4 Types of Sabbatical — Which One is Right for You?

There may only be one way to have a meaningful sabbatical: forget all the rules. Except for one: a sabbatical should respond to your needs.

4 Myths Surrounding Sabbaticals

Some common myths shape how we think about the right way to do a sabbatical. They often cloud our judgment in our search for what we actually want to get out of our time off.

Myth 1: If You’re not Burnt Out, You Don’t Deserve It

Many people experience a sense of guilt before taking the leap and embarking on a career break. One deeply ingrained belief is that you have to be completely burnt out before taking some time out. A common fear among high-achievers and driven professionals is that pressing pause would demonstrate weakness unless they feel completely overwhelmed.

Myth 2: It’s Either too Late or too Early to Take a Break

There are two generally accepted ways to take a sabbatical: either between high school and college or after at least 7 years of work experience. Anything in between can bring with it a sense of dread. The feeling that the timing may not be right is common among those who are somewhere in between.

Myth 3: You Have to Travel to Far Away Lands

A very pervasive image of the perfect sabbatical is one that includes traveling as far from home as possible. We often picture either extreme adventures or volunteering experiences in exotic settings. Yet, traveling may not always be the answer to our quest for purpose. It could even be a way to avoid confronting our deeper problems.

Myth 4: You Need to Over Justify Yourself

Employees who decide to take a sabbatical — whether paid, unpaid or after quitting their job — tend to worry about how they will explain themselves to others. A lot of anxiety can start to build up when creating scenarios about how to best explain yourself. Although a discussion with your manager is necessary to articulate your circumstances, over-justification is not.

4 Types of Sabbatical, According to Needs

There may only be one way to have a clear mind before taking a sabbatical: forget all the rules and social norms. Except for one rule: your sabbatical should respond to your actual needs.

Type 1: The ‘Experience’ Sabbatical

You need to: Travel, Do Something New

This type of sabbatical responds to the need to change up routines and habits. It’s a match when you feel like you want to amass new experiences outside of your comfort zone. Whether it’s visiting new places or simply engaging in new activities at home, it can shake up your life and excite your soul. The downside? You will still come back to your normal life once it’s done. The ‘experience’ sabbatical is not a catalyst for change by itself but can give you a fresh outlook on life.

Type 2: The ‘Recharge’ Sabbatical

You need to: Rest, Reconnect with yourself

There is another powerful reason to take a break, one that is perhaps harder to admit: you simply need to rest. It is perhaps one of the most personal types of sabbatical. This type of break is suited to those who feel that their minds and bodies are not in sync or are simply burnt out. Its primary purpose should be to allow you to enjoy a larger dose of freedom than usual.

Type 3: The ‘Learn’ Sabbatical

You need to: Build new Skills, Improve

There may be another urge pushing you to take a sabbatical: personal or professional development. You can be perfectly happy at work and also want to invest time in learning. This sabbatical is a great opportunity to really test your mental abilities and grow. It can provide you with genuinely uninterrupted time to dive into a subject in-depth, far away from your hectic work life. Ultimately, it can also serve as an investment for career advancement.

Type 4: The ‘Change’ Sabbatical

You need to: Find a new path, change your life

Last but not least, this is a fundamental reason to take a sabbatical: you need time off to reflect on the meaning of life and your direction. Many people believe that the ‘Experience’ sabbatical will open the door to revelations about what they should do with their lives. In fact, the ‘Change’ sabbatical may be better spent testing different work opportunities, networking and doing some serious introspection.

Acknowledging your needs before embarking on a sabbatical will allow you to emerge on the other side fulfilled. The ‘perfect’ sabbatical can often respond to a different set of needs. It might even be a mix of these four types of sabbatical. There is no one recipe and certainly no one right way of doing things.


I am a coach and trusted advisor to driven and gifted people who feel there’s an inkling of rebellion in them. I help them create more fulfilment and reduce stress in their work and careers, on their terms. You can sign up to The Sunday Question, my weekly invitation for introspection and action, here: https://www.anisiabucur.com/sign-up/

Coach — Career and Work Transformation | PhD Researcher | Facilitator

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