Sabbatical Lessons: 8 Excuses that Became Inspiration to Say Yes to a Year Off!

For years, my husband and I have said “someday we’ll live abroad” and “someday we’ll get really healthy” and “someday we’ll take a cooking class together” and “someday we’ll visit every National Park.”  Well, one day we realized that someday may never come, so we better change our mantra to “Today we will…”

Once we decided that it was time we put ourselves first for a little while and do some of the things that we’ve always talked about doing, big and little excuses reared their heads EVERYWHERE!  Below are eight of the reasons that could have derailed our plans to take a year off from work to really live for a living, but we didn’t let them.

Related:  Check out my posts on how we came to the decision to take a year off and our itinerary so far.

Reasons not to take sabbatical

  1. Money. How would we ever have enough money to take a year off from work? That was the big question, but once we took a look at our budget, we saw that we could make some sacrifices pretty easily. The big one was to put off saving for retirement for a few years; that was a tradeoff we were prepared to make. It also meant cutting out a lot of our spending on eating out, shopping, and entertainment while we saved. For more details on what we sacrificed to save up for sabbatical, check out my earlier post. I even took on a minimalism challenge to get me in the right mindset for cutting back. After a year of living on less as we saved, and a year of living frugally while on sabbatical, we will come back in a whole new mindset about how much we really need to live a life of freedom and happiness. I hope these lessons will stay with us for a long time. Excuse number one put to rest!
  2. Molly and Tucker (our two fur babies). Where would they go? Our two dogs are our four-legged fur babies. We knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t be able to take them  abroad, and that was a real mental obstacle. I couldn’t imagine leaving my 9 year old dogs behind. However, one we honed in on the idea to spend half our time traveling in the U.S., and the other half abroad, it seemed more doable. In fact, if we could figure out how to take them with us on a lot of our stateside travel, it would be incredibly fun to spend that quality time with them. And since we’ve announced our plans, friends and family have made generous offers to keep them while we do some of our stateside traveling if we decide not to take them absolutely everywhere. We offered to keep my two nieces and nephew for a few weeks while my sister and brother-in-law enjoy a solo vacation. In return, they agreed to keep Molly and Tucker while we are abroad. Game on! Problem solved! Another excuse down the drain! Note here that although we don’t have kids, we have heard from many people who took their kids on this same type of adventure and it all worked out. Anything is possible!img_0982
  3. Health Insurance.  Another biggie.  We are not yet sure if we will go COBRA through our employers or Colorado Health Exchange (aka Affordable Care Act) or some other private insurer.  We are watching what happens with the ACA carefully these days, but we’ve been advised that there will be some sort of option for us one way or another.  Even if we have to buy private health insurance.  We are simply budgeting a lot for health insurance and for travel insurance to cover unanticipated health issues abroad.  This one is a bit of leap of faith, but one that we were willing to take. There are options if you are willing to pay for them. Depends on how much risk you are willing to take.
  4. The Good Life.  We have a good life. We are privileged to have had access to a good education that led to good jobs. We don’t have kids, so we have largely been able to have the life that we want. But taking a year off meant we had to cut back, and there were some things that I didn’t want to give up.  Personal training, for example.  I have been working out with a trainer for five years, and it’s important to me.  It’s the only healthy routine I’ve been able to stick to in my life.  Well, my wonderful trainer thought what we were doing was awesome, so he gave me a great discount on my sessions for the year! Similarly, my amazing stylist, who I’ve been seeing for nearly a decade, said she would also give me a break. People are good. People are excited about our adventure and they want to help make it happen. Sometimes life surprises you.
  5. The house.  We love our home. But how could we afford to pay the mortgage while not working? Well, we met with a realtor and discovered that we could really easily rent it out, which may even create income! The market in Denver is really hot right now.  Another excuse turned upside down!
  6. Our careers. We have great jobs. We love our great jobs. Our great jobs love us. So, when we thought about it, there was no better time to leave than on a high note. Both of our employers made counteroffers for us to stay if we would only shorten our time off, but we knew we had to have our year. So, when we come back and are looking for our next career move, we will be young (early forties), experienced, well-networked, and will have extensive resumes. One of my colleagues from another organization actually said that taking this kind of risk upped my value in her estimation. Leaders are bold and take risks. I’m applying that same logic to my personal life.
  7. Our friends and family. Time away from friends and family was a drawback. Especially the family part. We have aging parents for whom we bear some responsibility, and it was hard to think about putting ourselves in a position, financially and logistically, where we may not be as available to offer support. But when I thought more about it, our parents are only going to get older from this day forward, so will there ever be a better time than now? And if we did things right, we could actually spend some great quality time with family on this sabbatical. So that’s exactly what we are doing. As for friends, we hope that many of them may choose to visit us abroad, or take a road trip with us before we leave the country.
  8. The election. I am a proud liberal who believes in social justice above most else, and this election took the wind out of my sails for a few months. I call November 9th Wailing Wednesday. After the election, my husband and I got in a fight because I suggested that maybe now was not the time to take a sabbatical.  My argument-there is too much work to do in the community to fight for our civil rights and for those who can’t fight for themselves. I even considered running for office. Maybe I still will. But I know that there is a long game to consider, and I need to take care of myself in order to play in it. Also, I realized that I would actually have more time to be an engaged citizen on sabbatical. There is time to make calls, write letters, participate in protests, make signs. Not that I’m waiting until sabbatical to do those things, but I have a game plan to do more as part of my time off.

So, those 8 reasons not to take a year off became inspiration to take the leap and embrace my freedom. The encouragement from every person we told, the support of our families and friends, the excitement about the new things we will embrace, and the possibilities that lie ahead all made it an easy decision to SAY YES TO SABBATICAL!

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