What’s a family sabbatical, and what would I do on sabbatical?
What is a family sabbatical, why would you take one, and what would you do on sabbatical?
Working Parents and Sabbaticals
Everything, everywhere, all at once. That’s how being a working mom can feel; am I right?
RELATED POST: Mommy sabbatical!
The kids need fed (again); the babysitter fell through; work is calling you at the grocery store, and yet another week has gone by without losing weight or eating a full, balanced meal. (At least that is my week this week.)
When you aren’t at work, you feel guilty about it. When you are home with your kids, you feel guilty about it.
Is your career stuck?
Or, maybe you are stuck in the same monotony. Doing the same job day after day, year after year with little to no expansion of your work or your mind.
You go through the motions: work, life, family, and you forget all about that ambitious young professional who first sat in your office!
You aren’t ready to give up your dreams and aspirations, but that creeping sensation of an escape is getting stronger and stronger.
I can relate. In fact, those are the same thoughts that led me to my first sabbatical adventure and refocusing of my personal and professional aspirations.
My First Family Sabbatical
In 2019, my husband and I decided that we wanted one of our long-term goals to be a family sabbatical. Fast forward to 2022, and we (my husband, our 3 small children, and I) embarked on the trip of a lifetime that resulted in far more than just fun travel memories.
Our family spent 3 months on our family sabbatical during which we slow traveled in Paris; Granada, Spain; Madrid;, London, and Dublin.
With strategic planning before and during, the trip didn’t break the bank, didn’t result in major career setbacks, and was a major chance for our children to learn to love travel and culture.
(If you are more interested in what we did and where we went, start with these)
Instead, my husband was able to complete a major career-making project, I started a side business, and even my 3-year-old learned to say please and thank you in 3 languages!
Our family chose to spend time living in a completely new and different culture while also experiencing some of the most historically important sites in the world.
Further, our children learned about ancient architecture, walked among ancient ruins, and met children on playgrounds from around the world.
What we learned on family sabbatical:
When we returned, we realized that the family sabbatical had completely changed our perspective on what family life, professional life, and personal life should look like.
We learned that we wanted to spend more time together, that we all had passions and aspirations, and that travel was a larger part of our dreams than we realized!
We also realized, that we wanted to encourage other families to do the same. To take the trip. To refocus their homes, and to throw away the fears and insecurities of what a sabbatical is and looks like.
We believe that a sabbatical might be right for you and not nearly as scary or expensive as you thought!
What is a sabbatical?
Not to be confused with a simple vacation, a sabbatical is an intentional break from your career used for personal, professional, and maybe even spiritual development.
Sometimes used interchangeably with a career break or a gap year, sabbaticals are usually bookended by the same career or job.
It is not merely a break but an intentional disconnection and recalibration of your wishes, dreams, and achievements.
Specifically, according to Merriam Webster, a person might use a sabbatical to “rest, travel, [or do research].
At an etymological level, the word sabbatical derives from the same word as Sabbath –the Hebrew word meaning rest.
But don’t confuse “rest” with idle. Real, true rest creates energy and focus. A good night’s sleep leaves you rejuvenated and ready for the day. A sabbatical rest, might be just the professional rejuvenation you need.
While sabbatical might be a real solution to impending career burnout, you might have other reasons as well.
RELATED POST: Legitimate Reasons to Take a Sabbatical.
This all sounds good, but what do you actually do on a sabbatical?
What to do on Sabbatical:
What you do on sabbatical should relate to your sabbatical goal. What is your sabbatical goal?
Define your sabbatical goal(s).
Spend some time reflecting on what your goals for a sabbatical are.
Are your goals to:
- Start a new business
- Learn a new skill
- Define new professional boundaries
- Travel to new and interesting places
- Find rest?
A sabbatical is an intentional time for rest, travel, research, or maybe even recreating your professional self. Therefore, your sabbatical should be intentionally curated to achieve your sabbatical goal.
If your sabbatical goal is to start a new business or side hustle, are you spending your days in Provence at cooking school or as an apprentice to a local plumber?
Will walking the ruins of Tikal and Machu Pichu make you a better history teacher or archealogist? Or, perhaps providing care to impoverished children in war-torn countries will make you a better doctor.
Our family goal was to reconnect as a family and to advance our careers through rest and new experiences. Therefore, we chose family-friendly destinations for extended travel where both my husband and I could focus on the children’s education as well as our professional objectives.
Sabbatical experiences to match your goal
Once you know your “why” for taking a family sabbatical, you can start to mold your “what”.
Do you want to research with an international college?
Will fixing cleft palates on a ship in the Pacific Ocean traveling from island to island refocus you?
Does a month on the Appalachian Trail sound like the disconnection you need to be able to figure out what you want to be when you grow up!?
Some people travel with family to remote islands with no internet connection at all. Other people may travel across Africa creating solutions for water scarcity.
Name your dream and find the experience to match it! Then begin your adventure for planning around your career and finances.
RELATED POST: How to pitch a sabbatical to your boss!
RELATED POST: Creative ways to afford a family sabbatical.
Sabbaticals and Career Building
You might find that your sabbatical actually reinvigorates you for your career or stretches your current knowledge.
Some companies even incentivize their employees with sabbaticals to promote longevity and personal growth.1
Whether your company promotes it or not, sabbaticals in any career might actually make you a better employee or professional!
From Dead End to Right Turn
Sabbaticals might not be the traditional solution for improving your career, but they might be right for you!
If you are feeling the pressure of family and professional demands, maybe a break –a rest–is right for you.
On the other hand, if you feel like you are no longer growing or developing the passions that you once had, maybe a family sabbatical will grant fresh perspective.
In my experience, a family sabbatical was just the right thing at the right time to help our family realign our priorities and long-term goals. Plus, we had some totally awesome adventures along the way!
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