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07 December 2018

Ready for Anything: Planning a Sabbatical

A sabbatical can be a richly rewarding, even life-changing, experience if approached with honesty and an open mind. But it’s important to understand what you’re proposing before you take off on a months-long junket into the unknown. Some people who plan a sabbatical have the mistaken belief they’re winging off into the distance for an extended vacation, all fun and games. The truth is, a sabbatical should be a journey of personal discovery, not an extended party. And it takes considerable planning, much more than a vacation because the purpose of a true sabbatical usually involves a time-consuming adventure like volunteerism, experimenting with a new field/profession, or the achievement of some much-desired and long-delayed aim.

Taking off on a journey of self-discovery means you’ll be explaining your reasoning to people to whom you’re responsible, like your family and employer. Be prepared: Sometimes people get it and sometimes they don’t.  

Clearing the way

Many employers are supportive of sabbaticals if they’re beneficial to you from a career standpoint, the idea being that you’ll return to your position with a renewed sense of purpose and a fresh perspective, ready to produce new ideas. Not all are willing to make it a paid sabbatical, so be prepared for the possibility you’ll be operating without a financial safety net. Your partner and/or family are a different matter. If they’re dead set against the idea, you may need to rethink your plans or wait for a better time. Or maybe your sabbatical becomes a family affair.

The point is that the people who mean the most to you should be comfortable with what you’re planning – and they will be if they understand it’s beneficial to your health and well-being and in their best interest. It might even save your career.

A mother and sun laughing together at the beach

Where to?

Quite often a sabbatical is closely tied to a destination. And that can mean just about anything. For some, it might mean riding a motorcycle through Thailand, for others it might be mission work in a West African country. Whatever your decision, the gravity of the decision and the expense involved should dictate that it be a life-changing experience. Or it might complicate your life. Either way, personal growth and self-realization should be your goals, and that’s difficult to do if you’re playing it safe. You might come back with the understanding that it’s time for a career change or a new place to live.   

View from a person sitting on a motorbike while driving through an Asian city

Financing your sabbatical

If you’re not very well-situated financially, you don’t necessarily have to scrap your plans, though it might be necessary to get creative in how you make it happen. As you budget, determine how much money you’ll need while you’re away, and what you’ll need to keep things afloat on the home front. Having a partner at home can be a huge help, making sure bills get paid and your home is cared for.

Budget carefully according to the kind of transportation you’ll be using. For example, if you’re backpacking across Australia, you should consider buying a car that’ll get you across some rough terrain, then sell it back when it’s time to come back home. Sites like Gumtree have great deals on second-hand vehicles. You’ll save a lot of money by not flying everywhere (very expensive in a place like Australia), taking cabs or using a service like Uber.

The right mindset

Don’t shy away from the unexpected. Some of the most meaningful experiences may crop up when you least expect them, so don’t expect a nice logical and linear progress from point A to point Z. Be prepared to do some zigzagging. If you aren’t, you could miss a lot and wind up defeating the purpose of a sabbatical.

Be flexible and honest about your plans, especially when discussing them with family and at work. You may need to alter a timetable or be ready to take off without an employer’s financial backing. But with good planning and careful preparation, you can be ready for the time of your life and return home happier and healthier, with renewed motivation and an invigorated sense of purpose.

Need a few tips to help you switch off for your holiday/sabbatical? Read this.

A man walking a long a hiking trail whilst on sabbatical

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Date: 07 December 2018 Author: Eva Benoit

About the author:

Eva Benoit

Eva created to help professionals navigate the stress and anxiety that tend to accompany work. Her goal is to help others find balance, peace and overall well-being.

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