Have you ever considered a work sabbatical? We have toyed with the idea for years. In fact, both my husband and I were eligible for 3 month sabbaticals at our previous jobs and we both changed jobs before we became eligible. Policies for sabbatical leave differ from country to country. I was surprised to learn that many countries have a statutory right to a sabbatical! That’s definitely not the policy we know for sabbatical leave (UK or US) but sounds very progressive. Currently we are once again considering three month sabbatical ideas (primarily because that time frame fits in well with the children’s school vacations!).
Sabbatical Leave U.K.
On the plus side, new research by travel company Opodo reveals one in four British workers believe they have a generous holiday allowance. Considering that the average American worker still gets only 2 weeks vacation, I’m pretty sure the answer would be different in the United States.
People take sabbatical leave for many reasons but primarily because they need an extended break from work to recharge.
I recently read The Long View, a book by Brian Fetherstonhaugh where he argues that the average working career should be split into three sections of 15 years each. His viewpoint assumes you start at the age of 21 and finish at 66 years old in order to get the 45 years of work into this paradigm.
The true currency of life is time, not money, and we’ve all got a limited stock of that.
– Robert Harris, Novelist
I had some issues with this book which I won’t go into here. One relevant point though is that at periods throughout your career you need to get off the hamster wheel and re-evaluate if what you are currently doing is still what you want to do.
A sabbatical (including with your family) is a great way to accomplish this challenge.
Three Month Sabbatical Ideas
We have friends who did not quit before they got their three month sabbatical. In fact, the smart ones quit right after they came back from their sabbatical.
Tried and Tested Sabbaticals
In no particular order, these are some of the things they did with their 3 month sabbatical time.
- Live in Berlin and learn German
- Live in Rome and learn Italian
- Volunteer in Nepal building houses
- Take the family travelling through South America, including the Galapagos Islands
- Rent a house in Florida and live as beach bums
These sabbatical ideas are as different from each other as the people involved. They do fall into the main categories of what people do on sabbaticals though – travel and/or volunteer.
5 Cool Sabbatical Ideas
We have also come up with some cool ideas for what we could do with a three month sabbatical. Obviously they all involve travel.
Travel New Zealand in a Camper Van
The kids and I would love to travel through New Zealand in a camper van. It just sounds like a cool way to see this beautiful country. Although my husband loves the idea of travelling through New Zealand, he would prefer the comfort of nice hotels.
Road Trip through the United States
My husband and his best friend had a goal to see every single state in the United States. Growing up in the USA, I had no real interest in seeing many of the states they found fascinating. Now that I live outside the USA though I have new-found appreciation for the American landscape and culture.
Travelling with children in the United States is easy. People have even mapped how to road trip the USA efficiently and hit all the major tourist areas. We would prefer to go into lesser touristed areas though and visit more of the 58 National Parks as well as the countless other state and county parks. Our road trip through South Dakota and Wyoming was one of the best experiences we had as a family.
Do the Mongol Rally
The Mongol Rally is an epic road trip that goes from the United Kingdom to Mongolia. It covers 10,000 miles in 2 months. Our last month would probably be spent recovering in Mongolia!!
You go through a lot of sparsely populated places and so camping would be a necessity. We could pitch a family tent in whatever area that caught our eye. The kids and I would have a lot of fun. My husband would probably be stressing out about his lack of WiFi coverage. (The exact reason we need a sabbatical).
Running from July through August, we would be able to do this road trip while the children were not in school. We would definitely be able to raise money for charity because most of our friends would think we were crazy and donate generously.
On the downside, neither my husband nor I have any experience in fixing cars. If we broke down in the middle of nowheresville (very likely) we would wailing children in the back seat and no clue what to do. I have heard the WiFi can be abysmal. I don’t know if I’m more scared of the car breaking down in the back of beyond or the children not having access to their iPads.
Join the Peace Corps
I know you all think joining the Peace Corps is for liberal do-gooders straight out of university. I confess I tried to join the Peace Corps after college and got rejected for having no skills they wanted. They had way too many English majors and wanted engineers and scientists.
The Peace Corps Response is for people with professional experience looking to volunteer from 3 months to a year. Although this program used to be for former Peace Corps volunteers, it now accepts people who were never with the initial program.
On the downside, you have to be American to join the Peace Corps Response. And, I don’t think my usable skill set as an English major turned finance lawyer turned travel blogger is still that useful for the Peace Corps.
Of course, there are alternatives to the Peace Corps such as Moving Worlds which is for experteering (volunteering for experts). You can lend your expertise for short-term projects around the world. A quick look on the Moving Worlds website shows a need for accountants, marketers, designers and small business experts.
What about the kids you say? I’m sure they can find something to do alongside the adults. Blogger Rachel Heller recounts how she was volunteering in Malawi and her children enjoyed playing with the kids at a nearby orphanage.
Explore Southern Africa
Southern Africa is difficult to visit just in terms of logistics. You usually need to connect through South African airports. We have always wanted to visit Malawi, Namibia and Botswana about which we have heard great things from friends. The lack of vacation time has always been what has stopped us from visiting these countries.
Moreover, although we have been to South Africa, we did not spend nearly enough time there. I’ve got a huge list of things to do in South Africa including eating a curry bunny in Durban and going on safari in Kruger National Park.
Blending Sabbatical Ideas
Of course, some of these ideas can be mixed and matched, such as for example a road trip through Southern Africa that involves volunteer work. My husband has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in South Africa and loved the experience. Maria Hart has talked to us about what you need to look for when you choose to volunteer in an African animal sanctuary.
What are some ideas you have for what you would do with a three month sabbatical?
I was happy to provide Opodo my opinions on this research and this post is in a collaboration with them. All opinions, of course, remain my own.