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Sabbatical 2017: Temporary Break…or New Beginning?

Sabbatical – noun: a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year. From Latin: sabbaticus, from Greek: sabbatikos, from Hebrew: shabbat (i.e., Sabbath) or literally a “ceasing”)

bestnine2016To the surprise of many blog subscribers (and over 800 Instagram followers), a decision was recently made to take a break from teaching and traveling in Colombia. While the current idea is to explore a six-month intermission from this beautiful adopted country (and current school), it won’t be a departure from much else: there will still be travel and writing and nerdy work and adventures.


Fortunately, this relocation vocation is to a city Travel + Leisure magazine recently voted number one in the World’s Best Cities 2016. While some references have compared Charleston to Cartagena (ranked #2 by Lonely Planet for Best in Travel 2017) – both awe-inspiring cities boast colorful, colonial architecture, horse and carriages on cobblestone streets, and a protective wall between the sea and centuries-old buildings – true residents know there’s no comparing these two opulent jewels of history.

Charleston, South Carolina, USA cityscape at St. Michael's Episcopal Church.
Charleston, SC street view with St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
Cartagena, Colombia plaza view with Clock Tower

A few inspiring books, including Cheryl Gilman’s Doing Work You Love, and Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, plus “30 Powerful Questions to Find Your Passion” from Kerry Petsinger, added motivation to contemplation, and easily confirmed the idea that emotion creates motion, and motion creates results.

Nearly-clear workspace
Nearly-clear workspace

Following the announcement at school, ICT and English students in all grade levels were joyous, sad, silly and serious at once about the idea of a sabbatical. Working together, we wrapped up lessons at a good stopping point, and agreed on how to provide guidance for their new teacher. Then, in traditional Colombian form, we celebrated.

We partied with Vallenato, Reggaeton and Salsa, singing and dancing. We ate bags of candy and chatarra (junk food), and washed down golden empanadas with bubbly Colombiana. We shared jokes and took selfies while exchanging heartfelt letters and notes. Up to the last hours with these students, it did not feel like an ending, but a beginning of something new for everyone.

As suitcases were packed with artistic recuerdos and copious amounts of Colombian coffee, and friends were hugged goodbye with tearful teasing of “no te vayas!” there was little regret in making a change.

Zumbathon with awesome friends
Zumbathon fundraiser with awesome friends including Zumba teacher Daner!

Events like the Zumbathon fundraiser at Mr. Babilla in support of the wonderful La Vecina Foundation, delicious artesian coffee at Café San Alberto with some special teachers, and an overnight snorkeling trip to beloved Playa Blanca made the going equally difficult and joyous.

Favorite tienda in Pasacaballos on the way to Playa Blanca
Favorite tienda in Pasacaballos on the way to Playa Blanca

As 2017 begins in a different place, with new plans and ideas, the realization is this: if we are unable to change and bend like the willow (or in this case, sway like a palm tree supporting a hammock), we will break like the tall oak, no matter how strong we stand.

parting gifts from students and teachers
parting gifts from students and teachers

While it is beneficial to have powerful, transferrable skills – like embracing a second language or mastering scuba diving – it’s really flexibility in life, faith in your support system, and knowing yourself that will take you places, possibly even further than you’ve ever imagined. Add to this a dose of positivity and inspiration, plus a lot of love from people who believe in you, and the possibilities are limitless. Happy New Year!

arriving in Charleston, December 2016
arriving in Charleston, December 2016