This piece is part of our PANpov series — firsthand stories from employees about unique experiences they bring to integrated marketing, PR and communications. Read more.
On October 30th, I embarked on an adventure of a lifetime. The seed of this adventure was planted during my junior year marketing internship in NYC when my supervisor shared her incredible trip to Southeast Asia. She showed me mesmerizing pictures of bright turquoise oceans, colorful wooden boats, snorkeling and scuba diving adventures, and authentic cuisine. From that moment, I was hooked.
Southeast Asia had been a long-standing dream of mine, but it always felt too distant. I told myself that I’d never have enough vacation time to visit all the countries I wanted to see and do the trip justice. It also seemed impractical, especially when considering ongoing expenses like rent and student loans. When I started at PAN in 2020, that changed.
With the work-life balance afforded by unlimited PTO and the enthusiastic support of my mentors, what had once seemed like an impossible dream suddenly felt more like a reality.
I knew transforming this chance into an opportunity would require some creative problem-solving. Time and cost constraints were still at the forefront of my mind. To pay for the trip, I decided to not renew my lease and to move home for a few months. I researched Southeast Asia and decided to explore Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. But I didn’t want just a brief visit; I wanted to immerse myself in each place. I proposed a unique plan to my supervisor, Lauren Kaufman on how I planned on balancing the extended trip with work responsibilities. To my surprise, Lauren not only supported the idea but also encouraged me wholeheartedly. She was genuinely excited for me and told me we would make it work.
I started in Phuket, Thailand, where I explored the Phi Phi islands, marveled at stunning beaches, and snorkeled with tropical fish. I visited Chiang Mai, known for its rich history and cultural heritage, and ticked off a bucket list item by spending time in an elephant sanctuary. The journey continued to Vietnam, where I stayed on a beautiful wooden boat in Ha Long Bay, kayaked with monkeys, and soaked up the chaos of Hanoi. I learned to cook phở from scratch and admired the centuries-old architecture. The adventure continued in Bali, where I stayed in the heart of the rainforest, explored the sacred monkey forest, biked through rice terraces, and swam with manta rays along Nusa Penida. My trip ended in Paris, where I met my dad for a Parisian Thanksgiving of beef bourguignon and escargot.
It was truly the trip of a lifetime, a transformative experience I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to top. I’m sincerely thankful for the opportunity to embrace some of what Southeast Asia has to offer.
Through this adventure, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of creativity and adaptability, not only in professional success but also in finding personal fulfillment. Embracing unconventional approaches and being flexible allows us to overcome perceived obstacles and turn our aspirations into realities. Additionally, I’ve recognized the significance of dedicated relationships and mentors, who can be powerful allies in supporting our goals.
Mentors can be some of your biggest cheerleaders in the workplace and beyond, helping you find balance between professional and personal aspirations. This experience reinforced the power of a work-life balance for me, showcasing how a supportive workplace can empower you to pursue your passions.