Slow Travel Webinar
Visiting 193+ Countries Without Flying →
I'd like to learn more about sabbaticals.
In recent discussions with friends (aged between 25-36, professionals, some with children, mostly without) and family, many of them indicated that they would be happy to leave for six months and return to the same job. However, they had no idea where to begin.
'Six months' got me thinking about a trip we did through the North and South Island of New Zealand during the first wave of COVID-19, and so I published a post about a potential sabbatical itinerary (knownomad.substack.com/p/what-does-a-sabbatical-actually-look), but I'd like to add more depth to the conversation and provide some proper guidance.
👉 If you have taken a sabbatical and returned to the same place of work (or a different one), I'd like to hear about the process you followed, the challenges you faced and how you felt returning to work.
Thanks for your comments and feedback!
I took a Sabbatical in 2019. I essentially told my boss that I enjoyed my job and wanted to stay, but also wanted to take 3-6 months off to travel, and would be willing to resign if there was no way to make it happen. It was a very respectful conversation.
Ultimately, it took a bit longer than I had initially hoped (I asked about it in October, thinking I would travel at the end of the year) but the longer lead time allowed us to plan for me to be gone for such a long time, and organize our team in a way that it would be least disruptive. In May, I finally started my Sabbatical and returned in September.
Interestingly, as soon as I knew I was going out on Sabbatical, my job changed in a lot of ways. I started to think about how I could replace myself in various projects, and also which projects I really wanted to come back to. The 4 months leading up to the Sabbatical were the most productive and rewarding of my career to date.
The 4 months away were great, I traveled around the world, starting in the South Pacific, into Asia, then Europe and then South America. It was a fantastic experience which I would recommend to anyone!
Comping back was exciting. Because I had left in such a good place, I was looking forward to returning to the role. By mid-august I was starting to think about work again and was happy to be back in a role I enjoyed by September. Practically speaking, I didn't miss too much, and was able to get back up to speed quickly
There was definately some mixed feedback from management when I returned. While most were supportive, some criticized that I had spent so long away, and to some degree, this probably held me back a little bit that year. But longer term, the impact on my career development was negligible, and frankly, I don't have a problem with being regarded as a lower performer than my peers who worked the full year when I only worked 8 months of that year.
I also wouldn't change a thing - giving up some compensation in the short term to be able to spend time away from the office / exploring the world for an extended period of time in my 20s is a decision I know I will always be glad I made!
Best of luck as you figure out your Sabbatical plans
I imagine managing office dynamics upon returning from a sabbatical can be challenging. If given the opportunity, I'm sure most people would choose to go away for 6 months and return to the same job.
What did it do for your career? Did you continue to travel?
I took a 9-month sabbatical that coincidentally started April 2020 (so I was pretty much grounded the entire time). Ahead of my sabbatical, I received both my life and travel coach certifications and was planning to wander and wonder. Since I live in Finland and was still getting partial salary (it was an official sabbatical program) I was not allowed to "work" so I focused on creating a website and getting my coaching side hustle in order. During those nine months I networked my ass off and subsequently decided to quit my job. Luckily I found freelance work which lead to my current full-time job. Each country has their own rules and regulations. I was fortunate that the government sabbatical program afforded me at least some "income" as well as job security when the sabbatical was over. It's not an easy decision. There's often a lot at stake. You could always speak to a sabbatical coach who has taken many a career break. There's also a book coming out on Amazon: Taking A Career Break For Dummies.
A paid sabbatical sounds like a career hack! I'm sure most people would exercise this option if they knew it existed.
It is the best career hack. The FIN government got wise to this and is cutting the program. Glad I benefitted when I did!
I took a sabbatical period traveling the world with my family for 7 months. It was the best decision I've ever made :)We have always dreamt of traveling for a long time as a family (we have 2 girls aged 7&10) and it was amazing. I just finished my CEO role and took the time to disconnect from everything and connect with my family and myself. When I got back home I started a new path as a travel advisor&mentor
I took a 3-month sabbatical in late 2018 to early 2019. The initial intention was to switch jobs as I was getting burned out from an unproductive job, and I wanted to try London since I loved it so much when I visited on a vacation just months before. But I couldn't get a job, and I urgently needed a break. So I decided to take the leap and do the sabbatical. It also meant that I could take my time to finish a novel I was working on, while fully experiencing London. It seemed very fitting especially since I turned 30 right after I got back, so it was sort of a good milestone before entering 4th decade of my life.
I didn't immediately quit my job because of the usual job security reason. Especially since I couldn't find a new job yet, it was just safer to come back to the same one. I did officially quit a year later during the pandemic, went off for another 3 months in Europe, but after that I couldn't find a stable job again. This pretty much lasted till now. I didn't regret quitting the job though, since my body and brain were suffering tremendously at my previous workplace. The sabbatical helped me better evaluate myself. Of course, I'm struggling financially now with no job security, but I'm still managing.
So I think 3 months is perfect for those who worry that they will have trouble focusing on work after returning. I was writing a lot, besides doing slow travel across London and occasionally beyond, so that helped me make my sabbatical more productive than just aimlessly wandering. I believe an appropriate length coupled with a productive purpose will for sure make the sabbatical most fruitful.
I'm on a "forced" sabbatical after being laid off from 2 different jobs this year. I feel like its a sign to pause before I jump back into the application wheel, and actually think about my next move. I want to be more intentional about what job(s) I take, be it a full time position with one company, or the freelance media creation I do with select brands.
I have been very fortunate to have taken 2 sabbaticals with 2 different employers - one of which had a policy for this and the other didnt. In both instances I was more compelled to take the risk and leap into a sabbatical for the benefits it brings, over the perceived career progression and secure income stream over that period of time. It's important to note that everyone's tolerance to risk is different and so it can be a difficult decision to make - but one I have personally never regretted. The experiences I've had mean more to me than the time I would have spent working and the amount I was able to learn was unrivalled to what I could do sitting behind a desk. I will forever be grateful for these opportunities and could not recommend them enough.
The process for me heavily involved building relationships with the decision-makers and putting a case forward to return a more well-rounded employee who can bring back some level of research to the role I was performing. Assuring them that rewarding me with the opportunity would reap returns for them helped to sweeten the deal. Afterall, employees who are more fulfilled tend to perform better. Feel free to contact me for more info - I'm happy to help!