Why Taking a Sabbatical Was The Best Money I Ever Spent

INSIDE: Considering planning a sabbatical? It just might be the best decision you’ve ever made. Find out why it was for me and how to plan yours.

[Hi guys! Have a great article today by special guest, Lisa Hoashi – fellow blogger, adventurer, and now awesome life coach. If you’re looking for new ways to take control of your life, this could be one of them! Hope it inspires you!]

The scariest part of taking a sabbatical was, of course, about money.

I know I’m not alone in this because I regularly meet people who hear my story and say, “I would love to take a year to travel.” Their eyes glaze over as they imagine trekking in Nepal, beaches in Bali, a Kenya safari. Then they glance back at me. “But I could never do it,” they say.

“Why not?” I ask. I figure that if I could do it, they could too.

“Where would I get the money?” they say. “Plus, I could never quit my job.”

I get that. That’s what I thought too.

Why I took a sabbatical year

Since I was a kid, I dreamed of growing up to be a traveler and adventurer. Somehow, life had gotten in the way of that person I’d dreamed of being, despite having made some good progress.

I had a good life: I lived in beautiful Portland, Oregon; I had wonderful friends and family; and I loved my job and had a good salary. Yet a small voice inside nagged me, saying that this wasn’t exactly the life I’d dreamed of. I was headed toward a corporate career. I was working a lot and stressed. I was still single, when I wanted a family of my own.

I’d gotten off track.

In early 2010, I had hired a life coach for six months. We talked a lot about what I truly wanted out of life. She asked me to plot my dreams on a timeline. I saw I had limited time to make them happen.

I’d have to take bold action if I really wanted to go after my travel dream.

Taking a big leap, deliberately

oregon painted hills
[Oregon’s Painted Hills]

I was in my early 30s. After more than a decade of hard work, I was going to halt my successful career so I could travel the world like a free-spirited 20-year-old.

This was crazy.

Unlike a 20-something, it felt like I had a lot more to lose.

I was committed to this dream though. It was clearly not going away.

In the end, what helped me most when I was planning a sabbatical was the fact that I’m a practical idealist. I love cooking up creative, big ideas, and I also know they’re not worth a damn if they can’t be put into action.

So here’s what I did:

#1. I gave myself permission to dream

What would I do with a whole year of free time? To my surprise, my list was basically everything I’d told myself I’d do if only I had more time. Including:

  • Bucket list stuff like a week long solo backpacking trip and crossing the ocean in a sailboat
  • Visits to friends and family in the U.S. and Chile
  • Travel to Mexico, South America, Japan and SE Asia
  • Improving my skills in Spanish, the outdoors, and writing

#2. I reality-checked my dreams

I took stock of all the money I had, using mint.com and a basic spreadsheet.

I priced all my ideas. I got quotes for airline tickets and itineraries. I investigated language schools, sailing and wilderness survival courses, and organizations like WWOOF and Couchsurfing. I looked up recommended travel budgets for all the countries I wanted to visit. I checked travel insurance and storage unit costs.

#3. I started to make decisions

Decision #1: How much money will I allow myself to spend?

I had seriously saved money for about five years. I’d worked hard at my job, negotiated promotions and lived frugally (cheap rent was key).

I had $30,000 in cash savings. It was interesting to notice that this was what I’d want to save for a down payment on a home. Hmm.

I decided I really didn’t believe in spending so much money on a year off. So instead I settled on what someone might spend on a new economy car: $17,000.

So I was giving up a Ford Focus for a year to do whatever I wanted. That seemed reasonable.

Dividing $17,000 across a year gave me a daily budget of just under $50 per day. Could I enjoy myself on $50 a day? I knew from travels to Mexico and Thailand that I easily could.

Decision #2: What would I have to give up?

I made a budget spreadsheet, broken into months. It was immediately clear that some things were too expensive. Japan and the sailing course would have to wait.

Travel in South America was a shoo-in. One could travel on $25-30 per day in many countries.

If I saved money in some months, I could splurge in others.

This step didn’t take much time. It felt like my ideas were snapping into place.

Where I stalled was giving notice at work. The Point of No Return. I worried about finding another job I loved so much. As reassurance, I:

  1. Updated my résumé and looked at jobs I might want to apply for when I got back. For positions where I needed additional skills, I thought of ways to get those during my sabbatical.
  2. Met with my professional mentors to ask their advice. One of my mentors especially boosted my confidence. She told me that: 1) I was crazy to think no one would hire me again, and 2) To go now, before I missed the chance!
  3. Set aside a chunk of cash as my “New Life Startup Fund.” I didn’t know where I would land after one year. I’d give up my rented apartment and most of my possessions to save on storage costs. I decided to quit my job rather than take a leave of absence, because I wanted to be open about my next job.

My openness to the future was exciting, and terrifying.

To create a safety net for myself, I imagined that a likely end-of-sabbatical scenario would be that I would return to Portland and look for a job. I hoped I could find a job in four months. So I multiplied my normal monthly spending in Portland by four.

This was the amount I set aside for my “New Life Startup Fund.”

My money plan in action!

lisa hoashi & manel
[At the top of Pedraforca mountain in Catalonia]

In May 2013, at age 34, I quit my job and set out on the yearlong sabbatical. Here’s what happened with my money.

  1. I started spending it. The first leg of my trip was in the U.S., so although I was camping and backpacking, and my friends and family were letting me store my stuff in their basement, sleep on their sofas, and treating me to beers – it was expensive. I overspent. Every time I pulled out my wallet I felt a flash of anxiety. I had no job. Yikes.
  2. I started getting used to it. I really hit my stride when, four months later, I chucked my careful planning and budget, and caught a flight to Europe. One of my best friends had invited me to join her in the south of France. We went camping in Provence. Awesome.

Happy, I continued on solo to Italy and Spain. I Couchsurfed for the first time and loved it for meeting locals and saving money. At the height of carefree spontaneity, I ended up on a farm north of Barcelona and fell in love with a Catalan farmer.

