after having been out of the loop for so long (two and a half weeks that is, but it felt like a lifetime). I went for the meeting, apparently remembered how to pitch a client, sealed the deal and went on to draft a first media strategy. The next day I had to go into the office for a strategy and planning day, which further pushed me to put my work hat on and remember what it is that I do, and why. I even started jumping up and down as we discussed the coming plans for the autumn hehe.

I'm amazed at how quickly I could switch off from work, and how quickly I could switch back on. Both processes made me slightly anxious before it had actually happened, but chances are that says more about me than it does switching on/off... Three weeks, or, as it were, two and a half, was just the right amount of leave for me. I know some people take five (!) and I'm sure it depends on whether you have kids or not (Swedish school holidays are never-ending - they go on for about ten weeks in the summer) but I reckon that would be way too much for me. But then again - who knows - maybe I'll learn to love it...

From sofa to Palestine in 14 weeks - or, you know, not.

Remember that I started training for the Palestine half mara about seven months ago? Probably not, considering it's seven months ago. Having never run further than six kilometres in my life and also having a bit of a cinnamon bun baby going on, I decided to use the half mara as a way to get exercising again - and I also thought it was a great excuse to finally get to go to Palestine.

  Race day. Or, as it turned out, walk day.

Race day. Or, as it turned out, walk day.

I made it to Palestine, but I never ran the half mara there. Why? Well, three weeks before the race I headed over to SXSW in Texas and had a jolly good time, which unfortunately resulted in me coming down with bronchitis from hell. I was gutted, but not that gutted as I travelled to Palestine on my own, and the only one who'd suffer from my being annoyed would be, well, me. Instead I walked the 10k with an old acquaintance of mine, which was pretty great.

Last week - six weeks after the race took place - I finally ran the 21.1k on my own, right here in Malmö. At that point I hadn't run for nine(!) weeks. So yeah, it was interesting. All in all it took me about seven months from starting training to finally getting across that imaginary finish line. Here's what I learnt.

Don't underestimate the power of tech
You'd expect this one from someone who works in tech amirite. In all seriousness, my running app was really helpful, particularly in the beginning. I hadn't done any exercising in months at that point, and since the app told me "congratulations" and actually cheered me on when I ran my first eight minutes (which, mind you, was pretty hard at that point) I didn't feel like a loser for only running for eight minutes. The app also helped me avoid procrastinating - I had to run only four times a week, and every day I had a run to do it was a bit like Russel Brand going "you only have to get through today being sober, who knows what happens tomorrow". Every time I dreaded going for a run (which, surprisingly, didn't happen that many times), the app somehow got me to just do it. Lol. And I actually started quoting Nike. That's how you know someone's branding works.

Steer clear of the dickheads
This goes for most things in life, but I find a reminder to be helpful every now and again. Some people - they were very few, but still - actually said that I didn't train enough, or that I wasn't strong enough, or that a half marathon is "very hard" (thanks Sherlock, really appreciate it). Most people were really supportive - impressed even - and that helped me ignore the BS. More than anything, knowing that I was well on track according to my app convinced me that I would be able to run it - and this goes for even when it turned out I wasn't going to be able to run the race in Palestine. Generally though, talking to others about the challenge brought out other people's anecdotes and running tips, regardless of whether they were beginners like me, or pros who'd run several maras already. At one point I even felt like maybe I was approaching the running community, but lol who am I kidding. 

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Know the difference between giving up and being an idiot
Three days before the race I was in the office, having a cough that sounded like it was about to kill me, but I was still pretty adamant I'd make the race - until a colleague sternly looked me in the eye and said "don't be an idiot" (Swedes aren't usually that vocal). To be fair, it's probably the wisest piece of advice anyone gave me throughout my training. Dropping out, giving up, whatever you want to call it, isn't equivalent to it being a failure. Had I listened to the dickheads (see above point), it probably would've felt as such, but it would've been such an epically shit move to try and do the race while really ill. If I'd tried to do it, I would most likely have had to drop out during the race, which might have put me off running for good.

Last Saturday I finally ran my half mara. I ran 21.9k in 2 hours and 27 minutes, including five pit stops at different restaurants to fetch water, a couple of red lights, and helping an old lady out finding the hospital (no joke - that's what happens when you run your own little race).

Needless to say, it felt pretty fucking epic.

The desire for analogue

One of my best friends, Julia, is an extraordinary photographer. She mainly operates on analogue (though she's also recently upped her Instagram game - check her out here) and after seeing zillions of her great photos I felt inspired enough to buy an analogue camera myself. I picked one up from Brooklyn Flea - a Japanese little thing from the 60's, heavy as a ton of bricks, but fairly cheap (I think) at $80. I finished my first roll of films within a couple of days, and this is part of the result.

And so what are my thoughts? Well, I'm not sure I'll be an as dedicated amateur photographer as Julia. I admire her in that she always makes the effort to bring her camera with her wherever she goes, but I just think it's a bit too heavy, and it's also slightly awkward to operate on analogue. Which in turn leads to a pretty interesting conversation as far as contemporary amateur photography goes, I think.

