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Take a Sabbatical

You don’t often see a surprising article in a personal finance magazine. In general, they’re all about trying to put an interesting spin on budgeting, investing, insurance, real estate, and achieving your financial goals. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance throws a good curveball in that mix every month or two though, and the current issue has a doozie. “A Pause That Refreshes” is all about taking a sabbatical–just dropping work and doing something else entirely for a while, preferably something far more laid-back. It’s an inspiring and well-done piece that runs down all the excuses people give for not taking one, then debunks each of them. Great stuff.

More companies are starting to figure out what many travelers have learned on their own: sabbaticals make for better and more creative workers. If someone leaves their job for three, six, or twelve months, they return to work far more productive and inspired (after they get over the letdown of having a routine again, that is). Instead of being burned out and bored, they are energized and full of ideas. So the more progressive companies offer sabbaticals to long-term employees as a standard perk–they know it works well for both parties.

If your employer doesn’t offer this option, create your own. It’s not as far-fetched financially as you think: those tens of thousands of backpackers bouncing around the world right now certainly didn’t leave home with 50 grand in their bank account. You can go away for an extended period and spend far less than you would on day-to-day expenses at home if you don’t spend it all in Milan and Tokyo.

Once you are out there having time to think and feel, you may realize you want to make some career adjustments anyway. Or you may decide the old definition of a career doesn’t make so much sense. Or you may realize you’re tired of working so hard for someone else and form ideas about starting your own enterprise.

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try as a vocation, take a sabattical and try it out. Go work in a winery. Go to cooking school. Get your pilot’s license. Train to be a ski instructor or a divemaster. Become an apprentice under someone who has your dream job. There’s even an industry term for this: the “vocation vacation.” Don’t work yourself to death (or bore yourself to death) year after year with some vague hope of having time to travel in retirement. You may not make it that far or you may not be able to do as much physically once you get there.

There’s no rule saying you have to slave away 50 weeks a year just to have off two, year after year. If you’re not lucky enough to have 4 to 8 weeks off like many Europeans, then jump off the treadmill and go see the world!

Sam Melbourne

Monday 16th of August 2010

I wholly agree with the sabbatical approach. I previously worked for a company who offered leave buy back. However even with that system in place, the pressure to stay in the job, due to having to find replacement staff in your sabbatical period, and your team members having extra workload put a big burden on me, and pressure not to take the holiday. In the same manner, but to an extreme, in Japan I've heard the 1 or 2 week holiday of annual leave theyre entitled to usually is not taken due to them feeling so pressured to perform.


Tuesday 23rd of May 2006

I was wondering about this, thanks for the information.