Sabbatical Leave, Family and Kids: Interview with Matt Koenig


Matt Koenig - 1 Year Sabbatical

Matt Koenig

Lily’s note: This is an interview with Matt Koenig of 1 Year Sabbatical. Matt is married with 2 kids and is planning a sabbatical year with his family starting June 2011.

I used to only imagine unmarried 20 or 30 year olds taking extended time off from work. Matt’s journey has made me realize that with planning and thought, sabbatical leaves from work are also possible for people with families and kids.

Follow Matt as he plans his sabbatical year:
Twitter: @1yearsabbatical
His blog:

Tell me about yourself and your profession

I’ve been married for 9 years and have two boys aged 4 and 7. I’m in my 40’s and work as an IT professional at a major medical company with over 15,000 employees and $1.78 billion dollars in yearly revenue.

I have what most would consider a great job; good pay, benefits, and great co-workers. Life should be good and for the most part it really is. But for the past several years there has been a nagging voice in the back of my mind questioning if this is as good as it gets.

What inspired you plan a sabbatical year?

A little over a year ago I decided I needed to take a break, to slow the pace of life down a bit and do some self-exploration. This is when the idea of taking a 1 year sabbatical was born. As we toyed with the idea we realized this was something that we had to do not only for us but for our kids as well.

What will you be doing with your time off?

Since my wife is Indonesian it was natural that we spend the bulk of our sabbatical there. Our sabbatical time isn’t going to be filled with hours lying on the beach watching the waves come in. We’ve got big plans and goals so as to fully take advantage of our year away.

I want to spend time growing and developing my photography (as a) business as well as spending quality time with my family. My wife has plans to further her cake decorating artistry and my kids will be students in the biggest classroom on earth.

How are you funding your sabbatical year and what’s your budget?

We will finance our sabbatical with a combination of savings, monies from selling all our belongings and making money while on the road. (See Matt’s article on How to Finance a Sabbatical for funding ideas.)

We’ll have reduced expenses because we will be living with family for much of the time. Right now we are estimating $1,000 per month as a minimum which means we’ll need to have $12K by our departure date in June 2011. We also want to save another $5K to assist us when we return to the US after the sabbatical. In addition to my starting my photography business and my wife’s bakery, other options for income we’ve considered are teaching English and freelancing.

What’s been the biggest obstacle in planning your sabbatical year?

One might think that finances would be the biggest obstacle. It’s actually hasn’t been. The biggest obstacle has been in changing our mindset to believe that taking a sabbatical with a family is possible, that it is actually something that we can do even with kids. The fear of uncertainty is a powerful motivator for staying with the routine. The goal is to make the fear of not taking the sabbatical greater than the fear of taking one.

I don’t want to wake up 20 years from now and have regrets about how I spent my time or even worse die before living my dreams.

Articles from Matt’s blog on preparing for his sabbatical:

>> Thank you interview Matt. Have you ever considered taking a sabbatical with your family? Do you have any tips for Matt as he plans his year off? Please share your thoughts below.

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  • It’s been only a few months between taking the decision and actually taking the plunge. The Sabbatical started July 8th 2011 and we’ve been enjoying it for the past 6 months already. Like someone here already said – life’s too damn short to worry about things that don’t matter. We want to spend more time together as Family and see what the World has to offer… We love it!

    • Wow, sounds like your family is having quite an adventure! Congratulations on the travels you guys are sharing together. I travelled alone, but it’s so special to share it with loved ones because certain moments become life-changing sometimes. Best of luck to you and your family with your travels!

      – Lily

  • MikeworX

    We hit the road with our 3 kids over a month ago – sold the house, sold the mortgage, sold it all. Life is too damn short to limit yourself to one spot on the planet. You need to take this year and find a way to earn on the road. As an IT guy, there should be NO PROBLEM. Destroy the idea that a home is a house fixed in the ground in one spot. Once you do that, the world is your home. Good luck with your adventure!

    • Hey Mike! Thanks for connecting with me. I really like what you are doing and have been following your adventures a bit. Did you find it hard or stressful to sell it all? Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Great inspiriting post. Good luck Matt, your photography are amazing and I know you’ll do well in that business while you and your family traveling in Asia. Enjoy!~ :)

    • Thanks Sarah! Appreciate your comments on my photography. It’s the thing I really enjoy doing and look forward to doing much more of during our travels. Cheers!

  • Good luck Matt. I’ll be following your story with interest. I took a career break nearly four years ago and I’m finding that returning to full-time work just isn’t working. I’m hoping to set up a more location independent lifestyle so we can wander the world from next year. The problem, as a working mum, is finding the time to set up the vehicle that’s going to finance our very very long sabattical.

    • I completely understand. With a family and a job it’s tough to find the time to figure it all out. The bulk of the day is spent working or family time and that doesn’t leave much for anything else. And maybe that is the thing that keeps people from taking an adventure or two. Good luck to you on everything. I’ll be following your own journey with great interest.

  • Particularly encouraging to hear about a family doing this. it’s called a gap year when a 21 yr old does it and is easy enough, but it’s a really big deal when a family is involved. Best of luck!

    • Thanks so much Robin. It’s definitely a different kind of adventure with a family but one that is going to serve us and our kids well. I’ve been so encouraged by the number of families I’ve connected with who are either in the planning stage themselves or are already out on the road exploring.

  • Thank you Lily for profiling us and our plans for this sabbatical. The more I connect with people the more families I discover that are either currently traveling the world or planning to travel. This is going to be a great time in our lives and the lives of our kids and if anything I hope our journey will be an encouragement to other families out there who may be dreaming of something similar but stricken with the fear of the unknown.

  • Kelly

    Wow, good for you Matt! Wishing you all the best in your move!

    • Thank you so much Kelly! We are really looking forward to this adventure and new chapter in our lives.

  • Aviewtoathrill

    Great interview, Lily. When I read the last sentence, I instantly thought of this quote: “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams”.

    • I love that quote! Thank you for sharing it. It’s so true. I don’t want to wake up one day filled with regret and wondering what life would have been like had I taken a sabbatical.

  • It’s always great to hear stories about people who actually have the guts to fulfil their dream. Mike strikes me as a very down to earth guy who has planned his sabbatical carfeulle. Hope to hear a lot as his advenure gets under way and how the family copes.

  • Hey Lily, that’s great you got to interview such a cool guy. Matt is a really down to earth fellow and I’m wishing him and his family the best during their sabbatical.