Sabbatical Stories: Chasing Alaska's Northern Lights

eBay Inc. Staff

On a crisp winter night, 60 miles below the Arctic Circle, flashes of color dance across the night sky.

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is one of nature’s most spectacular displays.  But catching a glimpse of this natural phenomenon requires some dedication, and lots of planning.

“I have a lasting memory of getting my first glimpse of the Northern Lights,” said eBay employee Rashid Zaheer, regarding his eBay sabbatical trip. “I had seen it in videos and in the media but seeing it in person was totally worth it. Everyone should go to Alaska and see the Northern Lights.”

 When Zaheer completed five years at eBay last year, he organized a four-week sabbatical that also included two weeks of vacation at the tail end. (All eBay Inc. employees earn a sabbatical after five years of service.) The adventurous Zaheer didn’t spend much time relaxing, laying out a careful plan for his extended time-off.  The Northern Lights were just the start of his journey.  By the time he returned home, Zaheer has crossed the Artic Circle, taken a road trip across the country (covering seven states in seven days), and traveled halfway around the world to visit family in the Himalayas.

While Zaheer had his list of places to see and actives to accomplish, as with any experienced traveler, his trip didn’t always go according to plan.

“Getting locked out of my room on the road trip is something I won’t forget,” he said. “I had no money and for some reason my debit card wouldn’t work, so I ended up sleeping in my car. But, like everything else about the trip, this became a good memory.”

For six weeks, Zaheer says he was able to remove himself from his daily work and focus on personal passions.  It’s a chance he says everyone should experience, given the opportunity. 



After five years of service with eBay Inc., employees are eligible for 4 weeks of time off with pay. This sabbatical is intended to provide a break from the pace and intensity of work and allow employees the opportunity to recharge and pursue areas of interest.