Everything You Need to Know about Travel Sabbaticals

The workplace has become increasingly hectic over the last few decades. Between demands at home, technology that allows us to connect with other people any time, and societal pressure to work extra hard, it’s easy to see why people are overwhelmed. Employers and workers are looking for ways to improve work-life balance and streamline processes. Some of these efforts include the ability to work remotely, flexible time-off policies, and health and wellness initiatives.

In addition to these efforts, some people are convincing their employers to allow them to go on a sabbatical. The goal of these long trips is to give employees a sense of autonomy that allows them to connect with other cultures, get much-needed rest, and pursue their passions without fear of unemployment when they return.

Here, we’ll discuss what a sabbatical is, how to plan one, and some important tips to remember before considering one.

The Difference between a Vacation and a Sabbatical

A lot of people hear the word sabbatical and think it is just another word for an extended vacation. While this is partially true, the word sabbatical is derived from centuries’ old agricultural significance that stated the sabbath year was a time to leave the soil undisturbed to rest and replenish nutrients.

Sabbaticals were changed over the years and eventually adopted in academia, where they evolved into a paid leave program offered to professors who wanted to expand their view of education while traveling. Currently, sabbaticals are essentially a leave program offered by employers that can be either paid or unpaid and allow employees the option to take extended time off work.

Taking a paid or unpaid sabbatical ensures that you have a job to return to once your sabbatical is over, although you may be ineligible for benefits during your time away. A standard sabbatical typically lasts anywhere from three months to one year, though the exact timeframe can vary depending on the employer or other circumstances.

According to a poll of professionals administered by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University and staffing company Aquent, 68 percent of women and 58 percent of men displayed an interest in extended work absences. These numbers indicate that interest is high and the motivations vary.

Common Reasons to Take a Sabbatical

Volunteering in another country. A sabbatical is a chance to make a difference and lend skills to the people who need them most.

Taking a mental health break. People in high-stress careers or positions can face burnout. A sabbatical is a chance to recharge and return refreshed and ready to tackle a demanding job.

Trying something new. Sabbaticals allow people to escape the ordinary and try things they may normally not have time for. From learning about new cultures or engaging in meaningful religious pursuits, a sabbatical is a break from the norm.

Sabbaticals Require Practical Preparations

A sabbatical is unlike any other trip, so adequate preparation is essential to help things run smoothly. Even though many employers are familiar with the term sabbatical, it is uncommon for employers to offer sabbaticals with paid leave.

In some cases, you may be able to use your employer’s regular paid leave program, though this shortened time frame cannot be considered a true sabbatical. If your company agrees to let you take a sabbatical without pay, you must be financially prepared for your time away.

The first way to prepare for extended time away is to review your company’s sabbatical policy, if one exists. Understanding how much time you can take off and how much of that time will be paid/unpaid is essential to proper planning. Schedule time to speak with your supervisor and/or HR professionals to go over details of your time away and delegation of work in your absence.

If your company doesn’t have a sabbatical policy, you may need to pitch your idea. Be sure to convey why you’re interested in taking a sabbatical and how long you plan to be gone. Going into a meeting with a well-thought-out plan can help convince skeptical employers.

Research the location where you intend to spend your sabbatical and get an idea of the typical cost of lodging and other expenses so you know how much you will need to save beforehand. You will also need to make sure your financial obligations at home are handled in your absence, so ensure you have enough saved to pay bills and entrust someone to handle any issues that come up while you are away.

Get Help If You Need It

Taking extended time away from your job and your routine can seem scary at first, but preparation will undoubtedly make things easier. In addition to utilizing employer-provided resources, consider enlisting the help of a travel agent who is experienced in long-term trips. An experienced travel planner can offer insight about how to make a sabbatical successful and help ease some of the stress that comes with planning.