How Burnout Robs us of Presence

The important lessons burnout taught me about how to be present and travel well

Sally Clarke
3 min readJun 15, 2024
Mountain high in the Dolomites

About a month ago, I was on the phone to my sister, on the brink of tears and about to leave for a three week vacation.

“I haven’t earned a holiday. The timing is off. I’m feeling so guilty.”

My sister responded in soothing tones: “Sal, go. Enjoy every moment. You’ll make memories that will last a lifetime.”

Her words echoed in my head every day of my travels, as I wove through ten European countries on a roadtrip with my travel bestie. And reminded me how, historically, I haven’t been great at making memories. Too often, I’ve been distracted by work.

Pre-burnout, as a finance lawyer, I took work with me wherever I went. I found it impossible to leave work behind. I would respond to emails and ‘jump on a call’ over weekends, late at night, and throughout vacations. The guilt of failing to meet my responsibilities outweighed the awareness that a proper break would actually do me a lot of good.

As I once expressed to a colleague, “I’d rather be in the office on a Sunday, working, than elsewhere thinking about work.” The same went for Tuesday evenings, and most vacation days.

Being at work — toiling on that…



Sally Clarke

Wellbeing & burnout author, expert, writer & speaker. Global adventurer. she/her