Gap Year Guide for Employed | Sabbatical Leave Programs

Posted by Drew On September - 11 - 2009
Break Free with a Gap Year. Photo by AbnelPhoto

Break Free with a Gap Year. Photo by AbnelPhoto

It wasn’t long ago that gap years were only seen as a viable tool for fresh faced graduates looking to get a taste of all that the world has to offer. It used to be an opportunity for young adults to breakaway before settling into the 9-to-5 grind but now that opportunity is starting to spread to a much wider range of people.


Wouldn’t it be nice to have that same opportunity now that you have been working in your full time career for years? Well now it is.


An ever-increasing number of “grown-ups” are finding out that they too can get away, jump in on new experiences, embrace new cultures and take a break from their work routine. A gap year is no longer seen only as a chance for young adults to party in Southeast Asia before entering the real world. Now a gap year is also a way to reward yourself for hard work, smart financial decisions and years of slaving for the “man”.


Sabbatical Leave Programs


Sabbatical programs are being more widely offered by companies, and it isn’t just employees such as yourself that are taking notice of the benefits. Employers are discovering they can also gain from allowing their staff to embark on a new journey and do something other than what they are paid to do. After a gap year, most employees return with a new found appreciation for the world and vigor for life. That is, of course, if they do come back. But that is a choice that is totally up to you.


Sounds tempting doesn’t it? While there is a whole host of rewards, benefits and excitement that can come with the chance to take a gap year, there are some issues that you are going to need to tackle head on before embarking on your dreams abroad. Before you jump on the bandwagon and run straight to your boss’ door begging for a sabbatical leave, consider this.


Why do YOU Want Time Off?


Just because your colleague has returned from a self enlightenment journey through India or a year of full moon parties in Thailand, doesn’t mean that it is the best decision for you. The stories are incredible, the sights are splendid and the time off was more than rewarding, but you have to have your own reasons. Consider where you are in life and where you are headed. A sabbatical leave is not something that you should always do on a whim or a decision you should make based on other’s experiences. This is something you have to do for you, and you need to make sure it is the right time.


Generally a gap year will be completely unpaid, unless you can find work abroad. (Which we know is quite possible these days) That is a long time to be without a regular paycheck and to be without the comforts of home and the people you love. While many people ache to get out of their routine, they actually find out later on that that same routine is what keeps them sane. It is easy to lose direction if you haven’t laid down the right itinerary or plan. Sure being spontaneous and whimsical can be magical, but it can also lead to confusion.


On the other hand, for someone who feels stuck in a rut and unmotivated, a sabbatical leave can truly be a lifesaver. You just need to know why it is you want to leave and what you want to do. Your plan doesn’t have to be life changing or groundbreaking, it just needs to have substance. Volunteer in a remote country, sit back somewhere peaceful and finish that novel that has been sitting untouched on your computer, or finally put together the business plan for that venture you have dreamt off for years. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, no matter how miniscule or farfetched it is, you will find more fulfillment with a plan.


Asking for a Sabbatical for your Gap Year


Of course your decision to take a year off and travel is all about you, but that is the last thing you want to tell your boss. When you request a sabbatical leave make sure that you highlight all the ways that your company and employer will benefit from your decision. Let them know what you hope to gain and how much knowledge you will obtain that you can bring back to the workplace. Also, point out how your leave may give someone underneath you the chance to prove how much they mean to the company when your absence opens the door for opportunity.


If you are leaving your job feeling demoralized and worn down, chances are you are going to return motivated and as a better employee. You may even find that you appreciate the small, mundane tasks related to your employment that you simply cannot stand right now. This is a big step, and it can benefit you both.


Prepare your Life at Home before Jumping Abroad


So now you have set your plan in motion, your employer has granted you a sabbatical leave and you are ready to take off. Slow down for a minute. It’s time to make sure you organize your affairs at home to ensure everything will be just fine when you return.


In terms of your finances it is important to make sure you can access all your funds while you are away. Research which way will be the easiest to access your money while traveling abroad. It is far easier to set up bank accounts, online banking and future transfers while you are at home as opposed to when you are backpacking in the middle of nowhere.


If you own a home or plan to sublet then you may want to look into getting the help of a property management company. If you are going to be spending a significant amount of time away then you want to make sure your home is taken care off. Discuss your intentions with an agent and make sure that you can contact each other should any issues arise. It will give you peace of mind while you are away and ensure you do no return home to a messy situation.


Contact all organizations, pension administrators, the tax office and anyone who you may owe payments to. Set up scheduled transfers to pay bills and let the government know what you are up to. There may be certain special arrangements you need to look into when going away for a year unpaid, and this is something you want to be aware of before you move abroad.


Prepare by researching as much as you can for the country or countries you are visiting. Life is going to be different abroad and culture shock is a very real reaction. Look into a travel insurance policy, accommodations, the healthcare system and necessary visas for destinations you are planning to visit. Keep in mind that most things are quite a bit easier to plan for while you are still at home, rather than encountering them last minute in a foreign country.


Ready for a Gap Year


What’s next? It is time to open your mind and embrace a truly unique experience that could drastically change your life, for the better. Take in new cultures, meet new people, try new activities and foods, and get in touch with yourself.


There is no need to be jealous when you look back on the fact that you never took a year off to travel. The opportunity is there for the taking. Plan ahead, make smart decisions and grasp opportunity. It is never too late to fulfill your dreams.

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