I’m taking a 6-month sabbatical! Here’s Why, What I’ll Be Doing and Where I’ll Be Going
Upon reading about my news in this blog post, I’m slightly worried that all my friends will disown and de-friend me for the next six months, but… I’m taking a sabbatical from work!
I’ve been back in London for 15 months now and I’ve been suffering from wanderlust for about 11 of those months. I even wrote about it back in March when I realised I’d spent almost 4 whole months without leaving the UK. Yes, I agree that that’s a massive #firstworldproblem and that there are plenty of people who’d kill to live in London and travel once every 4 months. But I’ve been outside, I’ve lived and travelled elsewhere and no matter how much I try, these itchy feet of mine just won’t pitter patter off and leave me in peace. And these itchy feet really do have a major influence on my happiness and satisfaction with life, and each time I’ve been abroad this year, I have seriously questioned my purpose in London, my direction and my future intentions. It’s exhausting.
This might sound familiar to some. There comes a time in every twenty-something’s life where you begin to question the meaning of life, the world and the universe… Well documented and debated as the “quarter-life crisis”, this is a modern phenomenon that seems to be plaguing more and more young people, and I believe it’s closely linked to the ridiculously high expectations we’ve grown up with. Having high expectations is a good thing, in that they inspire you to aim higher and look to the future, but high expectations also come with a sizeable dose of disappointment and dissatisfaction with the here and now. Hence my dissatisfaction with London over the last 11 months. My brain is hard-wired to want to speak other languages, to live in new environments and to learn about different cultures. I blame my gap year and my degree in Modern Languages for this. My sister for example, did neither of those two things and she is happy as Larry living in London. Oh how much simpler it seems for her!
However I simply cannot see myself in one place for the next 5 years, let alone 10 or 20 years. And as 2015 has gone by, the realisation has dawned on me that I cannot just wait for the right opportunity to simply present itself, as it has up until now in my life. Reaching my mid-twenties, having left the comfort zone of university and my 2-year graduate scheme, the onus is now 100% on me to make the things I want to happen a reality. I wasted 3 months of this year stupidly waiting in limbo for something, or rather someone, and those 3 months taught me to stop waiting and just get on with life. Those who wait miss out on all the fun, and my family will tell you that I’ve always had a very impatient character anyway… Patience is not a virtue for a twenty-something with dreams.
So why am I taking a 6-month sabbatical? I need a change of scenery and I need to gain a new perspective. I need to use my brain in new ways, I need to actively learn again and I need to challenge myself. But I’m also pragmatic and I realise that I have responsibilities (my mortgage) and other life goals (a meaningful career) to take into consideration and I’m not about to throw in the towel on everything I’ve worked for, simply to satisfy a whim to travel. So I am not quitting my job, I’m instead taking 6 months of unpaid leave, after which I’ll return to work again, back to the security of a stable salary. I count myself incredibly lucky to be employed at a company with a wonderfully flexible culture, and to have a brilliant and very understanding manager, who gets why I want to take 6 months unpaid leave and is happy to support me, even though that means losing a team member for 6 months. And in no way do I take this for granted! A smaller or more old-fashioned company would never offer this sort of opportunity, so I am very, very fortunate.
I’ve been plotting for a little while now and the next six months will be exceptionally varied:
- I’ll be travelling (of course!)
- I’ll be studying (something I’ve missed since uni)
- I’ll be spending valuable time with family
- I’ll be visiting friends
- I’ll be volunteering (something which has become increasingly important to me and features on my pre-30 wishlist)
- I’ll be developing new skills to improve my career prospects
And I’ll be doing all of this abroad! One thing I won’t be doing is earning a monthly salary, something I haven’t had to worry about for the last three years of employment. Here’s where a few years of financial prudence come in handy, as I will be supporting myself on my savings. For anyone who may think I’m funding this with handouts from my parents, I’d like to dispel that myth and state that this is an entirely independent venture.
With a bit more free time I hope to catch up on my blogging too, as I owe you readers blog posts from Iceland in March, Tanzania in April, Antigua in May, Sweden in August, and Morocco and Lake Como in October! I’ve had so much to write about this year but nowhere near enough time, and that’s something I deeply regret. I’ve a long list of books I’d like to read as well and I want to master the basics of a language that I’ll be needing in the latter part of my sabbatical. I’d also like to be a better daughter, sister, niece and friend to those around me. The hectic “always on” nature of London doesn’t allow nearly enough time to be spent with the people who matter and I’d like to be more available. While I shall be abroad for a large chunk of these 6 months, when I am in the UK I want to use my time wisely and focus on the very most important things.