  1. Falling in love was excellent for saving money! At first, I blew a fair amount of money changing my travel plans to be with my Catalan, but then lived cheaply (and blissfully) on the farm until my tourist visa for Europe expired.
  2. I got better at living cheaper. Exiled from Europe, I doled out another $650 for a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires and the real penny-pinching began. In northern Patagonia, I met a 23-year-old German traveler with an audacious idea: hitchhike to the end of Chile’s Carretera Austral, cross into Argentina and trek around Torres del Paine. She was the perfect travel buddy. Our daily budget was $20 each (although she complained this was too much). We traveled two months together and had the time of our lives.

Many events followed, but these are the key moments of my sabbatical money story.

Basically what happened was this:

The more time passed and the less money I had, the more comfortable I was. I knew that planning a sabbatical was the right thing for me.

Being frugal is a skill you can hone. Plus, once out on the road, I met many people on much longer adventures, on much less money.

There were hard parts of course. At first, a lot of fear and anxiety. I had to get used to “roughing it”, especially on long stretches of hitchhiking, no showers, and too many cheese sandwiches.

Self-comparison could mess with my head too. I’d meet up with an old friend in the city and notice that my shoes or my jeans were looking shabby. I had to admit I was different now. I had spent an entire year living out of a backpack.

The payoff was incalculable though. I had abundant time to reflect on what mattered to me most. I soaked up beauty in wild places. I regained fluency in Spanish. I met wonderful, inspiring people. I had fun. I had adventure.

The big finish

camping patagonia
[A campsite in Patagonia, when we crossed from Chile to Argentina]

In April 2014, with just a month left in my sabbatical year, I picked up my Catalan farmer at the Portland airport, and we set off with a month-long road trip of my home state.

I knew that at the end of the month, I had some big decisions. Where would I live? What would I do for work?

Despite such big unknowns, I was certain about one thing: I was proud of how I’d managed my money. I was going to come in under my $17,000 budget for the year. (In the end, the 12-month total was $15,900.)

This meant I had a well-padded “New Life Startup Fund” and could make my decisions without stress or undue pressure. Plus, I now knew that if I needed to live on $20 a day, I could.

The day after we summited Mt. Hood – an item off Manel’s bucket list – I told him that I’d move to Spain to be with him. I knew we made an awesome team, and I wanted to start planning our future.

A week later, sunbathing next to a river in the Olympic National Forest, Manel interrupted my lazy bliss by asking pointedly, “Are you sure you want to look for another communications job? Wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity to start your own business?”

His question swung open a door inside me. I did have an idea.

I wanted to be a life coach and work with others who also knew they had to make a change in their lives in order to stay true to themselves. It didn’t matter what the change was – whether it was about work, lifestyle, home, community, mindset, or a sabbatical – just as long as they were committed.

What to do if you’re considering planning a sabbatical

french valley mirado
[The French Valley Mirador, in Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile]

Planning a sabbatical involves a lot of decisions. I’m not going to pretend to know what’s best for you. Yet I can highlight a few principles that worked for me. (Also, you can likely apply these tips to any big change in life.)

Get clear on your ideal outcomes. Take time to write down everything you want out of your sabbatical. What do you want to experience, do or learn? Who do you want to be by the end? How can you use your time off to get closer to these ideals?

Keep your options open. Two immediate decisions you’ll face are: Should I quit my job or negotiate a leave of absence? Should I sell my home or rent it? These are very personal decisions. If I had to put my stake in the ground though, I’d recommend that you create a situation where you are as free as possible during your sabbatical. During your time off, especially if you are traveling, you are going to encounter so many different new ways of life and perspectives. If you’re not obligated to return to your old life, you now have a chance to apply your learnings toward designing a new life that really fits you.

Overcome fear with practical planning. If you’re ever tempted to give up and say “I can’t do this,” ask yourself if you’ve really explored all the possibilities before you. If fear is keeping you from planning a sabbatical, find some practical steps to mitigate risk and provide a safety net.

Enlist outside help. There are steps we are called to take in life that are vitally important – and also super tough. Reach out for help if you are stalling. I was terrified of quitting my job even though I knew it was a step I needed to take. I enlisted professional help so I followed through. (A coach is awesome for this!)

Be kind to yourself. If I could go back in time, I would be a lot nicer to myself just before and after I quit my job. During that time, I said a lot of mean things to myself: You’re making a huge mistake. You’ll never find a job again. You’re throwing everything away. By contrast, most people around me said, “Wow! You’re so brave. I admire you.” If I had focused less on my fears and more on my strengths and the amazing opportunity now before me, I would have had more confidence and fun those first few months of my sabbatical.

Remember that your money is a powerful tool. I think many people rule out planning a sabbatical because they think spending money this way is too self-indulgent. This seems like a cultural paradigm more than anything. In the U.S. nobody has a problem with you if you buy a new pickup truck or diamond engagement ring. It’s unlikely they call you selfish or privileged. Instead they’re glad you could buy something you wanted.

Listen, you work hard for your money. Use it to really serve you and your life goals. Don’t let the status quo dictate your spending. If you know that taking time off will make you happier and more effective when you do get back to working and making the world a better place, by all means, that’s money well spent.

A new beginning

catalonia farm lisa
[At home on the farm in Catalonia]

My sabbatical taught me important lessons about what I wanted in life and work. I desired a life with lots of free time and a close relationship to nature. I wanted inspiring, meaningful work with a social impact, but I would never be a workaholic again (a common side effect of taking a sabbatical). I also wanted to use my whole range of strengths in my job – not just a select few.

I saw that farm life in Spain and my own business were the perfect foundation for this dream.

So, in the end, I moved to Spain, Manel and I married, and I started my own life coaching business. With Manel’s generous support, I’ve able to use my “New Life Startup Fund” largely as my “New Business Startup Fund.”

These were three huge changes, all in one year.

My sabbatical year was a piece of cake compared to this first year in Spain. I underestimated how challenging it would be to move abroad and start my own business here.

