Are you preparing for sabbatical leave? Or maybe considering one?

Whether you’re planning a few months off (or even longer), it’s the perfect opportunity to take some time for yourself. You can relax and recharge, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to.

Sabbatical leave is a break from your job for an extended period of time, usually between a few months and a year. It’s often used interchangeably with a career break, but those are typically for a year upwards.

People take sabbaticals for lots of different reasons. Often it’s to make a positive change in their life or restore their work-life balance.

For some, taking sabbatical leave is an opportunity to do something fun.

Does that sound like you? If so, we’ve got 10+ sabbatical ideas to make the most out of your extended leave:

  1. Take a road trip
  2. Go around the world
  3. Learn something you can only do abroad
  4. Learn a new skill
  5. Do some volunteer work
  6. Tackle a fitness challenge
  7. Write a book
  8. Start a blog
  9. Develop a personal brand
  10. Spend more time with family
  11. Organize a family reunion
  12. Take an extended summer holiday
  13. Mentor others
  14. Do nothing

Travel sabbatical ideas

If your company has a generous annual leave policy, it’s hard to squeeze seeing the world into your standard holiday break.

The good news is that travelling works hand in hand with other personal development goals. Research by Netflights shows that 41% of people said their travel sabbatical helped them gain confidence—a valuable life skill that can have cross-over benefits when you return to work.

Travel is especially valued by millennials, with 39% of women and 42% of men listing this as the reason they’re most likely to take a career break.

At the time of writing, coronavirus means that travel restrictions are limited. But here are three great travel sabbatical ideas to do once the world gets back to normal.

1. Take a road trip

It’s no secret that road tripping takes longer than other methods of transport. But there’s no better way to kill time and see the world than going on an epic road trip whilst you’re on sabbatical leave.

You’ll probably need more than six months leave for this type of long-term travel. But in those six months, you can have the road trip of a lifetime, visiting the places you’ve always dreamed of—but never had time to visit.

Take a look at the United States Route 66 road trip. Driving cross-country can take months (especially if you’re stopping off on the way). But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip you can use sabbatical leave for...and still have a job to come back to.

2. Go around the world

Speaking of long-term travel, you could take a world-round trip on sabbatical leave.

Think of it similar to a gap year; the year students take to go travelling after finishing university and getting their first job.

Go backpacking around South East Asia, taking in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. What about  trekking in South America and visit Machu Picchu—a destination on almost everyone’s bucket list? You could even visit the most beautiful national parks in New Zealand (of which there are many.)

Sabbaticals give you the chance to see more of the world and explore different cultures. You can soak yourself in those cultures for months on end.

3. Learn something you can only do abroad

Got a destination you’ve always wanted to visit to learn something? With a sabbatical break, you can linger in the destination for a particular purpose.

Say you wanted to take a sabbatical to travel Asia. You can use the extended break to take in the culture or learn the language—two things that can only be learned (or done) by spending a long time in that place.

Similarly, you could learn to ski, surf, or snowboard by spending a few months in France or Australia. Or, push yourself to climb Mount Everest. We all know that can’t be done with a standard two-week break!

Educational sabbatical ideas

You don’t always have to fill your sabbatical leave with exciting travel adventures.

You can take extended leave from your job to learn something new. Sabbaticals give you more time, headspace, and freedom to learn.

That could take the form of these four educational sabbatical ideas.

4. Learn a new skill

Did you know that 42% of people think access to learning and development is the most important benefit when looking for somewhere to work?

Even if we enjoy our jobs, many of us crave a creative outlet away from the workplace.

Sabbaticals give people the time and space to perfect a new skill. Online platforms like Coursera and Udemy have tons of free courses designed to help people build new skills. You could also invest in Masterclass and soak up knowledge from famous celebrities, chefs, and entrepreneurs.

But here’s the best part: your new course doesn’t have to be directly related to your job. You can take up fun hobbies like painting, web design, or product design whilst on sabbatical leave—even if you don’t need those in your day job.

Research suggests that creativity will become even more important in the future job market. So, use your sabbatical leave to get out of your comfort zone and learn something new.

5. Do some volunteer work

Join the 19.4 million people who volunteered across the UK last year.

Volunteering for local causes, helping to organise events, and lending their professional expertise can be hugely rewarding. Some examples include:

Not only are each of those things incredibly rewarding, but they’d look great on your CV too!

(Ask your employer if they offer paid volunteering leave if this is what you plan to do whilst on sabbatical. There’s a chance they could offer paid sabbaticals to help with volunteer work.)

6. Tackle a fitness challenge

While it’s not usually the sole reason for a sabbatical, you could tackle a fitness challenge.

Breaking away from your full-time job is a superb way to kickstart a new fitness routine. You leave your existing routine by the door, and can start from fresh; dedicating as much time as you want to reaching your fitness goals.

Here are some fitness challenges you can focus on during sabbatical leave:

  • Train for a marathon or ironman
  • Lose weight
  • Combine fitness with travel by taking on different races and events across the world

7. Write a book

Writing a book is a slow process; one that often takes writers several years to complete.

One author puts the total time at around 736 hours, real life simply gets in the way. It’s hard to slot those hours into a commute, lunch breaks, or weekends (when you really just want to relax).

Sabbaticals are a popular way for people to take time out and write their first (or next!) book. You could join a writing retreat during sabbatical leave if you really want to escape your normal environment and make a headstart on your book.

