Sabbatical Stories

Carol-Ann’s 2-Year Sabbatical

Living a three-dimensional life!

I don’t have all the answers but I have clarity about what’s important in my life, and things that excite and inspire me. Living an intentionally three dimensional life, seem entirely possible.

carol-ann's transformative sabbatical saw her investing in her creativity

Every 5 to 7 years, David and I aim to take a sabbatical together. Previously they’ve been a few months off between relocating countries, or 6 months to explore the world. Right now (Mar 2023), we’re at the tail end of our longest Sabbatical yet: two years.

2020 was a difficult year for many people. And it was the perfect storm at work. I was on the management team, leading creatives through a particularly difficult business transition. I was always ON, jumping from one thing to the next, and watching the To Do list grow exponentially. Working ridiculous hours until one day I realised, there was no more of my life left for the job to push into. It was both physically and mentally draining.

I recognised the signs: I needed a break. But it still took 3 months before I drummed up the courage to resign, and then another 3 months of handover before I could extract myself from the business.

Our original plan was no more complicated than to spend 6 months exploring the South East Coast of Australia, and 6 months to focus full-time on our personal creative projects (landscape painting for me, writing an experimental album for David).

We bought a 4WD and Mountain Bikes, loaded the car with our portable painting and music studios, and hit the road in Dec 2020. We travelled slowly, staying in a place for weeks at a time. Days were spent outdoor as much as possible, being physically active, indulging in our personal creative projects, and eating well. I managed to keep a keep a travel blog for the first 6 months.

The most profound benefit was having the time to reflect on what’s next in our life. During long hikes through the wilderness, we asked ourselves questions like “What does living an extraordinary life look like, now?” “How do we want to spend the next phase of life?” “If we could live anywhere, and do anything, what would it be?”

We fell into embracing ambiguity when we found ourself caught up in state boarder closures, and regional lockdowns in Victoria. By the time we had planned to return home, the city was in lockdown. We decided to keep traveling to areas away from popular tourist areas, stayed on farms, and focused on our personal projects.

Traveling slowly is completely sustainable — I couldn’t imagine ever tiring of this life. Now it was a question of how long could we afford to live like this? Over the year we had gradually cut down on all unnecessary spending. It’s amazing how much stuff we just don’t need. If living simply and frugally meant we could stay away longer, we embraced it with both hands.

Standing now on the other side of this epic adventure, I know we don’t have all the answers but I have so much more confidence about what’s important for a fulfilling, three dimensional life. I have the energy to embrace and thrive through the next phase of life.

I feel like a complete and whole person: fitter, healthier, more centred, energised and inspired.

Activities you engaged in during your sabbatical as possible:

  • Physical activities: Mountain biking, trail running, hiking, roller skating, ocean swimming, yoga.
  • Creative activities: Oil painting both in the field and in studio, watercolour sketching; landscape photography, travel writing, learnt to bake sourdough.
  • Thoughtful activities: reflected on what’s important in life, imagined what an extraordinary life means to us now; read loads of books, practiced mindfulness and eating clean.
  • Social activities: spent time with aging parents and the family, caught up with old friends, and made more new friends than I ever imagined possible.
carol-ann on her transformative sabbatical

How long was your sabbatical (in weeks)?

How would you rate the experience of taking a sabbatical?
One of the best times of my life

What were you most concerned about when contemplating a sabbatical?
Money – it’ll cost too much!

Did HOW you work change at all, post-sabbatical?
Went from full time to part time

What kind of work did you return to?
Different company, similar role

Describe any changes you made in your life post-sabbatical:
Post Sabbatical, I am disengaging the auto-pilot setting on my career, and taking a strategic approach to finding the right next step. Also we have moved out of the city (Sydney) and are moving to Regional Victoria.

Why do you think others should (or shouldn’t) take sabbaticals? Are there occasions in life where it’s particularly helpful?

Do it! If you are able to embrace it with both hands, it will undoubtedly be one of the best experiences of your life.

When you can experience your life in the absence of stress, when you disengage auto-pilot, there is an opportunity to be the best version of yourself and to live your life intentionally.

Sabbaticals need only last as long as it takes to completely decompress from your career/ or life pressures, which takes a good few months, depending on the state you’re in when you step back. So don’t leave it too late: recognise the signs early and start planning.

You can connect with Carol-Ann Pickvance on LinkedIn, Instagram, or check out her travel blog!

Looking to read more stories of sabbaticals that ran over a year? Check out Sarah’s story.

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