How I Convinced My Boss To Let Me Live Unsettled

Everybody needs a little time away... And it's easier than you might think to get it.

Creativity, much like a relationship, needs to be nurtured and given room to grow. Every now and then however, you need to take a break.

As a creative in the South African Advertising Industry, I am constantly looking for inspiration. But there are only so many awards annuals, creative forums and 9gag cat pictures one can go through.

After over a decade, I felt like I had lost that creative spark, the thing that made me fall in love with my career in the first place.

A change was needed.

I was sitting at my desk one day when my girlfriend sent me a link to Unsettled via Facebook. I took a look at the site and the experience — a month of remote work alongside an intimate group of people in a completely new city. I immediately felt a connection.

I had only been at my current company for about six months and the relationship was still new and exciting. My inspiration however, was at an all-time low. I decided to approach my employer. “What if, just maybe, you could, if you don’t mind, just think about, possibly, letting me…” I just came out with it: “Work in another country for a month?”

We struck up a conversation about the potential of pursuing this experience and what it might do for both of us.

I explained how I would work with a collection of like-minded creatives and entrepreneurs. And not only would I learn from the various workshops hosted by the team, I would also be able to pursue new creative endeavors. A month abroad with Unsettled would be the exact zap of inspiration I needed.

My boss (coming from a creative background) understood my uninspired state and was not just eager, but excited about the prospect. But the question still remained; would a company that I’ve only been with for a couple of months, allow me to “see other people” for a few weeks and pay for it? 

After a few nail-biting days and discussions with the higher ups, my trip was signed off.

The company I work for has a training budget, and I could use a portion of it to participate in Unsettled. All I had to do in return, was report back on what I had learned. No strings attached. I couldn’t believe my luck.

After the ground rules were set, and I promised to return and not give my heart to anyone else (this was more for my girlfriend than my employer), I left for Medellín, Colombia.  However, I had broken my promise as soon as I landed. I had fallen in love.

Colombia is a country with a tumultuous past. From the ashes left by the cartels, guerrillas and paramilitary groups, it has risen, and like anyone with a scar, it is more beautiful because of it. Filled with breath-taking barrios, bodegas and beaches, Colombia offers everything someone in need of a change could want. With informative tours, fantastic food and a bustling nightlife, there’s very little room for routine.

After two weeks in Medellín, what I thought would be a basic training program quickly became a journey of self-development.

Designed to offer a break from routine and a space to find inspiration, Unsettled facilitates building new relationships and growing new ideas.

With the open-ended schedule (apart from the workshops and weekend trips), I was able to create my own experience. I had time to focus on my everyday work, the personal projects I'd been neglecting, and even use my time to develop new skills like learning Spanish and building robots at the makerspaces.

One of the weekend trips outside of Medellin to Guatape!

One of the weekend trips outside of Medellin to Guatape!

...And another to Jardin!

...And another to Jardin!


Medellín is a diverse city and has some of the happiest, most passionate people I’ve ever met. Attending a conference about social innovation happening around the city got me thinking about using my creativity for problem-solving outside of my day-to-day responsibilities, and about how I could use my professional background to help others in ways I hadn’t thought of before.

Unsettled is the experience of a lifetime, alongside a group of peers who hold a wealth of experience far deeper than just their careers. I’ve gotten close with bloggers, entrepreneurs, writers, programmers, startup founders, fashion designers and bakers, just to name a few. Each person has his or her own inspiring story and secrets to success — and something to contribute to my journey through life.

Brimming with energy and reignited passion, over the course of these last four weeks I have learned lessons not only about business, but myself as well.

I am more invigorated than ever to take these lessons home and use them for finding all sorts of new creative solutions. It's going to take a lifetime of effort to keep the spark going, but if you’re feeling a little deflated and could use a break from your everyday routine, I can’t recommend an experience like Unsettled enough.

Maybe the band from Chicago was right; the best thing you can do for your relationship with creativity is to take some time away. Just to fall in love with it, all over again.

Jacque Moodley is advertising art director, graphic designer, and beats maker from Johannesburg, South Africa. He is currently a Senior Art Director at Hellocomputer and you can check out some of music projects here.