This is big stuff, and I’m still figuring it all out. I committed because I know it’s worth it. My sabbatical gave me a huge opportunity. I have the chance to create a relaxed, love-filled life in a beautiful place with an amazing partner, and to design my own meaningful and joyful work, in partnership with inspiring people from all around the world. What can planning a sabbatical do for you?

I am saying Yes to this. And you should too.

Lisa Hoashi is a life coach. Her adventure headquarters is now a farm next to the Pyrenees, an hour north of Barcelona. Try out her unique approach to designing an awesome 2016 with A Practical Idealist’s Guide to a New Year.

UPDATE: Lisa now has a podcast that features stories from single professionals, couples, and families who have all taken the sabbatical leap. Check it out! –> Leap Like Me.

(Visited 1,315 times, 1 visits today)

Get blog posts automatically emailed to you!


  1. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar February 22, 2016 at 6:54 AM

    So cool. I’ve thought about this a lot. I have two kids and a wife just really entering the workforce (post-doc), but we only have a mortgage. No other debt. For me, my sabbatical would be becoming a stay at home dad. This isn’t really a sabbatical, but instead a workforce break. It’s just hard for me to justify since I make a lot of money and have nice job with great benefits. So, I’m going to keep piling money away for now and live vicariously through people like you. :)

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 7:28 AM

      Hey Chris! I had a nice job with great benefits too so I understand how hard it can seem to give that up. Whether you want to call it a sabbatical or workforce break, I think it’s totally legitimate to take a break and be with your kids, especially if this is what’s really meaningful to you! Good luck! :)

    2. Joe Serviss February 22, 2016 at 12:35 PM

      Yeah Chris I hear you there but we only get one life to live and I spent a few years home with my children only it wasn’t by choice nor did I have the finances to sustain it long term. They were still the best years of my life because I was able to watch them grow. My wife even became jealous of my unemployment. You are lucky enough to have little debt. I teach finance and I am still incorporating my own teachings into stabilizing the mess I created when I was ignorant.

      1. J. Money February 23, 2016 at 10:34 AM

        My wife is home with our wee ones right now (going on 8 months) and doing her BEST to appreciate it while she can. Even though she desperately wants to go INTO the workforce again and start using her freshly gained PHD. So pretty much the opposite of a sabbatical (unless you count from the kids – hah) but def. good to appreciate all stages of life the best we can! And to remember that that’s all these time frames really are – stages. Life changes so damn much whether we want it to or not.

  2. Thias @It Pays Dividends February 22, 2016 at 7:07 AM

    Amazing story Lisa! Congrats on taking life on and doing what you knew you truly wanted. It sounds like it was an amazing experience and I think it can help motivate any one of us to try and do more with our lives.

    1. Nita February 22, 2016 at 7:53 AM

      There are creative ways to make your dream come true. Working from home and freelancing is a great way to do it. My husband did it with our kids and made more of an income than he does now if you factor out his transportation, work clothes, etc. Find freelance work on upwork.com or flexjobs.com and just keep applying. Also, we augmented our schedules by one spouse working part-time and the other working full time. Trying it for 1 year wouldn’t kill your budget, since you don’t appear to have student loans you may be able to be creative about making it happen.

      1. J. Money February 23, 2016 at 10:36 AM

        Love that idea. 1 year of Hustle, 1 year of sabbatical! :) (or maybe more like 5 years of hustle and 1 year of sabbatical, haha…)

  3. Roy Largo @ Band of Savers February 22, 2016 at 7:39 AM

    Inspiring story. Its great to hear about the awesome adventures that are out there for those with the courage to go get them. I’m a father of two and the sole breadwinner so taking a trip like this would terrify me because of the potential impacts that it would have on the boys (and it would be considerably more expensive for all four of us). But part of the reason I work so hard now is to be able to do something like this with my wife as soon as we’re empty nesters, just hope I don’t throw out my back from having to carry around all the Bengay :)

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 9:25 AM

      Thanks, Roy! I admire your hard work to support your family and hope you get the adventures you’d like to have in life.

  4. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor February 22, 2016 at 7:40 AM

    Great story and great pictures! I love the idea of taking a sabbatical. The more flexibility we gain financially, the more comfortably we’d be with taking a lot of time off, even if it isn’t a year or doesn’t involve actually resigning. We want to be able to travel with our kids and enjoy adventure before they are too cool for us!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 9:29 AM

      I agree, Kalie! BTW, you might get some inspiration on how to take a sabbatical with kids from my friend Jed over at http://bucking-the-trend.com/ — he’s from Madison, and he, his wife, and two boys are on sabbatical in Granada, Spain.

      1. J. Money February 23, 2016 at 10:38 AM

        Yeah! Love that site – stumbled across it a few months back myself.

  5. Nita February 22, 2016 at 7:55 AM

    Taking a sabbatical is a wonderful idea. The most we’ve taken off to travel as a family has been 21 days (yes, I counted them) and it was wonderful. We started doing it every other year and it was a much needed diversion from our hectic lives. A co-worker of mine, took off 1 year and planned it out for 2 years. His job even waited for him to come back. Sometimes you just have to take some leaps in life. Most of us are afraid to do it though.

  6. COD February 22, 2016 at 8:01 AM

    I have friend that works for Intel. He gets a paid six week (I think) sabbatical every 7th year. It’s not a year, but then his paycheck keeps gets getting direct deposited the whole time he is off doing something fun and amazing.

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 9:31 AM

      I’ve heard this of Intel too, such a great idea.

  7. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies February 22, 2016 at 8:14 AM

    There’s something really powerful in being open to change, isn’t there? You can feel the positivity radiating out of these photos. I don’t know that I’ll ever take a sabbatical, but having summer break (hooray, teaching!) is definitely like a mini retirement every year. Except for when I choose to teach summer school ;) Saying yes and being open to change has definitely served you well. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 9:33 AM

      Absolutely! I share my story because it really did amaze and humble me to see what happened when I opened myself up to life in this way. Thank you for your kind words, Penny.

