If you’ve got a three month sabbatical planned, you may already know what you want to do with the time.
But if you don’t, you’re in the right place!
In the article Why Take A Sabbatical?, I list out a number of reasons people choose to take extended leave.
In this article, along with the help of some fellow sabbatical-takers, I expand on these ideas, showing you there are more sabbatical ideas than you thought.
How about learning a language? Or house sitting? Overland adventures? Experiencing one or two cities in depth?
We’ve got lots of angles covered here, so hopefully you find some inspiration!
Three Month Sabbatical Ideas List
- Backpacking in Southeast Asia
- Australia: Tackling the Land Down Under in 90 Days
- An Overland Tour Across the Silk Road
- Overlanding African Safari
- Road-Tripping in Morocco
- European Road Trip – Netherlands/Scandanavia/Central Europe/Italy
- Slower Travel
- House-Sitting in Rural France
- Exploring Three Cities in Spain
- Philly/California/New York City
- Helping Other People
- Volunteering in a Refugee Community Centre in Athens
- Making the most of the HelpX and Workaway Programs
- Volunteering on a Kibbutz
- Volunteering using the Workaway Program in Crete (plus lots of Workaway info)
- Volunteering with Children
- Volunteering with Animals
- Volunteering at a Sanctuary in Thailand
Learning a New Skill
- Learning Thai in Chiang Rai, Thailand
- Divemaster Training in Costa Rica
Something Completely Different
- Completing a Project
- Writing a Book
Backpacking in Southeast Asia
by Ben of TheSabbaticalGuide.com
Backpacking in Southeast Asia is for many people the ‘classic’ sabbatical or gap-year itinerary.
It has alot going for it. Great food, warm weather, cheap prices and an exotic culture. The routes around Southeast Asia are so well worn now, that they are also generally very safe, and easy to navigate.
We set off in April 2018 for 3 months exploring a continent that we had never visited before.
We then spent around five weeks in Laos and Cambodia, starting in the north at Luang Prabang, and working our way through Vientiane, completing the Thakhek Loop and making a detour down to Wat Phu and Chapasak. In Cambodia we had a week in Phnom Penh before spending a couple of weeks in Siem Reap, to explore the Angkor Temples and Sambor Pre Kuk.
For our last month we were in Vietnam, starting in Ho Chi Minh city in the south, before travelling up the coast. We learned to dive in Nha Trang, experienced the ancient architecture at Hoi An and Hue before making our way into the countryside of Tam Coc and Cat Ba Island. We finished up with a fe days in Hanoi before heading home.
As our first experience of backpacking and extended travel, it was truly unforgettable. We moved pretty fast, but had so many memorable experiences on the way, I would highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a three month sabbatical.
Australia is not just a country – it’s a continent – and a big one at that. It’s an ideal destination for a three-month backpacking sabbatical because that’s about the minimum time that a traveller needs to get a taste of the ‘real’ Australia.
The land down under is made up of six states and two territories with very different climates – tropical in the north, temperate in the south and a large dry desert region in the centre.
It’s for that reason that planning a trip to Australia needs to take account of the seasons, because it’s not pleasant to be backpacking in 40-degree heat in the desert regions in the middle of summer or battling cold wind and rain in the southern states in the winter. Therefore spring or autumn are always the best seasons for travelling.
This suggested route takes you up the east coast from Brisbane, to the Great Barrier, Daintree Rainforest and Cairns, then across to Darwin and down through the desert interior. When you make it down south, it’s time to take in the winelands, mountains and famous cities of Melbourne and Sydney, with an optional hop over to Tasmania.
An Overland Tour Across the Silk Road
by Lisa of TheHotFlashPacker.com
In 2013, I was facing a crossroads in my life. My job was stagnant, and I had ended a long relationship. My company had the option to take a 12-week unpaid leave of absence, which happened to be the exact length of an overland trip across the crossroads of the Silk Road.
I started in Nepal, and had incredible adventures including:
- Doing the world’s largest canyon swing off a bridge in Nepal
- Eating Tibetan noodles and yak meat, with views of Everest in the background
- Sleeping in the desert in the middle of a sand storm
- Haggling with Uyghurs and eating all the incredible food in the markets of western China
- Getting invited in for sweets and tea with a Kyrgyz woman and her children, and not having any language in common
- Hiking in the snow and soaking in a hot spring in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan
- Visiting the incredible architecture of the mausoleums, mosques, and madrassas of Uzbekistan
- Witnessing National Geographic film a special in the Darvaza Gas Crater of Turkmenistan, one of the least visited countries of the world
- Getting stuck in the mud of the mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan
- Drinking crazy amounts of Saperavi wine in the republic of Georgia.
