“Would you like something to drink?”
“Huh? Oh…yes…I need a drink…I mean I don’t need a drink, but I’d like a drink…sorry, I forgot where I was for a second,” I managed to say. “Barry, what are you getting?”
A year or so ago, my husband and I were on a rare night out at a fancy restaurant (fancy = they bring food to you). Having two young children, sometimes we use these opportunities to just stare off into space reveling in the glory that is no one interrupting you every 20 seconds. Occasionally we wander into discussions requiring more than two minutes of uninterrupted thought—ah, the luxury.
After spending appetizers and half a drink blissfully staring into space, we started talking about our life in Colorado, how we moved here ten years ago, had two girls, found fulfilling work, and get to play in the mountains. In short, how lucky we were.
Barry then asked, “So what do you want next in life?”
I took my full two-minutes to think, “I love our life. Through a combo of good luck and decisions we’ve created something terrific. I think…maybe what I really want…is simply more of it.”
I wanted more time to be with our kids, more time outdoors, more new and shared experiences with the four of us, more exploration in my career, and more time to do some things I haven’t thought of yet. But the question was then how do you take this wonderful moment in our family and careers and slow it down and enjoy it more?
“Perhaps we could move abroad for a year or so?” I mentioned casually, to see his reaction. The idea of living abroad was not new to me, my parents had done it when I was little, I’d done it again in high school and graduate school—so I had the foundation that it was at least possible.
Barry thought for much less than his two-minutes and replied, “People don’t do that. We can’t just quit very good jobs. It would be career suicide.” This was about what I was expecting, and honestly I had the same concerns. But I could already see the next several steps forming ahead in my mind and I knew we could do it. All I had to do was first shift our mindset from impossible to possible, and then from possible to probable. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
You might wonder what a few of the steps were along the path of impossible to probable, with a brief pit stop in the realm of possible. If they prove interesting, perhaps we’ll explore how we went about them, but for the time being, I’ll just list a few.
Some Steps to Sabbatical (and their real-world counterpart)
- Develop a budget that didn’t leave us eating cat food (or the cat)
- Find a location my husband couldn’t say no to (he’ll like it better if he chooses it)
- Get the kids involved in adventure planning (bribing them with promises of fun and pastries)
- Helping our family adjust to the idea (responding to everything from “Why would you want to go even farther away from us?” to “When can we visit? We’d like to stay a month.”
- Find a reason that country would want us there for a year (the visa issue)
- Convince my current boss to help me find a position abroad, even though it would leave him doubly stressed (he is simply the best)
- Plan how to put our Colorado commitments on hold or taken care of for a year (If all our bills pile up in our mailbox will it spontaneously combust and burn our house down? And resolving other best-case scenarios)
- Go through a few modified stages of grief for our careers, ending with a vague sense of hope for re-entry upon our return (convincing/deluding ourselves that we will still be employable a year from now)
Sounds doable, right? We now have 20 days to go before we touch down in Zurich and start testing this hypothesis. If you’d like to follow along with us to see if we make it you can enter your email in the ‘follow’ widget to the right. If not, I’m sure a quick scan of CNN will keep you informed if we get into too much trouble and are escorted back to the US.