Sara-Lee (left) and her sister in Paris

Virtual receptionist Sara-Lee is quickly approaching her sixth year at Ruby, and recently returned to us from a whirlwind sabbatical in Paris! With Ruby’s “Five at Five” sabbatical program, for every five years of employment, team members receive five weeks of paid time off, plus coaching sessions and a $1,000 grant to turn their dreams into a reality. We know that when our employees are happy and growing personally and professionally, they’re more likely to go above and beyond for callers and clients — it’s a win-win! Sara-Lee sat down with us to chat about what her Parisian sabbatical meant to her….

First of all, why Paris?

Sara-Lee: When I was growing up, my sister and I would watch An Affair to Remember. When Cary Grant finds Deborah Kerr at the end, he says, “It’s okay, my darling. We’ll always have Paris,” and we used to say that to each other. So as soon as I found out about my sabbatical, we said, “Well we have to go now!”

So you had your heart set on this from the very beginning. How did the coaching sessions with Positive Acorn help you dial it in?

Sarah-Lee: They helped me prioritize, but they also helped me be okay with going with the flow and not following the plan. It helped me think, “Hey I’m in Paris. It doesn’t matter if it’s not exactly the way I planned it because I’m here, and that’s awesome!”

Sara-Lee even took her own piece of Ruby with her: A homemade "Flat Ruby"
Sara-Lee even took her own piece of Ruby with her: A homemade “Flat Ruby”

Any advice for someone who’s planning their own sabbatical?

Sara-Lee: For anyone who has an opportunity like this, think about it for a long time. Be realistic about it, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get everything done. You’ll be surprised at what comes to you when you let go. Look around. You might go to see the Eiffel Tower, and it’s so beautiful, but then there’s the French woman sitting by the water in her beret feeding the pigeons. So gorgeous. I looked at that more than the Eiffel Tower. Beautiful things don’t command your attention, they’re just there.

Indeed. It’s all those little, unplanned details that make it so magical. Were there any big surprises?

Sara-Lee: Yes! We were staying in the Marais District. We could walk to the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, but the neatest thing happened on our very last day at the Hotel Amelie. The windows swung out to the balcony, and I heard this music in the distance. It got louder and louder and was marching down that narrow street right to us. Well, it turns out to be “White Night” — the one night a year when all the museums open up and everything is free! So we went to every museum and stayed up all night long. Everyone was dressed in white. It was a giant, all night party all over Paris! We just happened to be there for that, and it was our last night. We flew out the next day.

That’s incredible! What was the most memorable moment of the whole trip?

Sara-Lee: I brought this brass lock I use at the gym, and when we got there, I went to the little corner store and bought some nail polish. I wrote “sister” on one side of the lock and “love” on the other. On the back side of the Louvre, you go through the garden and there’s a bridge, the Love Bridge, and whomever you’re with, you lock your love to the bridge and throw the key over. The only way to undo that love is to dive in the river, find the key, and undo the lock. There are locks on top of locks. That was the greatest thing ever.


And for your next sabbatical in five years? Any plans?

Sara-Lee: Back to Paris with my sister! See the things I didn’t see the first time. Maybe we’ll explore the French countryside, or maybe I’ll go find my lock…!

We were thrilled for Sara-Lee to have this much deserved opportunity to pursue her long-term goal of world travel, and we’re grateful to have her lighting up our halls again!

What would you do with five weeks off? Tell us in the comments section below!