When my cousin and confidant described my idea of taking time off as a sabbatical, I laughed. It sounded like a term that more accurately described a scuba diver than myself going to California for a few months to figure out what’s next.
As my first go-to source of info (Wikipedia) suggests, by modern standards a sabbatical defines any extended absence in the career of an individual in order to achieve something, typically in correlation with travel. While this is the overarching theme of this type of journey, what you’re achieving is not completely clear.
Now, back home on the east coast, I’ve clarified that a sabbatical is just a fancy way of defining an individual doing research. With that being said, conducting my own personal research has meant the following:
You get to try new things.
As career coach Ashley Stahl explains, “Clarity comes from engagement." While most of the time this phrase refers to a career standpoint, it’s also a great way of pointing out that to find what you’re looking for or to change your current situation, you must try new things or exercise a different approach. Whether this is taking a class that you’ve always thought about, volunteering, interning for a company/industry you may be interested in, embracing a new city’s culture and/or lifestyle, etc., taking steps to try new things or participate in activities you’ve dreamed of is an amazing opportunity a sabbatical allows you to explore.
What is a comfort zone?
While this can relate to trying new things, this feeling is such a big part of taking this journey it deserves its own section. Staying in bed watching House of Cards or New Girl is always a good idea, but sometimes it’s better and nicer to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. Likewise, going outside your comfort zone is another benefit of a sabbatical. From dismissing the social standard, meeting new people, asking for help, embracing challenges and doing things solo, getting comfortable with uncertainty and reliance on yourself is an amazing skill to develop.
You get to feel like Liz from Eat, Pray, Love.
Last but not least, self-reflection is comparable to a big scoop of authentic gelato, cleaning the floor of an ashram and riding a bike through the countryside (like Liz’s descriptions in Italy, India and Indonesia). It brings about feelings, emotions and questions you’ve never imagined, thought of, or even wanted to explore. Taking a step back from your traditional day-to-day mindset, social surroundings, environment, and work allows you to accept and reflect on your past, and evaluate your current situation. Additionally, you can define new goals you’d like to achieve, and most importantly, find love for yourself.
Ultimately, I’ve learned that by trying new things, going outside your comfort zone and living, breathing you, you’re researching what you’re capable of, your fears, things that excite you, what you're curious about and more!
Taking a sabbatical, especially solo, is scary. And it's not just financially but emotionally frightening, as you’ve decided to investigate yourself in all aspects of your capabilities and experiences.
Whether your sabbatical is all about traveling the globe, moving somewhere new, or simply making time each week for a new experience in your life, just do it. Make it your own. Don’t compare yourself to others, and most of all, remember that you define your success.
If you’re thinking of taking on a journey of this kind, below is a simple guide to getting started:
- Define your goals
- Acknowledge that things may not go as planned
- Create a budget
- Believe in yourself
- Have fun with it