Take a Family Sabbatical and Take Back Your Life

What if you could break away from your life? What if you could find freedom from your regular day-to-day existence, if only for a short time?


The Road to Clarissa Falls, Belize

The Road to Clarissa Falls, Belize


Even if you have only ever taken one-week vacations, you know the kind of freedom that comes from breaking out of your everyday. Time away can recharge you, inspire you, and clear your thinking. If you’re in the right frame of mind, a vacation can do wonders for your soul.


What if you could go away for longer than one week? Wouldn’t it follow you’d be even more inspired…more refreshed?


Even a short time away can help you - and your family - reevaluate what’s truly important to you, while away from the comfort zone of where you’ve always lived.


I find that traveling helps me settle down and find a greater awareness of myself and my world than when I am home, following the same (sometimes frantic) path to my dog dish. Even a week on a beach only three states down from my own gives me the power to pump out new poetry, think up new business ideas, or discover new things about myself.


Travel helps me clear my mental clutter and then see what’s left.


Of course... you can make positive changes for yourself right in your own home, but it’s more difficult. You really have to focus all your energy on doing something differently and changing your habits and thought processes long enough for real change to start happening.


When you walk around your home, looking at the same sights, driving the same roads, talking to the same people, it’s harder to find a fresh perspective. When your eyes fall on different views and vistas of a foreign land, your mind will spin differently.


Travel has the potential to break you out of your comfort zone long enough for powerful changes to take place within. While traveling, whether that means a road trip, a sedentary break at the beach, or a tour of a different culture, you have a chance to reevaluate. You’re never more YOU than when you’re away from all of your stuff, all of your habits, and all of the people who think they already know who you are. You have a beautiful opportunity to rediscover who you really are... and what you truly want out of your life.


But I have kids, you say. I can’t take a break for more than a week, in summer, with my kids.


My husband and I have four kids, and we are now at the tail end of a six-month family sabbatical in Belize.


It IS possible. And it’s wonderful.


At the Belize Airport


Never have we felt such power within us as we have during these six months away. We’ve grown exponentially in so many areas of our lives. We’re transformed spiritually. Our business is running more efficiently. Our personal goals are sharper. My writing has taken off and I’m preparing to publish my first book in just a couple of months.


Life is good. And it’s good not because we stayed on the expected path but because we veered off.


I’ll admit: when we first had the idea to take a family sabbatical to a third-world country for six months, friends and family thought we were crazy. Heck, WE thought we were crazy.


I’m sure you are imagining many of the doubts. How will we handle school for our four kids? What will we do with our house? What about our cars and all of our stuff? Who will watch our dog? How can we possibly pull our kids away from their soccer schedules and friends?


Each potential issue seemed alarming to us at first. No one we knew in our hometown ever did anything like this. Perhaps our biggest fear about taking a counter-cultural journey like this with our family was: What will people think?


Let me first address the initial worries and doubts. Without getting into too much nitty-gritty about how we handled every worry (which is something I cover in greater detail in my book), I will say that we dealt with each fear separately and thoroughly.


And were satisfied enough with the results that we ultimately decided to take the trip of our dreams.


The first worry was school. We eased the worry through research. When I first looked into sending the kids to local schools in Belize, it became apparent that it was totally possible to send them there. Although some would say the education is not as good as what you would see in U.S. schools, I would argue that it depends on how you define education.


Sacred Heart School grounds, Belize

Sacred Heart School grounds, Belize


We’ve felt the deepening of our children’s knowledge about culture, courage, and camaraderie has more than made up for any lack in mathematics or cursive writing. (And we are supplementing at home so they don’t backslide too far in any given subject.) 


Once we’d talked to our grade school at home and got their full support, we knew we were one step closer to our plan happening! We could take a break from our life. We could sneak out, steal some time from The Schedule and The Culture we lived in, and come back with new eyes and a fresh start.


We handled each of the other issues, one by one, and found that the whole idea was very possible.


We started with the same fears and obligations anyone has. But we set our intention on this very exciting plan - realizing life is too short to put off our dreams. Once we announced to ourselves and the Universe that we wanted this more than anything, the life of our dreams started to fall into place. We realized along the way that the thousand reasons we shouldn’t do it were overpowered by the few compelling reasons we should.


Six months in Belize is giving us an entirely new perspective on our life. It’s giving our kids a worldview and a glimpse of themselves they never would have had without this experience. Moreover, in breaking out of what we knew to be normal at home, we’re teaching ourselves and our kids that the only normal that counts is the one you create for yourself.


So, that last worry I mentioned - What will people think? - becomes a non-issue as we move forward. The only opinions my husband and I care about are each other’s and those of our kids. And the only life worth living is one where we are creating our own story.


Four Kids - Family Sabbatical in Belize





Domini Hedderman blogs about her family’s counter-cultural path through this wonderful world at http://www.renaissancehousewife.com. Look for her upcoming book, documenting the why’s and how’s of their family sabbatical, Exit Normal: How We Escaped with Our Family and Changed Our Life.