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Get Ahead By Getting Away From It All

12/02/2014 05:26 EST | Updated 02/01/2015 05:59 EST
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I had the privilege of travelling to Spain in September to accept a prestigious PR industry award. I didn't expect to return from this journey feeling relaxed, refreshed and full of new ideas for both my business and my life.

Broad Reach won the first-ever Global Alliance Comm Prix Award for media relations. Organized by the Switzerland-based Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management, this award represents one of the proudest moments in our agency's history. Of all the PR agencies and companies around the world that were considered, Broad Reach was the winner in this highly coveted category.

We won this award for a media relations campaign our agency developed to promote Deloitte Canada's 2011 Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions. We launched the report nationally and then organized a cross-Canada media tour that featured the report's co-author and nine regional spokespeople. When the campaign wrapped, it had generated 210 stories and earned more than 128.5-million media impressions across the country. Each story showcased Deloitte in a positive tone and the majority focused exclusively on Deloitte's predictions. Canadian media coverage was roughly four times as extensive as coverage in most other Deloitte member-firm countries that launched a similar PR campaign globally.

In addition to accepting the award, I also spoke at the World Public Relations Forum in Madrid. It was a privilege to represent both my team and my country on a global stage. And as the conference came to a close, I found myself with the rare opportunity to travel in Europe without my kids or my husband.

Travelling abroad, minus my kids

As a public relations agency president and a mother of two children under six, it's rare that I get away for a few hours, let alone fly solo to Europe for 10 days. Initially, I planned to explore northern Spain and the Bordeaux region of France with my husband Dave. But his extensive travel schedule and the incredible growth of his company made it impossible for him to join me.

So I went anyway.

Excited didn't even begin to describe my emotional state.

Not having a plan became my ultimate goal

On this trip, I didn't book any hotels in advance. At midnight, I'd go online and find a hotel for the next day. I decided what to do the minute before I did it. With no schedule to keep to -- and no one to keep me to a schedule -- I went to bed at 2:30 a.m. I woke up at a luxurious 11 a.m., just because I could. It was utter bliss.

After a day exploring Madrid once the conference was over, I received an email from a client and dear friend in Barcelona. She invited me to meet up with her and her colleagues that night, so I purchased a train ticket and off I went.

I didn't plan my days. I stopped for coffee often, whenever the desire for a rest and some caffeine would strike. I had wine, cheese and charcuterie breaks mid-afternoon. I ate dinner at 10 p.m. I stayed a few more days than expected in Barcelona because I loved the city and the company, and then I took the train to Paris for the weekend.

The whole time, I kept a small notebook with me where I wrote down ideas for how to grow and improve my business. These ideas flowed easily over coffee -- and especially over wine.

I inadvertently sparked a movement

I documented my trip on social media and unknowingly sparked a movement. While I was away, my girlfriends began telling me they too planned to hop on a plane and take a similar trip for themselves, as they'd never considered travelling alone. Those who couldn't get away for that long or who didn't have it in their budgets vowed to take a solo staycation in the city or leave town for the weekend without anyone in tow.

While I was travelling, their husbands half-jokingly complained to mine. They suggested I tone down the fun, relaxation and utter joy I derived from my newfound freedom. Interestingly, many of these men take regular boys' weekends to relax and recharge. Their wives simply don't make the time.

As a business owner and mom, I always have a million things to do. I know this will never change because I throw myself 100 per cent into being a mom and running a business, and I don't give myself the attention, focus or care I know I deserve. I don't listen or respond to my own needs as a person.

By taking this trip, I got the chance to reconnect (albeit briefly) with myself, the person I had unwittingly buried with both personal and professional responsibilities. And it felt great.

Sometimes, you have to go away to get ahead

When I arrived home, I felt like a whole person again. I knew I would be better for my family, my clients and my team. Most importantly, the trip gave me the gift of remembering what it was like to be me.

As I explored the streets of Madrid, Barcelona and Paris, I also tapped into some creative ideas for my business. By simply soaking in my surroundings and thinking about some roadblocks in my business, I came up with remarkably simple yet powerful solutions. These are ideas and solutions I would not have uncovered in my day to day life or even at the office.

By extracting myself from my highly demanding and often stressful lifestyle, I had the opportunity to ponder my life, relationships and business on a whole new level. It was like an off-site of sorts, but in Europe, on my own and with lots of good food, caffeine and wine.

And although I never set out to have this type of journey, I'm already planning next year's trip and figuring out how to extend it to 14 days. Just don't tell Dave.

Have you ever taken a solo vacation? How do you escape from your hectic lifestyle and take care of yourself?

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