  8. Kate @ Cashville Skyline February 22, 2016 at 9:00 AM

    Wow, this is totally inspiring! And camping in Patagonia looks absolutely dreamy. Thanks for providing such helpful tips! It’s helpful to see the steps needed to make a one-year sabbatical happen :)

  9. Chad Carson February 22, 2016 at 9:24 AM

    Wow! Inspiring story, Lisa.

    I camped in Patagonia during a 2009 sabbatical, and those pictures have me wanting to go back. We’ll be in Argentina for a year (this time with 2 little kids in tow!), so I really resonated with all of the thinking and preparation outlined here.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 9:37 AM

      You’re welcome, Chad! Sounds like your sabbatical had a big impact on your life too. I so admire people who have travel adventures with their kids. Enjoy Argentina!

  10. Janna February 22, 2016 at 9:46 AM

    So inspiring! Just yesterday I was talking to someone when their eyes glazed over picturing traveling to Europe. I asked why not and got the usual excuses. I’ve done a lot of traveling in my past, loved it and now miss it (I have a 6-month old). I can relate to wanting free-time and to be close to nature.

    I’m definitely at a crossroad in my life with a new baby and ready to recreate my career to be a bit more inspiring, meaningful and financially rewarding.

    Thanks for sharing your post! I’m definitely checking out your coaching website!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 25, 2016 at 2:19 AM

      Thanks for reading, Janna! And yes, be in touch anytime. It’d be a pleasure to talk to you.

  11. Amy @ DebtGal February 22, 2016 at 9:58 AM

    While I’m too much of a homebody to want to travel the world, I think your experience contains valuable lessons that anyone can use, particularly challenging our preconceived notions of what’s possible, and being flexible about finding ways to live the lives we really want.

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 2:29 PM

      Thanks, Amy. That’s my idea too — that discovering how we really want to live is something we all can do!

  12. Dee @ Color Me Frugal February 22, 2016 at 10:08 AM

    What an inspirational story. I have recently done something similar- not taken a sabbatical, but taken a big risk in my professional life. It was scary and confusing at times. But now I’ve never been happier :-). Completely worth it!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 2:29 PM

      Good for you, Dee! Congratulations!

  13. Abigail @ipickuppennies February 22, 2016 at 10:12 AM

    That’s definitely amazing! I’d definitely like to travel more, but there are very large practical impediments. My husband and I have several chronic health problems that make things like camping or couch-surfing (and therefore traveling cheaply) impossible. Also, I’m the only income earner, and my chronic health problems mean that I was lucky to find my current job, which lets me work from home and take breaks as needed throughout the day. Since I’m the only one covering customer service during the day, they can’t spare me for a year — and I can’t count on ever finding a job like this again.

    All of that being said, healthy people with more job prospects should take this as inspiration that they really can afford something huge like this. They can broaden their minds and experiences. Maybe it’ll even change their lives as literally as it changed yours.

    1. superbien February 22, 2016 at 12:13 PM

      I wonder if you’re perhaps being too literal? If camping and travel aren’t in your future, what big dreams do you have that are possible?

      Writing a novel, producing a play, learning to weld, showing dogs, painting furniture…

  14. EL February 22, 2016 at 10:12 AM

    IT was nice reading your story, and congrats on taking that big leap. I feel anyone can adjust to circumstances given lifes hard choices. Good luck and living in Spain sounds awesome.

  15. maria@moneyprinciple February 22, 2016 at 10:17 AM

    This is such a wonderful, inspiring story. Lisa, very well done for having to courage to ‘jump in the deep end’ and find your dream. I wish I could be as brave.

  16. Michelle February 22, 2016 at 11:30 AM

    Love this! While I have never taken a sabbatical, I do travel full-time. We are having the time of our life and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  17. Hannah February 22, 2016 at 12:17 PM

    I’m not a huge traveler, but we’re hoping to do an extended trip when my husband graduates. Maybe 3-4 months at the most since we mainly want to enjoy a summer of hiking, camping, and maybe canoeing with our kiddos out west.

    It seems like creating a sabbatical opportunity when you’re going through a transition anyhow might be the best way for parents to make it happen… At least, that’s what we’re hoping!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 2:31 PM

      I think so too! We can always be on the watch for mini-sabbaticals — when we change jobs, move somewhere new. Sounds like a magical summer!

  18. superbien February 22, 2016 at 12:25 PM

    This was such a great, inspirational post! I love that you shared how anxious you were about finances, and how you took specific actions to figure them out. And the romance angle melted my heart!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 2:36 PM

      Aw, thanks! Love WAS an unexpected gift!

  19. Cindy February 22, 2016 at 1:00 PM

    What an awesome post! That is what I call courage, to take what seems impossible and do it anyways. With thoughtful planning and a clear focus, you are able to achieve everything you set out to do. What an inspiration! Thanks so much for sharing.

  20. Tracy @ Financial Nirvana Mama February 22, 2016 at 1:06 PM

    Excellent post! What a great read to introduce how to get ready for a sabbatical and what to look forward too post sabbatical and the challenges you faced. preparation is key! I completely resonated with it, I went through something very similar more than seven months ago:) it took me seven months to finally figure out what to do too:). And I’m still continuing to figure it out, but I love it! Glad to see your launched your life coaching business:)

  21. Emma | Money Can Buy Me Happiness February 22, 2016 at 1:24 PM

    Great lessons here Lisa. I especially agree with having a large fund for re-entry. Sometimes getting back into work takes longer than usual and having a nice cushion makes that much easier. I also love how long-term travel empowers you to believe that anything is possible. After 15 months travelling with my family (6 of those months in Spain – oh how I miss España) on a meagre budget I figured we could make our dream lifestyle a reality, if we maintained a similar life to what we had when travelling. So we just walk everywhere we can, cook our own meals and make the most of the free attractions in our area. We also downsized our house as we’d survived in much smaller spaces while travelling. Like you, I’m attempting to build my own business now. A location independent business, so we can continue to travel extensively. That’s the other thing about travel, once is never enough. If you’re a traveller, it’s a habit you have to indulge frequently, or else life can be quite mediocre! All the best with your future plans, I have no doubt you’ll succeed.

