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All you need is love, Atkins and a 6-month honeymoon

Meet the Pitkins. Joe and Fran met at SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, fell head over heels in love, and decided to tie the knot. When it came to planning their wedding and honeymoon they hit on a rather exciting idea. Read all about it here…

A 6-month honeymoon – how did you manage to pull that off?

JOE: Our friend in the Bristol office actually blazed the trail for us. She was the first person we knew who had done a sabbatical at the Atkins business. Fran and I had often spoken about going on sabbatical…

FRAN: … and we’d both dreamed of travelling the world together. The timing was just too perfect with our project ending just as we were getting married. So taking a sabbatical as a long honeymoon just seemed to make sense!

What did your line manager say, when you mentioned the idea?

JOE: Our line manager thought it was great and was very supportive. (Although I think he was a bit jealous.)

FRAN: We’d been on secondment to EDF Renewables, so our project director there was also really supportive. They had known fairly early on that we were keen to take a sabbatical after our secondment – they were eager to make it work for us.

So off you went to rediscover South and Central America. Did you keep in touch with the business at all, or did you opt out of the working world completely?

JOE: Towards the end we got in touch with our new line manager to remind him we were coming back and when we were starting. Other than that we opted out!

FRAN: We’ve become close friends with many of our colleagues at Atkins, so we kept in touch with them and knew bits and pieces about what was happening back at work. However I’m happy to say I didn’t once check my work emails! I think if you want to fully benefit from a sabbatical, you have to step away and not let your head wander back into that work zone. With technology now, it’s far too easy to not separate different aspects of your life – it’s healthy to get into a habit of not thinking of work when you’re choosing to take some leave.

How did SNC Lavalin’s Atkins business make this possible?

JOE: With its flexible approach to career breaks, Atkins gave us that job security to come back to after our travels.

FRAN: Knowing that our line manager and project director were both fully supportive from the start was amazing. Once you have that support from your area of the business, the rest of the process is straightforward. We had to provide a business case for doing our sabbatical – ours leaned on the fact that we had spent nearly two years on a very intense, busy secondment and just achieved our chartership with the Institution of Civil Engineers. We wanted to take a break so we could see new places, experience new cultures, and meet new people before a fresh start back at Atkins.

Were any friends tempted to gate-crash your honeymoon along the way?

JOE: No actually. But we made plenty of friends along the way and even travelled together with a group of Aussies for about three weeks.

FRAN: No, although we had told them they were more than welcome to visit! We were really lucky to have met so many people on our travels and made some great friends. Some new friends even went out of their way to help us when we were robbed in Mexico, which was so nice of them.

Do you reckon you’ve changed since getting back from your epic journey?

FRAN: Travelling isn’t easy and as much as we loved our days on the beach, there were many days that we found hard and tiring, such as long bus rides, having flights cancelled, and trying to make a police report in Spanish. The hard times have made me more resilient and pushed me to carry on rather than give up. My appreciation for our world and the environment has also increased a lot. Sailing on the open ocean without a speck of land in sight, but seeing plastic bottles bobbing about was a real eye opener and has made me want to do more to promote the use of alternatives to disposable plastic.

On returning to the UK, did you find it hard getting back into the swing of life in one city?

JOE: Yes, it was strange staying in one place for so long. When travelling we were moving on every few days – the longest we'd stay in one place was a week. The early morning starts for work were not welcome. We also arrived back from 30 degree Mexico straight into the Beast from the East, that was a nasty shock!

FRAN: I thought it was going to be harder than it was. I’ve enjoyed having a ‘normal’ routine again. We’ve just moved from the North East to South Eastern England and have bought a house, so that’s been really exciting! Although I can’t stop thinking about what we should do for our next trip

How would you say your adventure has positively impacted your work ethic?

JOE: I think it has given me a renewed drive and better focus at work, having had that opportunity to take time out and to see the world.

FRAN: I agree with Joe. I’ve also been trying to be even more efficient with the way I work, because I really value the time I have outside of work.

Of all the places you’ve visited, which place could you most see yourself living in long term?

JOE: We both loved Nicaragua… although it’s not the most stable of countries. Maybe Colombia, because the locals are so nice!

FRAN: Mexico or Argentina would also be great places to live because the food is so amazing.

What was your most memorable moment?

JOE: We sailed from Colombia to Panama via the San Blas Islands for five days. We hopped around the uninhabited San Blas Islands for three days, having BBQs on the beach, sleeping in hammocks on tiny islands and snorkelling in amazing clear waters with beautiful reefs! That was incredible!

FRAN: I have to agree with Joe, the sailing trip was definitely my highlight. I also loved helping to release baby turtles into the wild in Nicaragua, seeing sloths in Costa Rica, and trekking to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Any ideas for your next big adventure?

JOE: We want to visit Namibia in September. We’ve heard amazing things from everyone who’s been there and met loads of people travelling who told us we should go.

FRAN: I’d also love to visit the Philippines – the islands look incredible and it would be great to go there before it becomes too overcrowded with tourists.

Inspired by Joe and Fran’s story? Check out all our career opportunities at SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business.