How to Plan the Perfect Sabbatical

How to Plan the Perfect Sabbatical

If you are fortunate enough to live in Europe, you get a sabbatical every year; it’s called August! If you hail from the US, sabbaticals are not as common. Thankfully, I work for Intel, which offers eight weeks of paid time off every seven years. So, I’m here to guide you through the key things you need to know: Planning, Execution, and Reflection, a.k.a. the PERfect sabbatical. Let’s get started, shall we?

Sabbatical cover

Plan It Out

Failure to plan is planning to fail. For a sabbatical, that’s doubly true because your precious extended time off comes along once every seven years, so do it right! Items to consider range from the mundane — when should I start sabbatical? — to the pocket book — can I travel abroad? — to renewal — should I change jobs?

2012 was my opportunity to travel abroad, self-publish my book, get energized, and change my gig upon my return. Here are a few tips for doing the sabbatical in style.

Get Short — Work week, that is. Leave and return midweek. What could be better than book-ending your sabbatical with a short work week? I left on a Thursday and came back on a Wednesday. Trust me, you don’t want to return on Monday!

Get Unplugged — My mantra is to plan like you’re taking a new job. Give notice; I started letting everyone know I was going on sabbatical six months before the start. Plan coverage; people will come out of the woodwork and beg for a chance to do something new. Embrace them and sign them up and you won’t give your to-do list a second thought.

Get Gone — I am puzzled by folks who spend their first two weeks (or longer) of sabbatical by working, trying to close some deal. If this describes you, then you need to get out of town, up to the mountains, and off the grid! Or take a page from my playbook. I flew to Italy at the very start and let the stellar food, luscious wine, and amazing history conspire to help me forget work.

Get Renewed — Improve yourself. We all get comfy in our routines. We daydream about completing some project we’ve mothballed, learning a new hobby, or getting in shape. My sabbatical was the perfect opportunity to recharge my soul at the World Domination Summit, an amazing event created by Chris Gillebeau. A thousand participants and select speakers packed a theater in Portland to talk about adventure and community, inspiring me to help a nonprofit with its marketing and business plans.


Executing the Plan

Now let’s move into the execution phase of your sabbatical. As I mentioned, Italy was my very first activity — Rome, Venice, Bologna, Cinque Terre, and Florence in 16 days. In my mind, the key learnings were itinerary balance, getting around, and maximum efficiency for travel.

Itinerary Balance — I had never been to Italy before, so I “binged” by packing in molto cities and sidetrips in a short time. Next time, I would opt for fewer — say, Rome, Bologna, and Florence — in the same amount of time. For sabbatical veterans, do what I plan to do next time and rent a villa for a month in Tuscany.

Getting Around — Transportation between cities was super simple with the Eurail Pass ( We became instant pros and loved the spacious comfort and the gorgeous countryside rolling by as we sipped wine.

Maximum Efficiency — Plane travel can be tricky. On the one hand, I wanted a decent fare. On the other hand, I didn’t want to waste valuable time returning to the arrival city for departure. I opted to fly in and out of Rome because Florence was the last city and we could use the high-speed rail back to Rome. Yay, Clark! But we were a bit challenged with access to Cinque Terre coming from Bologna because we had to go north to Milan (high speed) and south to Cinque Terre (slow train). In retrospect, Bologna, the heart of Emilia-Romagna, challenged us by chewing up some time, but we had the best dinner there!


Reflect and Relax

I could go on about other parts of the execution phase, but my favorite part is reflection. There were three distinct phases for me that you’ll experience, too.

Reentry — I came back on Wednesday at noon. Wow, time for lunch with a colleague to catch up on organization changes and projects that, well, really didn’t get that far along in your absence. Since I followed my own advice and got unplugged, I never checked email while I was working my pasta and wine belly. So I spent the rest of the day deleting old emails. Only two more days to work! Wasn’t that brilliant?

Renewal — Changing jobs can bring on new challenges. In my case, I had a recently formed division to support and I dropped one other division plus shed another function. My post-sabbatical responsibilities were squarely in the two biggest growth opportunities for Intel and, wait for it, the most fun!

Review — After settling into the new routine, I looked back in awe at my second sabbatical. Italy was absolutely spectacular; I got to go to the eternal city and experience its rich, ancient history. Upon my return from Italy, I spent a decent chunk of my sabbatical with the layout, design, and printing of the culinary world’s very first cookbook on hash. Finally, I had a new sense of purpose and mission for the benefit of others through Graph It Forward Today.

A PERfect sabbatical is an amazing opportunity to re-create yourself, finish projects, and get into a new groove. The key is to break out of your routine and retool yourself. I know my sense of satisfaction, my post-sabbatical glow, remains long after my return. In fact, I’m already thinking about my next one in 2019. Cheers and bon voyage!

How to Plan the Perfect Sabbatical

A Guest Writer

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