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Alex Berger: A journey from Lake Chiemsee to the Baltic Sea

Alex Berger: A journey from Lake Chiemsee to the Baltic Sea

Reading time for this article: 5 minutes

Over hill and dale through Germany – Alex Berger, Cost value stream engineer at BSH Germany at the Traunreut site, did not want to wait until his retirement to make this extraordinary journey happen. He took up BSH’s offer of a three-month sabbatical and talks about his experiences before, during and after his hiking tour with his wife Maggi.

Alex, what is your current position at BSH?

I’ve been working as a cost value stream engineer at the Traunreut site for several years now. With about 50 employees worldwide, we mainly support purchasing and development in day-to-day business and in new projects. Therefore, it is quite a diverse job and normally, one that also involves a lot of travel.

How did you come up with the idea for your sabbatical and what was your plan?

Yes, how does one come up with the idea for such a tour? We – my wife and fellow hiker Maggi and I – do not know the answer to this ourselves. It was probably due to the desire to do something extraordinary at the beginning of our retirement – to break out of our everyday life. Inspired by some pilgrims of the Way of St. James and by the fact that we are better on foot than by bike, we wanted to do a long hike. But then, we asked ourselves: Why wait until our retirement?

Now we are still reasonably fit – who knows if that changes in 7-10 years? However, we still were not sure where to go. The Way of St. James? “Everybody” does that. Why not travel through Germany? Even though we live in Germany, many parts are largely unknown to us and it is comfortable in terms of language and infrastructure. Considering we wanted to travel through Germany and that we lived in the Southeast of the Republic, we quickly decided on the Baltic Sea coast as our destination. 

What were the preparations for the sabbatical like? How were you able to organize your leave from BSH?

I knew about the opportunity to take a sabbatical from a colleague who had already done that in the past. I then went to the local HR department to find out more about the general conditions. Three months were sufficient for my journey, the rest was relatively easy to handle. However, having postponed my trip due to the Corona restrictions, I had almost two years in advance to prepare everything. I had to complete ongoing projects and together with my boss also find representatives for the time of my sabbatical. The whole approval process went really smoothly though. I am very grateful to my colleagues, my bosses and the HR department in Traunreut for that. 

When exactly did you take your sabbatical? Did you get to know Germany, your home country, from a new perspective?

The idea was already born in 2019 and in 2020, we already made a concrete plan. We then had to postpone until 2022 due to the ongoing Corona restrictions and finally started on May 1 2022. We arrived in Travemünde on July 11 after 1,049 km, right on schedule. The tour took us through a total of six German states, some of which we had never been to before. On foot, you also experience cities and nature much more immersive than with any other means of transportation.

What were your takeaways from your sabbatical? Are there any particular lessons you would like to share with us?

First of all, you don’t need to be an extreme athlete to cover this distance. We were able to do it easily with an average daily hiking distance of 18 km and some rest days – despite having 12-14 kg of weight on our backs. However, you should invest in some good equipment – especially shoes. The bottom line is that we only had good experiences overall. We met very friendly and kind people. When we told them about our journey, many opened their doors to us. On request, some even opened their restaurants or made their vacation apartments available to us, even if they usually do not rent them out for a one-night stay. 

And, we learned one more thing: Nature is not always your friend! Walking through knee-high grass or undergrowth often causes itchy skin rashes. Mosquitos and other insects also made life difficult for us. 

You have been back for a few weeks now. How were the first days at work for you? Have you settled in well again?

Since I started again in the middle of the vacation season, there was of course a bit of time to get back into the topics. In the next few weeks, however, this will change again abruptly. Nevertheless, I intend to make the most of these three months off for as long as possible and approach things in a more relaxed but also more goal-oriented way – like in hiking: only the achieved kilometers count! 

What advice would you give to others who are also thinking about a sabbatical?

By all means, do it, if the circumstances allow. I also hope that I will be able to return the favor to my colleagues if one of them also comes up with the idea of taking a sabbatical. 


© Photos – Alex Berger

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BSH Hausgeräte GmbH, with a total turnover of some EUR 15.6 billion and 62,000 employees in 2022, is a global leader in the home appliance industry. The company’s brand portfolio includes eleven well-known appliance brands like Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau and Neff as well as the ecosystem brand Home Connect and service brands like Kitchen Stories. BSH produces at 40 factories and is represented in some 50 countries. BSH is a Bosch Group company.