For Caribou Coffee’s most tenured team members, the chance to take an extended break from work to rethink, recharge and gain a little more perspective can be incredibly enriching. In 2022, that is exactly what Lisa Curski needed. It was a big year for her family – her son had just graduated high school; her husband started a new business and Lisa had a fifteen-year work anniversary to celebrate. With that milestone came the opportunity to take a four-week paid sabbatical. Caribou Coffee offers this paid leave to eligible team members to help people achieve a healthy work-life balance and reward them for hard work and loyalty. And at the ‘Bou, the stories that accompany these adventures are anything but boring.
This extended break from work can be used to work on a new project, learn a skill, take some much-need self-care and rest, or travel the world. Which was what Lisa did. For years, her family had been planning to visit France after her son graduated high school. The main event? Seeing the Tour de France in person. With Lisa’s sabbatical, the family couldn’t think of a better time to make that dream a reality.
We caught up with Lisa before and after her trip, not only to hear her plans, but to also learn of any spontaneous happenings that unfolded or enlightening moments that occurred (as they usually do on adventures abroad).
A sabbatical summer
Prior to her travels, Lisa couldn’t have been more excited. “I’m looking forward to spending time relaxing and hanging out with family. I’m so grateful that this sabbatical lined up with my son’s last summer at home before he goes to college.”
But before Lisa and her family took off on their jet setting adventure, Lisa took a few days to herself. Nestled in a cozy cabin in the Minnesota woods, Lisa spent a few days in solace, working her way through a long list of book suggestions given to her by friends, coworkers and family. For Lisa, this sabbatical was about travel and adventure, yes, but also a well-deserved break and opportunity to gain a refreshed perspective.
“I really want to take away a sense of gratitude. For spending time with my family, myself, being outside, and then coming back refreshed and ready to tackle the second half of the year.”
Lisa’s adventures abroad began with a week in the capital city, London. After exploring old castles, the Curski family to a short train ride to Amsterdam, Netherlands to explore the bast countryside and a few vineyards along the way. Finally, they traveled to Paris, France for the grand finale – the Tour de France bicycle race.
Competitive research across the pond
For Lisa, it can sometimes be hard to separate work and play. In addition to the priceless family time abroad, Lisa viewed her travels as an abroad version of competitive research. “I truly love my job. I love thinking about how guests and companies interact and what drives guests to go to certain businesses,” she explained. As Director of Brand Insights, understanding the psychology behind consumer decisions is one of Lisa’s key responsibilities.
“It’s exciting to see those interactions in a different part of the world and experience a different coffee culture. A cup of coffee at a café on a patio in Paris doesn’t seem like difficult competitive research, but someone has to do it,” she laughed.
“I want to take what I see and hear and taste and think about how it is different or similar to our guests and our brand.”
A love of coffee runs in the Curski family—how could it not when Lisa has worked at the ‘Bou for fifteen years? So while the sights and history were awe-inspiring, one of her family’s favorite memories from the trip was seeking out a new locale to get a cup of coffee and a pastry each morning. This says a lot as Lisa, who admittedly isn’t a morning person, woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed each day, ready to seek out a new cup of Joe.
“My son and I loved trying coffee at different places. In France it was such a difference experience. There are no large coffees. Everything comes in a tiny cup, no lid—even to-go. But everywhere had coffee—small bars and restaurants, bakeries, you name it.”
One thing that especially stuck out to Lisa was the lack of novelty coffee beverages. “It isn’t about having new or crazy things. There isn’t the next big coffee trend. It’s simply coffee—a cappuccino if you’re fancy—some froth on top, and maybe a dash of cocoa powder. And all manual machines. It was lovely.”
Slow down and smell the coffee
In coffee and in life, Lisa’s sabbatical refreshed her perspective on the simple things.
“I was grateful to spend time with my son before he went off to college. I was grateful to have the time to help him prepare to move out without feeling rushed or fighting it in between work and other engagements…I was grateful for quiet summer mornings, enjoying coffee on my deck. I was thankful for floating in the lazy river at the pool near my house many days of the week. The slower pace of my days was truly enjoyable.”
Lisa’s time away from her desk granted her the ability to reframe her approach when she returned to work. “After working for so long, you forget what it’s like to truly unplug and take a real break from work…So when I came back, I felt ready to use a different part of my brain—to refocus how I want to approach my work, without losing some of that calm that I got during my time away.”
Since returning, Lisa has embraced this work-life balance and encouraged her team to do the same. “It’s a practice I continue when I take a day or two off. I work to set that expectation with my team, too. If something really can’t wait, of course I’ll jump in. But empowering yourself and your team before you take time off to make decisions is important in the long run.”
Lisa has a few words of wisdom for those who work from home. “I think with the pandemic and remote work, work has become very embedded in our home life. Our offices moved to dining room tables, and we were always available. We had no place else to go, and I think to an extent, a lot of people are still working that way. Understanding how important it is to truly unplug when you take time away is a key thing I learned.”
You don’t need a summertime sabbatical to find a sense of calm amongst the chaos. Sometimes all you need is a little adventure and a good cup of coffee to refresh your perspective—take Lisa’s word for it.
Want to create your own sabbatical story? See our open positions at cariboucoffee.com/careers.