Sabbatical Life: Trading This for That

Much of sabbatical is about trade offs. To begin with, we traded some retirement savings and discretionary spending to make our sabbatical possible. And on sabbatical, we’ll be trading our current routines and habits for new ones that reflect different priorities.

A large part of my personal journey is to focus on thoughtfully feeding and nurturing my soul for a year, with three priorities in mind:  Us (my marriage), Body (my physical health), and Mind (my creativity). That means that I’ll be making some changes because for a long time now my priorities have looked more like: Work, Decompress, Work.

Decompressing on the weekends and after work hours is a far cry from really living for a living. In fact, decompressing pretty much means I am not focusing on Us, Body, or Mind. Decompressing is a lot more like disconnecting and intentionally turning off my brain and my body, and it doesn’t usually result in personal growth and development, which is what has been missing for me. I’ve had lots of professional growth and development thank to the focus on my career, but I need some me (and us) time.

So, here’s a list of some of the things that I am most excited to be “trading in” over the next year. You may notice that there aren’t as many things listed in the “US” category. That’s because Trent and I will be spending A LOT of time together over the next year. The creative and physical adventures we will have that will nourish our minds and our bodies, we will have together. We will grow closer largely through these shared experiences, so “US” is pretty much built into everything. In fact, I’ll be searching for the ways in which we thoughtfully spend time apart on sabbatical so that we don’t overdo it.

Priority Alignment: US

Time with my work husbands/wives/brothers/sisters for time with my actual husband

Like many working women, there are many weeks that I spend more time with my boss and my colleagues than I do with my husband. I am looking forward to getting to know Trent all over again and deepening our connection as husband and wife. We did a values exercise at work several years ago, and I recently did it with Trent. It was a great way to connect and get to know and understand each other on a deeper level. If I know my colleagues’ values, I should certainly know my husband’s.  Read more about that values activity and try it out at work and home!

Work husbands and wives and brothers and sisters
Actual Husband

Donating our money for donating our time together (see my post on charitable giving and why it’s important to us)

One of the things we are most looking forward to is finding ways to give back to community throughout the year. While we travel the country, we’ll be looking for opportunities with the Natioal Parks Service. And in Thailand, we are researching lots of opportunities to volunteer our time, including at elephant rescues, in schools, and in mountain villages. Stay tuned for more blogging about this!

Priority Alignment: BODY

Morning commute for morning hike, bike, walk, run

One of my personal goals for sabbatical is to get in great shape. Although I’ve been doing 30 minute workouts three days a week with a personal trainer for years, I need to do more. And I’m holding myself to that. So, I am literally trading in my morning commute for a daily morning workout activity. I won’t have consistent access to the gym since we’ll be on the road and then out of the country, so that means really challenging my body in the great outdoors.

There’s really no excuse in Colorado given all of the beautiful natural workout facilities that surround us, but my excuse has been time. I won’t have that excuse any longer and I won’t find other excuses. By making our sabbatical largely about outdoor experiences through our camping and the adventures we are planning in Thailand, it will be hard to avoid physical activity even if I wanted to!grand-lake-summer-2016

Heels and suits for leggings and flip flops (and chucks and hiking boots)

Ladies, I don’t think I need to explain this one. Men, talk to the ladies in your life. This one’s all about putting my physical comfort first. A year with only elastic waist bands? Do I dare dream?

Complaining about winter for enjoying a year-long summer

Colorado is wonderful because it has all the seasons, including a nice long winter with plenty of snow (you wouldn’t know it lately). However, winter means that some of our favorite activities, or ones we are looking forward to making our favorites, aren’t always feasible for 4 or 5 months each year. We won’t have that problem on sabbatical since it will be summertime weather everywhere we are all year long. I used to make fun of the “snowbirds” who fled New England each winter for Florida, but now I totally get it.

What are we looking forward to most?

  • Camping
  • Kayaking
  • Long bike rides
  • Hiking
  • Running outside
  • Long walks with the dogs
  • The beach
  • Sitting outside drinking

Expensive eating out for cooking healthy meals at home

We won’t be able to afford eating out all the time while on sabbatical, so that will be helpful, and we’ll have more time than we currently do to spend on meal prep. While in Thailand, the foods we will have easy access to are simply fresher and healthier than what is readily available in America. I can’t wait to blog about my Thai eating experiences…

Priority Alignment: MIND

Back to back meetings for back to back naps

It’s rare that I take a nap these days without a feeling of guilt–I should be doing something else! Funny, I have the same feeling during a lot of meetings. I’m sure no one relates to that. So, I’m trading those meetings for guilt-free naps whenever I want! Naps restore mental and physical health, but for me this is more about relaxing my mind.

Tucker knows how to nap

Fear of failing for the pure enjoyment of new experiences

I’m going to conquer all kinds of fears in this year of freedom (there’s a post for that too!). In fact, fear is one of the things that most impedes our personal freedom, and it’s gnarly, because it works from the inside out. It’s completely up to us to let go of the fears that hold us back from reaching new levels of personal growth. I plan to do all sorts of crazy things on sabbatical that fear holds me back from now.

Watching TV for thinking and writing

I used to write poetry a long, long time ago. And short stories. And plays. And I journaled almost every day. Once I began focusing on my career, those creative outlets dried up because I stopped nurturing them.

I’m a creative spirit by nature, and I am so excited to have more time to explore that side of myself again. No more coming home from work and turning to the TV because I need to turn my brain off and decompress from a stressful day. I’m loving writing this blog, tapping into my voice, and expressing my thoughts, however mundane they may be sometimes. It’s an active process of self-entertainment, one that nourishes my soul instead of sucking it dry like the television can do. But I don’t plan to give up Survivor. Not after more than 500 episodes. I’m all in on that one.

Spending money on things for spending money on experiences

This is a big one. We are transitioning from buying the latest gadgets, designer clothes, and whatever strikes our fancy to put on a shelf, to spending our scrimped and saved dollars on experiences. That includes trading hotels for pop up camping in the U.S. (Check out our Freedom Machine!) and low-budget beachside huts in Thailand. Instead of buying new clothes, a new iPhone, and the new cookware I really want, we will be paying national park entrance fees, visiting wildlife sanctuaries here and abroad (elephants here I come!), and renting inner tubes to float the Guadalupe River in Texas.


Reading about the demise of our country on Facebook for experiencing the beauty of the countryside as we take to the open road

As I’ve talked to friends, family, and strangers about our plans, one thing has been consistent. They all say that I have to disconnect from the news and the political drama that is dominating our social media, TV screens, and conversations these days. The majority of Americans agree that the things happening in our country right now are pretty messed up (I’m treading lightly here), and I agree. Like many others, I’ve been pretty consumed by it. But I know that I have to take a step back if I am to enjoy this year, truly experience the kinds of transformational experiences I hope to have.

It won’t be easy, and I may falter occasionally, but I am going to do my very best not to stay tuned in to the madness. I have to hold myself accountable for my goals and priorities, and to do that, I must hold at bay a lot of the negativity and downright depressing news that surrounds us all as of late.

Instead, we are embarking on a year-long adventure where, certainly there will be conversations with strangers both here and abroad about the state of our democracy, but I’ll have those conversations from an authentic place rather than a hyped up, fear-laden, knee-jerk response which is what most of us have these days because it’s what has been stirred up around us.

Please don’t take this as a sign that I don’t care. It’s actually quite the opposite. But I have to find hope and opportunity again through my own experiences so that I can refill my cup and keep working for social justice.

I  ordered 500 of these postcards, and I plan to use them up before and after sabbatical, just not during.




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