Why I’m taking a mid-career sabbatical

Outskirts of Ubud, Bali 2015

“Let’s trade a year of our retirement for 2018,” said Ben. We’d been toying with the idea for years, but he was giving it a time-frame, making it concrete. Initially, my stomach clenched at the thought, but I took a deep breath and said yes.

Ben and I have long described ourselves as ‘location-agnostic’, but in the truest sense of that term, we won’t really be location-agnostic until 2018. Up until now, it has meant that with no children and no mortgage, our lives are relatively portable. Yes, we will always have the hoops of immigration laws to jump through – he is American and I’m an Australian with a soon-to-be-much-less-useful British passport – but we have already lived together on two continents, and next year we’ll add two more.

What is the plan? In 2018, we will travel to several destinations where we will stay for 1-3 months, unpack, live like locals as much as possible, and essentially be location-agnostic. First stop, mother nature permitting, is Bali. We will be staying at ROAM, a co-living space designed for digital nomads – another moniker we’ll be trying on for size.

After a couple of months in Bali (a once-renewed visitor’s visa gives us a maximum of 60 days in Indonesia), we will head to the US and Canada. I get 90 days in the US, including any hops out and back in to Mexico or Canada, so we will spend a few weeks visiting family and friends, and then a significant amount of time living by the lake at the family’s cabin. After the US is England, with travel to Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. And we’ll likely finish out the year with a few months in Portugal, or somewhere equally beautiful and affordable in Europe.

What will we be doing? We both have some contract work lined up, mine in writing and editing, and Ben’s in mobile app development, but the aim is to make time each day and week to immerse ourselves in our surroundings, to go, see, do and experience. Importantly, I will write for myself – first the sequel to the novel I just published and then other ideas that have been percolating for (it seems like) eons. And of course, there are the people – people we know and love who are scattered all over the world, and the people we haven’t met yet, ex-pats like us, friends of friends, locals. We’ll take photos and write, and share our year. We’ll embrace opportunities as they arise, promising ourselves to say yes more than we say no.

Why are we doing this? The simplest response – which is both contemplative and realistic – is that ‘life is short’. The more complex response involves the label we have long self-identified with. Will we actually want to live a location-agnostic life long-term? Are we going to retire in 10 years, sell off our possessions, and flit about the world being ‘homeless’? Can ‘home’ really be wherever we lay our respective hats and/or suitcases?

We will see.

How are we preparing? With lots of research, lists, and spreadsheets. Between us, we are figuring out what to store and what to sell, what phones we will use, what insurance we should buy, how we can maximise our collective frequent flier points on 6 airlines and across 4 continents, who is prepared to put up with us for a night or 3 or 8, and other fun logistics. We’ll be frugal when we can, so we can go, see, do, and experience as much as possible. We’re teeing up contract work, and making professional connections. We’re buying lightweight travel versions of things. We’re only packing clothes that go with everything else we’re packing. We’re shipping winter clothes and boots to England. We’re busy!

What do we hope for? I will only speak for myself here. I am hoping that time will start to slow, that the creative juices will flow, that I will take (better) care of myself, that I will relish the time with Ben and other loved ones, that I will embark on new friendships, that I will embrace challenges and adventures, and that I will get less attached to things and routines.

And in 2019? Again, we’ll see…


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