Life after sabbatical: what’s the story from here?

September 26, 2017
iceland volcano

I’ve placed far too much pressure on this post. My first in a long while, too long a while, I had to draft with pen and paper. This post has been on my mind for weeks. Yet every time I’ve had a quiet moment, I’ve felt too knackered to take the laptop out…or too scared.

I drafted this post sitting in a campsite common room in Iceland while our devices were charging. Hot chocolate brought a welcome treat and much needed warmth. Iceland, though only at day five into our road trip, had already become a highlight over this whole, six month adventure. I now sit in a hotel room in London, with a cup of tea in bed and enjoying a slow start to the day. We arrive home, back to Brisbane at the end of the week.

iceland volcano

Taking in Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland.

I’m so excited to be going home. But terrified as well.

The sabbatical has been a journey, not only physically, but one of personal growth, understanding and acceptance. The sabbatical has delivered by the way of scratching the travel itch, personal development, emotional recharge and mental reset. And it is for all these reasons I’m afraid to go home. I’m afraid of every day life going back to the way it was before the sabbatical. I’m not talking about making significant changes such as a new job or a move, but the small habits that amount to time away from what is really important. I don’t want mindless TV watching, social media scrolling or more than one mid-week takeaway. But on reflection of those fears, those things were symptoms of burn out. Emotional and mental burnout and a life that was too full. I’m not going back there.

I have a better understanding of what I like and don’t like, and what my life and hectic schedule of commitments were doing to my well being – mentally, emotionally, my relationships and what I was achieving (or not achieving) each day. One thing I do know now is, I can’t keep going the way I was before the sabbatical.

So all this thinking about how I’d like my life to be after the sabbatical, I’ve thought about the next chapter for Notebook + Tea. Where do I take my story? Where do I take Notebook + Tea? What will I write about? Where do I pick up from?

The answer to the last question is right here.

I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself over the last six months. Last night my husband and I caught up with a fab bunch of people we met in our first two weeks in South America. The girls and I reflected on how much we had learned about ourselves through travel and how powerful travel is for self-discovery and acceptance. I revealed that not working for these six months (apart from my conference presentation in the UK) has been one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. Not working. Not being associated with libraries, doing library work, checking library world Twitter every day, work emails. Nada. Who was this Alisa girl outside of libraries? Turns out she’s a pretty cool chick. 😉 We ‘cheers’ to that.

The sabbatical gave me head space, time away from the ‘every day’ and the pressure brought in from work, social media and that general sense of conformity or the ‘shoulds’. The sabbatical gave me physical space in that I’ve been living out of a bag of limited possessions and wardrobe for nearly six months. My schedule has been cleared and I have a clean slate going forward. I’m slightly cautious of that clean slate, determined to integrate and put into practice all that I’ve learned, realised and listed as wanting more of in my life.

I’ve enjoyed this extra space so much, I want to keep some. Where my story goes from here is sharing how I make space, keep it and ‘be’, be able to breathe, process and experience in the space.

Life after sabbatical will be about slower, more intentional and simpler living.

Making space

Physical decluttering of our home started in preparation of the sabbatical. We had a garage to tidy and make room for a mate who house-sitted for us; wardrobes to put away; bedside tables to empty and a home office to pare down. I did some digital decluttering on the road. I sorted through Evernote, email inboxes and folders, files on my computer, and will continue when I arrive back home. Making space will also include my schedule, commitments and what goes back into our home and wardrobes. I aim to make space to take better care of myself such as taking the time to plan our meals for the week and attending more barre classes (soooo looking forward to these!). Making space is about feeling lighter and able to make better decisions.

When I started my new job at the beginning of the year, I purged my work wardrobe and got rid of anything I didn’t feel good in or had held onto for too many years. This process left me with what I loved to wear, what fit me and what I’d purchased from the university’s corporate wear catalogue. I LOVE my limited work wardrobe, and have (almost) enjoyed my limited wardrobe on the road. I packed multiple layers that mixed and matched depending on the climate and overall, this has worked a treat. I mean to continue this process throughout my home after sabbatical.

‘One thing at a time’ will be my mantra.

flamingoes in bolivia

Braving the windy cold in Bolivia.

Keeping space

This part is largely about priorities, habits, setting boundaries and taking pressure off myself to do all the things. I need to be conscious about what goes on my plate. As I am passionate about my work, I’m easily taken by new ideas and projects. ‘One thing at a time’ will be my mantra. Keeping work at work during the week will be challenging, but absolutely necessary if I’m going to embrace the other parts of me. I will be enlisting some assistance from a few colleagues, family and friends to achieve this. Keeping space will help me to be more present, available to my relationships, as well as headspace to work on my writing projects including Notebook + Tea.

‘Be’ in the space

My life before the sabbatical didn’t have enough space to just be. Thinking back, everything seemed rushed. I thought I had slowed down a bit, but not even close to enough. Being in the space, to me, is a guilt-free cup of tea on the back deck, or a spontaneous chat and drink with a friend, even mid-week! Being in the space I create is about feeling, being exposed and vulnerable, sitting with emotions, doing nothing sometimes and free from all the ‘shoulds’.

The journals I’ve kept on my travels will serve as reminders and I look forward to going through them again and pick out details and lessons to share with you. Settling back into routine (oh, thank the Lord!) will also be a process in itself. I certainly don’t estimate the challenges of re-entry that lay before me.

Though physically exhausted, I’m happy with where I am right now. I’m happy with all that I’ve achieved, seen and done on sabbatical. I feel so blessed to have been able to do this with my best mate and husband. These past six months have been insane, incredible, epic. A deeply personal, life altering experience.


I’d love to hear about any questions you might have about my sabbatical – how to plan and do one, my experiences….give me a shout! xo

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