Adventure of a Lifetime: Finding New Meaning on Sabbatical

A sabbatical can be a life-changing experience, especially if you’ve begun to question the direction of your life and work, a common problem among professionals who’ve been in a career (or with the same company) for many years.

It’s a natural human reaction to wonder where it’s getting you and what your reward is for all those hours of hard work and commitment.

Many people decide it’s time to explore other options and ponder venturing down a completely different path while they’re still financially and physically able to do it. A well-planned sabbatical can be a true growth experience, showing you an aspect of life you never expected to find. As a journey of personal discovery, it can be a truly transformative, even spiritual, adventure.

While you’re gone

First, you’ll need to make arrangements to care for your home or apartment while away. Asking someone to look in periodically can be inconvenient and inadequate should something go wrong. Instead, consider renting your home while on sabbatical. It’ll help having someone on site paying rent and keeping an eye on the place, though make sure that any major maintenance issues are taken care of before you leave. Your rental price should cover expenses, but don’t set it too high. There are online resources to help you get a home ready for rental and prepare an effective and comprehensive lease agreement.

Comfort zone

It sounds odd to use terms like “comfort zone” in describing a sabbatical, which is typically designed to get you out of a comfortable and familiar routine. But if you’re taking a sabbatical of any duration at all, having a central location or home base from which to operate can make your journey of discovery a little easier. Many tour guides and experienced travelers operate in this manner when they go abroad, spending a few days or a couple weeks in a central location while they get oriented and comfortable.

It’s nice to know there’s a temporary home to retreat to while you’re getting your “feet planted” and learning the ins and outs of your travel destination. You can still enjoy new discoveries and go off the beaten path for impromptu events and journeys from a home base; just avoid getting so relaxed in your new comfort zone that you rarely leave it, thereby defeating the purpose of your sabbatical.

Plan out the details

Whether you’re traversing Europe by rail or car or backpacking across Australia, you’ll be gone for quite a while, perhaps months. That means a lot of travelling and formulating an extensive (though flexible) itinerary, including transportation, accommodations, sightseeing and the periodic unplanned adventure. Find the most reliable and affordable mode of transportation based on your plans and the geography involved. For example, you can save money in Europe by making use of the continent’s excellent and well-run rail system. Check timetables and destinations so you have an idea of where you’ll be on given dates.

On the other hand, finding your own transportation for a trip through Southeast Asia might make more sense and save money. If you’re spending time in rugged terrain, jungles or forested areas, consider purchasing your own vehicle (a Jeep or heavily-axled vehicle would probably be the most reliable option). You can sell your vehicle before heading back home.

Keep a journal

Remember, this is a journey of personal discovery, something that will help broaden your perspective on both your life and career. There will be a lot to contemplate when you get back, and keeping a journal, either in writing or electronically, of your experiences and thoughts is a great way to compile reference material. Think of it as food for thought, and something for friends and family to enjoy. If you keep an electronic record of your travels, you can upload them to social media and as email attachments, but don’t get so caught up in chronicling your sabbatical that you forget why you’re really there.

Take care of logistics and financial needs before leaving on sabbatical so your credit standing isn’t damaged - that way, you can enjoy the experience without worrying about a leaky pipe or an unpaid bill. Begin your adventure by centring in a given location, and gradually branch out as you get comfortable. Don’t be afraid of the unexpected or shy away from an opportunity to do something really cool and memorable. After all, that’s why you’re going.

Article by Eva Benoit