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 2:39 PM

      Thanks Emma! I wish you the best as well. I have met other families too who have decided to keep traveling. This is also a brave choice and I admire your dedication to figuring it out. One family is the Wagoners in Spain (http://wagonersabroad.com/) — they might give you further ideas or support.

      1. Heidi Wagoner February 23, 2016 at 10:59 AM

        Thanks for the mention Lisa! Yes, dreams can come true if you really focus and make them happen. I love budgets and once you know what you need, you can do it. Our 1-2 yr sabbatical, has turned into over 3 1/2 years with no end in site. We do what we need to do, to keep it going. It is amazing how travel on for the long-term isn’t as expensive as people think. In fact we are spending far less than we did living a “normal life” in North Carolina. The key is to know that it isn’t a “vacation”, it is just a way of life. Let us know if you need any info!

  22. Justin February 22, 2016 at 2:17 PM

    Very awesome, Lisa! I just retired early in my 30’s the old fashioned way ( ;) ) and have done some incredible traveling since then. My wife on the other hand, was still working the past few years so she negotiated not one, but two paid sabbaticals (5 weeks then 12 weeks) where she joined me on long trips to Canada and to Mexico.

    Keep having fun!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 22, 2016 at 2:33 PM

      Wow, Justin! I’m impressed by you and your wife both! Sounds like we could use a blog from your wife on sabbatical negotiation tips. :)

  23. Sarah February 22, 2016 at 2:36 PM

    Wow! This is amazing. I cannot tell you how often I think of doing the same! I’m so glad to hear what a great experience it turned out to be for you.


    Sarah @ #hartzogswag

  24. Joe February 22, 2016 at 3:11 PM

    I love your story! Sometime you just have to take a chance.
    I quit my full time job a few years ago and the missus is planning to join me in about 5 years. I want to take a year off to travel with our kid. He’ll be done with 4th grade so we could roadschool him for a year. He can go straight to Jr high when we get back. The logistic might be a bit tricky, but I think it will be a great year. BTW, we live in Portland, but probably will move at some point. The cost of living is increasing fast. Cheers.

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 24, 2016 at 4:25 AM

      Hey Joe, what an inspiring plan! Good luck. I hear you on Portland … what a great place to live, yet now when I go back, I can’t believe the prices. Spain is an awesome alternative. :)

  25. Ellie February 22, 2016 at 3:33 PM

    Wow Lisa! Amazing to read about your wonderful life adventure! I’m proud of you and inspired. You’ve come a long way since those days we both worked at mc!

    1. J. Money February 23, 2016 at 10:44 AM

      Was mc the job Lisa quit from? Did more people end up quitting to follow her “crazy dream” too? That would be awesome, haha…

  26. Harmony February 22, 2016 at 3:59 PM

    What an inspiring story. I took an extended maternity leave this past summer, even though we’re trying to dig our way out of debt. It was not a momentous decision, but it meant the world to me. I took on some extra tutoring (side hustle) work to help bring in money and we saved on daycare by having the other two kids at home. I will never forget the extra time we were able to spend together as a family. Also, the return to work was not nearly as traumatic as it had been with my other two kids.

    I have yet to hear of anyone regretting decisions like the ones that Lisa and I made.

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 24, 2016 at 4:21 AM

      Hey Harmony, thanks for sharing your story. I love your willingness to “hustle” to make something happen for yourself and family that you really wanted.

  27. Rebecca @Read And Go Do February 22, 2016 at 4:28 PM

    I absolutely love this post! I’m going to read it to my husband this evening and discuss. We’ve talked extensively about the idea of me taking a break from work to homeschool my daughters (currently ages 3, 23 months and 6 months) through elementary school. My husband is a stay-at-home dad right now, though, so it will take some definite planning and rearranging, but I’ve always believed it’s doable (just not the easiest). This post was so inspiring on really going for what you want!

    1. J. Money February 23, 2016 at 10:45 AM

      Let us now if you guys end up doing it, Rebecca! :)

  28. Our Next Life February 22, 2016 at 5:29 PM

    Congrats, Lisa, for taking such a big, wonderful leap, and thank you for sharing your story with us! We’ve wrestled for years over whether to take a sabbatical like this or to keep working and saving to take a “permanent sabbatical” (early retirement). While we landed on the side of the latter, and are close to being able to pull it off, we absolutely admire those with the cajones to do this. The thought of having to find another job after a resume gap terrifies me only slightly less than the thought of a daily root canal, but this makes total sense if you have the personality to start a new venture on your own, like you did. Kudos!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 24, 2016 at 4:19 AM

      Thank you! I find early retirement also a very courageous thing to do. I admire your commitment to that vision. Good luck!

  29. KLR February 23, 2016 at 9:32 AM

    Great post. This is so inspiring to read. Congratulations on finding your passion and living your dream!

  30. Shawn February 23, 2016 at 4:15 PM

    Excellent article. We are heading out in August of this year to to the same. Like you we are early 30s and leaving a house and 12 year career behind to experience something that means much more to us. Excited and nervous, but making the leap!

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 24, 2016 at 4:12 AM

      Awesome! Congratulations. You guys are going to have the time of your lives.

  31. Broke Millennial February 23, 2016 at 4:32 PM

    The fact you’re a woman is my favorite part of this story. I feel it’s easy for me to talk myself out of traveling solo for fear of being a small woman in unknown lands. This is actually quite laughable because I grew up overseas and traveled solo for the first time at 13. But someone was always on the other end. A buddy to stay with and be a travel companion. Now, at 26, I feel the chance of taking that year off to travel or immerse myself full-time in another culture is slipping away because I’m in a serious relationship and career focused. This is a good reminder that it’s not too late!

    P.S. Japan is worth the cost! I lived there from ages 10 – 16 (followed by China) and hope to one day be a resident again.

