Have you ever taken a sabbatical? Oh man, I love sabbatical. That was the best side benefit at my old job. Intel gave us 8 weeks of paid leave for every 7 years of full-time work. That timing was perfect. After 7 years of engineering, I was bored and stressed out. That’s a dangerous combo. The sabbaticals gave me much-needed downtime and I came back refreshed. Well, not really. I’ll go into detail a little bit later.
Recently, I heard that Intel modified this sabbatical policy since I quit my engineering career in 2012. I generally avoid Intel news so I haven’t looked into the new policy. It doesn’t affect my life so why should I spend time on it.
Today, I’m writing about taking a sabbatical because I’m way overdue for one. The last time I took a sabbatical was in 2011. Since then, I’ve become a SAHD/blogger and life is much less stressful. However, I still want a sabbatical, especially now that the stress has ratcheted up due to a big adversity. It’d be great to get away for a bit. I haven’t been sleeping well lately and I know that’s a sign of stress.
*Update* An Intel reader told me that employee has the option to take a 4-week sabbatical after 4 years. It’s just another option. This is actually really good. I like this change. It gives the employee more flexibility.
Okay, I’ll share what I did on my previous sabbaticals and then figure out the next one.
First Sabbatical in 2003
I started working in 1996 and stayed with the same employer until I quit in 2012. My first sabbatical was in 2003. It was a stressful time at work. My team was working on a new computer chip and the management really wanted all hands on deck. I decided to say “no thanks” to the management and took my sabbatical anyway. Now that I look back, this probably was the first crack in my engineering career.
At the time, I was a newly minted “team lead” to 3 junior engineers. One was a lazy bastard who just wanted to milk the paycheck. Granted he contracted malaria when he went to India, but man he dragged the whole team down. The next one was a straight lace engineer who couldn’t think for himself. The last one was a good engineer, but he was looking for a new job so he wasn’t committed. I was completely stressed out and had zero support from my manager.
This little “team lead” position was the worst. I had more responsibilities and absolutely no authority at all. The junior guys didn’t listen to me and I couldn’t convince them to do what I want. Of course, it’s not all other people’s fault. I’m not a good leader. That’s why I love self-employment. I don’t have to tell anyone what to do and nobody tells me what to do. That’s perfect in my book.
Anyway, I decided to take my well-earned PAID sabbatical and get away from it all. Hah! Take that.
I took the sabbatical and all my vacation at once. That was 11 weeks off in total. Hmmm, nice…
Mrs. RB40 and I went backpacking in Europe for 7 weeks. After that, I went to visit my family in Thailand for 3 weeks. Back then, travel hacking wasn’t a thing so we had to pay for everything out of pocket. It was expensive, but it was worth it.
Here is our route.
This was our first time backpacking and we had a terrific time, for the most part. Unfortunately, Mrs. RB40 got sick and we had to make some changes to our itinerary. We had to cut out Portugal and Southern Italy to make the trip a little easier.
The trip was a great getaway. I cut off all contact with work and was able to relax completely.
We loved London for the theaters and free museums. Paris had freshly baked baguettes twice per day and lovely cheeses. Bruges was cute and we had the best frites ever there. Spain was really nice too. We loved Grenada and Seville for the great food and old-time vibes. Italy was our favorite country, though. The food was awesome and there were so many things to see. We relaxed in Cinque Terra and spent a few days in Venice. Venice was magical at night. Try to stay a night or two in town if you ever visit. It’s overrun with tourists in the daytime.
After Europe, Mrs. RB40 came home to nurse herself back to health. Luckily, her dad was able to visit and help her out. I continued on my sabbatical alone and went to see families in Thailand for 3 weeks.
Whew! I crammed a lot into that first sabbatical. I was 29 and could endure that kind of grueling schedule. It was awesome. I was refreshed and ready to work when I got back. The management didn’t like that I didn’t toe the line, though. I was on their shit list and I found a new job soon after. It was an internal transfer. Hey, if you don’t like engineers taking a sabbatical, then don’t make it a policy.
*Sorry about the swear word. They tend to come out whenever I think about Intel.
Second Sabbatical in 2011
The second sabbatical was much simpler. I took 11 weeks off to take care of RB40Jr when he was born. Mrs. RB40 took a 3-month maternity leave and I scheduled my sabbatical to overlap a bit. This second sabbatical was great. Those few relaxing days with 3 of us at home were the happiest days of my life. We didn’t do much, but this second sabbatical was just as great as the first one. That’s when I knew I can handle being a stay-at-home dad/blogger. This was a short test run for my early retirement.
Here is a picture of RB40Jr’s first day at home.
FMLA in 2012
Oh, I almost forgot about the medical leave of absence in 2012. I went back to work after my second sabbatical, but I wasn’t refreshed at all. At that point, I no longer enjoyed being an engineer and I wanted out. Doing a good job with that state of mind is pretty much impossible. I just did the minimal to slide by. My physical and mental health declined sharply and the doctor ordered me to take a 3-month medical leave of *absence. Thank goodness.
The FMLA was awesome. I had short-term disability coverage so I still had some income. The doctor made me attend several talk therapy sessions and they helped a bit. Talking it out solidify my plan to retire early. I gave my two-week notice when I went back. Yes! I escaped!
*A word of caution about the FMLA. I wouldn’t take it if you plan to stay at the same company. I knew a few people who took an FMLA and they never lasted long afterward.
Next Sabbatical in 2019
It’s been 7 years and I need another sabbatical. You’re probably wondering why I need a sabbatical when I’m retired. Well, everyone needs to recharge once in a while. Seven years is just long enough for anyone to get bored doing anything. I’ve been having some trouble with writing lately. It’s getting more difficult to come up with the next topic after 8 years of blogging. There are 1,245 1,246 posts on Retire by 40! Sometimes, I think I’ve written about every topic already. I need a sabbatical to get my mojo back.
That’s why I’m planning to take the next summer off. Actually, I took it very easy this past summer and it was really great. I spent a lot of time with Junior and we had a lot of fun. Next summer, we’ll head to Thailand for 3 months and I’ll cut way back on blogging. Well, I guess I can’t step away completely. The blog isn’t going to run itself. I’ll probably cut the posting frequency down to once per week and mostly rewrite the old posts. My target is to reduce the working time to just 10 hours per week. I’ll be busy helping my mom adjust to living in Thailand anyway. I probably won’t have much time to write new posts. We’ll just have to see how it goes.
Okay, that’s it for today. Have you taken a sabbatical? Did it recharged your battery or pushed you over the edge?
Image by Arthur Yeti