FAQ: What Do You Do All Day On A Sabbatical?

The road to a financial freedom that supports mini-retirements is one with a lot of social and psychological speedbumps. If you are open about what you’re trying to accomplish, haters gonna hate. Then, once you have reached a point of accomplishment, the naysayers change their tune. They aren’t necessarily singing your praises, though.

Instead, they start asking what you do all day. It’s one of the most frustrating questions we get. And our natural desire is to want to give a “respectable” answer. But the pressure to have a long list of activities that keep you busy all day is a bad habit that needs kicked.  

A mini-retirement is a time to intentionally slow down and rejuvenate. Despite what skeptics suggest, slow living is not substandard. Slowing down helps reduce stress, recover from work burnout, and explore what brings us more happiness in life. Sabbaticals allow us to do fewer things, but better, and use the extra space to inspire creativity and activate purpose.

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<<BUSY IS A SPEEDWAY>>

The vast majority of us learn to drive on well-paved roads. We go from primary school, to secondary school to college to getting a respectable job to buying a house and starting a family and sending our kids to the best school. All along the way we are trained to keep our eyes on reaching that next point.

Progress on this route is measured with markers along designated lanes of social norms. Just keep the wheels turning. Stay with the flow of traffic. Don’t stop for a bathroom break lest you get left behind!

The revv of the engine is reassurance that we have horsepower—it’s a hedge against idling. Faster is better, right?

We become used to cruising with a very comfortable insurance policy: busy releases us from responsibility. Busy opts for the fastest route, which has already been conveniently highlighted on the map. Uh-oh, traffic is heavy right now. You’ll get there in about 45 years.  

Achieving strategically planned sabbaticals is an opportunity to go a different way. We trade-in our automatic transmission for a manual. We look for a route that’s better for fuel efficiency. But, it is very difficult to unlearn what we’ve been taught!

<<BUSY CHASES US DOWN>>

When we shift gears into the mini-retirement lifestyle, we appear to others (and often feel ourselves) like rebels without a cause.

Discovering the roads less travelled is more important than logging miles. Yet, when we make those first stops along the scenic byway, we feel anxious and guilty. Not because we just paid $8.00 for a photo with the world’s largest rocking chair, but because this pace feels awkward.

We don’t have the thrill of meeting arbitrary deadlines. We don’t have the buzz of new messages every 45 seconds. And we start feeling like we’re missing out on career opportunities and experiences with family and friends. There’s a lot of temptation to rejoin the caravan.

<<EARLY RETIREMENT IS THE BYWAY>>

From our youth to adulthood, the caravan club of mainstream culture confuses activity with meaningful productivity. The gridlock on our calendars has become an accepted, even celebrated, excuse to opt-out of doing the things we claim are most important. Meanwhile, we all know that sitting in traffic gets us nowhere fast.

In the republic of mini-retirement, we gain the advantages of taking a different route. We ditch the congested highway and focus on self-improvement, why nots, and work we want to do. We stay active. But, active is not the same as busy. And now we are making the commute for ourselves.

 Republic of Early Retirement

Republic of Early Retirement

The trick is in learning to enjoy the wind in your hair (even if all you’ve got left is a beard). Avoid gliding into over-ambitious vacation mode and crashing into a sabbatical fail. Keep (bi)pedaling unhurriedly even when people are tailgating you.

<<SLOW DOWN FOR HAPPINESS>>

Work-life balance with a fulfilling career is a journey that requires calculated decisions. And we make better choices when we slow down to take our time and enjoy the ride.

The “slowness” of a sabbatical nurtures the courage to take risks. Our brains have the downtime they need to think clearly. Our attention is shifted from defending against information overload to proactively improving our wellbeing and happiness. We might do less, but we create more.

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So what do you do all day now that you're (semi)retired?

tell us in the comments below!