Sabbatical 2002
I investigate various ways to spend my paid 2-month sabbatical, for which I'm eligible starting Feb 2003.
FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 03 December 2002

I am eligible for my two month paid sabbatical in February 2003, my seven year anniversary working for Intel. I wrote this document to help me decide what to do with this rare opportunity.

Update - 30-Jan-2003: People have been asking me if I have made my final decision yet, and the answer is: I haven't! So please send me your feedback if you haven't already.

Update - 1-Nov-2003: I finished my Ride Across America in exactly 6 weeks! Thanks to everybody who helped me brainstorm ideas for my sabbatical and for all the support once I chose my path.


  1. I'm eligible starting Feb-2003 and need to take it before Feb-2004. I'm thinking that late spring or early summer is the best time to take sabbatical, but I am open to suggestions!
  2. I get 2 months sabbatical plus another 3 weeks optional vacation, which means I have anywhere from 2-3 months to "spend"
  3. I want to do something that isn't possible during a normal vacation (which I can do any other year).
  4. I don't want to spend a fortune while on sabbatical and come back poor. (This doesn't necessarily mean totally cheap, either. I'm thinking $5000 max.)


  1. Bicycle across America. Portland to New York or some equivalent epic journey (approximately 3000 miles). I predict that this would take approximately 60 days (estimating 50 miles per day average). I would plan on camping but also staying in motels every few days to recover and clean up. It would also be fun to get as many of my friends as possible to join me for various segments. Best time to bike is mid-August to late-September.
  2. Extended sojourn in southeast Asia. Spend an extended amount of time in an incredibly cheap country (like Thailand) where I can live like a king in a stress free environment. Concerns: I don't want to be constantly beleaguered by people begging me for money or people trying to rip me off. Best time to visit Thailand is Nov-Feb.
  3. Hawaii. Move to Kauai or Maui, relax on the beach, learn how to surf/windsurf, etc. It should be possible to rent a furnished apartment for 2 months. Getting a car may be a problem; need to investigate extended rental rates (or maybe I can buy one cheap and then get rid of it?)
  4. Banff. Same basic plan as Hawaii, except doing mountain-type sports instead.
  5. Bicycle Pacific coast. Portland to San Francisco. This would probably take 2-3 weeks, after which I could do a shorter version of one of the other options.
  6. Trekking/Hiking in Peru. Same basic plan as hanging out in Asia.
  7. Hike PCT, AT, or CDT. That's Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and Continental Divide Trail in case you don't know :-). These are definitely sabbatical-class journeys, but I don't know if I'm up for the commitment.

Comments from others

M.C.: The ride across America probably won't take 60 days. A friend of ours did it with a group in about 45, and you might even do it in less. My thought here is that 50 miles a day will seem pretty short once you get into the groove. You might knock out 75 or more many of the days. And though you may take days off, thereby lowering the average, I also know you're a hardcore who likes to keep moving. I could be wrong, but just a thought.

Oregonian travel article about biking across America

T.F.: My personal favorite would be to bike across America. There are so many great things to see and people to meet in our own backyard. Sadly, most folks never really experience this country since they travel airborne from one metropolis to another at 30K feet or 80 miles an hour down the isolated interstate. Traveling on a bike through the rural back roads would be an amazing experience. If I were going, I would pick a route that stayed mostly along the northern tier states with some variation into Wyoming and Colorado. I would start in Mid-August with a goal to end in New England sometime in Mid-October. This would allow most travel to occur in September which is wonderful in the US because most tourists are done vacationing and campgrounds, national parks, and mountain lodges are amazingly empty and quiet- and it's usually the seasonal low for lodging rates. The weather is usually very nice and this would allow you to finish in a New England in the fall. I also like this BAA option since, as you pointed out, friends could join on various sections of the journey.

M.M. tells me that China, Nepal, and Vietnam are all cheaper than Thailand.

F.W. notes: I think I did the ultimate trip last year (actually earlier this year) when I went to Tibet, and then to Nepal. Both places are absolutely mind-blowing. A taste of Tibet can be found in the books/movies "My Seven Years in Tibet", "Himalaya", and "The River's Tale" among others. I just finished reading "Bhudda of Brewer Street", which I moderately liked and plan to read the Dalai Lama's autobiography next. If these books don't fire your interest in Tibet, then better not go. But I find the notion of a culture in transition, i.e. Tibetan Bhuddism, fascinating. Khatmandu was the inspiration for the Hari Krishna, flower-children, and related movements of 40 years ago, and it still is awe inspiring -- even if you don't climb Mt. Everest. But a good alternative to a climber like you is to do the Annapurna Loop, which is a 12-day loop around the several peaks of the mountain that once was thought to be the world's highest. For bragging rights, you can go to the Everest Base Camp in Tibet, to which you can practically drive a car. It's still a thrill though, just to be able to stay overnight in the local monastary at an elevation of 5200 meters. The EBC in Nepal is considerably more difficult to reach, and requires several days of tough up and down hiking. Two months in China (one of the entrances to Tibet), Tibet, and Nepal need cost no more than about $5,000 total (including air fares) if you set out to do it on the cheap, which is where you have the most fun anyway.)