- Enjoying the culture of Georgia and Armenia – from opera and ballet, to an international rugby match, all for a few dollars.
I will always remember the highlights of that trip, and I hope to get back to visit some of the even more off the beaten path destinations of the Silk Road.
Sadly, Odyssey Overland, the company I traveled with is closed, but Oasis Overland is now running this route.
Overlanding African Safari
by Vicki of MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld.com
Overlanding in Africa is an absolutely amazing experience and one that you will never forget.
Traveling on board a specialist overland truck, in 3 months you can cover a large portion of Eastern and Southern Africa. You’ll see epic landscapes, incredible national parks, the Big 5 in their natural habitat and immerse yourself in the culture of each and every country you visit.
At the bargain end of the spectrum you’ll camp each night, work in teams to clean the truck and cook your meals over a campfire – and with limited access to wifi be practically off the grid for days at a time. If the basic option is a little too low brow for you, you can pay a little more for the privilege of having staff on board the truck to sort out your tent each day and cook your meals. Or if camping really isn’t your style, there are accommodated overland options (although I think these take a little bit away from the experience!)
Road-Tripping in Morocco
by Nina of WhereInTheWorldIsNina.com
While one may be tempted to shove 5-10 countries and even an entire region into a 3 month sabbatical, let me try to persuade you to chill out a bit more and focus on just one. Morocco is one of those places that is best savored than hurried. It’s an assault on all senses, takes some getting used to, and every time you check one thing off your list, you add 10 more.
Spending three months in almost any place awards you with a true sense of accomplishment and a deeper understand for the country. While taking a sabbatical in Morocco, you can do so much more than simply tick things off a “see this” list.
Take a week and join a surf camp to learn how to shred waves along the rugged coastlines. You could road trip through the mountains and around hairpin turns on some of the world’s sketchiest roads while getting wonderfully lost. Take cooking classes, get lost in every market you can and pick up the knack of haggling like local. You can also hike the tallest mountain in Northern Africa and get lost in its valleys.
Before leaving, a visit to the Sahara Desert is a must. Spend a few nights or even make friends with a guide who can take you on a week or longer journey through the stark and barren yet mind-blowingly beautiful sand dunes of the desert. Even after three months in Morocco, I doubt you’ll want to leave!
European Road Trip – Netherlands/Scandanavia/Central Europe/Italy
Taking a road-trip is a great was to make the most of a three months sabbatical.
In this time you can cover alot of ground, and see many different countries along the way.
This route goes through 16 countries, averaging around 60 miles of driving a day.
- The Netherlands
- Czech Republic
Many hire companies in Europe will allow you to pick up in one place and drop off in another, so it is really easy to bring this plan to life.
If you want a bit more detail on this route check out this post: 3 Month European Road-Trip Route & Itinerary.
House Sitting in Rural France
by James of ThisTravelGuide.com
A couple of years ago, I took a sabbatical and housesat in France for several months. The experience was fantastic in many ways: it gave me a chance to live in France, the French countryside was a great place to recharge the batteries, and with no rent to pay I was able to keep my living costs to a minimum.
During that time, I took on several different house sits all within South and Central France. I looked after cats and dogs and, at one point, even a farm of alpacas!
A typical house sit normally involves feeding and looking after the pets, which takes an average of 30-60 minutes per day. It can take longer if you’re looking after dogs that need particularly long walks or far animals, but that’s a good average. You may also be asked to look after the property itself, for example mowing the lawn or cleaning the pool.
Naturally, getting house sits can be competitive. The trick is to be persistent. Sign up at the different house sitting sites, and apply for them as soon as they go live. It may take a while to land that first one, but once you’ve got that as a reference, you’ll find it easy to get the next one.
Exploring Three Cities in Spain
by Danielle of LiveIn10Countries.com
A few years ago I was working in a hotel as a receptionist. I know that might sound like an ideal job for a travel blogger, but it was a budget business hotel chain and only operated in the UK. Not quite my jet set dream!