Work sabbatical ideas

You can take sabbatical leave to work on a new work project.

Granted, it doesn’t sound like a true sabbatical—but people do take sabbaticals to work away from their desks, leave their mundane day-to-day tasks, and work on a bigger (more exciting) project.

Here are two great work sabbatical ideas to keep your brain ticking whilst you’re away from your day job.

8. Start a blog

Why not use your  sabbatical leave to do creative things or travel? Blogging is a great way to document that—and show your family and friends how much fun you’re having. (It’ll probably make them jealous!)

You can start a blog about any hobbies you have. There are online communities for almost any hobby you can think of, hence why blogging is a superb way to make friends with similar interests to yours.

Plus, starting a blog during sabbatical leave can also be a fun side hustle, a creative outlet, or a way to polish up writing and editorial skills. All of those things can be useful in the workplace—especially if you work in marketing.

9. Develop a personal brand

People are waking up to the idea that they have influence, and that consciously transforming this natural influence into a personal brand can help develop their future career.

Let’s say you work in the fashion industry, for example. You can take sabbatical leave to build your Instagram following, and go all-in with creating content that attracts new followers. (You never know: that time invested in growing your personal brand could lead to other career opportunities further down the line.)

But even if you don’t plan to use your personal brand to kick start another career, it still has its benefits. Some 92% of people will trust personal recommendations over other forms of marketing and advertising.

You can help your organisation by becoming an authority in your industry by:

  • Being active on social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Taking part in industry workshops
  • Attending or speaking at event

Family sabbatical ideas

Want to spend more time with your family? Escape the routine of “tea, bath and bed” by taking a family sabbatical. It’s a great way to escape your day job and spend some quality time with your loved ones outside of your normal routine.

Families distributed across different households, locations, and countries can also benefit from sabbatical leave. It gives you the chance to catch up with family and friends you don’t see often—without feeling pressured to slot visits in during the weekends.

Here are three great family sabbatical ideas to do with time off.

10. Spend more time with family

In the UK, there are over 8 million people living alone. It can be difficult to find the time to catch-up with family and friends after work. But when the weekend rolls around, commitments kick in and you don’t really have much free time to visit them—especially if they live far away.

Even a one-month sabbatical gives you the chance to reconnect with family and spend valuable time together.

You could also use sabbatical leave as a way to extend periods of maternity and paternity, shared parental leave, or leave to care for someone.

11. Organize a family (or friends!) reunion

Getting people together from across the world can be tricky to manage alongside a 9-5 schedule and a side hustle or two.

Sabbaticals give people the time and space to plan a family get-together for a milestone birthday or celebration. You could take a family holiday and hire a villa through Airbnb. Or, you could plan a staycation in the UK to catch-up with friends you haven’t seen in months.

It’s great to do this on sabbatical because your thoughts aren’t occupied with the tasks waiting at your desk on Monday morning. You can relax and recharge, and make great memories without thinking about the upcoming work week.

12. Take an extended summer holiday

Your kids get a six week break from school. Why not take a sabbatical and join them?

The possibilities of things to do during an extended summer holiday are endless. It’ll give the kids a well-needed break from their routine, and pack-in tons of quality time that you wouldn’t get at home. For example, you could:

  • Interrail around Europe
  • Learn to surf
  • Take a skiing holiday in France
  • Go trekking in South America

Either of these options teach your kids new skills they wouldn’t get from their normal routine. And, you’ll have the trip of a lifetime with your kids whilst they’re still young (and want to spend time with you!)

13. Mentor others

Earlier, we mentioned that volunteering is a great educational sabbatical idea. But if you want to share your knowledge with somebody else, you could take sabbatical leave to become a mentor.

Mentoring gives executives, leaders, and other experts a way to share their valuable knowledge and insights with the next generation.

The best part? You likely already have a skill that you can teach others. Some examples include:

  • Teaching English to foreign exchange students, or children in another country
  • Mentoring school leavers in your local community on how to follow your career journey and land a job similar to yours
  • Helping someone start a business in an industry you're familiar with

Regardless of what you’re mentoring others to do, it’s a great way to use your sabbatical leave—and use your skills for the good.

14. Do nothing!

Most times, sabbaticals are motivated by people with a desire to travel or learn a new skill.

But sometimes people just want a break.

Unless your company has a requirement for sabbaticals to be for a specific purpose, getting some much-needed rest could be just what you need.

Sabbatical leave can help solve (or prevent) burnout. This type of unmotivation is often linked to work related stress, which affected more than 828,000 workers last year—a figure that’s been on the rise for the last four years.

Taking a break from the workplace environment can help you return to work feeling refreshed, and stop burnout in its tracks. So, use your free time to do nothing except relax and recoup.

Prepare yourself to go back to work

As you can see, there are many incredible things to do on sabbatical leave—even if you’re only planning on taking a short-term break from work.

You can travel the world, pick up a new skill, and even write a novel.

But when the time rolls round to come back to work after an extended period, it can be tough. Check your employer’s sabbatical policy to see whether you need to do anything before your first day back in the office.

Either way, it’s smart to use the last few days of sabbatical to plan for your return. Bring yourself back up to speed with your day-to-day tasks, and start making a list of things you need to do once you’re back in the office.

It’ll make your first day back much easier.