10 common mistakes when planning your sabbatical

You are thinking about taking a time out from your job to fulfil your long wished-for dream? You should keep in mind that there is a series of things to consider and to organize before your departure that can easily be forgotten. In the following you can read more about mistakes that are commonly made during the preparation process to start into your sabbatical as trouble-free as possible.

1. Unnecessary hesitation

You are considering to take a sabbatical but are afraid of the gap in your CV? Friends and family are not convinced and demoralize you with their well-meant advice and objection? Thinking about your roof that needs to be fixed soon, you are not sure whether you will have the time or the money for a sabbatical in the next few years?

Of course you should take all the time you need to make your decision, it is very difficult to leave family and friends as well as the surrounding you built for yourself. Nevertheless, it is very important, that it is your decision and that you don’t just follow someone else’s desires or be afraid of the possible obstacles. It is important to be aware of your priorities and to understand your own motives. This makes it easier to distinguish between hesitation that is part of the natural decision making process and hesitation that goes beyond.

2. Underestimation of the preparation time

First of all and as mentioned before, do not underestimate the time it will take you to make your decision. Take your time for this process and realize why you need this time out, what you want to fill it with and if you may even want to achieve something specific during your trip. Give your dream enough time to prosper, so you can enjoy it even more. If you have come to a conclusion and made up your mind, the next step is to develop a financial concept for your absence in the company and also concerning your insurances. Some models that work with saving up time or money to make your sabbatical possible might take up to six years of preparation.

Besides the time for your own planning you should also give your employer enough time to react to your proposal. A well prepared conversation is of course essential to convince your employer and it also makes it easier for him/ her to realize your proposal as you have thought through possibilities on how to finance it and how to divide your work load. Nevertheless your boss still needs time to make a decision, to fill out a request for your proposal and to coordinate the distribution of your responsibilities and tasks between your colleagues.

In addition to that you should also plan ahead to have enough time for possibly necessary vaccinations. Especially if you want to travel the world visiting different countries, it is very important to deal with this topic early enough, as sometimes several injections are needed.

3. Missed application times for visa, expired passport

Make sure you get information about possible terms and conditions for applying for different visa early enough. For those applications you also need a valid passport. Moreover you should check if there may be any complications due to your travel route. In some cases it can be difficult or even impossible to enter one country if you were staying in another certain country before. It is interesting if and how it is possible to extend your visa in case you want to spontaneously stay longer. In case you prefer even more spontaneity, you should also consider doing some research regarding terms and conditions of the application for a visa in countries you may be visiting and how long it might take to be granted such a visa.

4. Setting unrealistic goals

It is only natural that at some point the thrill of anticipation will overcome you and you want to do and experience everything at once. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that the time of your sabbatical is limited and you should plan accordingly. This does not mean planning everything with a timetable to do as much as possible. This means keeping in mind that a main focus of your sabbatical is to relax and refresh properly, to focus on what is really important to you and to prioritize accordingly. Moreover, you should keep in mind to plan in a sufficient buffer to give yourself enough time for spontaneity and sudden changes. In general, you might also want to take more time to get to know the country as well as the locals. This will help you to prevent being stressed out during your sabbatical.

5. Choosing the wrong means of payment

Before you head off into your adventure, you should do some research about credit and debit cards to find the best option for your trip. For example, you should keep an eye on the withdrawal fees as it would be very unpleasant to pay for it in the foreign country as well as back home. Furthermore, you should think about what kind of cash and how much of it you want to take with you. Especially if you are planning to stay in remote areas you should take sufficient funds with you as there are most likely no ATMs available.

6. Underestimation of your expenses

Besides your financial plan concerning your absence from work you should also calculate your expenses as detailed as possible for your time of travelling to be able to prepare accordingly. Additionally, you might also want to think about a system to keep an eye on your expenses during your stay. While preparing for your trip, you are generally dealing with financial limitations. Nevertheless you should be aware, that there will also be limitations during your journey and that with an average income and a sabbatical lasting longer than a few weeks, you will most likely not be able to afford a luxury hotel and a dinner in an elegant restaurant every night.

It can be recommended to eat in restaurants at a distance from touristic places. Take a bearing on the locals, their manners and customs. Try out local dishes and buy local groceries as they are in general less expensive than imports. You can also try out mobile kitchens along your way or enjoy a picnic on the beach from time to time.

Before departure you should calculate costs for your overnight stays, transfers and meals as well as for the places you want to see. You can also research free offers in the vicinity of places you want to see. Keep in mind that spontaneity also has its price – for example you will need more money if you want to book your flights spontaneously during your journey.

7. Badly packed luggage as consequence of insufficient preparation

During your trip your back might remind you how good or bad your previous planning was. If you know exactly where you want to go and what you want to do, you can organize your luggage quite precisely. If you rush into your departure, it is likely that you will take a lot of unnecessary stuff with you that is not necessary in the end. Therefore you should plan ahead what you really need and e.g. also consider what you might rather want to buy after your arrival – your back will be happy about every piece you are leaving at home.

8. Unprepared for weather and climate

During your planning process you should take the local climate and the time of the year into consideration. This way you can increase your chances to get around in the way you planned and to do all the things you wanted to do. If you have planned activities in regions with changeable weather conditions, it can be recommended to include a few extra days. As mentioned before, you can also prepare your luggage in a better way if you know where you are going and how the weather might be.

9. Insufficient preparation for the country of destination

Besides preparing all the activities you want to do, you should also do some research concerning culture, customs and traditions before going to a foreign country. Otherwise it might be likely to make cultural mistakes or miss out exciting parts of the country and its traditions. It is also helpful to do some research in advance, concerning the local means of transportation and to look for reasonable accommodation and restaurants. Well prepared you will be able to avoid trouble and also save money.

10. Unprepared return

Especially if you are running out of time before your departure your focus will naturally be on your journey and all the activities you are planning to do. Nevertheless you should also think about your return before departure and prepare for it accordingly. For example, you should consult your health insurance concerning your return after an unpaid holiday and ask if you e.g. need a candidature. Moreover, you should also think about the rough direction of your future career after your return and consider making arrangements e.g. concerning a flat or a car.

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