Take A Sabbatical

A sabbatical is a rest or break from work. A serial sabbatical is the idea of taking those breaks regularly, viewing them as a necessary component of human flourishing.

The notion of retiring at 65 years old is antiquated and backward. As we age, the body degrades. If you want to fully enjoy your life you need to abandon the idea of taking one long retirement when you are old and gray and replace it with the idea of taking multiple shorter retirements while you are still young and healthy enough to enjoy it. After all, it’s much easier to climb mountains at 35 than 65.

Carmen & Joel hiking through Yellowstone National Park on the Wild West Trail in 2018.

Living to work is no way to live at all; it is more prudent to work to live. That is to say, work with the mindset that you will be financing a future that is yours – not your employers. You need to take time for yourself because if you don’t take it, no one will give it to you.

The fact is, no one knows what the future will bring. We hope and we plan for the future, but we can only do so much. Life will throw you curveballs, and you won’t be able to plan for everything. Take a sabbatical today because you could get hit by a bus tomorrow and never make it to ‘retirement’ age. 

“How Long Is A Sabbatical?”

The answer is up to you and is dependent on the agreement that you make with your employer. Traditionally the word sabbatical refers to an extended amount of time away from your workplace, longer than a few days. A typical sabbatical lasts in the range of a couple of months up to a year, or perhaps longer.

The actual amount of time is less important than what you choose to do with it. A week hiking in the wilderness is worth more than a month sitting at home eating pizza and playing the video game Apex LegendsTime is your most valuable resource, don’t squander it.

People often refer to the Wild West Trail as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Most people limit themselves by not fully realizing what they are capable of. It is very possible to take some time away from the workplace, spend that time in a worthy cause, and go back to work with a better mindset than you had before.

Mini Retirement

The first time I heard the term ‘mini-retirement’ was in my early twenties when I was introduced to The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. At that time I had been dreaming of the day when I could travel the world while earning passive income, and Tim Ferris’ philosophy provided a pathway towards that end. 

Whether you call it a serial sabbatical or a mini retirement, the idea is the same: to spend a large swath of time away from work, and instead travel and experience what the world has to offer.

It’s been said that “life begins when you leave your comfort zone”. How many of us have dreamed of a day when we can regularly take extended vacations? It is important to dream for sure, but don’t make dreams your master. Life will never happen if you keep dreaming.

Leave of Absence

In the United States, we often refer to extended time away from work, while still maintaining the status of being employed, as a leave of absence.

In some professions, and especially in European countries, a person can expect an extended amount of paid time off. That is to say, they can take a number of weeks or months away from work and still expect a paycheck.

washakie wilderness, WY
Carmen looks ahead during the Washakie Wilderness section of the WWT, 2018.

However, for most Americans and people worldwide, this is not the case. Not to worry, since letting an employer dictate how we live our lives is not something we have to do. We can carve out the time if we really need it by saving ahead of time, picking up a second job, and living a frugal lifestyle.

When there is a will to do something, there is always a way to do it.

Unpaid Sabbatical

When I began planning for my trek on the Wild West Trail I was bartending in Austin, TX. I did not have much money saved in the bank, but I was determined to earn enough to pay for my upcoming sabbatical. I picked up a second job on a food truck to make extra money.

I worked 6-7 days a week for over 6 months. I limited the amount of money I spent out at restaurants and bars. I became frugal. I sacrificed weekends today for weeks-on-end tomorrow. Here’s some tips to plan for your unpaid sabbatical:

  • Find creative ways to make more money; work more hours, get a second job, or start a side business.
  • Sell your stuff (it’s junk anyway).
  • Spend less money; cook your own meals, limit unnecessary expenses, and plan for the future.

If I did this, you can too – but you have to want it. In my experience, an unpaid sabbatical is worth all of the money and time that goes into planning for it.

Spoiler Alert: when you return to work you will be more productive than ever before. Why do you think that is? Tell us in the comments below.

Sabbatical Synonyms

There are multiple ways to express the idea behind taking a sabbatical. Europeans often refer to this as taking a holiday. Whether you call it a holiday, a leave of absence, or a mini-retirement, the idea is the same: taking time for yourself over an extended period.

Here’s an idea: take a leave of absence from work and hike the Wild West Trail. While not your traditional holiday, it is certainly a worthwhile way to spend a mini-retirement. It may even start you down a path of taking serial sabbaticals.

The bottom line is: it is necessary, from time to time, to focus your energy away from the needs of others and onto your own personal needs and desires. It is more than possible to carve out time, whether it be a few weeks to a few months — or even a few years — if you plan properly and want it bad enough.


Author: @carmenrao | Let us know about your upcoming mini retirement in the comments below!

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