Digital Nomad

Should I Take a Sabbatical for a Year?

Since 2008, I am doing things my way: I chose the self employed route and I haven’t had a single regret since choosing this. Being your own boss, doing things your way, working on your own schedule… these are the things that sold it to me, as well as the realization that I’d be making a lot more money as a blogger than being employed.

To my friends and most people out there who are not doing this, it sounds more like a leisure ride instead of working. For them, hearing that I am even considering taking a year-long sabbatical sounds like the craziest thing in the world.

Hey, aren’t you already on a constant sabbatical? Isn’t this implied by “being your own boss” thing?

The truth is that it’s not the case – and anybody going this route certainly knows it. It is a dream job, for sure, but it’s a job nevertheless. And sometimes, it’s even more stressful and more demanding than a traditional 9 to 5 job.

I mean, when I started back in 2008, I was putting in some crazy hours: working 12-14 hours per day, no days off, writing and learning and destroying my eyes. Even now, after all these years, I still work a lot, sometimes 8 hours each day, sometimes more. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. It’s not all Instagram photos, working from the beach and sipping cocktails all day… being a digital nomad is not as glamorous as many try to make it sound.

Few, if any people, actually make money online (as bloggers at least) from doing that. In order to succeed on your own, you have to work hard. #Fact

So why am I considering a sabbatical?

To be honest, it is because I am tired. I feel burned out. My health ain’t great. My back hurts. My eyes hurt and are always feeling tired. I got headaches. I’m stressed. Huge levels of stress. More stress than I could ever imagine my body and mind can take.

The thing is that I am doing this to myself because – and I don’t want to sound like a person who’s lacking modesty – I am a workaholic perfectionist. I put myself under so much stress, more than I should:

I have to do this. I have to do that. I must never stop, I must do it all myself. And this is, obviously, impossible. I know it, but I don’t seem to be able to stop.

I wrote in a recent article that I am running (all by myself) way too many blogs. When this year started, I was operating 26 blogs. Alone.

One big blog is enough to drive you crazy and keep you busy 39 hours per day… 26 blogs is just insane and impossible for any human being out there (if you’re trying to do it all by yourself). Way too much.

But I guess that I’m not the only one in this situation. There are probably more people just like me, in the same spot in life right now: over stressed, working too hard, feeling that the life is sucked out of them. And probably, since you’re here, you’re considering a sabbatical too.

So… should you take a sabbatical or not?

This is a question that I’m trying to find the answer for since the beginning of the year (so it’s almost three months now). I did a lot of research, I’ve read articles and opinions and everybody online seems to have nothing but great words for sabbaticals – be them year-long or shorter.

However, since you rarely find an article by a famous blogger or vlogger or influencer or whatever complaining that they actually have to put in crazy work hours, so only finding positive articles about why sabbaticals are such a great idea doesn’t really mean much. On the contrary, it raises some big question marks: there’s nothing that can be considered perfect in this world, so why is nobody saying anything bad about sabbaticals?

But still, reading about all those pros and pros and nothing but pros makes me wonder… would a sabbatical help me further develop myself as a person? Or at least get back on track and be able to run this marathon, because I feel like I can’t do it anymore?

If you’re considering taking a sabbatical, like I do, you definitely have some solid reasons for it. And I am sure that they’re all big reasons, big Pros, not you just being lazy (how my friends consider me when I mention taking a sabbatical as a self employed…). So I would like to actually look at the main reasons why it might NOT be a good idea to take a sabbatical.

My point is this: if you’re considering it, it’s because you want it or need it or strongly believe that you do. These are the Pros. No question about it, you have your reasons and they can vary from person to person. But, no matter what these reasons for taking a sabbatical are… some Cons will always be there as well and you should decide if they’re more important than the Pros.

In my case, here are the main reasons why I think taking a sabbatical now might not be the best idea. You might find different ones as well, but I believe that the ones listed below are universally valid:

1. Money

This is probably the biggest concern in my case. Fortunately, I know that right now I would afford taking even an year-long sabbarical without worrying that I might not afford it. Even more, I would still generate some passive income to supplement this, so things are relatively good to start with.

But I’m 34 now. Destroying most of my otherwise modest savings right now doesn’t sound like the best idea in the world. Especially since I have a wife and a son to care about and things would definitely be easier for them as well if I wouldn’t start chewing away life savings.

I’ve worked very, very hard (the reason why I am considering this sabbatical in the first place) to put aside the money that I have saved, so eating a large chunk of them instead of getting more, while being still young-ish, might not be the smartest “career” move.

This is the age where you should be building wealth, not spending mindlessly. Taking a year-long break from your career does sound a bit crazy!

2. Will I return on the same, pre-sabbatical terms?

I am a blogger. I earn my money exclusively online. And if you have been blogging for longer than a few weeks now, you know how quickly this bubble can pop: what works today might not work tomorrow.

I know it all too well: back in 2014, I lost half of my income when one of my blogs was banned by my main advertising network because of a silly mistake I (unknowingly) did. Anything can happen at any given time.

Building my best money-making blog of the moment took me no less than 4 years. I think that it has reached its peak right now… but how hard will the fall be if I ignore it for one entire year? How long will it take me to recover? Will I be able to recover at all? What if one year from now blogs will no longer work and the money I could’ve made are just lost? What if?

I have no idea. The best bet here seems to be riding the wave while it’s still high. You can never know when it hits the shore and you have to start swimming again. It’s a huge risk and after my sabbatical, I might not get to continue from where I left off. And the same can go for any person, having any type of job. You have no guarantee that you’ll get back in the race from where you left off.

