Planning a Sabbatical

If you’ve been feeling out of sorts and under motivated, wondering how much longer you can keep cranking out one 8-hour day after another, it’s possible you need a change of scenery. Or you may need something more – possibly a change of venue for an extended period of time. If you take that thought to the next level, it could mean you’re approaching personal and professional burnout and could benefit from a sabbatical, and that’s far more meaningful than a week’s vacation. It takes courage to leave your life behind for an extended period. Taking a leave of absence from work and possibly, leaving family behind for a time, can be jarring. It can also be transformative in a very positive way.

Identify your objective

It’s important to understand why you’re going and what you hope to accomplish. Otherwise, your sabbatical could have no more meaning than a long weekend. For example, if you’re interested in exploring a humanitarian lifestyle, you should count on spending several months in an underprivileged part of the world to find out what’s missing in your life. In any event, do plenty of research to find the right destination before taking your plans to your employer and loved ones.


Taking an extended sabbatical requires plenty of money. You’ll need enough to achieve your objectives, so figure out financing travel, paying for multiple accommodations and transportation (you may need to buy a vehicle rather than renting one or taking public transport; consider purchasing an RV if you’re covering long distances), and covering food and incidental expenses. Make a budget, and plan for an emergency fund so you know whether it’ll be necessary to delve into savings or investment earnings to make it happen, especially if you’ll be without income from your employer (some companies will allow a paid sabbatical if they believe it’ll benefit them). Using credit cards or taking out a loan are also options, albeit less desirable ones, if yours will be an unpaid leave.


Settle on a central location, a “base” from which you’ll do some exploring and spending time with the native population, wherever that might be. Not surprisingly, money is often an obstacle, but people have gone on months-long sabbaticals on less than $10,000. Visiting a less expensive region is a good way to make financing a sabbatical easier, though you should factor in things like medical care in case you become ill. Remember, research and knowledge are your best friends when planning this venture.

Venture forth

Once you arrive and get settled into your base, you may experience a reluctance to get out and explore. It’s a natural human reaction to unfamiliar surroundings, even if you’ve been looking forward to it for months. Take it slow, and don’t rush yourself. You don’t need to scale a mountain on day one or jump right into a conversation using a language you’ve only recently learned, so take it one step at a time. At the same time, bear in mind that getting out of your comfort zone is what it’s all about, and it’s the only way you’ll learn what you came to find out.

Safeguard your assets

An extended leave of absence means leaving your home and assets behind. Why not protect your home and belongings by renting the place out while you’re away? You’ll also generate income, a good thing if you’re going on an extended unpaid leave. If renting is your intention, consider hiring a professional cleaning service to clean your house and make it easier to stage for potential renters.

Check out online resources that can help you prepare your property to attract motivated renters. If you don’t have a home security system, this is the right time to add one. Most systems allow you to interact with it from a distance, meaning you can monitor what’s going on through video access. Incorporating smart automation features will let you manage the thermostat, door locks and lighting, as well as identify would-be intruders approaching your property.

You go through months planning, saving money and anticipating a potentially life-changing experience on your sabbatical. Try to avoid building up unreasonable expectations in advance of your trip. A sabbatical isn’t about checking off fun activities and interesting sites from an itinerary. It’s about broadening perspective, coming to a better understanding of yourself and, possibly, reaching a decision about where your life is headed.

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