Fall 2018 Sabbatical 2020

I might move to Spain. Here’s why.

While I boldly published my intent to Sabbatical in 2020, I’ve had many more iterations of life-outside-of-the-workforce since then.  Lately I’ve been giving the Spanish teaching program more thought. If you’re not familiar with it, check out this post.

After a less than ideal day at work, I have now convinced myself this is a viable option for a structured sabbatical.  Here’s why…

1, I will have worked 5 years.

If I do the program in the 2020-2021 school year, I will have five years of work under my belt. This is good because even if I only do the program for one year, I’ll have five years of history to show me I can make it another five years. Most early retirees seem to be able to FIRE in ten years or less. Plus with five years of work, that’s more time to save more money. That last one is one reason why I’m not trying to do the program in the 2019-2020 school year. I’m not ready to fast forward leaving work without a firm plan in hand; although my Monday mornings might tell a different story.

2, It’s something to look forward to.

Even though it’s far off into the future, the thought of it has added a bit more focus to my time in the workforce. Now that there’s a possible end in sight, I can just focus on one more year (+ 9 months). Plus there are decisions I have to make before then that will add momentum. For example, in July 2019, I’ll have to start thinking about how long to renew my 2019 to 2020 lease. With Spain in mind, I’ll likely need a shorter lease. I’m also thinking of going by my new name with my ‘new life’, so I’ll need to update my passport before Jan 2020, maybe in Sept 2019.

With the urgency placed on 2019, I feel more compelled to have some noteworthy experiences. When it feels like time is running out, I tend to want to take advantage of whatever it is I feel I might lose – making better use of my free time; seeing more parts of my state; maybe finally going to a state park, to name a few.

3, What do I have to lose?

I don’t think I’m going to be more eager to have an adventure in my forties than in my thirties. So if not now, then when? Really, what do I have to lose?

Money. The most obvious thing is money. I won’t be working at my current income for part of 2020 and maybe all of 2021.  But so what? From Jan 1 to Sept 15, 2020, I could still max out my 401k and Roth IRA. With today’s limits, that’s $25k. Not the $45k I am hoping to save in 2019, but it’s still something. If I can at least contribute the max on my 401k, I’ll feel some semblance of being on track to some version of early retirement (ER). As for 2021, it’s undecided. Ideally, I’d love to come back in Sep 2021 and resume at least my current salary.  Of note, in 2015 when I started my current job, I started in Sep and netted a gross amount of $25,000. So there’s opportunity there to save at least some portion of that in 2021. Maybe even see if I can do 100% contribution per pay period to 401k…that would be awesome!

Worst case scenario.  The worst case scenario is I have a horrible time. I get placed in a horrible school with horrible kids and a horrible apartment. Barring death or permanent injury, it wouldn’t be forever;  I would get over it and never want to visit Europe again. Oh, well. Lots of people never go to Europe. If it’s truly horrible, I think it would make me eager to return to the US to my easy, less adventurous life (i.e. my life now). It would certainly make me think twice about retiring early abroad. I would appreciate the US more.  I do appreciate it now as I recognize that my life is pretty easy here in terms of convenience and access to just about everything. Hence, why it’s easier to complain but make no change.  In the end, if it’s a terrible experience, it’ll be a nice reassurance that I’m not really missing much.

Best case scenario.  On the other hand, let’s say it doesn’t suck. I think the potential to have a really good time is high. Let’s say I go through with this and a joyful or at least adventurous spirit is awakened. Under the pressure of a one year stint, I could see myself more compelled to take advantage of the proximity to other cultures. I like a good deal even if I didn’t know I wanted it.

Once upon a time, people used to fascinate me before I tired of and stopped suffering them. I enjoyed learning new things and learning about different walks of life.  This may be an opportunity to see if that part of me still lives or even wants to come out to play. I could see at least a dozen countries, if I wanted. I could learn Spanish (again) or even speak it with some native fluency. I could try new water sports (thank you, Escape to the Continent). Maybe I’ll even develop a hobby outside of television watching. Maybe I could go to Kenya and learn to paddle board (again thank you, Escape to the Continent). I can visit Croatia, Portugal, or if I’m feeling really bold Kenya. Croatia and Portugal are on my list for possible ER locales. I hope to be inspired by people choosing other paths of life. Right now I’m surrounded by the predictable: marriage, house, kids. #Notaboutthatlife

Additionally, it’ll be fun to be a new person.  I’ll be a single 30-something living abroad. I can be who ever I want to be. Yes, I have heard the saying ‘wherever you are, there you’ll be’, but people re-invent themselves all the time!  I’ve been a country bumpkin from the Mid-west. I was a cool, savvy metropolitan girl for a stint. Then I was a breezy California girl who went hiking and to movie premieres. My latest life as a meek Southern girl is not my favorite, but I’ve managed to maintain that life for 7 years.  Why wouldn’t I want to be someone else for a year!  Most of all, I think I would really enjoy just being an American (no hyphens or subcategories).

