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Planning the Perfect Sabbatical: Is it Time to Take the Leap?

Sometimes, vacations aren’t enough to regroup, unwind, or spend time with loved ones. Whether you need an extended break to avoid burnout or because you’d like to travel the world, go back to school, or start a side business, sabbaticals benefit people in many different ways. Read on to explore the ins and outs of how to do a sabbatical -- from how to afford it to inspiration on what to do.

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First, identify why you need a sabbatical


According to author Lisa Angowski Rogak, a sabbatical is “any type of break from how you normally spend your time, whether it lasts lasts for a month, for several years, or forever.” She says that there are no “shoulds” when it comes to how to take one. Only you know your reasons for considering the idea. Maybe you’re showing the telltale signs of Covid 19, the stress, depression, or burnout, or maybe you cannot put off for one more day your burning desire to walk the Pacific Crest Trail or write the Great American Novel. Knowing what is compelling you will help you plan where you’ll go, how long you’ll need, and how much money will be necessary. 


If your desire to take a break is somewhat more vague than this, ask yourself what goals or interests you’ve put on the back burner. With these interests in mind, how could you explore them while doing one of the following?

  • By volunteering in a venue that interests you, you can learn new skills, experience a new culture, fatten up your resume, or simply fulfill a lifelong dream. You may even find an organization that covers your room and board while you volunteer your services.

  • Starting a new business. Sure, you may have been a dental hygienist for the past 10 years, but you may have always wanted to market your own bath and body products or start your own dog sitting service. Taking a sabbatical is the perfect time to give Etsy.com a try or see how well you do on WagWalking.com.

  • Taking time to heal. Maybe you’ve hidden behind the long hours and busyness of your career long enough. Maybe now is the time to get to the root of what’s been haunting you for so many years. Using a sabbatical to heal is the best investment in your future you can make. Use this time for reflection, for therapy, for traveling the country in an RV, or for doing whatever it takes to help you move forward. Not only will you come back feeling like a new person, but you just may have saved your career as well.


Find out if you can afford a sabbatical


If you have savings equivalent to the amount you would earn during your time off, you’re an excellent candidate for a sabbatical. The bottom line is that to remain financially stable, you’ll need to establish a budget, have a healthy emergency fund, and have a Plan B in mind, such as a part-time job if necessary, doing something you love while you continue with your sabbatical interests and goals.


Make your trip work with your budget


When you determine where you’re going and what you’re doing, a budget is going to be what keeps your mind on your sabbatical and not worried about depleting your savings. You will have to nickel and dime yourself into a comfortable position, but it’s worth it to reap the benefits of your trip. Plan ahead for where you’ll be staying, whether it’s hostels, with friends, or short-term rentals. If transportation is an issue, and depending on where you’ll be, buying a vehicle can be more cost-effective than renting. And more than likely you can recoup your costs when you sell it. Look to second-hand sites like Gumtree to find the right automobile. And when it comes to food, try to cook what you can and aim for carrying a lot of snacks. Consider eating out for breakfast or lunch, since those tend to be cheaper than dinners.


Research shows that those who take sabbaticals experience a decline in stress, and an increase in psychological resources and overall well-being. In fact, evidence is pointing to well-planned sabbaticals actually boosting your career. Be sure to highlight what you learned on your resume, and you’ll return to the world of work more in demand than ever. Are you ready to take the leap?


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