    1. Lisa Hoashi February 24, 2016 at 4:18 AM

      Thanks — yeah, I definitely encountered a number of people on the road who questioned the fact that I was a solo woman. But there are so many things you can do, to both be safe and comfortable, and also meet up with people. One thing I did to be safe was to make sure I had enough in my budget to stay in nice hostels or get a private hotel room if I felt like I needed it for my own security. Also, I met my awesome travel partner for Patagonia through a bulletin board on Couchsurfing — we met over Skype, then in person and hit it off! So there are definitely things you can do be have fun and be comfortable as a solo woman traveler!

      P.S. I also know Japan is worth it! I have a good friend who lives there now, so she can expect me to show up anytime now. :)

      Good luck in all your future adventures — it never is too late!

      1. MKH August 30, 2016 at 5:46 PM

        Regarding Japan, consider looking at work exchange sites like Workaway.info. I met someone (on my no regrets, face-the-fear mid-life sabbatical year) who lived in Japan for months going from one volunteer opportunity to the next and loved it. Urban Japan will cost more, but even a shorter city experience added to rural work exchange time is worth it.

  32. Chris "Stasher" February 24, 2016 at 12:05 PM

    I love every bit of this article and love your story Lisa, thanks for sharing K
    I encourage everyone I meet to prioritze their lives to make room for the outdoors and the awareness that comes from it. I enjoyed that you turned this into a life coach opportunity, that is honestly something that intrigues me. I regularly get contacted by individuals I don’t know that say I have made a difference for them via my social media channels. I feel inspired to formalize this more and give people the tools the need to make changes in their outlook on life or seat at the table. Have a fantastic day and I will be exploring your website in a bit more detail.

    1. J. Money February 24, 2016 at 4:02 PM

      Sounds like you need a mentor to help you become a coach yourself :) You’ve got GREAT spirit every time I see you on Twitter or on this blog/etc. I think that plays a large and important part.

  33. Jamie February 26, 2016 at 6:11 PM

    This is really inspiring! Money is really a challenge for us to manage. And, I agree that planning is really an important thing to do. I plan everything from the budget I am willing to spend to activities I am gonna do. I think planning makes things easier. And, I can’t go on without it.

  34. Linda February 27, 2016 at 7:03 PM

    Is 35 a little to late to start planning a sabbatical like yours? Haha. I’m completely envious. I’m hoping I can take a permanent sabbatical in about 10 years, though. So hopefully I can visit Spain and France and every other beautiful country then.

    1. J. Money February 29, 2016 at 3:59 PM

      Permanent would be nice :)

  35. Angie Young March 3, 2016 at 5:48 PM

    If I were single, I would so love to do something like this. You are so lucky to have been given this opportunity.

    1. J. Money March 4, 2016 at 6:57 AM

      I think it was more of an opportunity she went out and *created* – not given ;) Anyone can stop and work towards big goals like this if it’s important enough to them.

  36. Roxy March 26, 2016 at 8:42 PM

    Guilty. Thank you for mentioning that in hide sight you should have been kinder to yourself during your planning period. Self talk will end or start this for any dreamer. I am a serial entreprenuer/workaholic that needs a reset button on life. Suddenly, I woke up in someone else brain and I am desperate to get out. My biggest fear is to disappoint and let down my staff/clients that have supported me for 15+ years. They created my success and I feel very guilty with the thought of leaving them. I know we must be our own self advocate for quality of life and happiness. Tough. I am grateful for the wisdom. Thank you!

    1. J. Money March 28, 2016 at 11:52 AM

      You’re not alone Roxy – good luck! You got this!

  37. Edita April 12, 2016 at 11:04 AM

    Very inspiring. I am in a similar situation. 35, still paying for my car … Which is the only debt I have. I started my journey to Less a year ago where I have been downsizing and prioritizing… I am very close to living with only the essentials … But since it is hard to find a decent cheaper rental without roommates … I am still living in a big apartment which is too big for me… But I know that I am not attached to any stuff anymore … I could sell everything and travel… The only fair I have is … Where I am going to live when I come back…

    1. J. Money April 13, 2016 at 7:00 AM

      A good place to be at :)

  38. Darren May 3, 2016 at 8:18 AM

    So.f-cking.awesome. Excellent article, with a fairytale ending as well! I’ve definitely wanted to do this same thing (minus meeting a Catalan farmer, ha!), but the hurdle has always been the courage to drop out of the worklife. My financial analyst, after going through all my finances, says GO GO GO, but I haven’t mustered the courage to do it. Some of the content in your article will likely help me get “over the hump” on this. Thanks again.

    1. Lisa Hoashi May 3, 2016 at 10:19 AM

      Hey Darren! Wow — so cool that your financial analyst is actually telling you to GO! Not many of us can say that. Sounds like you’re in a really good spot to make this happen for yourself. Let me know if you ever need a little extra help getting going!

  39. Free to Pursue May 3, 2016 at 8:23 AM

    I took a sabbatical five years ago to get ready for my departure from corporate life. It was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it. The clarity that comes from it is more than worth the loss of income, as long as you have a plan for how you intend to use the time. My choice, four months of full time school in an unrelated field.

    1. Lisa Hoashi May 3, 2016 at 10:21 AM

      I agree totally, F2P. What a great idea to take a sabbatical as preparation — I definitely think it would help with preparing for retirement. Taking time to discover what interests you have that have nothing to do with earning an income.

  40. Kurt May 3, 2016 at 4:07 PM

    I always felt that the best part of paid employment was lengthy sabbaticals. :) Like when you leave a job, have another one lined up, but it doesn’t begin for 3 months. Bliss!

    1. J. Money May 4, 2016 at 7:34 AM

      Great way to implement a little – “mini sabbaticals!” :)

  41. The Roamer May 4, 2016 at 11:36 AM

    Wow! And wow! And wow!

    So inspiring.
    This article just filled me up. It was so motivating that I started to create my check list.

    She didn’t mention how long the planning took but I have set a soft date to have a family adventure in late 2017 but hadn’t really done anything to materialize the dream.

