The Art Of The Sabbatical
By Tom Warneke
The season was over and not a moment too soon. Dubai’s ‘event season’ is roughly October – May. Anything outside of that is just too damn hot so the country goes completely quiet and the expats of the events and entertainment industry all tend to flock to cooler climates or home to see loved ones.
Now that we’d reached late June/early July, I was ready for a holiday. After embarking on a new job in a new company in a new country, not nine months before, I’d suddenly realised I’d had all of eight days off in that time – three being Christmas. I was tired, to say the least…
But with this came not just a physical tiredness but also a mental one. I was tired of planning people’s days, tired of being the one to make the decisions, tired of navigating trucking and crewing in three languages while managing client expectations across several cultures.
These things which I ordinarily love had weighed heavy on me since October and I needed nothing more than to take some time away to not only recharge my batteries but also be refuelled and ready to do it all again come October.
But what to do with eight weeks? I’ve never had eight weeks off in my life! I didn’t take a gap year post-high school and I’m not yet needing of an Eat Pray Love sojourn but conversely, I get bored easily and the thought of lying on a beach beyond four to five days would send me slightly round the twist.
Enter – The Sabbatical.
Hailing from the Latin ‘sabbaticus’ or perhaps the Hebrew shabbat, i.e. sabbath, the term literally means ceasing. A rest from work or study, an extended break typically anything upwards of six or eight weeks, often to over a year, usually with a goal or an aim in mind. It can’t just be idle and an extended beach vacation, it needs to have purpose, solve a question or have an air of betterment.
With eight weeks off, I had many things I’ve wanted to do for a long time – from exercising more to learning some skills, travelling further and experiencing a new continent through to saving more money, reconnecting with friends and family and perhaps pursuing my own business endeavours – I had many things that could all be the makings of a Sabbatical. So how to start this? Well – Step 1 – Absolutely NO WORK.
Plan When And For How Long
Simple enough. How long will you take off, what are the start and finish dates? Lock these in, there’s no turning back now. For me, I wanted to leave before Dubai became an inferno of Summer heat and I had to be back mid-September for work. Eight Weeks, Locked In!
Can You Afford It?
Of course, unless you’ve been in your job for a long time (and let’s face it, most of us in this industry are either contract to contract or don’t bank a million days of leave), you’ll need to consider how the finances will stretch. I took a mix of annual leave and leave without pay. You may need to draw up a budget and start saving early. You want to enjoy your time off, not stress about the bills coming in. You also probably don’t want the post-Sabbatical angst of a huge credit card bill. Basically – sort your finances out first to determine what you can afford to do.
What Could You Do With No Restrictions?
This is the best bit, the creative bit, the launching pad. It’s important to have a good long think of what you’d like to do. Obviously, there needs to be some downtime to relax but if you have things you want to achieve, make sure you note them. It might be one or two large goals – perhaps living in Thailand for two months and learn the language or it might be a bunch of more slight, day to day goals and habits. Either way, make your list without any kind of restriction. I’ve had a long-running desire to spring clean my life – from getting fit to saving money, buying a house to learning a language – so I decided that an eight-week intensive life spring clean was in order.
Now Think About What Might Stop You And Solve That…
Now that you have the no holds barred list, it’s time to add a dash of realism. Becoming an astronaut in eight weeks is about as realistic as becoming the next Van Gough. I don’t want to say it won’t happen but with limited resources, let’s be more circumspect. Fortunately, my lofty ideals were kept at bay by the fact that my desire was to simply try and launch a better version of myself – Tom 2.0.
Production Schedule Your Time
Technically speaking I had eight weeks. I had to be back in Dubai on the 12th of September. I had a ticket booked out of DXB for mid-July.
I clicked open Excel and started mapping out my days. It’s important at this point to be vaguely realistic with yourself. There are only 24 hours in a day and you are technically on holiday so don’t add too many milestones. Conversely, keep yourself accountable.
I started by blocking out the major components – five weeks in South America, check. Ample time to catch up with friends and family, check. Doctor’s checkup, dentist, optometrist, tax appointments, weddings, birthdays, gigs I had tickets to – all added to the calendar. Then I started sprinkling in the wishes and hopes I had. Go to the gym 5 days a week, meditate every day, search potentially to buy a house… all the elements I wanted to add were now mapped out in a way that showed just how much time I had and where.
Do Some Research, Make Some Inroads
Depending on what your Sabbatical is, it might be advisable to start the research train before you start the Sabbatical. Make contacts, do some research, do some legwork before you dive in.
The Time Has Come – Actually Do It
Tempting as it may be to laze on that beach with a gin and tonic watching the water lap on the sand and ponder how far away from your normal existence you are, remember to include a mere modicum of discipline for your Sabbatical aims. Three degrees in Melbourne CBD and I thought taking up running was a good idea? Yikes!
So fast forward several months and I’m back into the thick of Dubai entertainment season but I am so glad I took eight weeks off for a recharge. While I may not have actually accomplished everything on my list, I gave most things a red hot go and am a better person for it. I’m more energetic, a little bit healthier, a lot more focused and a lot more appreciative of the important things in life – friends and family back home.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be exploring this idea of betterment further in the context of the every day but most importantly, if you’ve been thinking of taking some time out to explore a passion, take on a challenge or simply re-evaluate life – I can’t recommend a Sabbatical highly enough.
Also by Tom Warneke: