Why sabbaticals are good

How to take a sabbatical year and change your life

There comes a time when a lot of us reevaluate our path in life and wonder if we’re going in the right direction. I realised in my mid-thirties that I and many people my age were asking ourselves the same questions (and that’s one reason I founded Indico Travels, so those people could connect and explore those issues together). For example, by the time we’re in our thirties, many of us have been in our jobs for a few years, seen our friends settling down or have settled down ourselves, and want to take a moment to take stock. 

A sabbatical is a great way to take a meaningful break and come back refreshed or ready to take a new direction. I’ve done this myself, and not only did it give me experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world, it led to the creation of Indico Travels! I know that many of our travellers are taking or planning on taking a sabbatical, so I thought I’d write up my recommendations regarding sabbaticals.

 

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?

Maybe you’ve dreamed of writing a book for years, but never found the time for it. You might want to upgrade your skills by taking a course that needs full-time attention. Or perhaps you’re not sure that you’re in the right career and need some time to consider what it would take to pursue your real passion. Whatever you want to do to broaden your horizons, consider how much time you want to take out, then start planning.

Even if you just want to hit pause and not be too structured about your time out, I do recommend reflecting on what questions you want to have answered by the end of your sabbatical. This can be a good way to prioritize how you’ll spend your time. While you might just want to start out taking a well-earned vacation, you don’t want to run out of time and not take advantage of this opportunity for personal growth. 

 

HOW TO PREPARE - GETTING TIME OFF WORK

If you want a break from your job, but not to quit, ask your company what they would be open to. Come with arguments for how an extended break would be beneficial for them as much as you—we’ve listed some here.

Negotiating with your employer not only ensures you’ll have something to come back to, if necessary, but might dictate when your sabbatical can begin or for how long it can last. 

 

BUDGETING FOR YOUR SABBATICAL 

Next, it’s important to make sure you save enough in advance and set aside extra for emergencies. If you plan on travelling, figure out how much you’ll spend on food, accommodations, and activities. Don’t forget to calculate in your flights and essentials like insurance. And keep in mind that you’ll want some money stashed away for when you come back, in case you choose to change jobs and don’t have a position immediately. 

Combine travel with working abroad or volunteering. Sites like Workaway have opportunities to do everything from helping out at an NGO to working on a farm or sailing in exotic waters. These are life-changing experiences that will foster a new outlook, no matter where you choose to go. 

This was how I found a job at a hostel in Tel Aviv. In exchange for working reception and cleaning rooms, I got free accommodation and breakfast for two months. I also found that I loved working at a job so different from the jet-set sales work I’d been doing before. 

I did some tiling in the Tel Avivian hostel I worked at–Never tried that before!

 

TALK TO A LIFE COACH

If you’re contemplating big-life stuff that’s inspiring your sabbatical, you don’t have to go it alone! A life coach can give you unbiased advice and help you reflect on your life, career, and goals, as well as brainstorm with you on how to get where you want to go. After traveling during my sabbatical, I knew I didn’t want to return to the job I was in before. I spoke with a coach. Together, we worked to answer the question: What does my ideal life look like? 

In the end, that resulted in my visualising the kind of work life I wanted. I made a list that included big things, like the size of a company I wanted to work for and its values, but also specific things like being able to cycle to my job and working with an international team. Visualising the future meant that, when searching for jobs, I could compare them with my checklist and see if they were the right fit. Where I ended up—creating Indico Travels—is something that wouldn’t have been on my radar if I hadn’t had those sessions with my coach. 

Christina Peters is the founder of The Art of Self, a coaching service for high performers, and took a sabbatical herself. I asked her about her insight and tips she gives to people taking a sabbatical.

“A sabbatical is what you make of it,” Christina says. “Time can fly by if you are not clear and you might miss a chance to do what you really love or learn something new.” She also suggests not planning your sabbatical days like work days, but using this unique opportunity to slow down a little.

“Learn to be present and enjoy the moment in whatever you do,” she says. “This is a habit that can really serve you to live a more vibrant and balanced life once back from your sabbatical.” 

 

BENEFITS OF TRAVEL

I backpacked China solo for a month–lots of time for reflection as hardly anyone spoke English!

For many people, thinking of sabbatical means seeing another part of the world. It’s hard to imagine a better way to broaden your horizons than by completely changing the scenery, getting out of your comfort zone, and facing new challenges. You learn so much about yourself in a different context. You meet new people, have to problem-solve in new situations, and see new sides of yourself when you strip away what’s familiar. 

During my sabbatical, I travelled far and by myself—to Japan, the Philippines, Israel, Vietnam, and more. I knew that I wanted to do something different with my life. The time I had alone, often in places where I didn’t speak the language, allowed me to think deeply about exactly what I wanted. I remember hiking around a lake in China, evaluating what was important to me and how I would incorporate that into my next chapter. 

I see this often with the travellers who come on our trips. Once we’re in our thirties, It can be difficult to meet new people or get a fresh perspective. Our trips bring together people who are the same age but from different walks of life and have refreshing ways of looking at things. 

We have several instances of travelers forging lasting friendships and staying in touch after the trip has ended, even visiting one another’s hometowns. Recently, a group of six had such a good time together that they are planning a reunion in Europe! 

On one of our trips to Colombia, two travelers got on so well that they decided to build a business together. One was a freelancer, and the other was on maternity leave, and both were looking to change their careers. Little did they know they would find someone who complemented them so well on a trip to the other side of the world!

Many of our travellers are on a sabbatical, and take one of our tours to ease them into their trip. Being in a guided group can be a great way to get comfortable with a region you don’t know, for example travelling to Sri Lanka with one of our groups before continuing on solo to destinations like India. 

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

It’s important to take stock now and again to reevaluate what’s important. If you’re serious about taking a sabbatical, talk to others who have done so or enlist the help of a life coach to make sure you make the most of your time.

 A sabbatical is time to “learn and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world,” Christina Peters says. This is your chance to “explore your creative side more, be more mindful, meet new people, go on an adventure.” 

New friends reflecting on an Indico Travels tour

I hope this article was insightful to you! We’d love to have you on one of our adventures, as part of a short break or an extended sabbatical. You are guaranteed to meet fascinating people your age who share a passion for exploration in all its forms. Take a look at our trips. Here are some I particularly recommend as part of a sabbatical: 

Nepal (12 days)— we offer an optional Silent Retreat add on at the end that is fantastic for reflection 

Colombia (14 days)— this tour is a great start to your solo South America travel 

Sri Lanka (14 days) — perfect for getting acclimatised to South Asia before your Eat-Pray-Love moment in India

 

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