At a high level, it amazed me how much the locals embraced entrepreneurialism in Hong Kong. If you happen to start an online venture, the infrastructure there is outstanding. On our careercation, only Korea had faster Internet connectivity than Hong Kong. However, the taboo of failing in Korea dampens entrepreneurial endeavors.
Market size is another factor that supports new business activity. Hong Kong has convenient access to China and its one billion plus population. I won’t be surprised to see a whole new generation of heavyweight online companies emerge from Hong Kong.
From my interviews, I noticed business leaders embracing new and Western-style management methods. At the same time, the Chinese sense of history and honor moved me, especially at family-run businesses. All of the entrepreneurs respected limits in their intents to move the business over to a “progressive” style of management. They understand that a culture will only bear so much change before people disconnect from it.
Whether an entrepreneur continued running the family business or started their own, I could see that people were still the root of pride and the cause of disengagement and heartache for managers. The themes I saw in previous interviews still came through clearly in Hong Kong. It deepened my dedication to offer a solution that can help leaders who care to make their employees happy—which will make the employers happy, too.
A Pause for Personal Business
After Hong Kong, we headed to Taiwan, where I was born. My dear cousin Jeff was getting married, and I would not miss it. I didn’t schedule any interviews. I planned to just relax, hang out with family, and look forward to chowing on the world’s best dumplings at Din Tai Fung.
Arriving in Taiwan was just as smooth as arriving in Hong Kong. Except this time, it was my family that welcomed us. My parents flew out for Jeff’s wedding, and we all had a great time together. I also spent a lot of time with my cousins Eric and Teddy. Teddy’s son is a little bit older than Keira, so I especially enjoyed connecting with him
With no obligations in Taiwan other than to relax, we finally had a chance to exhale and have fun. Like many of my Hong Kong interview subjects, my cousins all work at their family business. Hence, the wedding was a combination of business and pleasure on a large scale (a factory floor, to be precise).
As my relatives flew in from all around the world, they all had something to say about my decision to take time out of my career to travel. The reactions mostly reflected their ages. Older folks couldn’t believe that we were still okay (especially me after my illnesses) and urged me to go home. Younger relatives were amazed that we pulled it off, and they peppered us with questions. Others, like my sister Ellen, could not fathom living out of a suitcase. “My shoe wardrobe is more than the two suitcases you guys lugged around,” she quipped.
My parents loved hanging out with Keira and commented on her independence. It was fun to see her play with her cousin Jacob almost daily. Once again, she was adjusting to another country like a champ.
Kayla took vacation time for a solo venture around Southern Taiwan. My relatives were a little worried about her traveling alone since she didn’t speak the language. But I reassured them that she was a seasoned pro by now. The only thing that dampened her solo trek was the pouring rain on her trip.
The wedding gave us a hard date to plan around, just like the EO conference in New Zealand. At this point in the careercation, Alice and I had arrived at a crossroads. We could keep the party going and explore Europe via Dubai, which I’d never visited and looked forward to checking out. Or we could head back to Seattle via San Francisco and Dallas to spend quality time with Alice’s mother and my parents, respectively.
After much thought, we decided to head back to Seattle. Here are the factors we considered.
First, the health scare for Alice and me in Australia, plus the terrifying onset of Bell’s Palsy in Korea emphasized for us the importance of health. One of the reasons I decided to take a careercation in the first place was to travel with my family while I am healthy. And after living in Asia’s megacities without easy access to exercise and nature, we needed to go back and overbalance for health and fitness.
Second, Keira is an amazingly resilient and easygoing toddler. On our trip, she interacted daily with adults. But prior to our trip, she had both great professional educators and fellow toddlers at her daycare to socialize with. While our time together was precious, we also appreciate a more structured educational environment for Keira. We knew that returning sooner would mean she could have that again in Seattle.
Third, when I went to Vietnam, Dave Hajdu had helped confirm the validity of the idea that would become TINYpulse. He’d also vetted the costs of developing the prototype. My interviews with Hong Kong CEOs further substantiated my belief that regardless of geography, industry, or organizational size, people need this management tool. By returning to Seattle, I could more easily focus on bringing the idea to market versus trying to coordinate software development while traveling from country to country.
Fourth, we had to admit that we were a bit homesick. It’s nice to explore new cities, cafes, and local markets, but we also yearned to have a home base, especially for Keira. Additionally, Seattle in the summer is one of the most beautiful places in the world. That helped further sway our decision to come home.
Finally, the most compelling reason was that we now know that a careercation is not just a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Yes, it’s nerve-wracking, scary, and intimidating to pack up and just do it. But now that we have done it, we know another big trip will happen down the road.
With proper planning, the rewards of a careercation far outweigh the costs. If it was our only chance at taking a big break, then we still may be traveling. But the confidence and beautiful memories of doing it once fortify our attitude that we can and will do it again. If we come up with a litany of excuses and are filled with anxiety—all the more reason to jump.
Good on Ya, Mate
It was now time to say goodbye to our au pair Kayla and send her on to Thailand, where she would meet up with girlfriends. After four months of constant togetherness, we were so sad to see her go! She was essential to our little travel team and we truly enjoyed our time together.
We witnessed how much Kayla had matured on the rip. Seeing her so homesick in the first few weeks but then watching her become an incredibly self-sufficient, self-assured, and capable young backpacker made us happy. It was similar to the joy I feel managing people who become successful. The end of our time together was bittersweet, and we feel lucky that she was part of our lives. We know that our paths will cross again.