Guest Blog: A Journey of Discovery: Planning a Sabbatical
Have you been feeling the onset of professional burn out, wondering where all those 50-hour work weeks and personal sacrifice are getting you? Maybe you’re a team player but you’re just not sure if this is really what you want. A lot of people respond to this uncertainty by jumping ship and heading off to another employer in the same industry, perhaps making more money but failing to resolve their career angst. If this sounds like you, there may be another option, and you may not need to fine-tune the resume and hit the job trail.
If you can, think about pressing the “pause button” and take a career break by going on sabbatical for an extended period. It’s not for everyone, of course, but if you approach it in the right way, it can be life-changing. Also, don’t overlook the psychological and self-care benefits of getting away and resetting your perspective.
How Will You Finance It?
People who take a leave of absence to go on sabbatical often have the wherewithal to travel for an extended period, but not everyone. If you don’t have a trust fund or an annuity to cash in, you may need to be diligent about saving money. Set up an automatic transfer to an interest-bearing account, cut back on unnecessary expenses, and save your tax refunds. Remember, money doesn’t have to be the determining factor in whether you go — there are plenty of options for people who are okay with staying in hostels, budget hotels, or even camping out. Some stay on organic farms and exchange day labor for room and board; others temporarily join artist colonies or residencies. If you seek a spiritual experience, consider a stay in a monastery. Whatever you decide, check into travel insurance if your plans include leaving the country.
Renting out your home may be your best financial decision. You’ll derive income while having someone on site to keep an eye on things. If you do choose to rent, ensure the house is clean and that maintenance needs are taken care of. There are affordable security systems that will allow you to monitor your property while providing your temporary tenant with security.
Check with the Boss and Your Family
The first step is to check your company’s leave and time-off policy, and have a heart-to-heart conversation with your boss. If your employers are open to it, that’s a good sign because it means they don’t want to lose you as an employee. Of course, there’s no point in moving forward if your loved ones are uncomfortable with the idea, so make sure they’re on board as well. Be honest with them about how long you plan to be away (six months? A year?). There’s not much point in a two-week or month-long sabbatical. That’s a vacation, and it’s really not enough time to pursue an idea or a dream and contemplate your future.
Remember, a sabbatical is about self-discovery, a time for you to experience something new, but it doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. A frank and open discussion with your spouse might lead to a rewarding and enlightening joint venture.
What’s the Purpose?
This is the most important point to ponder. A sabbatical should be an adventure leading to a new understanding and, possibly, to a new career. Many people use the opportunity to volunteer or do mission work. Some test-run a new business idea, and others want to commune with nature and have a completely unique experience, perhaps by backpacking in the Andes or across Australia.
Where you go should be driven by the purpose of your sabbatical, so don’t throw a dart at a map. Your sabbatical should engage your abilities, intellect, and personal energy in an enriching pursuit that’s completely different — perhaps even alien and a little uncomfortable. How you respond to it should tell you a lot about yourself and what you really want out of life.
A sabbatical should be a purposeful, learning experience. You might come back with a reinvigorated sense of purpose at work or decide to venture into another line of work completely. Ideally, it should be about determining how to achieve long-term happiness.
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