Who says a sabbatical has to be for a year?
Whether you call them career breaks, grown up gap years of mini-retirements the aim is the same – to bring some change and excitement into your life.
A month might be long enough to shake it up, get some travelling done, take a relaxing retreat or make a good start at learning a new language.
Below are some ideas from travel bloggers to help you with your plans.
- Slowing Down
- Learning a New Skill
Hitchhiking Around Europe in Spring
Perhaps it sounds a little too adventurous, but bear with me!
One way to ‘reset’ your worldview is by going out of your comfort zone and trusting others. Hitchhiking is an excellent method of transportation that will let you discover destinations, improve your navigation skills, and let you connect to the locals on a deeper level. While you can hitchhike anywhere, Europe is a good place to do it because:
- Hitchhiking is very easy in Europe
- Distances between cities are short
- Alternative transportation options like trains are often expensive
- Mobile coverage is good
- It’s not weird to hitchhike even when you’re not a 20-something
Why in spring? Because most people won’t have holidays, which means the cities are less crowded. Also, it’s beautiful to see the mood of the locals improve with each day getting warmer.
Just imagine yourself waiting at a roundabout outside of Munich, when a man in a brand-new Mercedes stops for you and takes you to Vienna in one ride. Or getting into a young couple’s small vehicle from a gas station in Budapest to travel to Szeged, on the way to Belgrade. And if you need a break from hitchhiking, you can always switch to public transportation.
Experiencing an Alternative Tibet
If you’re are on a short-term sabbatical, Shangri-La in Yunnan province remains an unexplored region steeped in Tibetan Buddhism in China’s northwest that borders Tibet. Shangri-La (Zhongdian) in China closely mirrors the culture of Tibet, with less red tape and serves as an alternative Tibet.
It is the perfect town to volunteer and start with a temp job at the Compass restaurant, run by a Singaporean couple and spend the rest of your time exploring the mountain ranges as well as nearby Sichuan province.
Both a county and a town, the monasteries, architecture and local culture in Shangri-La reflect approximately 80 per cent of Tibetan population in the region. If you’re a naturalist, you’ll love visiting the Napa-Hai Nature reserve, a well-kept secret in China’s Tibetan Valley.
It is the perfect spot for bird watching and the wet grasslands makes it an ideal viewing point to witness migratory birds like the black-necked cranes. The next few weeks could be spent cycling to the nature reserve, staying in a yurt and even hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge or the Shika Snow Mountain.
Traveling the Mountains of North Pakistan on a Motorbike
Yes, you have read right – Pakistan for a sabbatical! Are you completely nuts or just suicidal?
None of the two, actually, because Pakistan is not only safe to visit, but it is Asia’s true unknown and rising destination. This year, the Pakistani government is working hard to start a visa on arrival regime for 50 countries including the UK, the USA, Italy, Spain, Malaysia, and others. British Airways will start flying again to Pakistan for the first time in a decade.
Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan’s northern area, is the place where the Himalaya, the Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush mountain range all meet… and it’s home to the Karakoram Highway, the highest road in the world, often dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. You can rent a motorbike from trusted company Karakoram Bikers and start your motorbike tour in Gilgit, ride up to the Khunjerab Pass, the highest border crossing in the world, and see China. You can then drive back down to Gilgit, and strike on a loop east to Skardu, visiting the high altitude deserts and forts there, and then return to the starting point via the less-visited Astore valley.
If you still have time, ride west to the beautiful Shandur Pass, site of the world’s highest polo tournament in the summer, stopping en route at the lakes of Phander. Once you start getting acquainted with the heavenly scenery and Pakistani hospitality, one month will seem not long enough.
Campervanning on the Aussie East Coast
Road-tripping is an ideal way of exploring Australia’s East Coast. Famous for its food, culture, and remarkable holiday destinations, the East Coast is a stunning part of Australia. Packed with tons of gorgeous coastal towns, pristine beaches, vast open spaces, beautiful winding roads, a variety of national parks, and multicultural cities, the East Coast is a true paradise for holidaymakers.