Anyway, as Christmas rolled around I got such itchy feet that I called my only sister and asked her if she fancied dropping her office job, life and commitments to go on a three month trip with me in the spring, out of the blue. Surprisingly, she said yes.
When it came to planning, I think we perhaps organised things more than we needed to – I’m that kind of person. We picked three stunning Spanish cities – Sevilla, Madrid and Barcelona and planned roughly a month in each. We’d explore them like never before and just live life in the mediterranean. It was such an adventure!
I’ve often worked as a freelance tutor, so I knew that I could teach a few short-term courses while I was there but my sister planned to not work and just enjoy the experience (and so, so many beaches) – a totally valid option. We stayed in AirBnB lets – a shared flat, an American couple’s spare room there and a huge communal house in Catalunya.
How did we manage things with our existing jobs and finances? Start the conversation with your employer early (months before you go) and provide a deadline for when you need a decision by. Be clear of the value for them in your trip and you should find them open. We both saved for months and months before leaving. My sister owns her own house, so she rented it out while she was gone too.
Philly/California/New York City
by Oindrila of OindrilaDe.com
Last year, I quit my 5-year long corporate career to travel across the United States of America for 3 months.
While initially, I was a little skeptical about traveling for so long at a stretch, I gained confidence along the way. My trip began when I look a flight from Mumbai to the other side of the world and got to Philadelphia. This Pennsylvanian city is quite rich in history and art. As a runner, I enjoyed the active running community of this place. After a week of exploring street art, restaurants, museums and parks here, I flew to the other end of USA – California.
I stayed by Fresno’s countryside and woke up to the call of a rooster each morning. Life there was really laid back and the food was always fresh. I caught up on a lot of cooking and reading while I relaxed in a spacious house. In the middle of all this, I also managed to fly down to New York City for a week to finish the NYC marathon and explore its fast-paced life. It was interesting to see the amazing mix of cultures and cuisines in this megacity.
I recommend taking things slow during your sabbatical and enjoying one thing at a time.
Helping Other People
Volunteering in a Refugee Community Centre in Athens
by Suewan of RTWFamilies.com
As a digital nomad family we often look for ways we can volunteer as we travel. When we were in Athens, Greece in 2016 we found a community centre that had been recently set up to offer support and resources to refugees. The centre was set up because of the humanitarian crisis which was affecting people forced from their homes because of war and poverty.
I have experience of teaching English as a second language so it felt very natural to offer my skills. The students came from all sorts of different places but the majority were from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. All of the people I met were really keen to learn. Learning English was a key part of improving their own futures. They hoped that they would be able to start a new life in Europe and speaking English would really help.
The experience was humbling and incredible. Getting to know people who had to leave their homes with almost nothing and who were still smiling in spite of their circumstances was awe-inspiring. We made great friends there and hope to return when we are next in Athens.
The centre was not only set up to teach English. There were all sorts of ways you could volunteer there. They had a kitchen to teach cooking skills, they also provided free meals – so you could offer those skills. There were also classes teaching German, Greek and other European languages. They had a creche set up so that women could go and learn without their children, so you could volunteer as a creche assistant. Basically, if you have time to offer and the motivation to make a difference then there will be a way you can get involved.
Making the most of the HelpX and Workaway Programs
By Gemma of TwoScotsAbroad.com
Many workers take sabbaticals during their career to volunteer. However, finding reputable voluntary programmes can be challenging and expensive! Luckily there are a handful of programmes such as Workaway and HelpX that are used by thousands of travellers each year.
These programmes match volunteers with programmes such as physical work, customer service or teaching. For example, I spent five days, an hour outside of Budapest, supporting business people to improve their English. The days were intense – speaking over breakfast, lessons during the day, lunch, dinner and then a social activity at night but it was rewarding to observe the progress of our new friends!
Straight after this programme, I met Craig and we headed to a small village near Eger to live with a family. We helped the son, Robert, with the garden and light farming duties, were fed homemade meals by his Mum and drank palinka with the men in the family! An insightful look into Hungarian countryside life you won’t get holidaying in Budapest.
Gemma has also produced a really helpful article about them both, which you can read here.
Volunteering on a Kibbutz
By James at TravelCollecting.com
Volunteering on a kibbutz in Israel is a great way to spend a three-month sabbatical. It is possible to volunteer for anywhere between two and twelve months, so if you decide to stay longer, you can. A kibbutz is a communal settlement created in isolated areas throughout Israel along socialist principles. There is a shared dining room, kindergarten, laundry, etc. and people rotate jobs regularly. Most are agricultural, but there are some with small factories and tourism.
