It goes by many names: Sabbatical, Gap year, mini retirement, career break. We announced ours as a yearlong sabbatical at the end of 2015, and now 5 months in, are loving it so far. Whether you have 3 months or 24, here are 11 suggestions on how to make this time awesome!


  1. Rest. The last 4 years of our life have been intense. So we needed some honest-to-goodness rest. Time to read a book. Drink a cup of coffee while it’s still hot. Or amazingly enough… take a nap! The holy grail of rest!
  2. Explore hobbies. We spent 95% of our energy trying to keep our heads above water, so hobbies, even useful ones, had to wait. It has been fun to dabble in a few new things. Mr. Mt learned to carve up his own deer (a new thing for my city boy) and then began the world of meat smoking. Oh sweet baby Jesus. That smoker. It started as a yard sale find that a friend gave us. Then he pimped it out with insulation, dual temperature readings, and an extra heating element he took from a single burner. Not only is he experimenting with the free wild game we are getting, but just yesterday there was a meat sale at the store, so a small turkey found its way home as well.
  3. Create new streams of income. Having some time off is the perfect opportunity to work a side hustle. Some businesses take a lot of work on the front end, and now could be the perfect time to get that up and running. You could try your hand at setting up an online course at Udemy, which could continue to generate income after you go back to work.
  4. Fulfill a dream. Perhaps there is a big dream that you could make happen during this break. Building your own house. Writing a book. Learn a new language.
  5. Get in shape. You finally have time to go to the gym! Now the proof will be in the pudding. If you actually want to. Between being able to cook healthy meals at home and take walks in the afternoon, who knows, you might actually lose some weight. Now that my sweet baby #5 was born this year, I am planning on shedding the few extra pounds I accumulated during this pregnancy. Ok, it was 60lbs! It might take me all year.
  6. Travel. Some trips just don’t fit into 14 days off from work a year. Sometimes it was the money that kept us home, but more often, it was the time. We love to travel. Just hate being rushed. Plus Montana is so freaking big that just getting out of the state takes a full day. It’s like an island. Flights are crazy expensive, which doesn’t help. I could fly from DC to Europe for less than leaving this place. (It’s a good thing we really like living here)
  7. Get caught up. It’s almost embarrassing how many things we fell behind on. The urgent always won out over the important. We have a to-do list of about 75 items we need to get caught up on. From hanging up some blinds we bought 12 months ago to repairing a zipper on my favorite boots.
  8. Enjoy family and friends. Right now our kids are young and they adore going on adventures with us. This might not always be the case. Although I feel I have a better chance of making that happen if they get to have fun with us now, rather than working 60 hours a week till they are teenagers and hoping they still want to spend every weekend with us. Some of our family can’t travel anymore, so in order to spend time with them means a road trip for us. And our friends from military life are scattered across the country and we want to be able to hang out with them, laugh, and tell stories.
  9. Test out early retirement. Taking a gap year is a great way to test this early retirement without having to fully commit and cut all professional ties. As your break is coming to an end, you can better evaluate if you are really ready to walk away for good. Plus it can be an easier sell to family and friends until you are really sure this is the right time to retire.
  10. Volunteer. While it is always great to fit in a bit of volunteer work, with extended time off, you would be able to tackle more significant roles with a larger time commitment. Work with habitat for humanity, travel overseas for a project (a 6-month commitment is far more useful to most organizations that a 2-week vacation/volunteer stint), or help start a community garden.
  11. All the crap you said you wanted to do, but used time as an excuse. So here is the rub. Not having enough time will no longer be the go-to excuse for why you aren’t doing the things most important to you. Like spending time with your kids, or working out, writing a book, traveling. Whatever it is for you. You no longer can abdicate your schedule to a boss. You have to own it. At the end of each day, it’s all on you to be able to say, “I’m really happy with how today went.”