What I Learned While On Sabbatical

Baker Beach San Francisco Golden Gate BridgeJust like that, 30 days have gone by and my sabbatical is over. I truly enjoyed my time off and have learned a number of things I’d like to share with those who are thinking of taking a sabbatical or are just curious in general.

I haven’t taken more than two consecutive weeks off since the summer after college and I highly encourage everyone to take a sabbatical if they’ve been working for at least five years.

SABBATICAL REVIEW

* Free time is joy.  The best feeling of being on sabbatical is knowing that nobody is there to tell you what to do.  You don’t have to set an alarm clock and you are free to plan your day and week as you see fit.

* There are plenty of people wandering around during the day.  It didn’t matter when I went out to do errands, play tennis, go on a hike, or whatever between 7am-5pm, it was always crowded!  A bullish sign for the economy no doubt as you read on.

* Many people work from home.  I went to Starbucks on Tuesday at 9am to do some writing and couldn’t find a table because there were literally 35 other people with their laptops with the same idea!  When I finally sat down, I learned from my neighbor that she was a recruiter.  Another neighbor said she works from home two days a week for a pharma company.  Seems to me it’s become more common to work from home nowadays.

* The majority of people I encountered were women.  I would say a good 75% of the people I saw on the streets and in the coffee shops were women.  This might be because more women are caretakers.  Or, it might be because women rock and have a much better life than men!

* A lot of people don’t need to work.  I write this with all seriousness.  When you don’t work, you start noticing all the other people who don’t work as well.  It’s the same thing when you go buy a particular car.  You suddenly notice everybody with the same car you drive!  About seven people out of sixteen people on my tennis team do not work and play tennis almost everyday at Golden Gate Park.  A couple drive nice cars, but most live very simply in mediocre locations.  I don’t delve into their financial background, but suffice it to say that if you are playing tennis almost everyday, you aren’t looking for work, your good with health care, and therefore don’t need the money!  Or perhaps, one  just really doesn’t need that much to survive and be happy.

* I might be addicted to work.  During my time off, I kicked up my posting frequency on Financial Samurai and Yakezie.com.  If you mosy over to Yakezie.com you will see a surge of articles written by me.  I also launched the Yakezie Writing Contest and with Sydney’s help, reviewed many submissions to choose the finalists.  Finally, I decided to write a book on breaking free from the corporate life.  The current word count is some 25,000 words long now and growing.  I only worked about 3-4 hours a day mind you, but it was still work.

* A sabbatical is more fun for two.  Although I went to Hawaii for 7 days with friends, I wanted to travel more but didn’t because I didn’t want to travel alone.  I wanted to share my adventures with my closest friend(s), but couldn’t because they had to go back to work.  I know many people who love to travel alone, but almost all of them don’t have someone super close they’ll miss.  I do, and if I leave my loved ones for too long, my heart will begin to ache.

* There is much more to life than work.  For thirteen consecutive years I’ve been working my butt of in order to create a financially stable future for myself and my family.  Over the past three years, I’ve gradually begun to transition out of my work mentality and more towards a balanced life mentality by taking 6 weeks off a year.  I’ve had a ton of fun, but feel like I could be having more fun by not worrying about money anymore.  Do I really need to save another years worth of living expenses?  Gets kind of old after a while!  With 4 weeks off at once, I’ve been able to really appreciate the present even more.  The fun of life is the journey, not the end, since in the end we’re all dead.

* Many folks live with much less.  I readily admit that I live in an income and location bubble.  When all you’ve ever known is making X amount, and living in places like San Francisco and New York City during your work career, it’s easy to lose perspective that much of the country, and the world lives on much less.  Part of the reason why I take an international vacation every year is to help maintain perspective.  Going to Hawaii didn’t give me perspective this time, but mingling with a lot of folks in San Francisco during the day did.  Only 30% of San Franciscans own their homes (compared to ~67% nationwide) because the median home price is around $650,000-$700,000!  Hanging out with my public park tennis team buddies and their friends really humbled me and I am very thankful for the experience.

* Health increased, stress decreased.  When you don’t have to sit in a chair for hours a day, your butt shrinks.  I exercised for at least an hour a day for 6 days a week and more or less maintained my 10 pound weight loss achieved in the first quarter of the year.  I was much less stressed about everything and found myself taking the time to get to know people I frequently see but hardly ever speak to eg. the mailman, cafe owner, recreation center attendant etc.  At the end of the day, isn’t good health way more important than wealth?

