Sabbatical versus Vacation

We are going to Chile for a sabbatical, which is markedly different than a vacation. While I’m certain we’ll have FUN, we are expending this intense amount of time, energy and money because we want to LEARN and expose ourselves to a different culture, land, history, language. I’ve been on a lot of vacations. Mostly they are relaxing and fun and interesting (well, maybe not really relaxing when we take our children with us, but still…). But what I’m after in life is an increased learning curve. Unfortunately, it makes my teeth ache (from the grinding smile) when people say, “oh, have a fun time on vacation.” I want to reply, “if you sent your daughter to college for a semester would you say ‘have fun’? or would you say something more like ‘this is going to be an intense education, life, cultural experience for you—learn A LOT and embrace it!’”? (and don’t waste my money goofing off and failing your classes!).



Of course, I realize that these kind people are simply expressing good will towards our voyage and that sadly this expression really shows how fundamentally strange it is in American culture to take a break from the constant hamster wheel of life and work and learn something new. They don’t know what else to say. Most people honestly look at our family like we’re strange creatures because we are doing something that, “I could never do.” Which is surprising and challenging because I think—due to some awesome training and coaching over the years—that most people can do anything they want if they’re willing to pay the price. And by price, I mean far more than money. Sacrifice and drive and getting clear about what you really want in life. We’ve all just become SO accustomed to our own ritual of life (and fear and limitations) that we don’t fiddle with the system to make the system work for us. I learned a LONG time ago how to make the system work for me, but more on that later.

Most people associate sabbaticals with college professors who take a year away from teaching to do involved research or write a book. That said, several US Companies offer sabbaticals to employees and indeed even a law firm here in Yakima, Washington offers a sabbatical/work break for partners.

The concept of sabbatical actually originates in the Bible (Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Exodus). Leviticus 25 commands that people, animals and land work for six years but on the seventh year they all rest. I’m not particularly religious but even I can see that this kind of scheduled break might be great for your spirit AND your work. In modern time sabbaticals exist so that people can go out into the world and do something profound like write a book, learn a language, travel extensively or learn a new skill that will advance their career or their life. It’s been a LONG time since I sat in a classroom trying to learn something new but soon I will be one again as I take up 20 hours of language school alongside my husband in Santiago. Our kids will be the biggest beneficiaries. Their little worlds are about to be rocked in a very big way. They’ll be in playschool for 20 hours a week with Chilean children while we toil away in our classroom. I have assured them that their little brains are mightily more powerful than ours and that they’ll be translating for us within a week. It will be thrilling. And exhausting. And there will be times when we curse our crazy selves. When we’ll hate, hate, hate Chile and the language and the learning. But more frequently (I hope) we’ll be in love with our adventure and fulfilled in ways we cannot even imagine right now.

AND. We’ll make time during our sabbatical to go on vacation a few times!


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