The Value of a Cultural Sabbatical

I needed a break…a really long and fulfilling break, one that I’m calling a “cultural sabbatical”.

I’m not talking about two days on the weekend at a local resort or two weeks at some exotic location. I’m talking about six months away from it all with me, my thoughts, my Mac, and my family. And that’s exactly what I decided to do at the end of 2013 (with the miraculous support of my wife!).

Taking six months off from my normal life was not an easy decision. I’m risking my career stability, my financial security, my kids’ college savings, and my retirement savings to name a few. But six months is what I need to recalibrate the direction of my life and reconnect with the things that are most important to me.

The three things I aim to accomplish in these six months are:

1. Spending more quality time with my family
2. Traveling the world slowly

3. Writing for myself (via journaling) and for others (via this blog)

It’s been ten years now since I’ve graduated college and joined the “rat race” of the working world. Up until the end of 2013, I had been working and earning and saving and doing this year after year. This is my chance to get off the spinning wheel for a while and venture out of the comforts of my cage.

This is how our cultural sabbatical has played out so far:

Month 1 was a trip to Antigua, Guatemala for 4 weeks where we soaked up the local culture and enjoyed the mild weather and beautiful scenery.
Month 2 was a trip back home in San Jose, California to take care of random stuff including taxes, school registration, trip preparation, and renting our house.
In Month 3, we were in Taipei, Taiwan, where our girls are both enrolled in a local preschool for a month. This is our version of “world schooling” our children and it’s an educational model we plan to extend to our next stop as well.
In Months 4 through 6, we’ll be in China, staying with the kids’ grandparents in Hangzhou. It will be an extended stay in China to spend time with relatives, have a deeper educational experience for our kids, and to get a much needed break for my wife and I. We have a trip (without the kids) to Tokyo and Seoul planned already with perhaps a Southeast Asia trip as well.
With my cultural sabbatical, I’m putting a lot of the “should haves” behind me and doing the things I’ve always said I wanted to do, but never had the time to do. Having finally visited Taiwan, I now can check-off the third and final country of my family’s heritage (China and Trinidad are the others). I have always wanted to return to Tokyo where I studied abroad a dozen years ago. Now I will be doing it and taking my wife along with me. And I have always wanted my kids to be global citizens with worldly experiences. With preschool stints in Guatemala, Taiwan and China, I think that should be a good start.

Let’s face it. We all need a long, healthy break sometimes. None of us are made to go at high speeds and long distances for extended periods of time. Even God rested on the seventh day, the Sabbath.

Don’t defer your dreams and tell yourself you’ll do it when you have time. You’ll never have time because that funny thing called “life” always gets in the way. Once you make your life your priority, you’ll find the time to take that break that you always needed…and you’ll be a better version of yourself when you return.

Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.

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