If you’ve seen this recent post, you’ll had read the news that BC and I are taking a three month sabbatical to go travelling through Eastern and Southern Africa.
Strictly speaking, BC is taking a full sabbatical and I’m going to be taking a semi-sabbatical because I’ll be researching and writing articles for magazines, newspapers, blogs and websites along the way. However, it will be the longest time I’ve been able to travel in one go, with no breaks, away from my day-to-day work.
I’ve spent many moments wondering how we will feel when we’ve put our belongings into storage, handed over the keys of our flat to a temporary tenant and got on that plane, travelling away from our daily routine and creature comforts. Are we crazy for doing this? Will it be the best thing we’ve ever done? Or will it be the worst?! I guess I’ll be able to answer these questions when I return in the New Year. But for now, I generally believe that taking a sabbatical in your 30s to go travelling could be one of the best things you ever do.
A sabbatical gives you permission to press the restart button
BC has been in his job for 11 years, yes ELEVEN years. So for freelancers who constantly hop from project to project like yours truly, this feels like a lifetime.
And although he genuinely loves his job, most people in their 30s have spent the last 10 years or so grafting their socks off to get ahead in life. To stand out in their office. To get that promotion. Or in my experience, trying to progress in the ever-competitive world of freelance journalism. Sometimes, the daily grind can feel like a slog, right?
When you take a sabbatical, you are giving yourself permission to remove yourself from your life, job and daily habits as you know it, and press restart so you come back energised, rejuvenated and ready to face the world.
It’s the perfect opportunity to pursue your passions
I don’t think I’d be the only one to say that sometimes when you’re working day in day out, you forget who you are and what your passions are. My passion is travel and writing which thankfully my job is all about! But for most people, your Monday to Friday is controlled by a fixed agenda, the work that’s going to pay the bills and whatever lands in your inbox on a Monday morning.
When you take a travel sabbatical, you are generally giving yourself permission to not live by a fixed agenda. So you can remind yourself what it is that makes you tick and let your creative juices flow.
There are many things that make me tick but discovering beautiful places, meeting inspirational people and enjoying amazing food are just some of the highlights I look for in travel. If I can develop my photography skills, perhaps pick up some new language skills and write creatively about it as I go, I’m in a happy little place.
Other people’s passions may lie in high-adrenaline sports, driving down an ocean road with the roof down, or just generally purging your life of materialistic things and searching for unique experiences. Whatever it is, when you take a sabbatical, you suddenly experience the luxury of having more time and space to stop and explore life’s pleasures.
That’s good for the soul if you ask me.
It helps strengthen your relationships
BC and I have been together for four and a half years and been married since February. So while we know each other pretty well by now, travelling with a partner brings a whole new dimension to your relationship.
This doesn’t necessarily mean your husband or wife. Perhaps you are considering a solo sabbatical or a trip with a friend or family member. Either way, as you plan your adventures, solve problems on the road and pursue your passions, you will inevitably learn things about yourself and about your travel companion. Especially if there are a few disagreements along the way!
You learn things about yourself
Despite being a travel writer, the longest trips I have taken overseas have been around six weeks. This includes inter-railing around Europe, travelling around California and East Coast USA and visiting family in Australia.
On all of these trips, I have met new people, been forced to put my independent hat on and done things that have pushed me out of my comfort zone. Without sounding too cheesy or preachy, when you take a travel sabbatical you will undoubtedly learn vital things about yourself as you remove yourself from your daily routine. You’ll encounter different scenarios, challenges and social situations. And without the daily distractions of the daily grind, it gives you the opportunity to be more reflective about yourself as a person and discover new life goals and ambitions.
It gives you the opportunity to really explore other cultures
There’s no stopping you discovering other cultures during a holiday, but I generally find that the longer you spend in a destination, the better chance you are going to have to truly understand its customs and cultures.
While I do get to experience many destinations as a travel writer, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to experience a ‘slow’ kind of travel where you really get under the skin of a destination.
By travelling for three months, I’m hoping we get fully immersed in the many cultures of Africa and get a chance to fully explore the places we go to. Africa in particular, is a continent that often gets stereotyped by the media. I’m looking forward to seeing (some of it) for myself and coming back with a new perspective on the world.
It makes you reassess life’s priorities
Whether it’s an element of your job that’s getting you down, a life decision you’re finding it difficult to make, or a switch in lifestyle you still haven’t mustered the motivation to make, I’ve always found my greatest eureka moments have come when I’ve been travelling.
There’s something incredibly therapeutic about removing yourself from the confines of your daily routine and having the space to think a bit more freely. Somehow, long-term travel helps you sort the vital from the clutter, the things that hold you together from the small things you really shouldn’t sweat about. It’s like a spring clean on your life and you’ll (hopefully) return with a clearer idea of life’s priorities.
It can help you appreciate ‘experiences’ over ‘things’
If you are taking a sabbatical to go travelling, you are probably already the kind of person who appreciates experiences as much as material posessions. Yes, you might appreciate the finer things in life, I mean who doesn’t? But if you are taking the kind of trip where you have nothing but a few pairs of shorts and tshirts in your backpack, it can also help you appreciate that there’s more to life than material possessions.
I’ll be the first to stand up and say, I love my creature comforts. And the thought of carrying around just a backpack worth of essentials for three months, in itself is a challenge for me. As a certain BC has said to me many times, freeing myself of material posessions for three months and travelling light could be one of the most liberating and life-changing things I have ever done. I think he’s probably right.
A sabbatical can help you stand out
You don’t have to be working in the travel industry to reap rewards in your career from a travel sabbatical. I’ve read accounts where people have taken a career-break to travel and then returned to a promotion or entirely new career direction.
Some of the most popular things to do on a sabbatical are to volunteer or carry out some kind of philanthropy or charity work. Others take on challenges for a good cause while others simply travel.
Whatever you do, taking a travel sabbatical often gives you an opportunity to add a few more strings to your bow. It broadens your mind, helps you learn new skills and overall, makes you a more well-rounded person.
These are all things to add to your CV when you get back to the daily grind. And you never know what business opportunities or contacts you might come across on your travels.
That’s only the start of it, there are so many more benefits of taking a travel sabbatical which I’m about to find out. If you have any you’d like to share, feel free to share your stories.