This is the minimum time suggested for this road-trip, but it could easily be extended. Cities like Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne could easily take up a couple of weeks each and there are lots of other stop-offs on the way. You could also extend the trip past Melbourne on to Adelaide, taking in the Great Ocean Road.
- Cairns (3-4 days)
- Daintree Rainforest (1 day)
- Great Barrier Reef (3 days)
- Magnetic Island (2-3 days)
- Airlie Beach (2 days)
- The Whitsunday Islands (2 days)
- Rockhampton (1 day)
- Rainbow Beach (1 day)
- Fraser Island (1 day)
- Sunshine Coast (2-3 days)
- Brisbane (3 days)
- Sydney (2-3 days)
- Melbourne (3 days)
- TOTAL (30 days)
Road Tripping Around New Zealand
Foy many of us in the world New Zealand seems like the edge of the planet. So taking a month long sabbatical could be the perfect chance to make the long trip to ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud‘. The country is small enough to be easily traveled within that time frame, with enough to fill up those 30 days in a blink!
My suggestion is to start from the bottom of the South Island and work your way up. Like this, you’ll have the option of using return rental cars and have them for a lot cheaper (or even free!). You can visit the Caitlins for the southernmost point of New Zealand, visit Milford Sound, Queenstown and surroundings, Dunedin and the Moeraki Boulders, Mount Cook, Christchurch and the stunning national parks at the top of the South Island. Then you can take the ferry from Picton to Wellington, visit the capital of New Zealand, see Rotorua (and Hobbiton, of course), Coromandel, and finally, Auckland. You could even stretch to see the northernmost point in Cape Reinga, too! If that’s the case, stop by Waipoua forest and Kai Iwi lakes, you won’t regret it!
Marrakesh Coliving & Coworking
There is nothing so boring – and that can leave you on the verge of depression or mental illness because you feel alone – like working on the internet from your living room day and day out.
As a blogger, when I’m not traveling, this is many times my reality. At first, it was not easy to spend a lot of time alone, so I quickly looked for alternatives and decided to spend at least a few weeks each year working in a coworking and living in a coliving space in some corner of the world. Last year, the chosen destination was Marrakesh, in Morocco. You can read more about how to avoid isolation when working remotely and my experience getting shit done in Marrakesh by clicking on the link. Enjoy!
P.S. Whilst the company I used, Flexpat, no longer seem to be running, a quick Google search will bring up other similar schemes you can look into.
Coliving at a Bali Retreat
If you have a month long sabbatical, the Bali Unsettled experience is a perfect option! Unsettled is a great travel company that allows you to enjoy the community and co-working experiences of 30 other individuals. The Bali retreat can be for both business and pleasure. Unsettled sets up your stay for the month and introduces you to around 30 other people, who you will get to know during your stay.
Each person’s reason for joining a work-away program like Unsettled is different. Some go strictly to work, while others go for Bali. There are meetings and “family dinners” set up within the group, but everything is optional. You are free to participate as much or as little as you would like in the group experiences. It’s a great way to get out, learn from others, and meet new people.
The Rosemary Dream Retreat, Brazil
Nestled in the hills overlooking the ocean and surrounded by mountains, Rosemary Dream is a one of a kind experiential learning center. It is a place that empowers individuals to value life, love the world, and live their dreams. A place that provides tools to live an optimal way of life so that the potential that lies within each one of us can be unleashed.
Not only does Rosemary Dream host people from all over the world on retreats, but it is also an active community. This means people live here all year round, working together and supporting each other to craft their own optimal ways of life. We believe in ethical behavior, living through our values, being purpose oriented and living the most playful lifestyle you can imagine.
Yoga and Wellness in Sri Lanka
If your idea of sabbatical includes relaxation, exercising, and taking care of your body and soul, then a month of yoga and wellness in Sri Lanka is all you need. You can make a choice between staying deep in the heart of Sri Lankan hill country, surrounded by mountains, or right by the ocean, on one of the beautiful beaches.
