Intentional Traveler Interview: Round the World Sabbatical - Intentional Travelers

10 Jul Intentional Traveler Interview: Round the World Sabbatical

For today’s Intentional Traveler interview, we’re excited to introduce Lindsay Penrose of Round the World Sabbatical. Lindsay is a 32-year-old high school science teacher from San Francisco. “I really love my students, and I have no intention of leaving youth work. However, I’m excited to say that I’m taking one year away from the classroom and going on a travel sabbatical!” she says.

For Lindsay’s round-the-world trip during the 2015/2016 school year, she plans to continue working with youth and advocating for social justice in various ways. Her international travels have already drawn her toward issues of food justice and health equity: “Whenever our rights and access are allocated inequitably, I want to be part of making it right.” She also hopes to rest and focus on her own learning so that she will come back to San Francisco a better teacher to her students.

Here’s the skeleton outline of her trip so far:

1. Spanish school in Oaxaca, Mexico for one month
2. Cuba!  No particular plans, but hopefully lots of dancing and lots of eating!
3. Helping with health education in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
4. Bolivia’s Salt Flats
5. Argentina!  Hopefully something city-ish in Buenos Aires, and something farm-ish in Mendoza
6. New Zealand – ? – maybe farming?
7. The classic Australia camper van road trip — Melbourne, Sydney, obviously scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef…
8. Layovers in Perth and Singapore because why not
9. Hanging out with awesome kids and the amazing Brooke Patmor on the Thai/Burma border
10. Cooking and eating my way through India — during Holi!
11. Camping trip from Cape Town to Victoria Falls
12. Hiking the Jesus Trail in Israel: Nazareth to Capernaum
13. Portugal, by way of cities I’ve always wanted to see: Istanbul, Cappadocia, Sicily, Barcelona, Marrakech.
14. Iceland
15. New York

Can you say “dream trip?” We love that Lindsay is intentionally planning her long-term travel while still maintaining her career. This is an option that a lot of people can replicate if they’re willing to put in the effort!

Here’s what Lindsay told us about what it takes to go on a one-year sabbatical from a job, practically speaking:

Work Sabbatical

I am incredibly lucky that the logistics have been so much easier for me than they may be for others.  Any teacher who has been teaching in my school district for 7 years is eligible for a sabbatical.  Sabbaticals are allocated based on teacher seniority and district budget.  After eight years in the district and only one failed sabbatical application, I was lucky enough to receive one this year!  The program is great in that you are guaranteed a job when you return, and you receive 60% of your salary while traveling. Granted, 60% of a public school teacher salary isn’t that much, but it’s certainly better than nothing!

My first sabbatical conversation with my boss was bittersweet.  I absolutely love my school, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting the school or myself in a bad position.  I especially wanted to make sure I was understanding the sabbatical terms correctly, and that I would indeed be able to return to my position.  A guaranteed job in the district is nice for financial security, but that wouldn’t have been good enough for me — my school is a very special place!  I talked to him early enough (and he knows me well enough) that he understands where I’m coming from, and he’s excited for me to take this trip!  Hopefully he shares my confidence that my travel experiences will make me an even better teacher when I return!

I would encourage mid-career would-be-travelers without analogous programs to remain optimistic.  My path to sabbatical was relatively easy, but if it’s a priority to you, you can make it happen.  If you are in a position to start saving a little bit and then take a few months off of work, a little bit of money can go a long way on the road.  And although I don’t have the personal expertise to confirm this, I’ve heard many people say that travel experience is frequently valued by employers, making you a stronger candidate for new jobs to which you apply upon your return.

Personal Logistics and Finances

Figuring out personal logistics has been a little more challenging for me.  Finding someone to “housesit” was a particular source of stress.  But I lucked out there too, and a wonderful, kind, reliable woman from my church group will be taking care of that.  She will use all my furniture, so I’m just working on getting a small storage unit so I can clear out my closet for her.  The lingering challenge that I haven’t quite figured out: what to do with my mail!  A few months ago I made sure all my important accounts were set up to be paperless.  But suddenly a super important mortgage document was snail mailed to me, and it really needed a response.  I started worrying about important mail like this that I might miss while traveling.  A friend told me about online services that take care of this, and they charge even less than what I would have offered my friends to do it!  I’m currently looking into Traveling Mailbox and Earth Class Mail.  Both services offer to scan your mail and even deposit checks!  Whew!

