Until recently, our plans for sabbatical were not widely known. We had told our families and some friends, but it was all really hush hush until we were fully committed and ready to tell our employers. I didn’t realize how much that was weighing on me until we finally announced our plans to the world three weeks ago.
The joy that we felt when we first decided to plan a sabbatical over a year ago had been waning the more that I kept our secret from others, leaving cracks that welcomed doubt and fear, which threatened to derail our dream. But once we opened up and told people what we were planning to do, that excitement came back via the enthusiasm that we received in return.
I think we all sometimes forget how much energy and inspiration we can gain from others if only we are willing to let them into our world. What I have found is that the more people we tell about this crazy thing we are doing, the more people we bring into our dream, the more it fuels us to keep going.
And it goes both ways. We have received so much overwhelmingly positive feedback on our decision, and it feels great to know that our adventure is inspiring others to consider what is possible in their own lives if they leave fear behind. Others are feeding our joy with their encouragement and we are feeding their imaginations and just maybe inspiring them to take a leap of faith themselves.
The responses we get when we tell people about our decision to quit our jobs and travel for a year generally fall into four categories:
Validation: Wow! I never would have had the courage to do that…what a great idea!
So many people have responded by remarking how much courage it takes to make such a bold decision, and what a great decision it is. That is so validating, especially since one of my priorities on this sabbatical is to conquer fear. The fact that people recognize that this is a risk, a scary leap of faith, and that we must be pretty bold to go through with it…that feels so good.
It is especially meaningful when people who are our seniors say this to us. They often say that they wish they had made such a bold choice when they were younger. This means a lot because it validates our rationale that it may be now or never. We think of ourselves as taking a year of retirement early because why wait?
Related…many people who have been stressed out and disheartened by the tumultuous state of our nation have said that this is a great time to just get away from it all, literally to leave the country, to be reminded of the goodness and the openness of the rest of the world. I couldn’t agree more.
Side note: My Mom is nervous about us going to Thailand to live. She said “What if you can’t get back in to the U.S.? My response: “What if you can’t get out?”
Inspiration: Wow! I really wish I could do that, but…
We have had at least a dozen conversations with others who say that they would love to do something like take a year off to travel, but…we have kids…we don’t have the money…we have obligations…
I totally get it. We went through that excuse stage as we thought about the possibility of taking a sabbatical. My response is always two-fold:
- You can do anything that you decide to make a priority. Your life is a series of choices.
- Your leap of faith may look different than ours. For us, a year off to travel was the dream we set our mind to. What’s your dream? And what are you willing to do to bring it to life?
A friend of mine made a similar decision to leave her job just recently to start her own business from home so that she could have more freedom to spend time with her kids. That’s her dream. She jumped off the cliff and did it after talking about it for years. She made the choice, changed her priorities, and took a risk. THAT’S living!
Support: Wow! How can we support you?
This has been the most surprising and most wonderful of all. So many people who love what we are doing, who respect the boldness of our choice, have asked us how they can help.
Our parents and siblings are helping in ways like keeping our dogs while we are away (although we hope to take them on a lot of camping trips).
Friends and colleagues from the education and nonprofit community have said to me that when I return, to look them up and they will help me find a job. Knowing that I have a network of people who want me to do this and want to welcome me back to my career relieves so much stress!
My personal trainer was one of the first people I told and he has been one of the most enthusiastic. And when I said that I might have to stop training to save money, he gave me a discount and let me work out a payment plan that worked better for me. After five years together, it was nice to know that he had my back.
Similarly, when I told my hairstylist recently that I was going to have to back off my time with her because of the sabbatical budget, she said, “girl, we’ve been together too long to let this get in the way.” She was willing to work with my measly hair budget to support my cause.
People have offered to connect us with their friends who have lived or are living in Thailand or Southeast Asia. We have received travel books, and travel tips, and food tips, and the list goes on. Friends from all over the U.S. have offered us a place to stay while we are on the road here. Even people that I only know as a friend of a friend, and former classmates that I haven’t spoken to in 13 years, have offered to host us. People are excited for us, and it feels wonderful to accept their kindness.
Shared experience: Wow! That’s awesome! We are doing something similar (or we know people who did something similar)
One of the very first people I told responded by telling me that she was going to take a three-month sabbatical herself. She took hers a year before we will take ours, but watching her do it, and love it, and then come back from it an even better person was just the inspiration that I needed to keep focused.
Many other people told us that they had friends who had made similar decisions to leave the daily grind behind for a life on the road or a life abroad. I’ve followed several of their blogs and gained my own inspiration about what is possible. Some of them have kids in tow, and I think…”if they can do it then we certainly can!”
We have heard more than a few stories of others who had the same idea to take a six month or 12 month sabbatical that ultimately lasted two, three, or even seven years! Most of those people sold their homes and everything they own (which we are not doing), but it’s still pretty cool to know that our lives are wide open to make that kind of decision too. Many of them end up working in foreign countries or starting their own businesses. We even heard of a couple that started a business helping other people plan this kind of adventure.
My mother-in-law came across a book called Paris Letters by Janice Macleod, which is the true story of a woman who quit her lucrative job in L.A. to travel to Europe. It starts with a simple question, “How much money would it take to change your life?” She falls in love, finds a way to make a living with her writing, and never comes back… That book has also been a source of inspiration and it came to me from someone who was so exited to share in our journey.
This experience of sharing, of letting others into my hopes and dreams, has been invigorating, and a meaningful reminder that we each have so much to offer each other. We can either encourage, validate and inspire, which leads to growth and transformation. Or we can stay closed off to others and to the inspiration and kindness that life puts in front of us.
I am grateful to so many friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers who have encouraged me to embrace my dream, never look back, and who have even thanked me for being an inspiration to them. We are so much better when we feed off of each others’ energy and courage. Thank you for reminding me of that over and over.