How to Volunteer
As long as you between 18 and 35, healthy and speak English, it is easy. You do not need to be Jewish. Contact the Kibbutz Program Center online and they will arrange everything for you. When everything is approved, fly to Israel and go their offices. There are dozens of kibbutzim scattered around Israel and you can’t choose which one you go to – they will place you when you arrive depending on which one needs a volunteer at the time. I was at Kibbutz Kalia near the Dead Sea, and it was great.
The work you do will depend on what the kibbutz does and what job they need. Kalia had a large date plantation, a gift shop at the nearby Qumran, a dairy, and a turkey farm. started work in the date plantation, but is really hot 400m below sea level, so I asked to change and ended up in the (air-conditioned) dining room cleaning and washing dishes. I actually loved doing a mindless job without stress for three months. Other volunteers helped in the laundry, the kitchen, the garden, the dairy and the turkey farm.
We worked six days a week (but some kibbutzim have volunteers working only five) and our day started early. The date plantation workers started at 5:30am and were done by lunch time (because it gets so hot). I started at 7:30am and finished around 3:30pm. This meant that our afternoons and evenings were free. We all had Saturday off.
Life on the Kibbutz
The volunteers had our own section of the kibbutz, with several houses near each other. Our rooms were shared and we had our own club called The Tea House (in a bomb shelter). All meals and laundry were included, but we got a very small allowance that we could use to buy alcohol, candy or cigarettes. Friday nights were typically spent partying hard in The Tea House, which turned into a night club. Kalia also had a pool that we used daily to cool off from the desert heat. We also got two extra days off a month, which I used to do some trips around Israel. I sent one memorable long weekend hitch-hiking to Eilat on the Red Sea. The kibbutz also arranged an occasional trip and some cultural activities like a music festival at a nearby kibbutz.
This was a really fun three months. I got to experience life in Israel and travel a little around the country and made some lifelong friends. I have many, many fond memories of days and nights spent in The Tea House and the pool.
Volunteering using the Workaway Program in Crete (plus lots of Workaway info)
By Lauen at FarAmAGan.com
Is your dream to grow your own veg? Renovate a castle in Scotland? Learn to surf? Become fluent in Spanish…or all at the same time? You need Workaway. It is an online platform of over 30,000 hosts in 170 countries with every genre of volunteering you could think of. You could volunteer as a surf instructor in Portugal, help to run vineyards in New Zealand, assist with turtle sanctuaries in Ski Lanka – there is a volunteer opportunity for everyone. In exchange for sharing your time, skills and culture you receive a place to sleep, food and a wealth of cultural experience which you could not get from the guidebooks.
Our first visit to Crete we stayed in a 5 star resort, had a hot tub on the balcony and indulged in the all inclusive menu and bar. Needless to say, we felt leaving as if we hadn’t experienced “real Greece.” Our second visit was the total opposite – we stayed with a local family, volunteered at their olive farm, dined on traditional Cretan home cooking then danced and day tripped our way around the island. It was a trip we’ll never forget, that gave us a real insight into the traditional Cretan life. All possible thanks to Workaway.
The experience didn’t end in Crete either, Workaway then allowed us to practise our French staying with a family in Switzerland helping to run their eco-glamping site. We even got to stay in one of the site’s beautiful tree houses! We then assisted photographers in Oahu, sharing our travel tips and Scottish culture with their beautiful family. Workaway allows us to travel slower, safer and longer than ever before, whilst making friends for life all over the globe.
Unsure if it’s for you? Read our full workaway review (https://www.faramagan.com/workaway-review/) with our top tips & advice. We also put together our Workaway profile tips (https://www.faramagan.com/workaway-profile/), to ensure your dream host says yes!
Volunteering with Animals
Volunteering at a Sanctuary in Thailand
by Mary of aMaryRoad.com
Baan Unrak or Thailand Animal Sanctuary is located north of Bangkok and not far from the border to Myanmar. This sanctuary rescue abandoned and mistreated animals. They are self-funded and rely on donations and volunteers. If you are heading to Thailand and looking to do something different from what most backpackers do, I highly suggest you volunteer your time and energy in this shelter. The This sanctuary also offer free veterinary services to the locals and their beloved pets. They work very hard in keeping all the rescued dogs and cats safe and dry and re-homing them to Europe, North America and other parts of the world without a fee.
They are always looking for a pair of hands to keep the shelter running and keep the dogs and cats loved. If you volunteer for 3 months, your lodge will be for free, but if you do less, it’s a $3 per night because they are only renting the volunteer house. There is no volunteer fee apart from paying for your own bed. If you happen to be a student vet or a licensed or travelling vet, they would love to have you on board as well.
Learning a New Skill
Learning Thai in Chiang Rai, Thailand
by Josh of TheLostPassport.com
Sabbaticals are not always about being on the road, trying to cover as many kilometers as possible. Sometimes they are quite the opposite. Finding home in a new place, learn a new language and build a new community. This is exactly what I did in Chiang Rai, Thailand for three months.
Chiang Rai is a small town in the far north of Thailand, home to approximately 70,000 people. Aside from the minority of foreigners that live in the town working as teachers, there is not much English spoken, making it the perfect place to pick up Thai. To be understood, you have to learn the language.
I spent three mornings per week taking one-hour Thai lessons with a one on one tutor. My personal goal was to learn to use all those new words with friends and locals before the next lesson. This really accelerated my learning curve.
After classes, I was not sitting at a desk doing homework reciting the new words. Instead I’d be out exploring the mountains, waterfalls and hot springs on my motorbike, chatting with locals where ever possible.
Because I was motivated, I was quick to meet new people, discover secret destinations that only locals knew about, and ultimately pick up the Thai language quickly. I will always be able to say I made Chiang Rai home, even for a short while. A sabbatical not to forget.
Completing Divemaster Training in Costa Rica
by Demi of AroundTheWorldWithHer.com
Last year I got itchy feet yet again and knew it was time to leave my job. Having already backpacked for several months at a time over the last few years, I wanted to spend my time in one country and really meet locals and soak up the culture.
I have dived in many places in the world, and spent a lot of money on my hobby. However, I decided that if I were to do my Divemaster as an internship, I would be diving a lot plus learn about the things I love more in depth. I packed my things and headed to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica for 3 months, where I dived nearly every day in exchange for helping out in the shop.
I learned many skills needed to be a reliable and safe Divemaster, and whilst some people do the course a lot quicker, I was happy to take my time and get as much experience as possible. I also learned some Spanish, and made many friends from Costa Rica whom I am still in contact with.
Many people who I met doing the internship had different reasons as to why they were doing it. One girl had just finished High School and was making the most of her summer break, another studied Marine Biology at University and said it would open up jobs for her when she graduated. Of course there were some people who went on to be instructors too, but it is common to just do the course for yourself.
There are Dive Centers all across the globe, and so you can do your Divemaster nearly anywhere there is a large body of water! You can also start from scratch if needs be, with many centers offering internships including all courses prior to Divemaster too. Many places offer extras, such as conservation courses or coral restoration projects, so you can really come away with the feeling that you are not only having fun, but learning new skills too.
For more information read: The Best Places in the World to do Your Divemaster Training
Something Completely Different
Completing a Project
Writing a Book
by Tom of SpaghettiTraveller.com
I was working on writing an e-book, however with a full time job, freelance work and a blog to run, it ticked along very slowly. I came to the conclusion that the only way I can pursue the idea would be if I took some time away to focus on the book and set myself a deadline for it to go live.
Whether you’re sat in coffee shops, on a beach somewhere exotic or on your sofa, the most important aspect is cutting everything else off and diving in. I was writing, editing and planning for around 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, so you have to remain committed.
The biggest time-saving tip I can offer is planning your meals beforehand, so you don’t sneak off every hour to cook some food. Plus playing some relaxing music, nothing you know the lyrics to as otherwise you end up singing along…Or maybe that’s just me.
I set myself mini deadlines and listed it all in Trello, the free project management tool, so I can track progress and make sure I’m not slipping behind. This worked wonders and allowed me to launch the travel e-book 2 days before I visited Rotterdam for the Traverse conference.
“The average adult fiction book is around 70,000 words long, which means hitting around 780 words a day for 90 days, a more than realistic target.”
Find out some more useful tips on writing a book here: Writing a Novel in Three Months: 5 Simple Steps to a First Draft.