* Folks don’t know their boundaries.  Despite telling a number of potential partners/clients online that I am on sabbatical, they kept pushing their products on me.  Instead, they should have just put a calendar reminder to ping me when I get back.  Nothing is really that urgent.  If you are that aggressive to ruin someone’s zen time, then you’re trying too hard.  Respect other people’s personal time and know that not everything is about you.

* One month is not enough.  For those considering a sabbatical, one month is way too short to take off.  Many commenters warned me of this, and they are right.  If you are going to take a sabbatical, do it big!  Take 3 months or longer off if you can!

SABBATICAL CONCLUSION

My sabbatical didn’t really recharge my batteries as I hoped it would.  Instead, the sabbatical helped realize my preference for freedom over a a steady paycheck at this point in my life.  I’ve experienced what life could be like if I worked for myself and I must say that I’m extremely excited about the prospects.

There won’t be much change on Financial Samurai where the posting frequency will remain at 3-5 posts a week.  I’ll be finishing up my eBook by early July and launch it to the world to purchase no later than July 15th.  I’m also going to work on a couple more things behind the scenes which I’ll eventually reveal to all y’all in due time.

All in all, I’m gearing up for life without a steady paycheck within the next 45 days and am excited to create my own products and further develop Financial Samurai Online services (FSOS) to be accessible to readers looking to get financial, career, and business school admissions help.  As always, I appreciate all the support!

Photo: Baker Beach, San Francisco on an 80 degree day, 2012.

Best,

Sam

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    I can’t wait to read your ebook. Hey are you in Union Square SF? I have a SBs by me that is filled with computer sitting non working people.

    Side note I agree a sabbatical is more fun with 2. Too bad you weren’t over on the east coast. A few photos and some light touch up…. BAM! Dates left and right courtesy of yours truly.

  2. says

    Sam,
    Congrats to getting around to writing your e-book. Looking forward to it.
    Going back to your post, 3 things stuck with me.
    i) Female Friends (sounds like you have quite a bit) ;)
    ii) Only 30% of people in SF own their home. Interesting, and I’m not sure that its due to media house price. In Canada, Vancouver has a similar media house price, yet a lot more than 30% of people own homes.
    iii) Its interesting how when you’re unemployed you notice others who are in the same boat. Takes one to know one, and I like the car example/comparison. So true!!

    Cheers!

    Eddie

    • says

      Thanks Eddie! I don’t have many female friends, I just observed a lot more women enjoying life during the day than men. What’s the median home price in Canada? I can’t imagine it’s as low as 30% no?

      • says

        Not sure about the median prices, but the average Canadian home is
        going for $375K. However around where I live, Vancouver, it’s $700K. (O.o)
        It’s still totally affordable though. All you need is $15K for a downpayment,
        and be prepared to pay $1200/month for mortgage payments and you can
        buy a fairly respectable 800 sqft condo for $300K :).

    • says

      Sam,

      LI answered the question very well.
      Vancouver was probably the most expensive in Canada, followed by Toronto.
      Homes in Vancouver in terms of price are very comparable to SF. Not much difference for sure.

  3. says

    Does that mean you will be self-employed in 6 weeks? That’s awesome! It sounds like you really enjoyed your time off. Looking forward to the ebook as well.

  4. says

    Usually sabbaticals are associated with academics and last a year. I think that is the ideal amount of time to do all the things you would like to do before retirement. I think you accomplished a lot considering how short it was. The biggest change is probably mental in terms of attitude. I think you now have a taste of what is in the future. It is an opportunity to smell the roses!

  5. says

    Sounds like you had a great time off sam! Looks like you got a lot done and were able to confirm your preference for freedom over working for “the man” . I’m hoping to put myself in a position to do the exact same thing soon.

  6. says

    I think that is it awesome you got to take so much time off. I wish I had the opportunity to do so but it isn’t really an option for me. I am lucky that I have 3 weeks per year at my stage of my career. I hear people in Europe get a lot more time off. Congrats on the decision and best of luck to you in 46 days!