    This post got me started jotting down items for my to do list.

    Ahhh I’m so excited.

    1. J. Money May 4, 2016 at 1:07 PM


      Way to start taking action – GO GO GO!!! :)

    2. Lisa Hoashi May 5, 2016 at 2:26 AM

      Hey Roamer, I’m so excited about your family adventure! Sounds awesome. I had the idea to take a sabbatical for a long time, and seriously contemplated it for about three years (during which I started saving money just in case I really was going to follow through on it). Then, the actual planning of what I would do during my sabbatical and logistics only took about 6 months. Of course it will be slightly different for everyone given how much they like planning, or not. A few of my life coaching clients also want to take sabbaticals, and I work with them on planning and support them during the big transition stuff, like giving notice, leaving work graciously, saying goodbye, managing doubts and fears about what will happen afterwards, and making it through all the logistics. Some have started this planning with me one year before, others 3-6 months before. It’s very individual! Good luck with all your plans!

  42. Mrs. SimplyFinanciallyFree May 5, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    What an amazing and inspiring story! Thank you for sharing and showing us that making dreams come true is possible!

  43. Financial Nirvana Mama May 8, 2016 at 6:07 PM

    Hi Lisa

    Thanks for sharing this post. You are an inspiration and it is so wonderful to hear you found your way after taking a sabbatical.

    I took a sabbatical two years ago and it was the best experience I ever had. I spent the summer connecting with my twins before they went to full time school and gained clarity in what I wanted out of life, including trying out a few different career paths without pay during that time.

    My next dream is to have my whole family travel for an extended period of time after my consulting contract is over:) I’d like to repeat baby sabbaticals every 3-5 years if possible.

    Any good books you recommend reading to help people who are finding their way? I found reading very helpful during my journey.

    Thanks again for writing this post,

  44. Financial Nirvana Mama May 8, 2016 at 6:35 PM

    Hi Lisa,

    I forgot to mention that I’m sharing your excellent article on the FNM facebook page so more people can get inspired to take a sabbatical.


  45. Vincent S. August 30, 2016 at 11:23 PM

    Inspirational story Lisa! Thank you for sharing.

    We too are planning a permanent sabbatical this coming January 27th. Your story is exactly what I needed to read this evening.

    My wife and I have been together for 25+ years (since middle school) and have three beautiful children ages 14, 11 and 7. People have always said that we make the perfect team together and are some of the most low key, relaxed people you will ever meet.

    For two decades we have worked extremely hard with our two full time jobs, sacrificing a lot along the way. We’re now at a point in our lives (ages 43 and 41) where we want to take a step back, focus on our family and make the next 25 even better than the first.

    We have saved @ $260k in a combination of different banking and retirement accounts that we have access to but plan on leaving alone for the most part. Since we are virtually debt free ($800 mortgage and a $100 car lease) and have $24k in yearly rental income from our home, we can live on @ $35k per year for our family of five.

    First on our “bucket list” is to take a few months off then head to the mountains of North Carolina when the kids get out of school for the summer and start a family business when we return. We’re also planning to come to Spain to do the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage (at least part of it) as a family, all things we couldn’t do if we were tied up with our current careers.

    Again, thank you for sharing your story! Hopefully we can have an equally successful journey and leave our children with memories that they will cherish forever.

    Wishing you all the best,

    – Vincent

    1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 1:44 PM

      So cool!!! Congrats, guys – way to pull the trigger on that! :)

    2. Lisa Hoashi September 5, 2016 at 5:54 AM

      Hi Vincent! I have no doubt you guys are going to have a fabulous time. As I read about your upcoming leap, it really comes through how carefully you and your wife have planned this, and how well prepared you are for whatever you discover along this journey. It shows what a great team you are, and what a huge gift this is going to be for your kids! Wishing you the best. If you come through Catalunya, let us know! :)

  46. Felicia September 2, 2016 at 6:46 PM

    Thanks for your inspiring story! I have been working for 30 years and I need a break! I got the ok from my job to take up to 6 months unpaid leave! My biggest decision right now is whether I should give up my rental apartment and put stuff in storage. Seems like a lot of work for only 6 months but I can’t sublet. If I keep paying the rent, I’ll have to cut my sabbatical in half…

    I’m planning to go to SE Asia and maybe one other area (Central America or Portugal/Spain). Can’t wait!

    1. J. Money September 4, 2016 at 3:31 PM

      Fun! I’d probably get rid of the rental and stay longer on the sabbatical, but in either case you’re off to one helluva adventure :) Congrats!

    2. Lisa Hoashi September 5, 2016 at 5:58 AM

      Hi Felicia! Congrats on deciding to take a break! (It was one of the best decisions of my life.) Like you I also had a rental apartment and yes, after crunching the numbers I decided to give it up. Storage is also expensive, which motivated me to go even further and really downsize. In the end, I just stored my most valuable things in a friend’s basement — this was a huge cost saver and yes, allowed me to take more time off and even choose to make my home in a new place afterwards. Whatever you decide, enjoy your time off!

  47. Elvin December 9, 2016 at 10:55 AM

    I am in my late thirties. Till one year and an half ago I had a good job, good salary and nice colleagues in the high tech field. I am not really sure why but that job drained my energy and made me extremely unhappy. I took first half a year of unpaid leaves, left my rental apartment, stored my stuff at my parent’s place and took a plane for SE and E Asia.

    This trip really recharged my batteries, I met amazing people, I found love, had incredible experiences and came back more self confident than ever. It had been such a long time that I hadn’t felt so good! After coming back in Europe, I could not imagine falling back into unhappiness and decided to definitely quit my job without clearly planning what to do next. I spent the few following months with my family. Staying at dad and mom’s place was not that easy and I finally flew back to SE Asia.

    I am now in Asia doing some volunteering here, trying to setup a small business there but I lost a bit of my self confidence. I do not manage in finding that activity that really makes me tick. While my savings are still sufficient to sustain myself for some time, they clearly go down. I will soon have to make money in a way or another and this makes me panicking :( I wonder to resume my career in the high tech field even if I am not too enthusiastic about it (on top of that, it will not be that easy to reenter the job market).

