18 September 2018

It seems sometimes that everyone has either taken a sabbatical, is planning on taking a sabbatical or is in the middle of their sabbatical.

People take sabbaticals for a variety of reasons such as time off to write a book, travel, experience new cultures and seek out adventure, and often the sabbatical is the way out of the daily routine that sets in, and sooner or later seems to be come mundane and boring.

Sabbaticals seem to be so successful as they give you a chance to be someone else, to take some risks, try new foods, meet new people and step out of your comfort zone. So many personal experiences that you read about sabbaticals seem to open the door to a new phase of life, the energy and vigour that was once in these travelers seems to be re-awakened and strengthened.

My sabbaticals have certainly prompted major life changes, and yes often lead to major breakthroughs. But I wonder whether these positive changes, renewed energy and vigour are a direct result of the sabbatical or the result of the mind change that happens when you take a sabbatical.

Once on sabbatical you become a different person, you no longer chase the clock, in fact you often are not in a rush for anything, and have no specific place to be. You take the time to speak to people, share a smile and let the person behind you skip ahead at the grocery store. Stress seems to evaporate and is replaced by patience, openness and curiosity. As a knock-on effect the people around you seem friendly, approachable and open to helping you and answering your questions.

So, my question is this, are we all after a sabbatical or do we simply want the benefits the sabbatical seems to be able to give us, time, new experiences and other such pleasures?

Personally, I think most people that are taking a sabbatical or thinking about taking a sabbatical are actually after one of the benefits you get as a result of being on sabbatical, such as time and space to think, meet new people and experience new things.

There are so many stories, pictures and blogs devoted to sabbaticals that showcase the amazing places and experiences, but at some point, for nearly everyone the sabbatical ends, there is a period of travel home, a period of intense excitement where you share your experiences and photos with everyone you know.

But then the reality sinks in, the time off ends and you need to go back to the business of earning a living, maybe it’s back to your old job or maybe you find a new exciting job, and pretty soon you are facing the daily commute to and from work, the stress of deadlines and targets to meet. At some point the sabbatical fades to a memory.

There are however some lucky people out there for whom the sabbatical or time off never seems to end, people can make good careers online from most places in the world today thanks to technology. These people I have a lot of admiration for; they have embraced the constant life of travel and seem to not have the need to go home at any point. I sometimes wish that I could choose this path, but instead I see my sabbaticals as a temporary respite that provides space and time and reminds me of the things that should be part of my everyday life.

I came up with the idea for a program that could provide the benefits of a sabbatical for everyone, not just those that are lucky enough to take a sabbatical but for everyone. Having spoken to lots of people that have taken sabbaticals I realized that the benefits people on sabbatical talk about seem to cover common themes that everyone could use in their daily lives. Taking this approach has made my post-sabbatical adjustment easier as it does not feel like a jolt back to reality when the sabbatical ends but rather the same experiences and feelings in a different setting, which now happens to be back home in my normal day-to-day life.

I really try to create little periods of quiet time every day, to mostly just appreciate what is going on and give myself some space to breath. The second big change has been choosing to be “in the moment”, when on sabbatical you want to smell every smell, taste new foods and you are often so engaged with the people around you little else seems to matter. As part of my routine I try do away with multi-tasking, preferring to totally focus on the one thing I am doing at that moment, whether talking to my children, checking emails or riding my bike. Each meeting is 100% focused only on having the best meeting I can have; each email is managed the same way. It can feel a little counterproductive, but sometimes less is more and one properly worded quality email will often replace an email conversation that goes on for days.

I find that instead of talking about my sabbatical and what I did on sabbatical I now spend more time talking about what has changed in my life since my last sabbatical, and by sharing these experiences I find that often the people around me can make small changes in to their daily routines that add a sense of calm, more time and at the same time provide some excitement that often would have prompted a sabbatical.

When was the last time you took a totally unknown route to work, or bought the person behind you in the line a coffee without a mention? Make tomorrow the start of a new chapter, go out in to the world as though you are on sabbatical, look at everything with fresh eyes and try something totally out of routine and unexpected, go to the new vendor for food, or buy a baguette and sit in the park during your lunch break, reach out and connect without social media or electronics.


This is a guest post by Peter Barbas of The Everday Sabbatical Program. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.