7 Reasons to Take a Sabbatical, ASAP
Two years ago, at the tender age of 30, I got on a plane to LAX to embark on a 3-month sabbatical. During this time I would spend a month sleeping outside, driving up and down the West Coast of the States, seeing incredible wildlife and landscapes, surfing, trying my new home town Berlin on for size, spending two weeks in India… basically had the frigging time of my life. I started this blog after I came back because I wanted to stay connected to that sense of the outdoors I’d so relished in these three months…. But the experience of travelling itself felt too huge to write about. Like, every sentence would end with an exclamation mark! That’s how great it was! Ah!
So for a smaller chunk, here are my biggest takeaways on why taking a sabbatical from my career was SUCH a great decision for me, and why it might be for you too.
1. You can “try before you buy” on life changes
Want to move country? Become a yoga teacher? This is the perfect opportunity to live your dream life – before you need to commit to it full time. I’d had dreams of leaving my stressful and expensive London life behind for ages, but had absolutely no idea how I could make this happen, and if I’d regret it once I made the jump. Taking a dedicated chunk of time out of your everyday life with the security of being able to come BACK to it lets you really try new things and dip a toe into your big life changes, before making the leap. It DID of course eventually lead me to move country, change my career and lifestyle completely, BUT HEY, I could have hated the sweet smell of freedom, right!
2. You need to get money smart
Most sabbaticals are unpaid, which means you’ll need to save up for it before you go. And that means getting really smart with your finances. Yes it may seem scary if you’re not accustomed to money tracking and making spreadhseets (be still, my beating heart) but if you ask me it is THE key to stepping into your power as an adult. How much do you REALLY need, what does comfort mean to you and what are your real priorities in life – understanding and taking charge of your personal finanes is where you find this out. Get to grips with how much you’re spending, where you can cut that back and create a savings goal. Then add it up to how many months you need to save for until you can reach your sabbatical goal! I had to change my travel plans around a fair bit – when I could leave and where and how long I could travel for – but thanks to my new-found knowledge of my finances, not to mention the greatest spreadsheet known to man, I was able to tweak and adapt as I went along.
3. You can make a plan – and then change it
I think this is a key part to travelling – you’ll have a plan but it’s probably not going to work out that way. When I was in the USA and living my hiking dreams an opportunity came up to go to India for two weeks with a friend and practice yoga (my other love that doesn’t come up on here very often) at the banks of the Ganga… and who could say no to that!! I tweaked my plans, got a visa, shifted the money around, and off I went. This kind of spontenaiety is really hard to make happen when you’re in your day to day life, so it was totally exhilarating to just be able to GO for an opportunity because it felt right.
4. Without all your stuff… you’re just you
As we grow, work and live, we accumulate objects that we need, and objects that help our ego paint a picture of who we wish we were. Everything you’ve ever bought because someone else had it and you thought it made them look cool probably belongs in this category. Mind blown, hey. But when you let go of all that stuff and live with the bare minimum for a couple of months (a few outfits, a swimsuit, a kindle, rolled up tshirts you folded inside your socks), you’ll probably feel more yourself than you have in years of trying to fit in. And, letting go of all that public persona of carefully curated cultural signifiers of coolness might actually make you a lot more open to meeting new people. Weird but true.
5. You’ll remember the things about your job that made you love it
When you start meeting said awesome people during your awesome time away you’ll invariable start introducing yourself pretty often, and by that telling people what you do for a living, right? Depending on how happy in your chosen career you are, it might actually make you feel really proud to tell people about what you do. Now that the everyday stress and annoyances have fallen away you’ll likely remember what it is that made you go for your career path in the first place, find new inspirations to bring back to your job, meet great people that might even work in a similar industry you’ll connect with. This is why it’s a huge bonus for companies to grant employees sabbaticals too: that trust and freedom will make people remember what it is they love about their jobs in the first place.
6. You might see the ways in which you need to change it
At the same time… you know those stresses and annoyances in your job that drove you out to live in a hut on a remote Indonesian island for 3 months in the first place? Yeah, you’ll probably be thinking about those. Quite a bit. With a bit of distances and new perspectives gained in your time away you’ll see more clearly which parts of routine you miss, and which ones you’re really tired of. Love talking to people and organising group activities at your hostel? Maybe managing a team could give you new motivation at work! See where we’re going with this. Who you are as a person should be reflected in your work.
7. You will be grabbing LIFE by the BALLS and it will feel SO GOOD
Every day of my 3 months off felt like a gift. Yes there were some hard times too – I really missed my washing machine, living on a strict budget was a pain in the ass in the Patagonia Shop. But to have earned this trip totally myself, without being a “before real life starts” gap year scenario, but a conscious step into taking real control of my life and living it the way I want to, was a revolutionary act for me, and one that has led to a chain reaction of AWESOMENESS. That small, and relatively safe, step out of my routine gave me the breathing space I needed to reevaluate my life and carefully Marie-Kondo my way though it. Hiking? Sparks joy. Six gin and tonics on a Friday after work? Thank it and discard it. Pretty simple, but man is it hard to see this when you’re stuck in a rut. So get out of the comfort zone, put your stuff in storage, and go on sabbatical. If you want to. <3