3. What will I do during all this time?

As I said already, I am actually a workaholic. While I am starting to feel more and more exhausted each day, I am not sure going to the extreme of doing nothing will help.

The biggest problem here is that, since I have a family, with a son enrolled in a traditional school, I don’t have the option of constant travel and exploring, which would fill up my free time rather nicely and would be the ideal way to spend my sabbatical. So this is out of the question.

Being stuck at home, with nothing to do… will I just end up on the same chair in front of the same computer, staring into the same screen and playing video games all day instead of working? That would make absolutely no sense, but it’s a big probability that it will happen. So my eyes will still be in pain, I will still be tired and I won’t accomplish anything…

Sure, I have plans for things to do, to rest, to exercise, to get healthy, to develop some extra skills, to relax and do things I like, to do this and that… but I also know from people who retire that when you stop working, you realize that the day has more hours than you actually thought it had.

4. What if I like it too much?

It’s not the first time that I feel completely burned out. It actually happened to me back in 2015, when I was so tired and stressed with my online work that my body simply couldn’t take it any more.

Fortunately, the last drip that filled the glass happened at the best moment possible: when I went to spend an entire month in Budapest.

The thing is that I was so tired and I was in such a bad place from all the stress and tiredness that I had a lot of crazy symptoms and I actually spent most of my day, for about a week, in bed. All I did was rest in bed, eat, walk a bit around Budapest and worry about nothing else (but my poor health). I was in such a bad shape that simply looking at my laptop’s screen gave me nausea. My body was simply rejecting it.

So during that entire month, I  worked very, very little – just towards the end I started writing a few articles and catching up a bit as I was already feeling better. But for the most part, it was a bit of a sabbatical for me. A forced one.

And do you know which of my travel experiences I enjoyed the most? My month in Budapest, despite me feeling like absolute crap most of the time. I had some insane stress-related symptoms, as well as huge levels of fatigue, yet I absolutely loved it. So much that, whenever I’m down (which is more and more often lately), I actually crave Budapest. What I believe I crave, though, is the break.

Which makes me wonder: what if I like my sabbatical too much?

A period of pure leisure, of taking a break, of enjoying life – be it a month or a year-long sabbatical is definitely something you could easily fall in love with. What if, when the time’s over, I will actually feel even more miserable getting back to my work life and routine and everything else? It didn’t happen after my Budapest break, but you never know.

So, should I take a Sabbatical?

Yup, that’s still the million dollar question, isn’t it?

This is definitely an extremely important decision and I think that you always have to look at all the potential Cons before getting your answer. Don’t just look at the Pros (which are, in many cases, exaggerated by other people who made the same decision and need confirmation that they did the right thing). Look at the bad things too. And only afterwards make a decision.

If you have people you can trust – talk to them. Talk to your family. Talk to strangers online. Look at what honest people think, then put it all on paper. Let it rest for a week. Look at everything again and let it rest for another week.

Make an educated decision, one you’ll be comfortable with no matter what. This is what I plan to do – and at this moment, I still don’t know what the decision will be. I believe it’s going to be a sabbatical because I feel that need it more than anything else. I personally feel that I don’t have the fuel to keep doing this. I’m running on fumes, actually.

But this is an extremely important decision with life-long consequences, obviously. I can only hope that I’ll make the right one.

Now over to you: what do you think? Would you take a sabbatical? Have you done it? Why or why not? Help me decide!

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4 Comments

  1. Haha! You know the answer to that don’t you. You definitely should! I do understand the unwillingness to do so because of all the reasons you stated. The landscape changes so often and who knows what you might find upon your return. It can be an unpredictable landline, even with established passive income. I wish l had a crystal ball to help you decide. What l do know for sure is that you are definitely overworked. Way too many websites. I have pretty much abandoned my second and slowed down on the first, just too much work for me right now. I have been sick as a dog since coming back from London thanks to my niece’s kids :-). Once again l salute you parents. How about 3 months off? It might be enough to recharge the batteries for a while longer and a good compromise. You don’t want to have a nervous breakdown :-).

    1. Kids do have the habit of bringing back all the viruses they can find. I remember our son’s first year at kindergarten: it was a nightmare! Since October to late March we were sick almost all the time 🙂 Not fun indeed…

      And you are right. I know the answer. 🙂 I have talked to my wife, we put everything in balance and decided that going this route is probably the best way to do it. I’ll have to sort some things out and plan a bit, but starting April I do have to take action and reduce the stress. And yes, probably 1 year is too much and a shorter period would be enough for me to get back on track. Thanks for taking your time to read this and share some advice.

  2. It definitely sounds like it’s not a choice, but a must. However, the crucial thing is what you do with that time. Rest, recharge, but also work on yourself.. get into the nitty gritty of those workaholic ways and work on routines, self-discipline, different perspective, etc. to improve that. Sometimes we really need a step back to see the big picture clearly.

    For me, taking a month off and going away on my own changed everything (for the better).

    It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, there must be ways of doing it without digging yourself an early grave. And I think it’s so so important that you find a way, otherwise all the money and success would have been in vain. And your main responsibility is to be healthy, for your son.

    So.. has the year started?

    1. Thank you for the comment, A! You are absolutely right. I am a few steps closer to taking the break I so much need. Probably not for one year, but for a shorter period of time. I am sure it will do wonders!

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