Sabbatical has given us the time and space to grow, learn, and be reminded of what matters. Special thanks to my husband, Trent, for his thoughtful reflections below on his own unique sabbatical experience. I am grateful every day that he is my life partner and that we are on this adventure together. I hope you enjoy his perspective!
Written by Trent:
As we approach the triumphant conclusion of our sabbatical, I’ve been reflecting on the year. Sabbatical has been a great teacher, that taught me a lot about happiness. I’ve learned about numerous things that I don’t need in order to be happy…or don’t need much of them. I have also seen how my happiest moments are clustered around small number of specific things. Here are my insights.
First, what I can do without? I can be very happy with very little…
…control. Throughout our sabbatical, my wonderful, talented wife selected our hotels, booked our airfare, mostly chose where we ate & selected many of our activities. I largely went with the flow, and was happy. We made many decisions together, and I often deferred to her preference. I learned that I don’t need nearly as much control or power as I sought pre-sabbatical. Learning to relax and relinquish control is perhaps my central lesson in life. I’m happier in the moments when I remember to do that. I still frequently forget & fall into old habits, and provoke power struggles. It’s an ongoing process.
…money. We traveled three continents and had countless amazing experiences for an entire year! When it’s all over, we will have spent less money on sabbatical than either of us earned in the twelve months before sabbatical. Wow! There have been a lot of cheap campsites, free attractions, budget flights, and travel to inexpensive places…and I loved it! Pre-sabbatical, I _knew_ that money doesn’t equal happiness, but _experiencing_ this truth is deeply liberating.
…possessions. I like having less stuff. Our little pop-up camper (the Freedom Machine) had everything we needed to be happy. Then we found happiness living out of our Osprey backpacks in Asia. Now, I could see myself being happy in a tiny house – but that isn’t Rana’s thing, so it’s just a cool awareness. Having ‘more stuff’ doesn’t make me happy. There’s a real freedom and simplicity that comes with having ‘less stuff’. Aside: My ‘must-have list’ is A/C, a comfy bed, food that doesn’t make me sick, beer, sunscreen and Rana.
…physical space. I’ve learned that small hotel rooms, crowded subways & compact camper vans are all ok by me. This is somewhat paradoxical, because I also get tremendous happiness from being in wide open nature – National parks, mountains, rivers, big sky country, oceans, beaches, Great Barrier Reef. That paradox doesn’t bother me.
Second, what things consistently bring me joy & leave me feeling happy? My happiest moments are clustered around…
…physical activity. Yoga was one of the big surprises Thailand gave me. I regularly feel happy and peaceful and more present after spending an hour stretching in poses named after various animals. For years I have called running ‘my magic potion’, because it makes me feel the same way. It’s fundamental & true. Kayaking, swimming in the ocean, and just walking on the beach were all great! (In part because I have used copious amounts of sunblock and never turned lobster red)
…calmness. I started meditating during our numerous visits to Wats. Now I meditate most days. I typically just sit for 20 min, breathing gently and allowing thoughts to pass like clouds. It’s deeply calming and relaxing. We also often relax with a glass of wine after a long day traveling, or sit by a waterfall after a hike. I’m clearly happier when I slow down…and the benefits last all day! I don’t get as ‘spun up’ when people interrupt me, or annoying stuff happened. It’s easier to release feelings of anger or guilt. A related, indisputable truth is that I’m happier when I turn off my damn iPhone/iPad/computer.
…learning new stuff. I’m happier when I learn new things. I have know this for a long time & sabbatical just reconfirmed it. I want to understand the world, how things work, how people live, what happened in here history, try new foods, read books, etc. This area of happiness includes creating new stuff too. I’ve done a bunch of creative writing this year, for the simple joy of it.
…kindness to and from strangers. Helping people makes me happy. Receiving help from strangers makes me happy. So simple. So consistently True.
…nature. We have spent so much time hiking mountains & waterfalls, swimming in rivers & the ocean and just being in beautiful, wide open spaces. I consistently feel happier during and following time spent in nature. This is another foundational truth.
So, that’s it. As I move forward in life, I’m going to use these awarenesses to do less of some things and more of others.
Thanks for reading.