Reasons for a sabbatical


Lifetime… what does this word mean to you?

We are so bound in our daily lifes that we feel deeply surprised, when our 40th birthday comes along. What have we been doing with the first part of our live – that’s a typical reaction to the fact that we have already spent quite a long time on this planet and that life does not last forever. Most people start looking back on their 40th birthday (and in the coming birthdays this process will only continue to be stronger and deeper) and ask themselves what they have been doing with the amount of time they were able to spend on this planet.

This is you if you haven’t done some soul searching before. Most people went into college right after highschool, when the first job offer came along they did not hesitate and jumped right at it. Taking timeouts was for the people who did not know what to do with their lifes, for the people who did not already have a job offer on the table. You were the lucky one filling this gap right away with building up a career. And when a better job came along with more responsibility and longer work hours, you took it as well.

You sometimes had the feeling that something was missing in your life. But you did not really know what is was exactly. You had a well-paid job, you bought an apartment or a house, you raised a family. And you accepted that life looks like this. Every person that lived a different path was secretly judged by you. It seemed like they still haven’t found what they were looking for. Even though they seemed so much happier than you did at the time.

With time you got bored at work. You felt the urge to change something but there was mortgage to pay for and lots of other expenses that you have not learned to cut back on. Leading to this: you need your job. A job that is not bringing you satisfaction anymore. A job that you sometimes want to quit without hesitating. A job in which you were never able to do what you really like to do and what gives you joy and satisfaction.

And then you turn 40 and everything looks different. You start panicking. Is this all that life has to offer for me? Am I too old to change? Will I be able to change my life to the better? Am I happy after all?


It is no wonder there is a name for this time, often referred to as “midlife crisis”. The fact that half of our life has already passed by makes us review all of our decisions we have taken so far leading us to where we are now. We have this deep feeling that we would be completely selfish, if we would start over again and try something completely different in life. That’s why most people start buying themselves something they have been wanting for a long time, something really special. Other people begin an affair, eventhough they have a loving partner at home, just to feel some sensation in life – but without risking too much and staying somewhat in their routine. We believe this is just a phase trying to get in our nerves and that these feelings will pass by. But they won’t.

Deep down inside we know it. We are not happy with our lives and the thought of wanting to change is constantly sticking in our minds. We constantly question what we have and what we could have if we would only try something different. A raise is not what we are looking for anymore, we need something completely different. Questions come up again and again in our heads asking us the same things: Why have I never given myself more time to figure out what I wanted to do in life? Why have I rushed from job to job without taking a sabbatical from time to time? Why am I not happy, even though from the outside it seems that I have everything I need in life?


This is the time when you should start investigating a little bit more. Start figuring out what lifetime means for you. John Strelecky has written an inspiring little book (not even 100 pages) about a business man looking for change in life. A coffee shop in the middle of nowhere helped him figure out the most essential questions in life:

Reading Tipp: John P. Strelecky – The Why Are You Here Cafe: A new way of finding meaning in your life and your work

1. Why am I here?
2. Am I scared of dying?
3. Do I live a fulfilled life?

Three questions, that not only help the reader figuring out if a sabbatical would be a helpful tool to change directions in life, but also motivate to start thinging about the reasons behind the urge to change the daily routines.





Why do people need a sabbatical, a timeout from the daily routine? In our lives we are constantly dependent of external influences, starting early in highschool and continuing in our college life. We are copying expectations of our family or our parents. Later on, we let our boss decide whats best in our career. We put the need of our company above our personal needs. As soon as we have been offered a job with responsibility and a good salary we feel stupid to let it go. Even though it requires longer work hours and less time for things we enjoy doing in our freetime – away from work. Work-Life-Balance is something we would like to have, but that we cannot combine with our current work. So we put aside our personal dreams and start focusing on the job. For too many hours. Giving everything we have. Because our compensation shows us that we have to. We have to fulfill an obligation. But we don’t listen to our body and our soul. Until one day, we crash. We have a burnout and did not really see all the warning signs along the way.

