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10 Lessons Learned on a 6-month Sabbatical

The rumors have not been exaggerated. Taking a sabbatical is an amazing, rejuvenating and life-changing experience. Spending time in a new place or country away from the daily grind can help you see life in a completely new way.

I’ve been back in the U.S. for about two weeks following a 6-month sabbatical in Mexico. After much reflection (and readjusting to life stateside), here are 10 lessons I learned from taking a sabbatical:

  1. A sabbatical can be much cheaper than you might think.

    My wife and I lived on one-third to one-half of what we typically spend in the U.S., including all travel expenses. We met people living in Mexico for less than $1000 per month.

  2. Lots of people are living interesting and unconventional lifestyles.

    It’s shocking when you realize how many people are living well outside of the status quo. Plenty of people have created awesome unconventional lifestyles for themselves, and they’re easy to meet once you have something in common.

  3. Friends come easy when you’re happy and free.

    We’ve never made so many great new friends as we did during our sabbatical. I attribute that to the fact that we were happy and free, with time for new interactions and interesting things to talk about. The best part is that making new friends just leads to a cycle of being even happier and meeting even more new people.

  4. Geography matters.

    There are lots of important geographical decisions to make when planning a sabbatical. Ocean vs. mountains, warm vs. cold and city vs. small town are just a few choices. We decided to try a few different locations and found that being in a small town next to the tropical ocean was best for us. Your favorite place might be different.

  5. Driving in Mexico isn’t as scary as people say.

    And while we’re on the subject, Swine Flu, the Drug Wars and economic woes have been blown way out of proportion too. Just be cautious and use common sense and you’ll be fine.

  6. Learning a second language is possible (but hard work).

    Like most Americans, I had spent a few years in high school and college “learning” a language (German), only to end up with nearly nothing to show for it. It’s much easier to learn a language when you have a reason to, and are surrounded by native speakers. It takes real work, but it can be done.

  7. Those things you stress over now aren’t that important.

    Once you’re away from your old job for a while, you’ll start to see clearly again. Eventually you’ll barely remember details of things that once seemed life-or-death important. You will start to understand that the truly important things in life exist outside of work – and you might begin to wonder how you ignored them for so long.

  8. You will find inspiration on a sabbatical.

    I left for the sabbatical hoping that I would be inspired to start working on some new projects by the time we returned. That happened in a big way. I started this blog and have dozens of ideas for things I want to work on. During the sabbatical, creativity seemed to flow like water.

  9. The world will still be there when you return.

    We came back to the U.S. and it seemed as though nothing had changed. We could jump back into our old life exactly as we left it, if we wanted to. Instead, we intend to keep the parts we really love and replace the rest.

  10. Location dependence is for the birds.

    Taking advantage of climate and currency differences around the world at different times of the year is a magical thing. Add to that the ability to visit friends and family in different parts of the country when desired and it’s easy to understand why location independence is such a hot topic lately.

photo by adactio

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