The iPhone 6s ad campaign "Shot on iPhone 6s" is quite frankly brilliant, and consists of user generated content only (it also won the category of best outdoor campaign in Cannes last year). It goes to show how everyone's a photographer these days, and it's fairly easy to take fairly good photos with little to no effort. The integration of mobile cameras into our everyday lives has meant that it's become natural for us to take photos of our food, our friends, ourselves, and everything in-between. It takes mere seconds to capture something visually appealing, and we do it so often that it's become near reflex-like.

That's not the case with analogue. There is nothing natural or instinctive about operating on an analogue camera. It takes at least a good 40 seconds to get a decent shot, and even then you're not sure whether you've achieved what you aimed for. And since it takes so long to get the light, focus and distance right, it's pretty tricky to capture moments of spontaneity. It makes things awkward.

  Shot on iPhone 5s, versus shot on analogue

Shot on iPhone 5s, versus shot on analogue

For someone who's used to snapping away on their iPhone, taking more or less great photos, it's slightly frustrating. It also highlights the different purposes of photography, and how everyday photography on an iPhone - at least in my case - has become a natural way to document everyday life, whereas using a film camera has a different meaning and purpose altogether.

You don't turn to analogue because of the desire for instant results. And you certainly don't turn to analogue because you want to capture life in the moment and as it happens. You turn to analogue because photography is a skill you want to learn how to master. And you want the colours no iPhone in the world can give you.

There are similarities as well, of course. Some photos will turn out pretty shit (see below), just like they do on an iPhone. It's a bit more annoying perhaps, since you've had to pay to see your shit photos, but that's ok - it's part of the journey. Or at least that's what Julia's telling me.

The anticipation of developing a roll of film made me feel like a child on Christmas morning. I think I'll probably continue to take photos with my little Japanese camera every now and again, and it's quite likely something I'll continue to write about. As for high quality low quality photography, however, I'll probably keep referring you to Julia's work.

Att få komma hem.

Det finns kanske inget så fint som att få komma hem.

Man hetsar hem från flygplatsen och du är målbilden. Allt du är, och allt du inte är. Att få krypa ner jämte ens favorit, under ett tungt duntäcke på en tjock madrass i norra London. Fingrar som flätas ihop, tunga andetag och en alldeles iskall kropp som vill närmre. Det ligger nygräddade croissanter i köket, sidan om jordgubbarna jag aldrig äter men ändå alltid köper för det är ju dina favoriter. Tidsskillnaden hotar att förgöra mig och jag kämpar för att hålla ögonen öppna. Till slut somnar jag ändå, men det är okej för du är där när jag vaknar.

Ja, exakt så fint var det... Att få komma hem.

#SMWNYC

The actual reason why I went to NYC wasn't as much lobster rolls or Julia as it was work. I went to Social Media Week to get heaps of inspiration and a little bit of insight as to how other companies reason around their social strategies - both companies whose main presence is on social (like Buzzfeed), and ones which haven't typically had a social presence but is getting around to it, with great results (like Burger King).

A lot of people use the word "hate" in relation to conferences. I'm not one of them. It might be because I haven't been to enough conferences to be bored, or that I'm easily entertained, or just that I love what I do (or perhaps a combination of all three). I'm pretty specific in the stuff I target at these sort of events, and I try to go to all the stuff I'm interested in, as opposed to all the things that are available. And it makes sense. I'm not very interested in how to self-publish a book (as of yet, anyway), but I'm very interested indeed in what Facebook's Head of Marketing has got to say about the future of marketing.

I'm also particularly interested in what the likes of NY Times are doing on Snapchat, which is pretty representative of how social media is changing media consumption for younger generations at large. What keeps coming out time and time again is how the notion that young people aren't interested in news is a gross misunderstanding. Instead, the youngest generation isn't happy with just being talked to or talked at, they want to participate in the conversation. They engage in conversation with news channels on different social media, have incredibly high standards, and will dismiss channels and outlets they don't feel they can connect to. It puts a higher pressure on storytellers (whether they're marketeers or journalists) to create content that is as appealing as it is important. Like the CEO of Refinery29 said - "one of our most important responsibilities is to keep the right balance between content about the Kardashians and Syrian refugees". Quite.

The way young people (by young I mean people aged 10-18) use social media - in a way that's pretty different from even my generation - is fascinating. Since Instagram introduced account switching, teenagers have started to keep two accounts - one they call Finsta and one they call Rinsta. Finsta means Fake Instagram and is an open account where they'll upload the typical pretty, edited Instagram-esque photo we're used to seeing on Instagram. Rinsta (Real Instagram) on the other hand, is a closed account only one's inner circle is invited to, and here you'll get to see the unedited reality - a bit like Snapchat. Apparently these are the latest Instagram trends, and I think it's pretty fascinating that it's even been possible to distinguish these trends since it's been less than three weeks since Instagram released the account switching feature. Things move quickly in the kids world. In any way, it reiterates the obsession with Snapchat and the importance for brands to show real content to the younger generations - content they consider real, worthy, and possible to connect to.

Basically, the key takeaway is - want the kids to learn about Syrian refugees? Send a Snapchatting influencer to the Jungle.