Adapting to the needs of a different person does not only happen in jobs, but also in our private lives. It is not uncommon that one partner sacrifices his or her career in order to strengthen the partners’ dreams and career path. Until today, mostly women are sacryficing heavily earned and hard-to-find jobs by staying at home to take care of the children, whereas the partner is able to fulfill personal goals away from house duties. This concept of family life is not at all negative and can still work very well in todays time. But should it not work out and a divorce is on the table, the partner staying at home has risked a lot and might not be able to get back to the dream job he or she had before giving up their career for raising the kids.

The travelsite Wimdu has published a pretty interesting study about sabbaticals in recent time (you can read it here if you understand some German). The goal of this study was figuring out how many people were actually willing to try a sabbatical at all and which reasons were behind taking a timeout. The study also gave a good overview of what people wanted to do with the extra time in life.

The results were stunning. Recording to Wimdu, every second employee would like to take a sabbatical from work. Almost 50% wanted to be able to take a sabbatical of 6 months up to 2 years, whereas the other 50% of the people willing to take a sabbatical were reaching for a timeout of around 3-6 months.

The study underlined the ongoing trend we see at least in the industrialized countries: taking sabbaticals is the new benefit people are looking for when searching for an employer. They want more from life than going to work day-in and day-out.

Employees need to have a better Work-Life-Balance to be happier and thus perform better at work.

The reasons for taking sabbaticals are as personal as every life is. Nevertheless, the study was able to put together four main reasons of why someone would like to leave the company for a while:

  • TRAVEL: A lot of people that have started a job right away and have never really been able to travel foreign countries feel a deep wish to break out of the normal routine and start travelling the world. They want to get elated by different cultures, languages and new societies. The world has never been that connected than nowadays. It has never been that easy to travel like it is today. Not only because of this fact for 57% of the interviewed people travelling the world was one motivation for taking a sabbatical.
  • FINDING YOURSELF: You can only live your life to your own expectations if you actually know what you are looking for in life. But what happens, when you have no clue what you want, you only know that you cannot continue the path you have taken so far? A lot of people are only operating in their jobs, and a lot of them are frustrated because they have been doing what looks good for the society and family, but did not make themself happy. The journey you take in life is built only on your decisions, but often influenced by other people. A lot of times this path won’t make you happy, because it is not your own. A lot of people are using a sabbatical to find out more about themself, what they like and how they want to live life after all. A sabbatical is perfect to giving oneself time to reflect and think.
  • BURNOUT: Work, work, work. This is reality for a lot of people, but unfortunately can also make you really sick if you overwork yourself. People can experience first signs of a burnout in diverse ways: if you stop eating well beause you do not have time for a well-prepared meal, if you stop doing sport because you feel too tired to do physical activities after work, if you quit going out on the weekends or after work, not seeing friends and family anymore because you are either too tired or you don’t have the time to do so anymore. Or if your only social life is based on people from work – it does not have to but it actually means that you also talk about work in your freetime. The time you should give yourself to relax. At the latest when you start responding to corporate emails at 2h in the morning, when you should normally sleep or give your partner a hug you should start asking yourself if you might not be a candidate for a sabbatical.
  • PREVENTION AND NEW BEGINNING: This group of people see a sabbatical as a way of a new beginning, and are actually already one step ahead than the other three groups above: These people have realized that the current life concept has not been fulfilling and they know they need a change. Whether it might be the end of a long-term relationship, the death of a close person, the own sickness or the simple realization that a change is needed, a sabbatical will help to give life a new direction and a fresh start.

It does not really matter which reason is behind taking a sabbatical, what matters is the awareness, that you need to break out from your daily routine for a specific period of time and explore new opportunities and things. 

Not bending to expecations of others, but actually only concentrating on the personal goals and interests is one of the most important factors to live a happy life and not look back with regrets when the 40th birthday comes around. Being able to say ” I spent my lifetime pretty well and would do it all over again” is the best present one can give themself. A sabbatical can be a good tool towards it. If you have come to the realization that a sabbatical could be helpful for you to get “back on track” you should start planning the next step and figure out what you want to do with the time you give yourself at a sabbatical.