So, onto the juicy details! So far I’ve got 8 destinations confirmed and one trip is still TBC. Here goes!
- 5th-9th November: Athens Marathon. I’m thrilled to say I’ve already reached my fundraising target of £1,000 and I’m just under a week away from running the Athens Marathon for the children’s charity Plan UK. Please do sponsor me on JustGiving here! https://www.justgiving.com/Virginia-Stuart-Taylor. Read about the marathon here.
- 13th November: Last day of work.
- 13th-15th November: Paris. The very same day I turn on my Out of Office message for the next 6 months, I’ll jump on the Eurostar to Paris with a friend, Simon, to visit our friend Mel in Paris! I’m being treated to a stay and a dinner at the luxurious 5-star Hotel de Tremoille in the 8th arrondissement, so look out for a review of that stunning hotel soon: read about Paris here.
- 16th-18th November: Reykjavik, Iceland. This will be my second visit to Iceland this year as I take part in the #KAYAKHacksIceland blogger campaign for the travel search engine KAYAK. Keep an eye out for photos of that particular challenge! Read about Iceland here.
- 19th-23rd November: At home in Hampshire & the Live Below the Line challenge. After 4 months without returning home, I’m dying to spend a weekend relaxing in the countryside with my dear mother. Together with my mother I’ll be doing the Live Below The Line challenge, attempting to live off just £5 food and drink over 5 days, to experience first-hand what it’s like to live below the poverty line. I’m doing this to fundraise for an exciting project that will be kicking off in January (scroll down to find out about that!) and you’ll find my second JustGiving page specifically for that here: https://www.justgiving.com/Virginia-Stuart-Taylor1 NB: To everyone who’s already donated to my marathon, please don’t feel obliged to also donate to my Live Below the Line challenge as well. I’m so, so grateful for all your donations and I certainly don’t expect anyone to donate twice!
- 23rd-25th November: The Cotswolds. After being invited to try out the newly renovated boutique hotel, the Old Stocks Inn, in Stow-on-the-Wold, I decided to take with me my favourite walker, my father. I’ll also be trying out the Sprayway Willow Parka, which is available to buy at Blacks and which I think is set to be my favourite coat this winter. Read about the Cotswolds here.
- 5th-19th December: Berlin. I’ll be taking a 2-week course in Cultural Diplomacy & International Relations at the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin and also visiting a city I’ve never been to before. Luckily my good uni friend Jonny will be in Berlin, which he knows like the back of his hand, at the same time as me, so he’s promised to show me around. This course is something I’ve been attempting to do for almost 2 years. There is a month-long online version of it, but I’ve struggled to find a month with enough free time to dedicate to it, so I’m very excited to be taking the course in person. Read about the course here.
- 19th-29th December: Skiing in Tignes, the French Alps. I’m hugely looking forward to a snowy Christmas this year in Tignes with my whole family (all 5 of us – we’re a small family!) where we’ll be staying in a catered chalet run by some friends of my aunt, who are running the Old Post Office as a chalet this season. Read about our skiing trip here.
- January: who knows? Before starting my big trip to Nepal, I’ll have 3 weeks in January to spend as I choose. Current ideas include Sri Lanka, either by myself or with my uni friend Georgie who might be around those parts. Central America is also calling! Suggestions welcome please: where is good to go in January? Alternatively I might look into doing another short course or going sailing. Read about my trip to Sri Lanka here.
- 24th January – 8th May: Volunteering in Nepal. Here’s the biggie. 15 weeks in Nepal as a Team Leader for the Raleigh ICS Entrepreneur programme, leading a team of UK volunteers aged 18-25 and helping to rebuild livelihoods after the earthquake in April and support women and young people to develop their own businesses. I’ve heard incredible reports about Raleigh from a cousin who went to Tanzania, and this programme in particular appeals to me because it’s funded by DFID, the Department for International Development, so it has gone through rigorous checks and is delivering real benefit in the communities it works with. More info on that soon! Read my post about Nepal here.
And then I’m back! Read my summary post of the whole sabbatical here.