One of the cool fringe benefits my company offers is a paid, one-month sabbatical after five years of service. I reached five years, and the company COO urged me in no uncertain terms to take advantage of the opportunity.
You would think that the most challenging part about such an opportunity would be figuring out the bet time to go. Not even close. For me the greatest challenge came when the time came to decide what to do with my month away.
The company’s stated intent behind the sabbatical is to do something transformative that you couldn’t do in the space of a normal vacation that would leave you refreshed and reinvigorated upon your return. All good.
But I’m too old and too out of shape to go riding a motorcycle up Highway 1 in Vietnam, or go helicopter skiing, or bungee-jump off of a bridge, and I’m not sure I’d be inclined to do those things even if I were of an appropriate age.
I love trains, so I thought about taking a cross-country round-trip on Amtrak in a sleeper bedroom. I priced it: $4,500 for seven days on the rails was more that I was prepared to spend for the experience. I had been thinking maybe half of that.
I looked up first class airfares to cities across the country that I might be inclined to visit. They were rather more reasonable than a haul across the continent by train. Given how much I travel for work, though, and that I was going to be out of the country for much of the month before and the month after my Sabbatical, I nixed that idea.
And then I realized something: what I really want is not a vacation in place, but a vacation in time. I want the time and head-space to think, to read, to work on my fitness, to hike, to take a handful of courses, and to write. And I did not need to pay an airline, a railroad, or a hotel group to do any of that.
So I decided last night that my sabbatical is going to be a dress rehearsal for an active retirement, and an incentive to shift to a more balanced lifestyle. I told my wife that I would be around if she needed me, but that much of the time I would be out, engaged in a kind of early mid-life-crisis personal journey.
Naturally, I’ll be chronicling the journey here, but if you wish to skip these posts, I will be titling them.