The Sabbatical Sisters, Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley and Jaye Smith, are four successful American executives from diverse fields. First meeting at a retreat in Belize, they discovered that they were all sabbatical veterans, and dubbed themselves the Sabbatical Sisters. Wanting to share the concept of “rebooting your life” with others, they wrote a book, Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break (see full information below). “We define sabbaticals as 3 to 6 months or longer,” says Catherine Allen, “but we also write about mini-sabbaticals… which are usually a month fully detached from work and daily life at home or from local community commitments. We tend to use the word interchangeably with the corporate world, where such a break is more likely one to three months off.”
On sabbatical in Cuba, Jaye Smith grooved on bongos. Rita Foley
Congratulations! You have decided to take some time off work or the busy commitment schedule you have set for yourself in retirement, and you have made the decision that a good part of that time will be spent traveling. It is almost universal that when people do take a significant break, they travel to reconnect with friends and family, explore some new area or interest, or spend time in another country to learn new skills or languages. Here are ten tips to help you enjoy your extended travel and get the most out of it.
On a 2009 sabbatical to Morocco, Nancy Bearg (front) rode camels in the desert with her daughter, Rachel.
1. It’s all in the planning
While we are great advocates of “being in the moment”, when you travel it is best to do some pre-planning to get the most fun and adventure out of it. How much time do you want to spend traveling? Will you travel with a group or alone? Where you would like to go and how much you have to spend? Schedule in time for impromptu events and extensions of time in certain places you really enjoy.
2. Research ways to save money
Research times for best air travel prices … days of the week and months of the year. Airlines are cheapest way in advance or at the last minute, when there may be special deals on Expedia.com or an airline website. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best times to find price changes online on an airline website. Timing is everything. Group tours and cruises may offer reductions, especially if you look online at the last minute. Explore transportation savings with Eurail Passes and in country ticket shops. Find discounts on hotels at sites like Expedia.com or in the magazine Budget Travel. Use frequent flyer points wherever possible. Or try walking into a hotel and asking for the “best rate”.
3. Swap houses or apartments
One of the best ways to enjoy a new area is to live there for a few weeks, a month or more. There are many home and apartment exchange sites like www.homeexchange.com that can help you swap your place for one in another city or country. Live like the locals and cook at home, get to know the neighborhood and practice your language skills. Cathy Allen has done this three exchanges for her house in Santa Fe, New Mexico for houses in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Dordogne, France and Umbria, Italy. [Editor: See an expert tips article on successful home exchanges in our Travel Article Library.]
4. Earn money while you travel
There are several ways to make money while you are traveling … teach English as a Second Language, give lectures or teach other skills at a university or adult education center, be a travel companion, write a blog about your travel and get it supported, or do part time research for a company. Don’t work all of the time, but the experience will allow you to see parts of a country you would not see as just a tourist. Cathy Allen earned money and travel expenses when she took a year sabbatical in Asia in 1995 by doing lectures for the United States Information Agency (USIA) at universities and embassies in the countries visited.
During a day of cultural history immersion in Egypt, Rita Foley struck a statue pose of her own.
5. Focus on learning
Treat your travel like a life course. Read everything you can in fiction, history and travel focus about the country or place you are visiting. Go to websites about the country on sites like National Geographic and other travel and educational sites and explore what you find there. Take courses at a local university in the country or learning center before you go. Find a professor or study abroad group in the country you can tag along with by contacting your local universities or your alma mater. Most universities have excellent travel programs and you can go on them even if you did not graduate from that university. You just pay a one year alumni fee. Ask your college what contacts they have in the country before you go. Buy the services of a guide once you are in the country to get a quick overview of the important things to know politically, economically, culturally and physically about the country.
While working each day on writing and editing their book, the Sabbatical Sisters (l to r: Jaye Smith, Rita Foley, Catherine Allen and Nancy Bearg) included time for skiing and snow shoeing in Sun Valley, Idaho. Over a two-year period, they met in Sun Valley, Santa Fe, the Berkshires and Sag Harbor to complete the book, combining focused work and fun each time!