  7. says

    45 days? Great job at leaving me with all sorts of questions… haha. I can imagine that 4 weeks is not enough. Mrs. 20′s was recently considering a 10month (out of each year) job and I have to admit that it sounds pretty nice. I can’t wait to hear more about the next stage of your life. Good luck in preparing…

    • says

      Wow… 10 month job a year would be great! Sounds almost like a schoolteacher.

      Being a teacher with 3-4 months off a year really sounds like a rewarding life if you don’t need much money.

  8. says

    Wow congrats Sam! That is awesome you were able to complete your sabbatical and wow you did work a lot! I think it’s great you are going to take your side biz to the next level and follow your passions. I can’t wait to follow along your journey and learn from your experiences. And you said it exactly right about the journey of life being all the fun bc we’re dead in the end. Carpe diem!

  9. says

    I like the insight that you gained. And, it’s funny because when I am off work on a normal work day and we go somewhere, I am often amazed at how many other people there are. My first logical question is ‘Why aren’t all these people at work?’ but I guess I’m not either, so why should I expect them to be? :)

    • says

      Exactly! It’s cause when we don’t work, it’s because at that moment in time we don’t need to work! Makes me positive about the economy as a whole that we have at least a good support system in place.

  10. says

    Awesome! Welcome to the world of Financial Independence! Almost every point you hit on rings true for me as well. Well said. Throw a kid into the mix and there’s even less time available. :)

    It’s great that you did this and learned from the experience.

  11. says

    4 weeks off sounds like a really nice deal. Especially with a trip to Hawaii with friends included. I had a few days off for my birthday and taking days off really helps me recharge as well. I start thinking about how much I would like to be able to set my own hours.

  12. says

    4 weeks is nice but not enough. Time flies really fast when you are doing what you really want be doing. Loved your observation. My weak point is travel. And I would not travel alone. :)

  13. says

    Great lessons Sam. Thanks for sharing. I’ve never had a sabbatical before and haven’t gone anywhere outside the city for 3 years now. My company does give us a few weeks of vacation every year which is nice. Whenever I come back to work from a long period off the job I always feel like my vacation wasn’t long enough. All the more reason to work hard so I can eventually retire early and be go on vacation forever, haha.

  14. says

    Great observations. I have to agree, there are many people out there who don’t work or are very remote. Good luck with your book launch and should interview on my podcast. Hope you’re not too booked up!

  15. says

    Very cool that you are moving forward with the book. Did you write all 25k words while on sabbatical?

    I would like to invite you to central Illinois, where we have one of the best costs-of-living in America. People here still have a hard time making it, no matter what their income.

    Thinking back, I haven’t had more than two weeks off in a row since I graduated college (not counting the 6 weeks off for paternity leave/wife in hospital, which really doesn’t count).

    • says

      Thx John. Yep, wrote the 25K words on sabbatical along w/ the blog posts on FS and Y. I’ve discovered I really, REALLY like to write. Just need an editor, and I’ll be all set!

  16. says

    30 days is amazing! I haven’t had 30 days off since I got married. And thinking back, that was a great time in my life. Freshly married, no job, decent savings and a ton of time to just enjoy life with my new bride.

    I don’t see the prospect of taking 30 days off in my near future, but it sure sounds nice. It sounds like you only emphasized your desire to become financially independent and work for yourself! That’s great! You can definitely use that motivation to help you push forward with your entrepeneurial endevours and quit your job sooner. We’re all rooting for you :)

  17. says

    I tell you, since I found your sites….I have only increased my desire to achieve the wealth that will lead me to three months off from work. I also hope that you are right about the prospects for the economy.

    Joe

  18. says

    About 13 years ago I left a consulting practice (without lining up another job) and took a one month sabbatical and spent 3 of those weeks sipping margaritas and riding mopeds in Key West. Wouldn’t trade that time for the world…..in fact I think I need to consider doing it again soon (but just too many responsibilities these days).

  19. says

    Hey Sam,

    Seems like you got a taste for a different lifestyle and liked it. :) You have the skills, and you’ve worked hard to save up a lot over the years; I think you’ll find plenty of happiness if you do decide to take the shot. :)

  20. says

    I think I want to go on a sabbatical too. It sounds like you enjoyed life. We don’t realise it, but we spend so much time centering our life around work, that we forget to appreciate the great things. I’m happy for you. :)

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