Sabbatical Planning Guide?
It’s a career break. No, an adult gap year. Either way, sabbatical means travel.
Huh. Apparently, LinkedIn narked on me and I got on a list of ‘early retirees’ also known as ‘people who need a career break’. Apparently by ‘career break’ they mean ‘a year of unlimited travel to help you go from burnout to overdrive!’ Condé Nast Traveler defines this as ‘the mid-career adult gap year.’
Maybe sabbatical means that I’m open for new career opportunities. I’ve been contacted by a number of recruiters. When I remind folks that I’m not currently interested in job opportunities, people assume that I’m just taking a few months off to do a bit of traveling and then will be ready to start the interview process. Or, maybe sounds like I’m starting another business or nonprofit.
Until I was actually on a sabbatical, I relied on the original definition: an extended leave from work to pursue a goal or work on some sort of research. It felt like more like an academic practice rather than a budding social movement.
Something else is going on. I had to dig just a bit deeper.
Evolution in motion
Most of us are familiar with the idea of the gap year. Those few who have the resources and ability to step away between high school and college are able to take the time to explore the world before settling into their next phase of life.
In reality, very few of us are able to take advantage of a gap year. We immediately leapt from high school to higher education or into the work world and aren’t able to take more than a few weeks of vacation each year. We are expected to remain in working in some capacity until we are at full retirement age or beyond because pensions aren’t an option anymore.
The Financial Independence/Retire Early (FIRE) movement challenged the notion that we have to keep working until our sunset years. People who embrace this mindset focus on investing most of their annual income while living a minimalist lifestyle. They don’t want to live for the possibility of maybe having time to enjoy life a few decades from now. They want to live for the present. And, who can blame them?
At the same time, we hear (repeatedly) about how the Great Resignation is reshaping the workplace. People want more money. They want greater schedule flexibility. Makes sense, right? Until you hear that the top reason noted in multiple surveys is toxic work culture.
We’re trying to escape, but to where?
The last time we saw this type of upheaval was at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Manufacturing moved from hand production to mechanized factories. We went from horse and buggy to locomotive railroads, from boats powered by oars and sails to steam engines. Communication went from days and weeks for a letter to arrive by courier to nearly instantaneous by telegraph. People migrated from farming communities to cities.
Our lives have fundamentally changed since the pandemic shut down our world in 2020. Employers who refused to have folks work from home suddenly found a way. Kids and pets inadvertently found their way onto video conference calls and news segments and that was ok. Online learning, both the good and the bad, became acceptable. The line between work and home blurred so deeply that we may never be able to completely separate them again.
What we see now is just the beginning. We may not have that flying car we were promised as kids. A functional holodeck might not be technologically feasible yet. Alexa continues to tell me that the replicator is not yet fully functionable. But we can build on the progress that we’ve made so that, when coronavirus becomes an endemic, we are in a much better place.
So, what now?
I am slowly embracing the idea of hitting reset on my life. I’m not really interested in returning to the corporate life of meetings, conference calls, deadlines and documentation. Not sure about launching another business, either.
Travel is out of the question until we go from pandemic to endemic, but it opens up a very interesting question: if I could go anywhere in the world, how would I like to spend my time? And, with over 80 projects outlined (and counting), what can I queue up while we wait?
Michaela is the founder of the What Now Project, a tongue-in-cheek collection of essays that seek to answer that age old question: Srsly, where do we go from here?