Thursday, 1 December 2016

Taking a sabbatical - the adult gap year

I often see people saying that travelling once you're 'older' is impossible.

I say older; at twenty-eight, we decided to up sticks and go. Not remotely 'old', but a little later than most decide to take a gap year. Both myself and boyfriend had full-time jobs (or careers, I suppose you could say), we rented a house and had various other commitments and ties. And yes, it was a risk. But one that we felt was worth taking, and thankfully paid off.

And online I see so much negativity surrounding adults leaving 'real life' behind them to go travelling. That it's only for the privileged. That it's a pipe dream. That in reality you can't just leave. That some of us rely on our income. And I get it - the older you get, the more settled you become and the harder it becomes to up sticks and leave. We had no mortgage or children, so were relatively free to do our thing.

But the posts I read online are largely written by folk my age, with no children and a job they otherwise moan about on social media. So, why not? Of course, travelling isn't on everyone's agenda, but I strongly believe that if you want to do it, don't let that settled life hold you back.

When looking at our case, I suppose Rich and I took slightly different paths. I took a sabbatical; I asked work for a leave of (unpaid) absence and I was lucky enough to be granted a period of six months. This in itself may seem totally unachievable for some, and I would have agreed... until I did it myself. Working in education, I am well aware of the challenges the public sector faces at the moment. I teach Sociology in a sixth form college, where we've seen huge funding cuts and job insecurity rear it's ugly head; the idea of asking my workplace to hold my job open for me whilst I go on a six-month-jolly seemed almost laughable. Until they said yes.

In essence, you'll never know until you ask. Worst case scenario? They say no. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.

Rich's story is different. He took a career break - he left his job. He knew he had progressed about as far as he could within the small business he worked for, and saw it as an opportunity to change things up. He handed his notice in, taking a risk we hoped would pay off. It just so happened that we found ourselves at a point in our lives when we could see this really working. So we made it happen.

Travelling was something we had spoken about whimsically for a while; having those 'where would you go if?...' conversations and Pinning dream destinations obsessively. Then on Boxing Day 2014, on a long car journey between our respective parents' homes, we had our yolo moment. And that was it - we decided we wouldn't be those people who moan about life and don't make our own happiness. Because we all know it doesn't just happen, you have to create it. So we gave ourselves a year to get things in order, and we'd be off.

But I get it, leaving your job, home, family and friends is a big deal. Isn't it?

Kind of. Maybe. Well, not really. 

Taking a few months, maybe even a year, out of your career will make little difference. You may miss out on some opportunities whilst you're away, but given today most of us will be working for over forty of our adult years (and then some), a few months out is insignificant. You will see these opportunities again.

In fact, those who take a sabbatical or career break often find themselves returning to work rejuvenated and refreshed with a clear sense of purpose. Taking time out to take stock may have a real positive impact on your productivity and more importantly your wellbeing in the workplace. What you gain in experience is invaluable, and this really does add strength to your character.

The internet is a wonderful thing; friendships can be maintained and relationships can last. You make it work.

And you can make the money work. Get a saving plan in place - it may take you a year or a few months, but you'll get there. And losing a years' salary over the course of your lifetime? Small fry.

Stop saying you can't do it, and make it happen.

You'll never regret the things you do as much as the things you don't.

In need of a little inspiration or life shake up? I've been reading The Life Plan by Shannah Kennedy (via kikki.K) which offers 'simple strategies for a meaningful life'. There is a whole section on taking a sabbatical; the hows, whys and myths debunked. I'm a firm believer in making positive choices to take control of your own life and happiness - and my next challenge is to reassess my career choices in light of my time away.

Because taking a sabbatical should come with a health warning. I've not met one person who has been travelling and it sated their desire to see the world. I returned wanting to see more, to be less tied down and with a strong desire to take life a little less seriously. Now I need to take stock, reassess and do something about it.


1 comment

  1. Definitely agree that travelling just makes you want to see more! I loved following your adventures and it's definitely something I'd want to do in the future if I had a travel partner to go with! x


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