4, Why this program anyway?

That’s a good question. There are at least two other widely known sponsored English-teaching programs (JET and EPIK), but this one seems the least stringent. It’s a part-time gig with assistant responsibilities vs leading a class.  I think I’ll benefit from the looser structure and three-day weekends; the other programs don’t offer that.

Why a program at all? Well, because I don’t have that much wanderlust. I’m not the traveler that prefers to go off the beaten path. I like touristy things; I like things that are well established. I don’t usually talk to the locals when I travel. In the past, I’ve treated traveling as a checklist and photo-op. I don’t think that part of me has changed.  So if I don’t have a reason to be in Spain, I couldn’t see myself going or staying for a year.  The program provides a compelling reason and a task that can be completed. That’s the way I’m wired.

The Plan.

TBD.  I am etching it out now. But as I may have eluded to to, I would hope to save 10k for expenses for the school year. The program provides a 600 Euro/mon stipend that I would want to use just for housing. I would want to max out my 401k and Roth IRA the months leading up to my departure. If I can find a job that starts the Sept after the school year, I’d like to come back to the US and finish working and saving for FIRE.  I’m hoping between now and then, I’ll transition into different responsibilities at work (per my professional development plan) that will make me more marketable upon my return. What helped me think this is doable is at least 2 employees on my team have returned after leaving. The most recent one was gone 13 months and resumed his last position.

So what do you think? I may do this, or this may be the last time I even think about this! C’est la vie… 

Recently inspired by: A Purple Life

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10 Comments

  1. I think this sounds like an incredibly exciting opportunity. In my life, my biggest regrets have been over the things I haven’t done rather than the things I have done. I have loved traveling through Europe, and I think you will enjoy it if you have even the slightest feeling of adventure. Given that you speak the language, I would encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and find ways to meet people – seeing a country through the eyes of its inhabitants is the best way, if you can do it.

    1. Thanks, Solitary Diner. What did you enjoy about your travels through Europe? Are you still traveling?
      Yes, I’m hoping with a longer stay, I might stop and smell the roses and maybe rekindle my appreciation for the humans.. 😛

  2. So let me first say this is awesome and you should do it.

    But just soothe my anxiety: if you do come home and can’t get a job right away, how much $$ will you have saved to help you get by for a year or three? Not in retirement funds but accessible.

    1. Ooo I heart what-if questions because it gets them out of my head and out in the open, so thank you! So tentatively, I’m thinking I would save 10k to use while I’m there (between Jun and Sep 2021). And leave my 1 year’s expenses safety net in tact. Other options that I haven’t thought through – go ahead and apply for renewal to the program in case I don’t find something, and then there are other volunteer opportunities I have bookmarked for back ups. My first thought is to check in with my job near the end of the program; although ideally i’d like some space between the end of the program and going back to real work. 🙂

  3. I think it would be a great opportunity. Europe is awesome and I’ve never had a bad experience there. I think knowing the language would make it that much better. And, the fact that you can do this and still max out two retirement accounts… Do it.

  4. Hi MERJ! Sorry I’ve been MIA – festive time = busy family stuff and blog just takes up soo much time! I love the idea of you doing Spain, get’s you out into a completely different environment and maybe help you answer some of the life questions that continually buzz around your mind.

    1. Hey, Tuppy! Nice to see you back! Hope you enjoyed family time. Yes, my mind is continually abuzz for what to do next. This is at the top of my list!

  5. OMG you have to do this. You HAVE to. I spent almost 3 weeks in Spain this summer and I daydream about it constantly. The sheer beauty of the place, the lifestyle, the food, the people… it’s heaven. I took a year off to go to teach in Hong Kong and it was the single most important thing I’ve ever done for myself. It opened my world and my mind completely and changed me profoundly in fantastic ways. I’m the only expat who came home – everyone else decided to stay, about 8 years on now, because expat life is just so good you won’t want to come home. I’m practically begging you to do this, because from personal experience I can vouch that it will be one of the best things that could ever happen!

    1. Hey there…long time no see.
      I don’t disagree it’ll be a worthwhile experience, I just am conflicted about WHEN to go. Now? Next year? In 5 years?

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