10 Great Sabbatical Ideas

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated April 25, 2022 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated April 25, 2022

Published February 25, 2020

Taking a sabbatical removes you from the structure of the workplace and encourages you to do what inspires and engages you. However, with so many options available, it takes some time and planning to determine the most beneficial way to spend your time away. It can help to research sabbatical ideas when planning your own. In this article, we discuss 10 great sabbatical ideas to help you determine the best way to spend your time away from work.

What is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical is an extended period of time off work. Most sabbaticals last between three and 12 months, but they can be any length approved by an employer. Most sabbaticals are unpaid, but some workplaces may agree to provide compensation while their employee is away from the workplace.

There are several reasons you can choose to take a sabbatical, including:

  • Pursuing a passion or interest

  • Discovering your purpose in life

  • Developing skills related to your career

  • Focusing on health or family

  • Regaining balance to approach your career with new energy

10 ways to spend a sabbatical

Consider your interests, budget and lifestyle to determine which of these ideas is the best way to spend your sabbatical:

  1. Travel overseas.

  2. Volunteer to help others.

  3. Complete a project.

  4. Learn new skills.

  5. Organize your life.

  6. Spend time with loved ones.

  7. Make new contacts.

  8. Improve your health.

  9. Start your own business.

  10. Reflect on your life and its purpose.

1. Travel overseas

Traveling abroad is an excellent way to spend your sabbatical, as it exposes you to new cultures, ideas and perspectives that can reshape your thinking and help you work with more inspiration when you return. Without the responsibilities of work, you should also feel calmer and happier. Getting out of your routine can help you build confidence, which you can later take back to your job.

Whether you choose to backpack around a country or stay at a resort, take your time and keep an open schedule. This approach lets you spend a longer time at places that really interest you, which you cannot usually do on vacation.

2. Volunteer to help others

Volunteering to help other people or animals is a traditional way to spend your sabbatical. The practice is good for your mental health and an excellent way to build teamwork and communication skills. You could give back to your local community by volunteering at home, or you might choose to travel and work with people or animals in need abroad. Consider the issues you feel passionately about and your skillset to determine the best volunteer opportunity for you. Some great volunteering ideas include:

  • Working at a wildlife sanctuary or animal shelter

  • Building homes in communities that are underprivileged or recovering from natural disasters

  • Teaching English in a developing country

Read more: Guide to Listing Volunteer Work on a Resume (With Example)

3. Complete a project

A sabbatical can give you the chance to complete a project you are interested in. Working on these projects is an effective way to hone or expand your skills. It can also give you a sense of purpose during your sabbatical and achievement on its completion. Some of the projects you could complete during your sabbatical include:

  • Writing a book

  • Renovating your home or another property

  • Planning your long-term career moves

4. Learn new skills

A sabbatical can give you the time to learn new skills you have always wanted to acquire. These may be skills that are aligned to your career, could help you pursue a different career or you simply want to have for your own enrichment. Learning new things helps increase your confidence, improve your cognitive function and meet new people. Some skills you could learn during your sabbatical include:

  • How to code in a popular computer programming language such as Java or C++

  • Management skills such as financial management and leadership

  • Fun skills such as sewing or scuba diving

Related: 15 New Skills to Learn to Advance in Your Career

5. Organize your life

A sabbatical also gives you a chance to clear the clutter from your home and help you live a more organized life. This practice improves your mental health and helps you live more productively, and you can take it with you when you return to your job. You can organize your home by taking the following steps:

  • Sorting through your filing cabinet and discarding any outdated or obsolete documents

  • Removing foods past their use-by date from your fridge and pantry

  • Having a yard sale or donating items to charity

  • Adding organizers to drawers and closets

6. Spend time with loved ones

Spending time with loved ones during your sabbatical allows you to connect with the people who matter most to you. Strengthening your personal relationships is an excellent way to boost your mood. During your sabbatical, consider:

  • Spending more one-on-one time with your partner to improve your relationship

  • Having fun with your children to make memories

  • Helping your children with their education, through home-schooling or participating in school activities

  • Spending time with aging or ill relatives

  • Traveling overseas to meet relatives in your home country

7. Make new contacts

Expanding your circle of contacts can enrich your life in many ways. Being away from your regular workplace allows you to meet new and interesting people. You can make new contacts virtually anywhere, including:

  • Online spaces, including social networks, online forums and chat rooms

  • Professional events, including conferences and trade shows

  • Classes and social groups

A good professional contact may be found anywhere and not just in a traditional career-focused space, so be open to new connections wherever you find them. Focus on meeting people around you and getting to know them. The connections you make may lead to friendship, advice, support and new career opportunities.

Read more: How to Succeed at Business Networking

8. Improve your health

A sabbatical gives you the time you need to improve your health. Common workplace practices like sitting at a desk for long hours can cause health problems. Many people resolve to adopt healthier habits, but limited leisure time can make sticking to these resolutions a challenge. The following steps can help you improve your health during a sabbatical:

  • Making exercise part of your everyday routine

  • Practicing yoga, tai chi or meditation for stress reduction

  • Learning to cook nutritious food from scratch

  • Eating regular nutritious meals

  • Getting a full eight hours of sleep every night

Once you start making these changes, you should notice your health improving. You may even feel more energetic and alert. Your improved mood should make you more productive once your sabbatical ends. Your new healthy behaviors can also become a habit, so you should find it easier to continue them once you return to work.

9. Start your own business

A sabbatical provides the perfect opportunity to launch the business you have always dreamed of. During your sabbatical, you can assess whether there is a market for your business idea without sacrificing the security of your regular job. Read your employer's non-compete clause if your own business is in a similar industry, however, to make sure your new venture operates within company rules.

Launching a business is the most time-consuming part of becoming your own boss. If you devote enough time to its establishment during your sabbatical, you may be able to operate your business in your spare time once you return to work. If your new venture is very successful, you may even be able to leave your regular day job.

10. Reflect on your life and its purpose

A sabbatical allows you to reflect on your life and what you think its purpose is away from the routine of working life. Taking time for self-reflection and self-assessment during your sabbatical can help you live a happier existence. Ask yourself what your priorities are, what passions you have and whether these driving forces align with your working life.

Time away from your regular work may reinforce that you are on the right path. Alternatively, it may highlight areas of your life that you want to change. A sabbatical allows you to make these changes while enjoying the security of a job to return to, if you want it.

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