Want to Take a Travel Sabbatical? Ask Yourself Five Questions to Get Ready

Have you considered investing in your photography through a travel sabbatical? Although it might not be a possibility now, what if you started preparing over the next one to three years?

Becoming a digital nomad has been an amazing journey considering I hated to travel five years ago. And now, I’m taking a 6-12 month sabbatical to invest in landscape photography. Since stepping across the Atlantic, I’ve learned that many of my perceptions about travel were actually reflections of my flabby lifestyle, one that prioritized stuff over experiences — a tradeoff I was content with until I began to experience the world through a lens.

What about you? Have you considered taking a travel sabbatical? It may be more realistic than you realize. This vlog steps through the questions you should ask yourself to decide if a sabbatical is worth the opportunity cost and how to articulate your goals during this trip of a lifetime.

Use a tool like Trello to organize your reasons, goals, expectations, and barriers to a travel sabbatical.

Many barriers come down to cognitive biases and cultural expectations: we are work martyrs, so putting a job on hold for uncertain remote income is simply insane to many of our peers. With the average American $137,000 in debt, finances are a very real obstacle.

However, it’s not insurmountable if you start tackling barriers today, and even if you are unable to surmount it, your finances will certainly not be worse off. Maybe a travel sabbatical is just what you’ve been waiting for to get your financial life in shape!

Travel molds our outlook, so why not do everything possible to get outside our comfort zone earlier in life while it has a chance to influence our lives? Start the journey today, and in a few years, you may find the impossible turn to reality.

Jonathan Lee Martin's picture

Jonathan Lee Martin is a fine art landscape photographer, educator and globetrotting digital nomad. He’s traveling the world for a year to discover unique landscapes and help fellow landscape photographers lighten their load to go further.

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A travel sabbatical for the sake of the travel is one thing. However, if it is a couple going where one is a photographer and the other has no photographic desire, it's a potential disaster in the making. I've found myself at simple outings with family and after stopping to take a couple of shots, the family members were gone. Time and again, I find myself chasing after them. I don't blame them at all, they aren't interested in what I'm doing.

So to go on an expensive trip where one wants to stop at a photographic opportunity and the other doesn't makes for a miserable time. I don't have the budget to take a photographic holiday by myself, so I have to shoot what I can, where I can. It's not good or bad, it's just how it is.

Can verify: currently at the end of a 6 months sabbatical with partner. It's been very hard to allocate time for photography-specific outings with someone who's not a photographer. I was kind of aware that this would happen before we left, and confirmation came early on in the trip. I managed to get some shots, but hardly the idyllic "photography sabbatical".

If you're like me, there's a certain sense of 'guilt' that goes along with our desire to get that next shot that needs to be printed. We were in New Orleans visiting family and friends. Of course, I had my camera along when we visited the Audubon Zoo. I took several shots of their tiger, but didn't care for how they came out. I told the group that I wanted to go back, so they all went to the gift shop while I ran across the zoo to get the additional shots. This is quite common, but completely expected. So we shoot what we can shoot...

Absolutely. I also find myself explaining myself and why I'm lying on the ground or taking my time staring yonder. So like you say, a sense of guilt. Apart from that, I create my best work when I'm on my own and get into that certain frame of mind. If there's other people around, I take the obvious shots.