Leading While Ill

Ill leader working

I recently traveled to Spain to work as an English immersion teacher for an incredible organization, VaughanTown. This annual visit is always scheduled far in advance and is something I greatly look forward to. The country is beautiful, the organization welcoming, and the students are eager to learn. But this year, I became so ill, I had a difficult time even speaking. My throat hurt terribly and unfortunately, I was under the weather the entire visit. (Just a note that I am fine now after being treated for bronchitis upon my return home after this trip.)

Although I initially saw my being ill while I was abroad as a disaster, I’ve had some time to reflect and see the lessons involved. We grow when we learn, so I think I might have grown a lot on my most recent trip to Spain, even though it wasn’t planned. I’d like to say I wish I hadn’t had to grow in just that way at just that time, but we have to deal with the cards life deals us. There’s a different distinction when becoming ill while on vacation in another country – which is also very unpleasant – and while there to work.

Ill on Vacation

Experiencing illness while on vacation in a foreign country can be quite challenging. The excitement and anticipation of exploring a new destination can quickly turn into anxiety and discomfort when faced with unexpected health issues. Such circumstances require you to navigate medical care in an unfamiliar setting, which can be overwhelming. Language barriers might present additional hurdles, emphasizing the importance of carrying essential medical information or using translation services to facilitate communication. Feeling frustrated and disappointed is normal because of disrupted plans and unfulfilled expectations.

Leading While Ill

Becoming ill in a foreign country while being there to work can be even more challenging, however; offering valuable life lessons that extend beyond just health and work. It teaches us the importance of adaptability and resilience. The unusual circumstances demand that we exercise the ability to adjust and stay strong in the face of adversity. As a leader, there are so many more factors that affect whether we are still able to manage team members and also attend to our professional responsibilities.


It also underscores the significance of preparation and precaution. Prior to traveling abroad, it’s crucial to research and understand the local healthcare facilities and insurance coverage to ensure you can promptly access the care you might need. It reinforces the notion of maintaining good health practices even while far from home.

Learning Experience

Becoming ill abroad emphasizes the value of interdependence and support networks. Colleagues, friends, or locals who step forward to help can become a lifeline during challenging times. Such experiences foster deeper connections and broaden cultural understanding. The experience also teaches us humility and self-awareness. Accepting assistance and acknowledging vulnerability remind us of our shared humanity and that everyone can face hardships, regardless of background or status.


Additionally, leading while ill – whether at home or abroad – highlights the importance of open communication with employees and others that may be counting on you. Honest dialogue about health concerns enables better support and planning, making it possible to navigate work commitments more effectively.

Overall, becoming ill in a foreign country while scheduled to work served as a profound learning experience for me, fostering personal growth and a newfound appreciation for the diverse and interconnected world we live in.

Leaders Still Need to Lead

Have you ever had a similar experience? Even if you weren’t abroad – or maybe it was a family vacation. How did you handle the undoubtedly trying circumstances? What lessons did you learn? How would you handle things differently if it were to happen in the future? If you need help learning how to navigate difficult and unexpected circumstances, please schedule a meeting with me so we can figure out what tools might work best for you.

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