I went from a burnt out software engineer to an invigorated entrepreneur building a financial planning practice to help others take sabbaticals and quit their jobs.
My break changed my life. It taught me how little I could survive on and caused me to re-evaluate my Silicon Valley lifestyle. It opened my eyes to new ways of being and working filled with balance, time off, and unstructured time to explore my various passions.
I recall reading the 4-Hour Workweek back in 2008 and being inspired by the potential for a life filled with vagabonding and mini-retirements. I knew geographic flexibility was something I wanted in life, so I chose to pursue a masters degree in computer science figuring this would be one of the best fields to achieve this.
As I settled into my first role at a tech startup, there was buzz of us IPOing in 2-3 years. Visions of a huge windfall danced in my head, and I figured this could provide for my first mini-retirement from which I would then figure out my next career move.
Several years later, the talk of IPOing in 2-3 years faded away. I had become “comfortable” in my job which had an admittedly awesome schedule, but was growing increasingly disconnected both from the mission of the company and my day-to-day work within it.
Between dissatisfaction in my career and tremendous upheaval in my personal life, in late 2018/early 2019 I began to dwell on thoughts of ending my own life. I would never have pulled the trigger because I didn’t want to hurt people I cared about. I remember writing: “living not to hurt others… that’s no way to live!”
I was not wrong… I engaged in a thought experiment: “What if I were to withdraw my 401(k) balance, quit my job, and travel the world? Would I want to live if I had funds to do the things I want to do?” Now, I wasn’t actually going to do this, but engaging in this thought experiment made me realize that I wasn’t just completely hopeless but that I needed to make a change in my life if I wanted to live a life that I found fulfilling.
I struggled with the voices of my parents and other authority figures echoing in my head: “you can’t quit your job without another one lined up”. I countered internally with a “but what if I saved up a buffer of over a year/year and a half’s worth of expenses”? So towards the end of 2019 I hatched a plan to achieve this… while taking my job remote to start living a life that excited me. So I set forth devising a plan to travel the country by van while saving money vs. my lifestyle expenses living in Silicon Valley.
I took my job remote on March 1st, 2020. As you might know, some major changes were about to happen in the world! While the structure of my plan had to change quite a bit (for starters, I had planned my travels around 3 events, which were all canceled), I ended up being able to execute on my core objectives of saving money and traveling.
I ended up spending far more time in the wilderness than I had anticipated vs. my original plan which coincided with a growing love of astronomy and astrophotography. I hadn’t really been a big “nature guy” before, but this was one of the major changes that took place throughout my time off. I fell in love with dispersed camping, National Parks, and discovering petroglyphs in the desert.
My time off was profoundly healing, restorative, inspiring, and it made me re-think what is possible in my life. While I look to possibly be “settling down” for a little bit soon, I continually find myself tapping into memories of my experience and re-integrating the perspectives I gained through it into my life as I build my new business and face the temptations to throw myself completely into work.
Activities you engaged in during your sabbatical:
During my time off, I spent a lot of time:
• Traveling the country in my minivan in search of my next home base
• Walking outside
• Resting and recovering
• Playing ukulele
• Visiting my grandma literally minutes before she passed
• Dispersed camping
• Learning about various flora and fauna around the country
• Going to the gym
• Reading books
• Singing along to catchy tunes while road-tripping
• Visiting friends and family around the country
• Stargazing and doing astrophotography
• Visiting National Parks
• Helping friends with their financial journeys
• Taking the Certified Financial Planner coursework and exam
• Launching a financial planning practice
• Joining study groups and masterminds
How long was your sabbatical (in weeks)?
What were you most concerned about when contemplating a sabbatical?
Money – it’ll cost too much!
Optics – what will colleagues, friends and family think of me?!
Responsibilities – how can I afford the mortgage/take care of my family?
Did HOW you work change at all, post-sabbatical?
Went from company employed to self-employed
Describe any changes you made in your life post-sabbatical:
My life has changed tremendously since my sabbatical. I’ve changed careers entirely. I’ve brought back daily habits like walking outside and going to the gym that I had neglected over the years. I now set more intentional boundaries between work and life and more consciously prioritize connection with others instead of filling all my time with work.
How did your sabbatical experience change the way you thought about your employer?
My break helped me both see some of the toxic elements of my former employer and the ways in which I contributed to my own unhappiness there.
Why do you think others should (or shouldn’t) take sabbaticals? Are there occasions in life where it’s particularly helpful?
Sabbaticals are wonderful opportunities to learn a different way of being and to sample a little bit of what it’s like to retire. They can also serve as powerful catalysts for major changes in life, such as making a career pivot or relocation.
You can connect with Andy Moran here.
Interested in more career-change sabbatical stories? Check out Rainer’s story.