Two and a half months through the Alps – Antje von Dewitz returns home

Immense happiness, stretching one's limits, finding one's own rhythm

Three months of sabbatical as the managing director of a medium-sized company – how is that possible? "Thanks to our strong culture of trust, our shared sense of responsibility, and amazing colleagues who were willing to step up and help carry the load," explained VAUDE CEO Antje von Dewitz. Crossing the Alps was the fulfillment of a long cherished dream of hers.

In June, Antje von Dewitz started her hike along Italy's GTA long-distance trail, which led from Valais, Switzerland, across Piedmont and its Lepontine, Graian and Cottian Alps, through the Maritime Alps and finally directly to the Ligurian Sea in the Mediterranean. On this route, which runs through numerous transverse valleys and lonely, challenging terrain, she covered a total of 1,100 kilometres and 66,000 meters in altitude. On some sections, Antje von Dewitz was accompanied by her family and friends, but she also chose to travel alone for long stretches.

Sabbatical as a gift

"I love long-distance hiking and have always dreamed of doing a multi-week trek. I was able to fulfill this dream for my 50th birthday, thanks to the support of my family and colleagues," said Antje von Dewitz, who planned her tour and absence from VAUDE well in advance. "Some entrepreneurs and business partners approached me and said things like: 'Thank goodness, you could take some time off and power down for a while.' But it wasn't like that," said Antje von Dewitz. "I've always had a good work-life balance." She doesn't see time off from the company as a "last resort against burnout," but as a gift and an enriching part of professional life. "It really got me thinking, because I believe it's important to make sure that you have a good balance at work and that you don't end up in dire need of time off in the first place. This includes the ability to take yourself out of the picture, even as a CEO. If I always felt like everything was going to fall apart without me, that would be very stressful." VAUDE greatly values self-efficacy for its employees and ensuring a good work-life balance. The family-owned company offers the conditions this requires, such as flexible trust-based working hours, in-house childcare, a sports program or even the opportunity for all employees to take time off in consultation with their team.

In harmony with nature and your own rhythm

Three months spent in nature, hardly any infrastructure and at least 1,000 meters of altitude every day – the experiences are intense. "Most of the sections are steep and long. It's really exhausting, you come close to reaching your absolute limit, but then, when you get to the top, you're filled with this insane feeling of happiness. Such an expansive view, experiencing nature... It's so intense and beautiful, and it makes you feel open to everything. So, I fell in love with the mountains all over again. Nature is my source of strength."

With four children and as Managing Director of VAUDE – Antje von Dewitz's days are well-planned. "I thoroughly enjoyed being out on my own. Hiking alone, she says, is perfect for introspection and getting to know yourself better. And what you learn can also be integrated into everyday life in a sustainable way. "It feels like a power source that I've recharged. I've been able to hold to on to a sense of serenity, and the realization that I can pay attention to my own rhythm. Not to mention the incredible gratitude and appreciation I feel – for my family, my friends and my colleagues."

Birthday Party / Welcome Back Bash

At the end of September, Antje von Dewitz was warmly welcomed by the entire VAUDE team at the company campus – with a birthday serenade, welcome-back posters, good food and lots of hugs. It wasn't just a celebration of her trans-Alp crossing, but also her 50th birthday.