Sabbaticals are more about mindsets than travel lengths.

The true story about my sabbatical starts with a lie. I did not intend to take a time off and go on a sabbatical. I just wanted to take a time off.

I had never traveled abroad when I decided to spend those 4 months in Australia. Even though I thought my English was already good enough, studying was the easiest (surely, not the cheapest) way I found back then to give myself a chance to live a different life in a different country.

I was 21 and had just graduated, which basically means I had no idea what do with my life.

So I did the basics for someone planning a sabbatical (I mean, a long trip): I saved all the money I could. From changing my daily habits – like taking meals to work instead of going to restaurants or spending most of my weekends at home instead of going out – making sure I was adding the right amount of cash into my “travel savings account” each month. When I was 100% focused on my goal, I could save around BRA R$ 1.000,00 a month (~ US$ 350,00).

There were no such thing as exchanging your skills for accommodation on your travels or work exchange opportunities (at least, not that I was aware of) and I was no longer studying to go on a student internship program. So, I called one of the travel agencies I knew and scheduled a meeting to see how they could help me setting this new life abroad.

If you are not familiarized about how these traditional international exchanges work in Brazil, here it is a brief talk. Like I said, if you are not graduating and do not have the chance of using a student internship program, it’s common to go to one of these specialized travel agencies. They will assist you finding and booking your whole trip, helping with flights, school, accommodation, jobs, etc. Usually, these agencies partner with some pre-selected schools in four or five top destinations worldwide, leaving you with fewer choices.

Because they offer “the whole package”, the prices can be slightly higher than a regular trip – I paid somewhere around BRA R$ 15.000,00 (~ US$ 4.600,00) that includes:

  • Round trip flights
  • Australian Student Visa for 4 months
  • English classes for 4 months (5 days a week)
  • Accommodation for 1 month (in a student house)
  • Travel agency service fee

I know, none of my motivations for traveling included improving my English or adding some sort of experience to my CV. I just wanted to escape from something – my daily routine, my current way of thinking, the status quo. So, even though I booked my trip using a travel agency, I highly recommend everyone to search for better and cheaper ways of doing it, because trust me, they do exist.

Sabbaticals are just about you and the life you want to live

Those first four months flew by so fast that somehow I got addicted to that dynamic life. I worked in five different jobs to raise money and pay my living. I almost ended up homeless because I couldn’t find an affordable apartment to live. I finally learned how to cook a decent meal – otherwise, I would just devour canned food. I did end up homeless when me and my friends decided to move to a different area in the city (luckily, a good friend got our back and hosted us for a week until we could find a new home). For the first time, everything was happening so intensively and unplanned in my life and I was fucking loving it.  I was finally living.

I clearly remember the day I decided I was going to stay longer in Australia. I was not 100% sure this was the right decision, but something within me kept telling myself that I was not done. There were more things to learn, more people to connect with and surely more experiences to be lived.  I called my mother in Brazil that same day, right after making my mind, and these were her exact words: “It seems like you are living everything you’ve always wanted to, so yeah, why not staying longer?”.

Love you, mom.

Sabbaticals don’t need to take a year

One year later, I’d find myself renewing my Australian Visa for the third time – and for the same reasons.

I was convinced this time off was the best thing I’d ever done for me. This new life helped me shape who I am today. Every person, every story, every place, every experience that I had, I discovered more about myself. It was exactly that that took me there in the first place: self-discovery. And, although I’d had barely heard the term Sabbatical before, I would start calling that phase of my life by this very same name.

Traditional thinking misleads people to believe that Sabbaticals are a long period of time off, when you embark in an inner journey to mystical and sacred places to find yourself. Well, I do believe in a big part of this. I just don’t agree that we need to go to a temple or India or wherever considered as spiritually destinations for a meaningful and deeper run.

After two years living in Australia – between comings and goings, houses and couches, backpacks and trips, reflections and connections – I knew I had found what I needed to find. No temples, no spiritual enlightenment, just me and the road I had decided to walk on.

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