Working remotely, or becoming a nomadic entrepreneur may not be for everyone — however, a sabbatical from work should be.
What is a sabbatical?
“ Noun: a break or change from a normal routine (as of employment)” Miriam-Webster.com
A break from the daily grind can be for as little as 2 weeks or span more than 2 years. The length is not crucial — leaving your comfort zone is.
Timing is everything, so let’s look at the best possible times to pursue a sabbatical.
Windows of Opportunity To Take A Sabbatical
- Job Transition — carve out time after leaving one job and before starting your next one.
- Company Sponsored — typically offered after a predetermined number of years worked.
- Personal Development Proposal — this is where your creativity comes in. If you can zero in on a crucial skill or experience that will enhance your existing job or field of work, why not propose a sabbatical to your employer?
The most straightforward way to achieve a sabbatical is to utilize the brief period you may have between changing jobs. If your future employer wants you that badly, they can wait a few more days or weeks for you to start. The key is to affirm your ideal start date at the beginning of negotiations, not after your job terms are already defined.
While some companies offer either paid or unpaid sabbaticals after predetermined years of work, typically 5, 7, 14+, it is not unheard of to request a sabbatical (paid or unpaid), regardless of industry and years worked.
Paid sabbaticals almost always require the employee to present learnings, findings, and/or a general overview of their experience, upon re-employment. Regardless, those looking to return to their existing jobs after their hiatus should certainly put together a well-thought-out plan outlining why and how their sabbatical will make them a more valuable asset to the company upon return. Even if you aren’t sure you’ll return, its best to have an option or safety net, if at all possible.
Crucial Steps In Creating Your Sabbatical
- If you don’t qualify for a company-sponsored sabbatical, start having conversations with your manager to test the waters and get a feel for his/her openness to the idea. Frame the break as “a few weeks”, but don’t get specific regarding exact time-frames.
- Next, start saving money, assuming that this time-off will be completely unpaid. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions, reduce meals out, bring your lunch, and stop buying any new items you do not need.
- Pick two or three passions or skills you’d like to explore and begin researching how to learn more about them. If you’re passionate about travel, pick a place you’d like to spend an extended amount of time in, not just a place you would choose for vacation.
- Outline all foreseeable new skills and benefits of each of the passions/skills you’ve identified. Which experiences may be the most useful to you long term, or are relevant to your current job? Which connections may help you transition to a new field you’ve wanted to pursue?
- Contact groups and organizations you want to potentially join during your sabbatical. Compile all the requirements, facts, and financials together.
- Go back to your boss and propose your plan. The worst they can say is no. If they do say no, you can either decide to put the idea on hold or take the break anyway — if you have the stability and means to do so. If you’re not satisfied with your current job, maybe this is the wakeup call you need to start looking for a new opportunity — in which case you can build yourself a sabbatical between jobs.
How To Find Sabbatical Experiences & Work
Below are a few ways to learn so much more than a class or book could teach you. Grow your knowledge and muscles while you help small businesses, organic farmers, and social efforts. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to create your own business while abroad.
- All volunteer and work opportunities are subject to the visa requirements specific to individual citizenship and the country in which you are looking to live and work.
- Most opportunities mandate that you are at least 18 years old.
In their own words, “WWOOF enables people to stay and volunteer on a variety of organic properties. Volunteers (WWOOFers) help for 4–6 hours a day, and hosts provide the food and accommodation. This is a good way to experience, learn, and share different ways of living.” Each participating country has its own site and membership, listed here.
With an abundance of organic farms and breathtaking vineyards, I can personally recommend volunteering in Italy.Ranging from delicious fruits and vegetables to life-changing olive oil, and of course wine, Italy has something for everyone.
If like me, you’re a wine enthusiast, I can’t recommend working on a vineyard more highly. Working on a vineyard is an essential experience for wine lovers of any age. Your appreciation for well-made wine will increase exponentially, as making wine is as beautifully rewarding as it is exhausting.
I’ve recently come across another great company dedicated to helping people explore their curiosities all over the world. GoAbroad has numerous programs to choose from ranging from your more standard study abroad program to internships and volunteering in any field you can think of. While I haven’t personally used them, I heard their founder on Andy Steves’ podcast and fully believe in his passion and mission.
The smallest and probably least known organization in the world of vineyard volunteering is HelpX. Since 2001, they’ve been pairing curious travelers with rural families and small businesses in need of agricultural, hospitality, and childcare help across the world.
What is most unique about HelpX is that they also offer a great companions section which acts as a message board to help connect like-minded volunteers who want to work and travel with others.
A lesser-known but great way to find jobs on vineyards is through Workaway, a broader multi-national organization dedicated to fostering cultural exchange on and off farms.
They currently have opportunities with over 30k hosts in 155 countries. To narrow down your search, I recommend using terms like “vineyard”, “wine” or similar, and then filtering by the desired country.
Perhaps the most helpful feature of Workaway is the review section for each host. Like Tripadvisor, Airbnb, Yelp, etc., workers can leave reviews for places they’ve volunteered to help educate others on their experiences. In return, the places they’ve worked can also leave reviews for them. This separates Workaway from WWOOF, which has much more limited information on the hosts and no review functionality.
Traveling Winemakers Group on Facebook
A closed Facebook group for all those looking to offer or find wine employment. The postings cover every corner of the wine-producing world and are often posted by the winemaker/owner themselves. If you love wine, or simply agriculture, you’re bound to find something here. Request to join today!
If you work for yourself or are looking to create your own business, there are some great options to help you pursue these dreams. Outsite can help you jump into a sabbatical, start a nomadic life, or even transition into a location independent lifestyle — all with the support and connections of a global network. Outsite has options that include co-living, co-working, coaching, and more resources to make your relocation or break as easy as possible.
Global Citizen Year
For recent high school grads looking to make a social impact, check out Global Citizen Year. They have numerous gap year programs that provide excellent leadership training and immersion into local life across underprivileged regions and countries. You work directly with local communities in apprenticeship programs where you’ll be able to make a real impact. GCY also offers scholarships and help with the transition to college after your gap year.
What You’ll Gain By Taking A Sabbatical From Work
A Fresh Perspective
Try working on a farm, agriturismo, or vineyard. Manual work can and will provide so much more than aching muscles and mosquito bites. Physical work experience, especially in nature, is transformative, cathartic, and often-times the uplifting, awakening you need.
For those less keen on outdoor experiences and more focused on furthering your skills in entrepreneurship or technology, try building your business in a new environment. Absorb all the new stimuli around you and let them inform your business endeavors and motivate you to push harder.
Living and working in interesting places, amongst diverse people from around the world will inevitably alter your perspective.
It’s never too late to learn something new — something useful. Whether it be skills you learn farming, building fences, or packing boxes, you will at some point use them again. Whether practically, or as part of your new-found confidence, these skills will allow you to more effectively tackle seemingly foreign or unprecedented issues that arise back home, in your daily life or job.
Interesting New Friends, Potential Colleagues, and Connections
Venturing out of your comfort zone and daily routine will provide new connections both professionally and personally. When we limit ourselves to our societal or geographic bubbles, we restrict the opportunity to interact with and learn from people much different than ourselves.
Taking part in a sabbatical from work of any length will widen your network and availability of future opportunities. Deviating from a standard career path is not a risk like many would like us to believe. Instead, a break like a sabbatical should be regarded as a giant step forward for your career and towards achieving true fulfillment in your life.
Time is your most valuable asset, use it wisely.