Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Some people ask us, “How do you do it? How do you leave for a year?” Some tell us, “You are crazy; I would never do that!” These people usually think of a vagabond as “a person who wanders from place to place without a home or job” as does the dictionary but I prefer Ralph Potts’ definition from his book Vagabonding it is
‘Vagabonding’ is about taking time off from your normal life — from six weeks, to four months, to two years — to discover and experience the world on your own terms.
In this season of harvest with Sukkot and Halloween upon us, so soon after Yom Kippur, I reflect on the stories in the Torah about our people’s journey from slavery to freedom. These tales belong to other people in another time, but they are also my own travel stories. They are like signposts for all of our travels in both a literal and figurative sense, and they can inspire us.
I ask myself, “What are we personally enslaved to today? And how is it possible with so many time-saving devices, from the microwave to the personal computer, that we have so much less time?” Leaving both our homes and careers can free us to think about our paths and what is it that we want to do with our lives. If you are considering a long vacation or a career break you might wonder, “What can we journey from and what can we journey toward? What will the trip be like? What happens in this ‘wilderness’?”
As the Torah stories tell us, one year out of every seven the fields must lie fallow so that they can continue to be productive. And every seventh day on Shabbat we are offered the opportunity to rest. So a Sabbatical may allow us to step back so we might give more to our lives. The research agrees and was posted in an academic study, “Sabbatical Leave: Who Gains and How much? conducted by researchers from the US, Israel and New Zealand. In August 2010, American Psychological Association in its Journal of Applied Psychology worked to measure the impact of sabbatical on health and attitude. The study states: “Sabbatical leave promotes well-being…the present study confirmed the beneficial effect of a respite on positive well-being.”
Maybe we cannot all take a sabbatical year but at least we may find a sabbatical second or moment to acknowledge our dreams and pull our lives more into focus, and become closer to making our dreams come true. Support someone else’s idea for a dream of a Gap Year, Mini-retirement, Big Trip or Sabbatical—between stages of life, after college, or after the home nest empties.
All journeys begin with one step, maybe your first one will be on October 18 for Meet Plan Go. The panelists that will speak in 17 cities across the USA have all struggled with these questions. I hope that the discussion of where they traveled to and why and how will help you with your questions from: Is it worth it to leave home? Will I learn anything? Can I come back? Is the journey for a destination? Is there a destination? What is the point of this trip and even of my life?
As Steve Jobs said at his 2005 Stanford University commencement address:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.
For many of us who have left “the rat race” we realize that the journey is for the sake of the adventure and that we can be transformed by our travels. I hope that you will put one foot in front of the other and show up on October 18 even if you are not currently planning a trip. Meet Plan Go events around America have drawn a wonderful community of travelers who are engaged in the idea of understanding our world and taking care of our planet and each other. We hope you can carve an evening out of your schedule and not be tied to your Blackberry, carpool, family, office or deadlines, to focus on realizing your dreams, whether they involve