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Sabbatical?

October 23, 2022

I’ve been casually mentioning a sabbatical here for a while – but mostly not thinking of it in more than a daydreaming sort of way. It was only when Revanche asked how long it is for (and in a post on her blog mentioned her 2023 spreadsheet was ready to go!) that I suddenly started to realize that there are a ton of logistics to sort out, and I’ve given it very little thought. It is something far off, and not yet “real”.

The plan we’ve been discussing is a full academic year starting next fall, bleeding into the summers a bit where it makes sense. The initial plan was to go to location #1 (abroad) for the fall, and location #2 (TBD) for the spring. Location #1 is somewhere we’d love to visit long term. The idea was that maybe location #2 would be somewhere we’d move to if we ever decide to leave the US. (Location #1 is not ideal for long term.) After taking an initial look at logistics, we decided we should stick with location #1 for the year, and just do trips from there. Change is disruptive, and we’d probably enjoy it more if we didn’t land in Location #1 and have to start planning our next move.

With that set, I realized I had no idea how living abroad for ~9 months works for taxes and visas. A little research tells me that for T, it would essentially be considered an extended business trip. The more sticky part is whether I can continue at my job legally, if they’d have me. It seems possible, but it would be more difficult to sort out, and not a sure bet. Most likely, I’d want to scale to part-time temporally – the difference in hours alone would make it tricky to work a full time job. Plus, I want time to experience the adventure! In theory, my main project has hiatus that somewhat overlaps with our plans, so I’m a bit optimistic. So, I still have a lot of questions on taxes and visas, but I think I have a broad-strokes idea of what we are getting into. Tips welcome, though T will surely talk to his community who likely knows more about this.

We would almost surely rent out our home – the opportunity costs of leaving it vacant is quite high. We think we need to consult both a tax professional and an attorney familiar with local rental laws. (California has quite strict tenants rights, we need to be 100% sure we won’t run into issues upon return.) Then somehow figure out tenants. Then store at least some of our stuff.

Somehow we have to figure out school and housing in a foreign country. LO will be less than mandatory school age (I think even kindergarten is technically optional in CA, but she’d be in TK/pre-K if we are local). In terms of California, we shouldn’t have to do anything except be sure to get her enrolled the next year. We could be eligible for public school in location #1, but 100% in a foreign language. A private bilingual option is marginally cheaper than preschool/daycare here. A full up international school is probably more, but we likely wouldn’t consider that for a 4-5 year old. In any case, it seems solvable.

Budgeting is also a big question mark. T has been has not taken a sabbatical, and is eligible for 100% of his 9-month salary, and summer salary if he is doing research in the summer. My income is in some question, so I’d probably make a starter budget without it. I plan to increase our cash buffers for unknown unknowns, and we surely will want a bigger travel budget.

Finally, maybe I need to block out some time to at least start learning a new language? To be honest, languages have never been my forte, perhaps due to my fear of failing. But, this would be a real opportunity.

I tried to google for tips. I mostly found posts about how some profs are taking local sabbaticals due to challenges of uprooting families, or posts about coordinating dual academic sabbaticals, or posts helpfully suggesting you have a “flexible partner” to do an academic sabbatical. Or posts about people who took “family sabbaticals” where both parents lived off savings / digital nomad work for a bit, while traveling with kids. Interesting, but not really the same. I image each situation is mostly unique – sometimes straightforward, sometimes complicated. We’ve mutually agreed that we will do this, and are taking it on faith that my career will be OK in the end, that the risk is worth the experience.

So, that is what we know so far. There is a lot of work ahead to figure everything out. I am confident it will all work out, but some of it is going to be a headache. I often like to take care of organizing and logistics and planning, but T is really quite good at it too, and much better than I am at ensuring all the important details are correct. Together, we can make it happen.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2022 2:57 pm

    SabbaticalHomes.com

    • October 23, 2022 4:58 pm

      Thanks! I did find that – do you know people who have used it for renting or for finding a place? Just curious. At first glance it seems helpful, and I used it to look at housing price range where we want to go

  2. October 24, 2022 8:42 am

    This is exciting but so many logistics!

  3. October 27, 2022 3:58 pm

    Let’s be real about that 2023 spreadsheet, “ready” means that the first three months are prepped in!

    Oh man, taxes living abroad seems like it could be really complicated. I know nothing about this, of course.

    So many logistics! I’m really glad it’s not just on your shoulders to plan.

    • November 1, 2022 6:37 pm

      That’s still miles ahead of where I am on thinking about 2023!

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