Just 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.
What I Learned While On Sabbatical
* 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.
More Things I Learned On My Sabbatical
* 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.
When my wife finally negotiated her severance retired in 2015, life was extremely fun for the next two years. We traveled everywhere!
* 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 (now $1,800,000 in 2021)! Hanging out with my public park tennis team buddies and their friends really humbled me and I am very thankful for the experience.
More Sabbatical Benefits
* 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?
The health benefits in early retirement are priceless. Nothing is more important!
* 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!
* Everybody should start their own site. When you have time to think clearly, that’s the best time to start your own site. I’m thankful I started Financial Samurai back in 2009 and have kept on going. Use this time to start something new!
Work On Recharging Your Batteries
My sabbatical didn’t really recharge my batteries as I hoped it would. It was honestly kind of a pathetic sabbatical.
But 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!
This post was originally published in 2012. I’ve updated it in 2021 after taking another sabbatical, this time, from online work. I’m tired and trying to get back to my old relaxed self. This pandemic has put life on hard mode.
Photo: Baker Beach, San Francisco on an 80 degree day, 2012.