Why Travel Isn’t The Focus of My One Year Sabbatical.

March 5, 2020

Posted in  Funemployment, Thoughts

When I first started sharing my plan to take one year off from work, many people immediately assumed it was in order to travel the world.

Why is it the dream to travel the world?

I’m the first to admit that it used to be my own dream to travel the world without a care.

Travel is one of those things that I’ve never really questioned the value of.

No matter the context or costs, surely travel is always worth it!

One can never have too much travel.

There’s just so much world to see!

At the top, and still can’t see all of the Amazon!

However, it’s also true that just “seeing” is not sufficient to make any real difference to my life if I’m not fully engaged. 

How many times have I “seen” my Chinese textbook and still gotten 0 on the test?

Overtime, I’ve come to realise that this notion of the globe-trotter is overly idealised.

Too often we hear that “travel is the only thing you spend on that makes you richer”.

I’m not sure that’s really the case.

Is spending on travel necessarily always an investment?

By investment, I mean this spending gives returns.

Like a house that increases in value over time and generates monthly income in rent.

By expense, I mean the opposite: you don’t get returns.

Like a car, which costs monthly insurance and petrol, and is sold at a loss when it’s time to scrap it.

I don’t think all travel is equal.

I think there are indeed cases when spending on travel is just that: an expense or a distraction, not an investment.

Travel is most meaningful for me when my perspective’s broadened.

And I don’t mean broadened in terms of duty-free shopping or number of bucket-list photos accumulated.

I mean:

  • Have I landed on a new insight?
  • Have I been challenged?
  • Have I picked up a new skill?
  • Somehow or other, am I not the same Sonia as a result?

And while yes I am constantly packing my bags and leaving on a jet plane, I’m actually of the opinion that travel is not always an investment.

Sometimes when I travel, I’m not as present or as engaged as I should be to make the most out of it.

Truth be told, sometimes I don’t need to leave home to have my perspective broadened.

Had some harpy times learning Eidelweiss in Singapore!

I’m not saying there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to travel.

I believe there is a time and place for all kinds of travel.

I just think it’s helpful to be honest with myself:

“What am I hoping to get out of this travel?”

“Is it aligned with my objectives?”

“Is it an expense, or an investment?”

It is so easy to get caught up in wanderlust (and trust me, the lust is strong), but at this point in time, travel for the sake of travel would be an enormous expense during my one year with limited funds.

I simply can’t afford it.

I’ve had to recognise that this one year is centered on learning and reflection.

Travel is a facilitator, not a focus.

Travel, in order to be an investment, has to be aligned with this objective.

Traveling this way is quite different for me.

I’ve always tended to just go where ever I felt like, the destination itself was the goal.

I would have an action-packed itinerary to maximize my time, often ending up exhausted and needing a second holiday to recover from my holiday. (Who else can relate!?)

I also often did things that were “number 1 on TripAdvisor” but in reality, I didn’t really care for.

I’ve started asking myself, where am I going and for what?

I find myself

  • Slowing down.
  • Being more mindful when I consider my travel plans.
  • Saying no to a crazy-packed itinerary. (not easy!)
  • Learning to be ok with discomfort, as growth opportunities often are. 

For example, I’ll be heading to Bali April to attend vegan cooking classes.

The schools and programs were superior and cheaper compared to what I’ve found in Singapore. It just makes more sense.

I’ve decided to spend a month there to take it slow, and with this focus in mind, I’ve had to say no to distractions.

Surfing, massages and trekking are all very nice… but would take time, energy and funds away from my objective.

Who knew a mindful travel itinerary, even though mine is pretty sparse, would be so difficult to put together!

It’s been important to apply the question “Expense or investment?” even to a longtime love of mine like travel.

I’ve never actually questioned the value of traveling until recently.

It’s helped me be honest with myself, and make sure I’m truly investing my limited resources towards returns in what I’m seeking.

What about you?

What makes travel meaningful for you?

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