What do people actually do on sabbatical? In this guest blog, Barbara Dubovich, CEO of Camp Fire Alaska, recounts her six-month sabbatical. Rasmuson Foundation’s Sabbatical Program offers awards up to $40,000 to cover a two- to six-month sabbatical If you know a nonprofit or Tribe whose chief executive would benefit, nominate them for a sabbatical. Nominations for the 2015 Sabbatical cohort are due October 1.
Guest post by Barbara Dubovich
My plans were specific: Rest. Relax. Refresh. Recharge. Rejuvenate. I’m happy to report I did all of them.
I traveled: more than 33,000 air miles and 5,000 plus road miles took me to three different countries and six states where I reconnected with family and friends. I spent time in health spas enjoying massages, soaking away worries in mineral baths and learning more about meditation, relaxation techniques and yoga.
I used the time and freedom to be much more physically active – bike riding in Florida, swimming and snorkeling in Mexico, strolling through villages and the countryside in springtime Switzerland.
I visited family, took a cherished road trip with my college-age son, spent a precious week with my niece in Cozumel, and celebrated my nephew’s college graduation. I spent time in my childhood home in Minnesota, visiting with a 91-year-old aunt and an 86-year-old uncle, the last of my father’s family still with us. These visits were particularly poignant for me, since two people I had planned to see had died just weeks earlier.
On Isla Mujeres, I met up with four childhood girlfriends. We laughed and talked and laughed and talked while soaking in the glorious tropical environment. In Switzerland, I became immersed in my niece’s household, coloring Easter eggs with my great nieces, attending flute lessons and touring chocolate and cheese factories.
The total freedom – waking up without an alarm, without a ‘do-today’ list – was like childhood summer vacation. I had to be the luckiest and most blessed person on earth. That’s how it felt.
I did think about work occasionally, but I didn’t worry about it. My work thoughts focused more around my role, my career, my dreams and future plans. That time for reflection was one of the benefits of the sabbatical.
Along with regaining some physical health, I found increased mental health. Restful sleep and time to just breathe make problems definitely look less daunting. Six weeks into my sabbatical – 7:30 on a Wednesday evening – I realized I had not checked my phone all day. This was significant. I had stopped checking work emails, but the constant looking at my phone had been a stubborn habit. Since my return from sabbatical, I’ve worked more diligently at unhooking. The world will not collapse.
I learned that the ship – Camp Fire Alaska – continued to sail, even through turbulence. During my leave, staff had to deal with several unplanned situations, each with internal and external impacts. Staff performed admirably, sought help when needed and managed situations expertly.
Since returning from the sabbatical, I seek ways to find better balance and rest. Finding balance is a continuing challenge but all of us in high-stress positions need time to re-group and rejuvenate.
The sabbatical itself was an extraordinary experience. Time is a most valuable commodity in our lives. I cannot imagine a greater gift.