Confessions of a SabSesh Convert.

August 6, 2022

Confessions of a SabSesh Convert.

May 29, 2023

After a week on the MEA campus here in Baja, I can say, without a doubt, that Sabbatical Sessions is one of the best ways to start, end or spend one’s sabbatical.

Had I spent the first couple weeks of my sabbatical here, I would’ve spared myself a lot of doubt, worry, teeth gnashing, and unnecessary self-flagellation.

But why listen to me?

Besides being a sabbatical alum myself (2017), I have spent the last five years catalyzing the first peer-reviewed research on sabbaticals, and working with companies and individuals to learn about extended leave and its role in the future of work. I have become either “the sabbatical guy,” or as Chip generously described me upon inviting me down to campus: the world’s leading expert on sabbaticals. These are clearly very prestigious—and poorly paid—titles. You can find more about my work HERE.

Now, I know how this is going to look: “sabbatical guy writing about sabbaticals at Sabbatical Sessions thinks it’s great, big whoop.”

But it’s not that easy to buy me off, especially about sabbaticals! I’m a purist. I’m literally here to try to write The Book on Sabbaticals.

To prove it to you, here’s what I first wrote in my journal on the drive from the airport to MEA:

"If there ever was a geographic manifestation of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ - driving through Baja Sur in the middle of a dusty, stifling hot day embodies it.”

I was also a bit skeptical of the term “Sabbatical Sessions” to describe stints of as few as seven days. As I said, I’m from the old school around sabbaticals. The Old Testament school. Give me a year for the fields to lie fallow, not a long weekend to try to solve a lifetime of work-life imbalance.

Our academic research defines sabbaticals as “extended leaves” of at least two months—preferably closer to six— “intentionally spent away from routine work.” Those who continued working in any way that resembled their pre-sabbatical life universally regretted it.

I hear from at least a few companies per week looking for help establishing a sabbatical policy, which inevitably consists of a number of weeks off you can count on one hand. Sabbaticals, like mediocre wine, should age for months!

But, a week into my ~2 month writer-in-residence experiment at MEA, I can whole-heartedly recommend SabSesh to anyone. What makes this experience so crucial for sabbatical-takers?

I believe four aspects of MEA’s offering are responsible: structure, space, community, distance. I’ll go into more details in some future posts about my time here in Baja Sur.

While I’m here, I’m also happy to answer general (or very personal and specific) sabbatical questions. Let me know what would be helpful in the comments of Chip’s LinkedIn post about this blog entry.

During SabSesh, MEA is one of the few places in the world that is specifically designed to support and enhance the sometimes intimidating and seemingly risky, but always enlightening, sabbatical.

PS - Interested in coming to spend some of SabSesh with me? Shoot Gail (gail@modernelderacademy.com) a note and mention I sent ya!

PPS - I will be doing a free Linkedin Live session with Chip Conley from 2:30-3:30 pm PT on Monday. You can learn more about it HERE. Chip and I hope to see you.

DJ DiDonna is the founder of the Sabbatical Project and was an Alumni in Residence at the Harvard Innovation Labs. Find out more, and follow along with DJ’s research, stories from sabbatical-takers, and forthcoming book on sabbaticals:Newsletter | Website | Tedx Talk | Twitter

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