In July 2011, Molly Last began a trip of a lifetime after being awarded a paid sabbatical from her school district. The mantra of her wonderful trip was “Living Life With Arms Wide Open.” Molly was one of the speakers at the 2012 Meet Plan Go event in San Francisco. Here is her essay on how taking a career sabbatical changed her life.
This past year was all about leaving my life behind in San Francisco and beginning…just beginning to follow my heart around the world. Everything fell into place…a trip to India and Nepal, immersing myself in the Italian culture, dreams realized in Egypt and Bali and Mongolia… All because I was awarded a sabbatical and it was time to embrace, absorb, and breathe my wanderlust.
The one thing that never seems to fade, though, is wanderlust. Wanderlust is what made me take a trip of this magnitude in the first place, and despite popular belief, a long-term, RTW trip does not cure wanderlust. In fact, I think every RTW traveler I’ve ever met has said that their trip only fueled the travel fire. For every destination I ticked off the travel list, five more were no doubt added.
Traveling removed me from my old habits and routines and lets me rediscover myself anew. It expanded my horizons, gave me fresh and new perspectives, strengthened my sense of adventure, pushed me to challenge myself and gave me a new appreciation of my own courage and abilities.
For me, travel isn’t just about a destination, but the anticipation of going somewhere and the excitement of the journey itself. I love exploring new places, learning about different people and history, seeing beautiful and unique sites, and enjoying different cultures. I’m very thankful for the travel experiences I’ve had and for those to come.
Travel has made me feel more fulfilled as a person. I’ve gained an incredible amount of life experience and have been able to see places I had only read about. Travel has provided a great deal of cultural knowledge and enrichment, not to mention the memories of the incredible people I’ve met. One of the biggest rewards is that it has made me more self-assured and confident in my ability to handle any situation in any environment.
My travel sabbatical naturally forced me to reflect on difficult questions about my life. The inward journey I’ve made is less apparent but far more important. Though I look about the same as I did 2 years ago, I feel like a new woman, with new priorities, new values, and a new life path. I’m more relaxed now, obviously, but also more self-aware. I know myself better than ever and have learned to listen, really listen, to my heart. I’m confident about who I am and who I am not.
I’ve come to value money less and time more; things less and people more; recognition less and impact more; logic less and intuition more; appearances less and essence more.
My sabbatical gave me time to think. My prior life was full of commitments, meetings, projects, and plans. There was no time to actually rest, think, and evaluate my life and decisions. I spent many days, weeks and hours contemplating my last year of teaching. It’s clear to me that I made many mistakes and experienced one of the worst years of my career. I learned so much about what I did wrong and how I must change when I return to work in the fall. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is this: My life won’t change my merely wishing for change, my life won’t change even when I know how to change, my life will change when I change. Powerful!!
Ironically, spending nearly a year without work has made me value work more. I’ve learned that work provides much more than financial means, but also a necessary sense of purpose and contribution. I’m deeply excited to return to the world of an elementary school teacher and I know that all of my experiences abroad will enhance my work with my students.
With heartfelt gratitude, I would like to thank the San Francisco Unified School District for the wonderful opportunity to discover the world and myself this past year.