5 Ideas for Choosing the Perfect Sabbatical Destination
A sabbatical can be the perfect mental and spiritual reset—but only if your new temporary home is exactly right for part of life stressing you the most. Here are the five most common things you’ll want from your perfect sabbatical destination—and five places that will deliver the mental reset you need.
Feeling a little burnt out from your usual work/life routine? Sabbaticals are the perfect mental and spiritual resets for your life. And before you assume your current boss might judge you for taking time away from the office, it’s worth asking your company’s policy—either for paid or unpaid breaks. You might be surprised. A study from the Society for Human Resource Management found that 17 percent of companies allow for sabbaticals as part of their benefits package. That’s because the time off benefits you and your employer. According to the Harvard Business Review, employers can use valuable time away to test interim company roles, or allow qualified mid-level employees to train for a leadership role—and small companies stand to benefit even more when employees use their vacation time.
Have I convinced you? Ready to take some well-deserved time off? Once you’ve decided to bag your bags and leave, you face the seemingly overwhelming task of choosing a place you’d actually want to stay for three to six months, or more. Just because it seems daunting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, though! Instead, narrow your travel options so you will return to work rested and rejuvenated.
Here are five common factors weighing on the mind of many sabbatical travelers that cause them to seek a break in the first place—and five destinations offering a respite from work and the exact mental reset needed to return refreshed.
Sabbatical Consideration: Quick, find me somewhere warm!
The perfect getaway: Australia
If your sabbatical falls during chilly winter months and you live somewhere cold, it’s time to get warm. The perfect antidote to a cold winter is flying to Australia from December to February, when summer is in full swing and packing bathing suits is practically mandatory.
While almost any city in Australia is worth your time, if you’re a city-dweller (I’m looking at you New Yorkers) looking to escape somewhere that has still the bustle of home down under, head to Sydney. As the largest city in Australia, it boasts beaches and the dining and activity options of a big city. Science says your craving for warm weather is likely for the chance to head outside and get active—Sydney is within driving distance of the Blue Mountains, which feature hiking paths through eucalyptus forests and rock formations to rival any in the U.S. Stash your travel gear in a duffel durable enough to withstand the harshest travel conditions and you’ll have the sunshine and activity you need to make a great sabbatical.
Sabbatical Consideration: I want a chance to give back.
Your Perfect Destination: Kauai, HI
The oldest of Hawaii’s islands, Kauai is home to Waimea State Park—also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It’s also home to soil so fertile that guava, mango, sugarcane, avocado, banana, and pineapple are all cultivated there. A farmstay (the opportunity to live rent free on a farm in exchange for work) is a rewarding option for anyone wanting to learn about cultivating the fruits and spices they might take for granted. By choosing an ethical vacation like a farmstay sabbatical in Kauai, you enjoy the exotic beauty of the islands while reaping the benefits of volunteering—a double win for anyone yearning to give back while they see the world.
Sabbatical Consideration: Take me somewhere gorgeous and quiet, please.
Your Perfect Destination: Treviso, Italy
Sure, Venice is on every Italian traveler’s bucket lists. But if you’re taking a sabbatical in Italy, it pays to look outside the city to Treviso, a smaller, less stressful—but equally gorgeous—Venice. Two rivers run through the city, past red-brick, medieval architecture. Adventurous travelers will love the hiking and fishing; gourmands will enjoy sampling local prosecco (you won’t find better prosecco anywhere in the world!) and cured meats and vegetables from local organic farms. To take your sabbatical to the next level, start your time on at a meditation retreat, then head to Treviso and allow the charming city to act as a quiet balm on your soul.
Sabbatical Consideration: Show the wide open road, stat!
Your Perfect Destination: Four Corners Region, United States
If you’ve dreamed of visiting all 50 states, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s simply a rite of passage reserved for cross-country road-trippers. Those on a short sabbatical can knock out four states out at once. The Four Corners Region has a monument for where the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. More than checking of states though, expect to be overwhelmed by the peace and tranquility: You’re close enough to spend hike in Arches, Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park and lose yourself to nature. If you have a longer sabbatical, kit out your a car and live on the road for a time—it will just be you, the open road, and the most Insta-worthy destinations imaginable.
Sabbatical Consideration: Foreign cultures and foods are calling to me.
Your Perfect Destination: Mallorca, Spain
The largest of the Balearic Island, Mallorca is everything you’d ask for in an island retreat: pristine beaches, azure water, and ample opportunities for sunbathing, hiking, and biking. But that doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on dining and shopping. Bring along a packable duffel because the village of Alcudia—one of the island’s most picturesque—boasts stylish boutiques and quaint markets, giving you the bustle of a city with romantic tranquility. Even more, Spain’s unique Catalan culture is on full display in Mallorca—complete with foods you won’t find anywhere else and a unique cadence to life that will make your work woes seem like a distant memory.
Going away on a long sabbatical means learning how to pack light (and smart!) For tips on what you should bring and what’s okay to leave at home, check the Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist.
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By Alison Kotch
Alison is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and runner. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter: @alisonkotch