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Posts from the ‘Sabbatical’ Category


The night before we left Boston to spend a year on Rødøy, we got cold feet. Sitting among 6 giant duffle bags, we asked ourselves, “Why are we doing this?”

We had a good life and had no need to escape anything. Instead of staying on that path, I resigned from my job and we set off to live on a small island north of the Arctic Circle for a year, with nothing planned beyond the year. It was crazy.

That night, we proceeded to work out all the necessary steps to reverse course. Despite the last minute doubts, we stuck to the plan. And it turned out to be the best thing our family has ever done.

6 months after we came back from our year off, the children are happy and well adjusted socially and intellectually. Kristin is teaching part-time at a private school in nearby Cambridge, and she loves her job. The app I started writing, Voice Dream Reader, has acquired a passionate customer-base around the globe, reaching top 10 grossing educations apps at one point or another in 48 countries. That doesn’t make us rich, but we live comfortably while my work gives me profound satisfaction: I feel closely connected to my customers and I’m making a small but positive difference in their lives.

I’ve changed. I think. It’s difficult to tell because I’m hardly a neutral observer of myself. When I talked to companies about jobs after I came back, I smiled and nodded but my heart just wasn’t in it. Meanwhile, I kept going back to work on my app even when sales had not taken off, stubbornly tolerating being unemployed far longer than the old me would have. Perhaps, the knowledge that we could live happily with less gave me strength. At the same time, I’m a lot less stressed about things, and I sometimes find the level of stress around me incomprehensible. I’d like to think that I became a better person.

But even if we did not end up at a better place after the year, we would still do it again without hesitation. Because we had an amazing year that is a treasure of experience and memory. For that we’re deeply grateful to Rødøy and everyone there. For the rest of our lives, in good times and bad, this year will be a reference point for what life could be.

Here are the photographic highlights from our year living on Rødøy, and below are some representative blog posts:

Island Scenery



Adjusting to Life at Home

The strangest thing about being home is how normal it all felt at first. After nearly 2 days of travel, a friend picked us up in our own minivan and we drove up Interstate 93 to go home. It felt like coming home after a 2-week vacation.
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Happiness is People

After a year living on an remote island, I confess to having had no moments of epiphany. I haven’t made big, dramatic new discoveries about myself or the world around me. But if I have to point to one learning, the experience has helped me see more clearly that the most important thing in the world is to surround oneself with good people. Read more

One Month Left

It’s hard to believe that our year here is almost over. We booked our tickets to go back to Boston on July 12. Having flights booked — more than anything else — makes it real. So, to people here on Rødøy who wish us to stay for one more year, and to people back home who were afraid that we’d stay here: we are profoundly grateful for your sentiments. But we’re keeping our word. Read more

Happiness Experienced Versus Remembered

A friend of mine sent me a link to a lecture given by a Noble-prizing winning economist. The topic is happiness — yes, I’ve been into this topic on-and-off during my sabbatical. He talks about two different ways to look at happiness. When most people talk about being happy, or unhappy, they tend to be unclear about which kind of happiness they’re referring to. Read more

Your Whole Life at a Glance

On the many hikes after I just arrived here on Rødøy, I thought a lot about life. Perhaps it was because I had to walk by the graveyard at least twice a day. The nursing home is right next to the graveyard. I wondered what they were thinking, staring day-in and day-out at a destiny that sucks.

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The Story of My Text-to-Speech App

Frequent readers of this blog know that I started writing an app to occupy myself through the dark winter months here. What started as mere dabble turned into full-blown obsession: during the day when the kids are in school, lunches were dreadful interruptions, and at night I dreamed about different ways of solving thorny problems. In November and December, I squeezed out every minute of time that doesn’t involve family life to work on the app.

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An Island Is Like a Fishbowl

When our friends Alex and Hulda visited us last fall, we went a little nuts with crabs at the fish house. We bought 24 crabs, which is a lot for 4 adults and 4 little kids. A couple of hours later, we went to the store to buy other ingredients for our crab feast. Someone said, “I heard you bought 24 crabs.” For me, who had spent most of my life in big cities, that was a bit of a cultural shock. Read more

A Broken iPhone App in the Wild

Around November last year, I embarked on a project that I may someday regret. I started programming, to build an iPhone app. Then, it morphed from dabbling to an obsession. I originally allotted no more than 10 hours a week to the project, then, for two months, I pour nearly every minute of free time into it. Read more

Mid-Year Review

Now is about the mid-point of our one year stay here in Rødøy. In a Dilbert-like fashion, I say, it’s time for the mid-year review to summarize our accomplishments and areas for future improvement.

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