Three years ago, I stepped away from my life–relationships, commitments, and responsibilities–to travel as a pilgrim. My only possessions rested in the rucksack on my back. I did this to search my soul for answers, heal past hurts, and move forward toward the future.
From April to June 2004, I trekked from St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains, to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. The distance was approximately 800 kilometres along one of the world’s most beautiful and busiest pilgrimages called “Camino Frances.”
Find Your Spirit
Taking a sabbatical provides a significant turning point in most people’s lives. It allows precious time to reflect on the past, to be fully aware in each moment, and to experience things that you may not otherwise encounter.
According to Dr. Kathleen Hall, author of A Life in Balance (Healing Arts Press, 1994), “In order to balance health and happiness we need to have leisure. Sabbaticals are becoming huge in the recruiting process and benefit both the employee by preventing burnout and the employer by having employees with a fresh skill set.” Hall’s own personal sabbatical was a defining experience in her life: she left a Wall Street firm and spent a year in a cabin in the woods.
Most people can relate to feeling they need a break. Personal day planners boast both family- and work-related events and meetings. We rush to get through each task, wondering where our time went and why the things we really wanted to accomplish–our souls’ desires–are not at the top of that list, and thus are left unattended. Taking a sabbatical allows freedom to step out of the daily grind and realign goals and life ambition, and provides many benefits for mental health and well-being.
Author Cathy Osborne talks about how to prepare for a sabbatical in her audio book Get a Life! The Essential Guide to Taking Time Off to Fulfill Your Dreams (Business by Design, 2006). She targets the most common concerns about taking a sabbatical including finances, children/family, work and business, as well as helpful hints and checklists to work toward your goal.
Find Your Inspiration
What inspires you? Where have you always wanted to go? What have you been putting off doing? Writing can help you determine where your sabbatical will take you and set your dreams in motion. Perhaps it involves studying in a far-off land, walking or biking a medieval pilgrimage, sailing a tall ship, volunteering, or simply relaxing by a lake with a book.
Each of us has our own reasons for taking a sabbatical. Keeping an open mind and staying determined, combined with a willingness to help others on your journey, will bring you boundless joy. During your sabbatical, when you are hurting, tired, missing home, or needing inspiration, reflect on your reasons for taking the sabbatical and stay in tune to the lessons your experience offers.
My reward: I carry memories of my 32-day Camino journey in my heart that, along with the lessons I learned, will last a lifetime.