The last big hurdle is money.  First, getting more of it!  I decided to stay in town a couple extra months to work summer school to save up a little extra.  I’ve also applied for every odd job I can find: SAT/ACT proctoring on Saturday mornings, night school, tutoring, babysitting, paid research studies…  I actually probably don’t need to do all this.  I travel cheaply, and I’m a natural budgeter.  But I know a trip like this will include a lot of unexpected expenses, and I don’t want them to ruin my trip!  I’m trying to build up enough of a cushion that I can relax and enjoy myself, and even splurge occasionally.

Second, I had to deal with bills.  I tend to carry a fairly low balance in my checking account, so I’ve always been hesitant to set up automatic bill pay with that account.  But I’m realizing with unreliable internet access for weeks and maybe months on end, there really is no better choice.  I’m maintaining a higher balance so I don’t get myself into real trouble, and then my mortgage, utilities, etc, will be deducted automatically.

Third, I got some extra credit cards in case things are lost or stolen or frozen while I’m traveling.  I opened a Charles Schwab checking account a year or so ago because of the great perks for international travelers: no ATM fees anywhere in the world, and they even refund the local ATM fees!  But I realized that it would be prudent to have an additional resource, so I also opened a Capital One 360 checking account.  They have all the same perks, plus they offered me a $200 bonus for opening a new account!  Same with credit cards — I now have three (rewards) cards that I’ll be traveling with, just in case.lindsay3

How will you pay for your trip and how are you lowering your costs along the way? 

Money is obviously a big consideration for travel.  My favorite way to lower costs is through work exchange programs.  I have WWOOF’ed (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) several times, and hope to do so many more times on this trip.  I get to learn something that interests me (sustainable agriculture), I get to hang out with locals and like-minded travelers, I get to eat amazing fresh food, I get to stay active — and I get free room and board!  It’s really a win-win.

I hope to also try out Work Away and/or HelpX for the first time on this trip, and to volunteer with some local organizations.  The work may be different than WWOOF work, but it includes a lot of the same benefits I love, including a way to connect to the community.  I really enjoy sharing a common goal and common interests with locals and fellow travelers; I find that brings people together in a much more genuine way than just smalltalk!lindsay1

These programs cover food and lodging, but of course the cost of airfare is still giant.  I’ve been trying to read up on travel hacking, but I have a lot to learn.  I have used Airtreks in the past, and I already used them to buy the first half of my (big) flights for this trip.  Their rates are competitive with sites like Travelocity, etc, but they will also accommodate special requests (for example, I like to arrive in each destination in the daytime for safety reasons).  And on top of all of this, the cost includes trip insurance!  Flights are still the single biggest cost I face when traveling, and I hope to learn the tricks to reduce these costs even further.  In the meantime, Airtreks treats me really well!

Because I’m naturally very frugal, I think it will actually be a challenge for me to choose when to splurge.  I have been saving up for this trip and will actually make money while I travel, and I’m visiting places I’ve wanted to see my whole life, so I I don’t want to miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity just because I’m being more frugal than necessary.  So far, my travel splurges have been so infrequent and so amazing that I’ve never regretted them ($200+ to dive the Blue Hole in Belize, for example).  On the other hand, the scale of this trip is totally new to me, so I will have to learn how many splurges is too many, and how many is not enough!

That’s a wrap for today’s interview. We hope you are as inspired by Lindsay’s plans as we are! We wish her all the best on her trip!

Are you a fellow Intentional Traveler? You don’t need to be a blogger. Share your story with us to be featured in an upcoming blog post (and potential book project). Help inspire others to pursue more meaningful, transformational travel!

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  • Lindsay Penrose (@RTW_Sabbatical)
    Posted at 14:41h, 10 July

    Thanks so much for the feature! It was really fun talking to you! And I hope I run into your brother in Bolivia — it is SUCH a small world! 🙂

  • Kathy @ SMART Living 365
    Posted at 15:51h, 10 July

    Interesting and inspiring to read about how others are traveling and at the same time helping to serve others around the world. I can’t help but believe it can be done as long as it is a real priority…and it sounds like Lindsay has what it takes. Thanks for sharing this. ~Kathy

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