Kartik Kannan, a software engineer, began his career in product management at Infosys. With a career that spanned working with established firms and start-ups, Kannan had built his reputation in the web and mobile technology space for nine years before he had to abruptly take a break.

“I had an injury that progressed to rheumatoid arthritis in my leg. This worsened around mid-2014," says Kannan. With savings to last six months, he decided to take the break for the sake of his health. But the six month break extended to 20 months as he discovered a new passion along the way.

A new interest

“I was resting, following the doctor’s order, and spending time at home. Every now and then, when my leg felt better, I would take off mid-week to go on a short trip to check if my leg was holding up. One trip became two and my DSLR camera became my constant companion," recalls Kannan. The photography and travel evolved to become more about recording experiences. He set up his travel blog, Katchu Travels (www.katchutravels.com), around mid-2015. “I loved narrating my travel stories, when I met friends. I thought I should document these stories, so that people can connect with the people, and the customs of the places I travelled to," says Kannan.

Adding new skills

Alongside, he signed up as an intern to a wedding photographer to train to shoot portraits and candid images. He also explored writing articles, and his stories on cricket were picked up by a few websites. “It was during my sabbatical that I discovered new skills. I also developed a new attitude towards work," says Kannan.

His short sabbatical turned into a longer one as his interest in exploring travel blogging grew. Kannan discovered a whole new side to himself and started taking on consulting and specialist assignments to review travel locations to keep the cash flow going.

Kannan also consciously started travelling with his son to wean him away from the digital fixations at home and make him experience nature. “The aim was to connect with people and places," says Kannan. The father-son duo have together explored Mulki Village of Karnataka in a camping trip, lived in mud houses in Kalpathar Beach of Andamans, and Kurumba Village in Tamil Nadu, doing forest walks to name a few.

“My work as a travel documentary film maker, helped unlock latent talents that my corporate life would otherwise cramp. The break made me believe that I could have an identity that was different from my work," says Kannan.

Managing finances

Speaking about juggling his finances while discovering new skills, Kannan says, “I learnt to respect what I was originally doing, since having a salary deposited into my bank account is something I took for granted. Once that supply was cut, it made me value money more."

The return

In 2016, Kannan had to go back to a corporate job. As a single parent he felt the need to be financially stable for his son. Travel blogging is still a passion he pursues but Kannan believes it isn’t well respected. The journey back to the corporate world wasn’t easy either. Kannan believes that most Indian companies tend to be sceptical about people coming back from a break. “People feel that those who take sabbaticals get left behind especially in the ever-changing technology business," he says. His biggest challenge was dealing with a reduced pay package. “It’s like a small tax I had to pay to get back to work. I currently work as a principal product manager at a cricket analytics product, a start-up scheduled to launch soon," says Kannan.

The plus side of a break

Kannan was forced into a sabbatical but he says looking back, he doesn’t mind it. The break helped him discover a side of himself by accident and which has now become a core part of his identity. He believes that everything happens for a reason and doesn’t regret taking the sabbatical. “A sabbatical involves slowing down, changing course and discovering which direction would you want to run. It forces you to accept reality and adapt to the changes around you. The aim of the sabbatical should be about finding happiness, latent talents and developing an alternate identity for yourself. If that is your purpose, then I definitely recommend a sabbatical," he says.

The Sabbatical Story is a series that explores reasons behind a break from work, and the journey of the return to work.

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