For a more affordable sabbatical, you can rent a place and attend one of the many yoga classes offered by the hotels and studios in the area. Or you can opt to stay at one of the wellness resorts, where spa sessions and yoga are part of the wholesome experience.
If you choose the latter, healthy meals are usually part of the deal. Sri Lankan food, with its many different curries and the use of coconut milk and coconut oil is considered one of the healthiest and nutritious in the world. You can even try to go vegetarian or vegan, which is extremely easy on the island, what with the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Farming in Romania
Traveling through Europe as a freshly-unemployed millennial is no easy feat. In an effort to save money, I started volunteering through Workaway. The only requirements I had was free room and board. So, I picked a middle-of-nowhere farm in Romania. Best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Well, maybe except quitting my job to travel.
My favorite part of the whole experience is the long walks in the woods behind the farm. Being from a small town in Malaysia, I never had the chance to stroll in the woods by a little stream. Work is equally as fun. I’ve learned so much about permaculture and working with my hands. Showering outside was brutal late autumn, but it definitely helped me appreciate modern plumbing a lot more.
There are a lot of personal anecdotes that I will forever hold dear in my heart. One neighbor tried to set me up with her son. Another kept inviting me over for coffee and Tsuika even though I don’t speak a lick of Romanian. And of course, I will always remember the philosophical discussions and the friendship I’ve forged with my hosts over vegan pizza. See you this summer, Alice and Jack.
Volunteering at a Youth Hostel in Southeast Asia
I was on a tight budget but really wanted to travel to South East Asia for an extended period of time, to escape both work and the Winter. Someone recommended I take a look at Help Exchange to see what opportunities there were and the chance to spend a month in a youth hostel in Malaysia doing some chores in exchange for free accommodation quickly became a reality.
I spent a month in Malacca, not spending a dime, all the while having a great time in a city that I grew more and more fond of as time passed. I met people from all around the world, whilst living with local Chinese Malays, it was an amazing experience. My role was to literally just hang around in case someone wanted to check in, or needed a towel or an extra pillow. I also took the guests out on a little bicycle tours of the city every evening, which I absolutely loved. All in all, it was a free holiday – with a few daily chores.
Learning a New Skill
Learning Spanish in Spain
Learning Spanish in Spain is an incredible way to effectively learn a new language and travel at the same time.
Out of several schools in Spain, I chose a one called Enforex. It has branches in many cities in Spain (and South America), and you can even mix numerous destinations during your study period. The school offers many different programs for all levels, and even the most intensive ones leave you with enough time to explore the city you’re in.
This experience allows you to drastically improve your Spanish, learn in a fun and interactive way from the most amazing teachers, meet people from all over the world, and travel. Doesn’t that sound like a perfect way to spend a sabbatical month?
Taking a TEFL Course
In my opinion, one of the best ways to spend a one-month sabbatical is by taking a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course in a foreign country. These courses typically run for four weeks, during which time you’ll learn about English grammar and teaching methods before delivering practice lessons to real, local students. Most schools that offer TEFL courses (like the one I studied at, International House) also offer homestay programs and weekend activities, helping you get to know the city, its culture and its people.
At the end of your one-month sabbatical you will leave with a better understanding of the English language, great new friends (including both your classmates and your students) and a credential that looks great on resumes, whether your future job aspirations are back home or abroad. I took my own one-month TEFL course in Barcelona, Spain, and fifteen years later it remains one of my favorite cities in the world!
Divemaster Course in Thailand
A great one month sabbatical idea is taking a dive master course in Thailand. If you are wondering why Thailand? Let me explain. Thailand has pristine islands with crystal clear water that provides excellent visibility. The country is also home to some of the best dive spots in South East Asia which makes them some of the best in the entire world. It is also one of the cheapest places to get your divemaster and will only set you back a few thousands bucks, which covers room and board as well.
The gorgeous islands and landscape make it Thailand a great place to sit back and relax on your break as well as learn a new skill.