    1. Lisa Hoashi December 19, 2016 at 12:56 PM

      Hey Elvin — I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling so stuck about what’s next — especially after having such an initially great start.

      Everyone I know who has taken a leap like this has reached a similar crossroads at one point or another (myself included). You’re not alone. Sometimes, even after a big initial breakthrough, we get stuck again. There’s more to learn, more to grow.

      Just remember the courage and strength you’ve already shown to get you here — and the way you followed your intuition — and trust that these things will once again take you where you need to go, if you only listen and pay attention. Take some time out to really consider what you want. Sometimes this brings the clarity to realize that it’s sitting right in front of us. You might be closer than you imagine!

      P.S. If you’d ever like some help strategizing your next steps, feel free to contact me for a free coaching session on my website, always happy to help.

  48. Anders March 8, 2017 at 3:16 PM

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring story Lisa!

    It’s interesting with what you explain that you learn how to be frugal, and that it’s a skill like any other. We used to live on a really tight budget, and I mean really tight, like around $850 (with the value of the dollar today) for two adults. Granted it’s rather cheap to live here. The problem was when we got full time jobs. Lifestyle inflation started to creep in and our lovely budget was tearing at the seams. We ended up remaking the budget to account for some change in lifestyle, but not a lot since we still wanted to save rather hard.

    I smiled when I read the post, when I got to the first time you mention your Catalan. I told my wife that you probably ended up marrying your Catalan since you actually refer to him as a Catalan, and not a Spaniard. You see, my wife is from Catalonia too – not Spain. :)

    Again, thanks for a great post and very nice storytelling in it.

    1. J. Money November 13, 2017 at 9:52 AM

      So glad you enjoyed this!!

  49. Vladimir Venediktov November 10, 2017 at 5:15 PM

    we are 4 people family in late 40’s/18/12 , where would it be safe and economically possible to spend 1 year without getting a formal job. We’ll have maximum 20K USD when we travel . If anyone has done it before please reply.

  50. Jesus Rivera March 15, 2019 at 4:21 AM

    Muchas gracias Lisa, I’m sure you are having a fantastic time with your Catalan :). And kudos for your journey…. unfortunately very few people do what they really want. And glad you are not one of them :)

    I admire people who are true to themselves, and take the courage to try even when things don’t go in the expected way.

    “In life you win or learn” – you did it

    “Is reacher the person who need less than the one who have more” – you showed it

    “When nothing is sure, all is possible” – you are a testimony of that.

    I’m planning a sabbatical to become a stay home dad and enjoy a 4 year old son to play, learn, explore, grow, together in a very different way that the current social system teaches; “work hard, be worry for the future, and forget the present moment”

    My dream is to teach my son that;
    1) life is great and easy
    2) be happy no matter what
    3) try and fail and enjoy the journey
    4) be self-confident, humble and respectful to others
    5) experience all and make decisions based on learnings

    I see this as the best investment I can ever make on my son’s happiness solid foundation.

    please accept my sincere respect and tribute to you and your journey!!!


    1. J. Money March 15, 2019 at 7:05 AM

      Glad to hear it, man!!! As a stay-at-home dad of 3 myself I can tell you it changes YOUR life as much as your kids’ too :) Get ready for an adventure!

  51. Peter Haldeman August 10, 2019 at 2:50 PM

    Found this post – and I’m in the middle of doing this myself: left my job, leaving Portland, Oregon… going to Europe with my wife and daughter for the next year, with no idea what will happen next. Thanks for hosting this thoughtful piece – especially appreciated the point about “be kind to yourself”. That’s exactly where I’m at right now.

    1. J. Money August 16, 2019 at 2:56 PM

      Oooooohh such an exciting adventure awaits!!

      I hope it’s everything y’all are looking for!! With some fun surprises throughout! :)

  52. Paul October 15, 2019 at 8:14 PM

    Hey Lisa,

    I’m 54, single with 3 kids pretty much on their own. I have 27 years with my company,and I’m considering a sabatical. I would probably have to leave my career to do it, however I’m so ready for a change and a fresh beginning. Time to follow my heart and my desires. I really enjoyed your story. Thank you. Any recommendations for someone older like me who wants to make a course correction? Thanks. Paul

  53. Rachel February 15, 2020 at 3:37 PM

    I loved this article more than you know! I had a terrifying work experience about a month ago and that coupled with a journaling on what I wanted from life, I’ve started asking myself if I need a break. It’s so hard to see past the what if’s especially when I feel financially secure, like I’m at the peak of my career, etc but I think I keep coming back to this space of is there more to life and need to chase that question a little further. SUPER inspiring :)

  54. Peter LocalSquare September 18, 2020 at 5:24 PM

    I know I’ve come late to the party – both to this blog post and to taking a career break (I’m over 40). But this is really inspiring to me. I’m really keen to take the plunge, but have the usual worries. I think as we get older it seems like there is more to lose. I must do this though. Time to properly plan and maybe set myself a fixed date in the future.

    1. Joel September 19, 2020 at 11:55 AM

      Hey Peter – great to hear. Let me know if I can help at all. I’m just returning to work after a 2 year sabbatical and happy to share experiences. Ultimately, you have to feel comfortable yourself and make the leap. There’s also no harm in not doing it too :)

  55. Shelley Lee February 15, 2021 at 12:49 PM

    How did you do health insurance while on the sabatical?????
    We are a family of 4 thinking about husband taking a year off….

    1. Joel February 16, 2021 at 10:02 AM

      Hey Shelley! We chose to not have any insurance for that year. Actually it turned out to be a few years. We are incredibly blessed that nothing went majorly wrong during that time (had a few issues and just paid out of pocket for care). This is a route that I am not recommending to anyone, but it worked out for us for that time.

      Good luck on the sabbatical. Regardless of cost, I think you’ll find time away is always worth it!


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *