Sabbatical Stories #8 | An Interview with Elizabeth

A lady standing in front of a red canoe

In the eighth of my sabbatical story interviews, I pick up with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth told me that for her whole life she has been motivated to be a teacher and make a difference in children’s’ lives.

Since high school, she has volunteered and worked in childcare-related jobs. After college, she became a public school teacher in a challenging district in New York City, then went abroad to teach in Moscow at an international school.

During this time she started a travel blog to let family and friends know what her travels and life abroad was like.

She has spent the last 15 months turning her hobby of travel blogging into a profession and travelling the world. 

So without further ado, let’s hear more of her story….


Sabbatical 101

What was going on in your life that prompted you to take a sabbatical?

I was teaching abroad in Moscow, Russia and knew that I didn’t want to stay in Russia for another year. I loved teaching, but I was getting burnt out for various reasons. I knew I would be making a move regardless, so it seemed like the perfect time to take the year off to travel and try turning travel blogging into a career. 

A lady in blue standing in front of a large sandstone building
Elizabeth in front of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow

How long did you take for your sabbatical?

It has been about 15 months and I am still travelling and growing my travel blog!  

What line of work were you in when you decided to take a sabbatical?

I’m a licensed elementary school teacher. 

How did you persuade your boss to let you take the time off?

I didn’t enjoy teaching in Moscow. Even if I wanted to keep teaching I knew I would need to find a different job. There was not an issue of getting permission, but simply letting my boss know I would not be returning! 

How did you organise the complexities such as your house, pets etc whilst you were away?

The year before, I moved out of my apartment in New York City to move to Russia. That was more work than transitioning from living abroad in Russia to travelling around the world. 

My school in Moscow provided a furnished apartment so I only had a couple of suitcases to bring back to the US with me. For the last couple of years, my mom has kindly let me keep almost all my stuff at her house until I figure out if I will be moving somewhere else or if I need to sell my belongings. 


Sabbatical Planning

What was your biggest challenge when planning your sabbatical?

The uncertainty of not having a steady financial income. 

What advice would you give others when planning a sabbatical?

Have a good amount of money saved up before taking a sabbatical so you can fully enjoy it and not have to worry about your finances. 

How did you manage your finances so you could afford to take the time off?

I had a steady income for four years as a teacher in New York City and one year as a teacher abroad in Russia.

In New York City I saved money in many ways.

  • By taking public transportation instead of having a car or taking taxis, I saved thousands a dollars a year.
  • I also always made my own lunches instead of buying lunches out.
  • I did a lot of free activities and used the library instead of buying books.

As a teacher abroad my package included free housing. It also included breakfast & lunch at my school. My cost of living was so low that I had very few expenses. The majority of my money went to travelling that year and saving for future travels. 

I’m also big into travel hacking. I use travel credit cards with great rewards programs. Almost all of my purchases are made with a credit card so I am always gaining points that I can redeem for travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card is one of my favourite cards and one that has helped me save a lot of money. 

In general, I have always been careful with my money so I had enough saved up to take the time off. 

A woman leaning on a white railing looking out over a beach with two palm trees and a turquoise ocean
Relaxing in Jamaica

What was the best purchase you made before your sabbatical?

I bought World Nomads travel insurance before my sabbatical.

While in Argentina I had a serious injury and was so thankful that I bought the insurance.

I claimed with World Nomads and was able to get my medical expenses, my remaining unused AirBnB stay and my very expensive last-minute flight home refunded.

Luckily I haven’t had to make any claims since, but it gives me peace of mind to have the insurance and know I will be refunded if something unfortunate happens again. 

Were there any books or resources you used to plan your sabbatical that you’d recommend to others?

I always use travel blogs and Pinterest to plan my travels.

For each country I visit I create a board on Pinterest and begin getting ideas.

I usually start by reading itinerary posts so I become familiar with different places in the country I may want to visit.

At the same time, I create a Google Doc where I jot down notes. Once I come up with a rough outline of my trip, I create a table in my google document where I write where I am staying, what I am doing and any transportation information for each day. 

Read my post ‘How To Plan a Trip‘ to see my travel planning process 


On Sabbatical

Where did you go on sabbatical?

First, I spent some time at “home” in Wisconsin, where my family lives. During that time I did some travels in the Midwest.

At a corn maze in Wisconsin

Then I went to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a couple of months. I was planning to spend more time in Argentina, but unfortunately, a serious injury changed my plan.

I then had to spend a few more months back home recovering.

After I started to recover I set off again for Jamaica, Chile, Argentina, England, the Netherlands, Italy and New York City. 

Five people on a red white water raft
Rafting in Puerto Varas, Chile

What was your favourite part?

The freedom of not having a boss telling me what to do and being able to travel the world slowly and feel like a local in different places. 

Is there anything you’d do differently if you had the time again?

Of course, I would have loved not getting hurt, but that couldn’t be planned for! 

How did you survive constantly moving from one place to another? Were there any routines you developed that you think helped?

Whenever I get to a new accommodation I immediately unpack and get settled before going to bed. I wake up the next morning feeling at home. 


After The Sabbatical

How did you adjust back to life after your sabbatical?

I’m technically still on my sabbatical and figuring out if I am going to go back to teaching or making travel blogging work full-time! 

What advice would you give to others on returning to help them come to terms with normal life again?

I would say if you are dreading “normal life”, try to think of ways to make an alternative lifestyle possible so you don’t have to return to normal life just because it is the expectation. 


Finishing Up

Any other advice you’d offer?

Just go for it! Making the decision is the hardest part. Once you do, have no regrets and enjoy the time, the discoveries you make about yourself, the places you visit and all the wonderful people you meet along the way. 

Where can we find you to read more about your adventures?

My travel blog is TheFearlessForeigner.com so pop by and say hello!

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Useful Tools for Booking Your Sabbatical

Flights

I always use Skyscanner or Agoda alongside Google Flights to make sure I’ve got the best price. I use Google Flights to save a route and monitor price changes and a combination of Skyscanner and Agoda to get the cheapest tickets. 

If you are in the UK I would also highly recommend signing up for Jack’s Flight Club to get incredible flight deals sent to your email inbox every week.

Accommodation

When booking accommodation I always start with Booking.com as they generally have the best range and prices. I also regularly use Airbnb for longer stays and apartments in cities (use this link for £25 off your first stay). For a different experience try signing up to Housecarers for free house-sitting opportunities (get 10% off membership with this link).

Insurance

Travel insurance might seem like an unnecessary cost, but when a flight gets cancelled, injury occurs or you damage a piece of gear you’ll regret not paying in advance. I’ve used  World Nomads for two sabbaticals and (after badly damaging a hire car in Laos!) found the claim process to be simple and transparent.

Tours

Using local guides is one of my favourite travel tips. The easiest way to find a local guide is to use Get Your Guide who offer tours with local guides all over the world.

Gear

Check out my gear page for my favourite travel gear, here for a detailed 3-month packing list for men and women and here to find 38 great travel gifts.

Transfers

Getting from the airport to your destinations is an added stress after a tiring flight, so take the guesswork out and pre-book with JayRide.com. Their prices often beat the local taxis and I've found them to be reliable and easy to use.

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