6. Make it a challenge to do things that are free or low cost
Find ways to explore everything in the city or country that are free or low cost such as lectures, concerts in churches, walking through the city, attending a service, riding the subway, taking buses, visiting friends of friends, walking closely behind a tour in a museum … you get the picture. Travel does not have to be expensive and you learn far more by becoming “like the locals”. [Editor: See an inspirational article in our Travel Article Library that illustrates ways to do this with Vienna, Austria as the example.]
Catherine Allen, center, hiked around Machu Picchu, Peru traveling with friends.
7. Eat well and inexpensively
One of the greatest treats of visiting other countries is to try new foods. There are ways to do this inexpensively. Stay in B&Bs so that breakfast is included and don’t miss it! Or buy fruit or yoghurt from a store and eat that. Don’t spend big for this meal. Try having lunches at the best restaurants or ones you want to try because of their reputation. You get the atmosphere and food, but usually at half the cost of dinner. Most restaurants have a set lunch price as well. At night, cook at home after buying at local markets and plan to use only recipes and food of that country … you learn as you save! Or try local restaurants in less expensive neighborhoods. Avoid the tourist restaurants which often over change. Take picnics when you are driving from place to place and enjoy the local surroundings.
8. Have your friends or family meet you during your travels
This works really well if you rent or trade your house and are in one place for a length of time. Have different friends or family members come for a week each. You can sometimes share the costs, explore the area through their eyes and interests, and enjoy reconnecting as you travel. Or a small group of your friends can meet up at various places along the way so you are not continually going “solo”. We have done this in Italy, France, Croatia, Mexico, Columbia and Cuba….and enjoyed it greatly.
9. Fund your freedom ahead of time
Give thought to setting up a Sabbatical Account that your family and friends can contribute to instead of those shirts and sweaters at birthdays. Put any windfall money such as tax refunds into the account. Sell some of the assets you don’t need, such as a car, and put that money into the fund. Keep the fund ongoing so that not only are you funding this trip, but saving for the next!
Bhutan is an intriguing sabbatical destination, invariably including a visit to the challenging traditional archery games enjoyed by Bhutanese men on most weekends. Rita Foley
10. Be “In the Moment” once you start your travel sabbatical
Once you have some of the planning and structure in place, such as beginning and ending airline tickets, a travel pass, a few hotel reservations for when you arrive and leave a city or the house rented, leave much of the rest to inspiration and exploration. Don’t have the schedule so tight that you don’t have the ability to make impromptu decisions or take advantage of doing something you had not previously thought of. If you really want to do a cooking course in Italy, then reserve it ahead of time, but leave downtime around it. Who knows, maybe you will be invited to be a sous-chef at a hot new restaurant in Florence!
Music is a great way to connect, as discovered by Rita Foley during her sabbatical travels in Egypt.
The point of a sabbatical is to give yourself the time to renew, refresh and re-energize your life and career. Travel is an extremely important part of that. Bon voyage!
Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career & Life by Taking a Break, http://rebootbreak.com/, draws upon the experiences of the four authors and their interview subjects: 200 people who have taken sabbaticals and 150 organizations offering sabbatical programs. The book includes real-life stories and exercises to help the reader figure out how to plan for and take a sabbatical, or how to use unexpected time off.
* How to get your boss to say yes to a Reboot Break
* Creative ways to fund your freedom
* Different types of breaks. Which one is right for you?
* How to get the most out of your Reboot Break
* How to live the lifelong sabbatical by making a real life change
This 240-page paperback book was published by Beaufort Books in April 2011 (ISBN-10: 0825305640 and ISBN-13: 978-0825305641). It is available in online bookstores as well as local and airport bookshops.
You will also enjoy another article by the four Sabbatical Sisters, based on their 2014 book, Revolutionary Retirement, in which they each share how they incorporated meaningful travel into their retirement plans.