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  • Writer's pictureAmii Barnard-Bahn

How can you Give yourself a Break?

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Télouet Kasbah in the High Atlas Mountains, en route from the Sahara to Marrakech, May 2023


Hi friends!

Do you ever wonder whether you’re serving your highest purpose? Do you think about how you’ll spend that extra parenting time when your kids leave home? Do you like who you’re becoming?

These are questions that started whispering to me sometime last year. And I knew I didn’t have ready answers. These are core to who I am, and I deserve time to reflect on them. I needed to create distance to allow me to be a more objective observer of my life.

In October 2022 I decided to listen. I bought a one-way ticket to Seville, Spain, where my oldest daughter would be spending her semester abroad. I’d leave in late March 2023 with my husband and younger daughter, and they’d come back about 10 days later, when her holiday break ended. I decided to stay flexible and hold off on planning my return.

I’d been dreaming of taking extended time off and working remote ever since leaving my corporate career and starting my own business about six years ago. Kicking off the trip with my husband and daughters was the perfect rationale to get me to make the leap.

So in case you’ve been having the same daydream and deferring, I’d like to inspire you to think about how you can design a getaway that works for your life, family, and gives you the insight and adventure you may be craving.

Here are some design guidelines that worked for me:

Articulate your intention and desired outcome. Sabbaticals take many forms and can be whatever you need them to be. This time around, I defined a sabbatical as an extended, planned break taken from my work/life routine, accompanied by a specific intention and earned outcome.

Think about where you are. What do you need more of in your life? (If you don’t know, that’s another reason for a sabbatical!) What life stage are you in? Do you need to process a challenging life event, such as death of a parent, divorce, or think about a career transition?

I intended to seek solitude, connection, adventure, insight, contentment, and inspiration. Now in my mid-50s, I wanted the outcome to be a renewed sense of self and family, and affirmation on how I am spending my time and contributing in the world. I knew if I got away from my day-to-day and had a period of time alone to write, read, and reflect, I could achieve the outcome.

Choose an aligned environment. Do you want total solitude, or would you get lonely? Do you have dietary or physical boundaries to integrate? How do you want to spend your time — hiking, relaxing on the beach, or going to view artistic masterpieces (or all of the above)? Consider transit needs and whether this would conflict with your desired outcomes (for example, if you want to chillax on the beach, you want to find a suitable rental nearby to maximize down time).

I wanted to be in a foreign country (where I didn’t speak the language) to break with my routine surroundings. I wanted simplicity — no car, a walkable city — and plenty of beauty, artistic and historical inspiration. I wanted to be in awe every day. I wanted a nightlife brimming with cafes, good restaurants, and some entertainment options. I wanted a reasonable level of safety without harassment if I was walking around at night alone (and likely occasionally getting lost). With these requirements, an historic city of moderate size and a sizable local and tourist population worked well.

Plan your timing and funding. When can you take time off? Consider business cycles, child and elder care, and non-negotiable commitments.

I looked at the calendar, and spring break was coming up for my youngest daughter. School closure was a logical kickoff for the trip and we could all go together for the first week to 10 days. Given my goals, four weeks seemed like the minimum amount of time away. This meant I would need to incorporate some level of client work into my sabbatical in order to meet commitments.

About four months ahead, I conducted a client progress check on all of my files. I checked the time zone difference and realized I could coach in my early evening hours (my client’s morning) for three days/week during the middle two weeks of my trip. I created a private calendar for my current clients and booked coaching appointments. I declined or pushed off all new work until my return, unless I could get it done before departure. Re: funding my break, I started putting off discretionary purchases, saving up for the trip instead. I had been hoarding miles from business travel, and double checked my accounts.

The bonus

I mentioned earlier that I‘d bought a one-way ticket. By the time I’d done all the planning for four weeks away, I realized I could add a couple more weeks. I got a wild hare. I texted my best friend from grad school, “Want to to go Morocco in April?” The adventure was ON.

Prepare ahead of time for your return. No one likes to be crushed with work when they return from an awesome break. Anticipate deliverables, set up meetings you know you’ll need, and communicate with stakeholders to negotiate deadlines. Set boundaries that are reasonable for you — for example, you may decide to take a few key phone calls or meetings to keep things humming on the home front. You may decide to check email every three days, and ignore social media. You design what works for you, and you can pivot. The work you put in before you leave can ensure a softer landing when you return.

Planning the impossible

A sabbatical may seem out of reach to you right now. Whether you have young kids, have started a new job, are the primary breadwinner with kids starting college, or any other number of myriad real-life barriers, I get it. Aside from mini-breaks of a few days here and there, I waited six years to do this. And since I’d been fantasizing about it for so long, I was ready when I saw the window of opportunity. Do the same for yourself. You receive double the joy with anticipation — excitement during the planning and waiting, and then such happiness when the day arrives.

Business stuff

Before I left on sabbatical, I wrote these two pieces you may find helpful:

To your success and fulfillment!


PS A shout-out to my exceptional Moroccan tour guide, Khadijah Benbourahel. With 30 years of tour and travel experience, she a multi-lingual expert, is deeply connected throughout the country, and passionate about preserving traditional handicrafts and empowering women’s cooperatives. Highly recommend. ➡️ Morocco Private Experience

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