Sabbatical: Month One

Sabbatical: is a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year. In recent times, "sabbatical" has come to mean any extended absence in the career of an individual in order to achieve something. In the modern sense, one takes sabbatical typically to fulfill some goal, e.g., writing a book or traveling extensively for research. -Wikipedia


Ever wonder what it is like to take a year off from work? That is precisely what my husband and I decided to do this year. We bought a small RV, sold our home of 35 years, quit our jobs and began our adventure. Initially, Jim was in favor of making this a  "permanent sabbatical" (retirement), while I was leaning towards finding a new challenge. Now, at thirty days in, I think we are both assessing the benefits of sabbatical and trying to figure out if a year is too much time or not enough. 

All the things we-wanted-to-do-but-didn't-have-the-time are now within our grasp. Time is no longer such a scarce commodity. There are new skills to develop (I want to master the Ukulele, Jim wants to learn to speak Spanish), books to read (Plato's Republic?), goals to accomplish, and places to see on this one-year hiatus. 

Our first inclination for sabbatical activity was travel, and we made a list of places we wanted to experience. The first trip was to the Keys and it was a terrific trip. We met some great folks at the campgrounds, enjoyed new places, watched sunrises and sunsets, all with no particular schedule in mind. The days were serendipitous. It is no wonder that on our last night, we began talking about where else we could go right away.  

But first, we needed to go home and visit our kids and grandkids, do laundry, clean and restock the RV, as well as all the other activities that go with being an adult. These were things we needed to, but we didn't much want to return to our little apartment. Now on sabbatical, we didn't have much reason to stay long at the apartment. There were no office buddies to tell about the trip, nor jobs to dig into with renewed energy. Our move to a new area meant we didn't even have a network of friends to enjoy. So the prospect of returning to the apartment without our usual level of activity seemed a bit of a letdown after traveling.

Without work or friends, it is very quiet. No schedule, no alarm clocks, no endless "to do" list - but not in the good way we experienced non-schedules while traveling. Without a house to maintain or a yard to work in, the apartment should be the perfect place to rest and regroup for the next trip and we calculated our travel with 2-4 week layovers at the apartment. When we were planning the sabbatical we never considered what those layovers would be like in the apartment. It was simply a convenient and inexpensive home base between trips. What we have found is two weeks of a quiet apartment and the lack of schedule provides a source for either reflection or boredom. I am finding it is hard to avoid boredom.   

I don't think we considered that we might need down time to reflect and prepare. Time to reflect on what we had experienced, learned and enjoyed. Time to prepare for the next adventure with all of that in mind. But travel can be an addiction that keeps you moving. As long as your are going somewhere new, you live for the experience. Down time for reflection is not typically on the itinerary. This is, perhaps, a significant difference between leisure travel and a sabbatical experience.

Now, this is a curious situation. We figured that if we took a sabbatical, we would have the time to unwind and hit the reset button on our life. To get truly rested and refreshed as well as see new places, meet new people and learn new things. I have so many hobbies and interests that I could not even imagine that I would ever be bored. Yet, here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, counting the hours until we depart for our next trip. It is not because I don't really have anything to do, it is more tied to my inability to slow down and uncompress all those activities I used to jam into my time off. I am accustomed to filling every moment with activity, leaving no "white space" - and that is harder to do when you stop working.

All those things I used to compress into a two-day weekend? Well, I still plow through them at breakneck speed just as I always did. I have not yet digested the concept of "no more Mondays". This non-scheduled life will take some adjustment. 

Robin and Jim North are currently experiencing a one-year sabbatical traveling in their Class B+ RV. You can follow their adventures on their blog,