H.M. says: When I went [to Asia] for 3 weeks I really wanted to stay for months instead. Make sure you know what SEASON you are going. In Thailand there were 3 seasons: (1) very hot, (2) rainy, and (3) hot but tolerable (the best). Feb was the end of the tolerable season. For Asia, or at least Thailand since that's my only experience, don't worry too much about the beggars. We only dealt with a handful. I used the Lonely Planet guide (Rough Guides are good too) and felt I had a good idea what I should be paying for things. You can be assured even if you pay a LITTLE more than you should, it's all cheap.

Z.S. says: I may join you if you plan on doing the Annapurna Nepal and/or Everest base camp dealio. Also may join in on Hawaii and/or Banff.

T.F.: Nepal/Tibet seems very intriguing if you have a genuine interest in seeing this area of the world. Everyone single person I know, who has spent extended periods of time there, just thinks it's the best experience ever. I would personally skip Thailand/Vietnam since those are trips you can make on 10 day vacation. And may even have opportunities to visit in conjunction with Intel sponsored trips...

B.M.: As a veteran of one sabbatical so far, I think you're on the right track: 1) Do something it wouldn't be practical to do during a noraml year (trips of 2 weeks minimum), 2) Don't come back poor. As a like-minded individual, I would recommend something that will combine relaxation and the activities you love (adventure sports). Too much relaxation and you'll get bored, and too much of the other and you'll come back un-rested, I'm afraid. Nepal remains my highest recommendation, followed by probably South America (Peru, Bolivia, etc.) Of course just doing a climbing tour of the Cascades/Sierra might be fun, as well, if you could get partners. Start in Squamish and work your way down to Joshua Tree, with stops in Tieton, Smith, Castle Crags, and Yosemite on the way?

S.B.: Get out of the states, that means Hawaii too. And Banff I suppose ... canada is too much like the US. The cycle trek across America would be interesting in places, but I reckon the mid-west would just be deadly. Flat, boring and hot. If you were going to do a bike ride, I'd say the pacific coast would be much more interesting. My pick would be south-eastern Asia. If you've never been to Thailand or Vietnam, you need to go. Wonderful, and you don't get hassled that much. It's not like India. Though you will find it in some places. Chill out on some of the Thai and easy. I especially liked Ko Phi Phi....went for 2 days, stayed 2 weeks. Not been, but I would expect Nepal is very interesting too. Everyone I know that's been there has loved it. And I'm sure you would too. So, I'd say Asia. And if you want to do some cycling, do the pacific thing, and then Asia. PS. Pick your timing on the asia tour....look at monsoon timings, and also think about how hot you want it to be. Summer in some parts of Thailand is pretty unpleasant.

D.B.: I'm up for sabbatical this year also. I've been told by many a person, that you don't want to include your vacation as part of your sabbatical. Once you get back from your 8 weeks, working is be difficult and you will need a separate vacation.

B.C.: Watch out for the political situation in Nepal. I believe it's quite dangerous now. My parents know more about it if you're leaning that way, and could hook you up with a guide as well as give lots of useful advice.

G.R.: You should really look into New Zealand. One of my friends recently came back from there (South Island) and his pictures & stories are unreal. is a NZ tourism site (and has some pics). My friend spent a lot of time near Queenstown... typical activities were sea kayaking, mountain climbing, canyoning, mountain biking, & rock climbing. He also went up along the west coast of the Southern Island and climbed Mt.Cook (highest peak in NZ). He used as a guiding service but since you are experienced there may be other options? The majority of Lord of the Rings was filmed in NZ (gives you an idea what the scenery is like).

N.B.: As for Sabbatical, you have so many choices. Being from Heidelberg and doing it myself, I vote for Eurorailing especially with the new Euro-it's even more affordable. I loved exploring Europe. I learned the most in a short amount of time (~ 1 month) than I ever have before. I also vote for Mallorca off the coast of Spain-wow. I also give a slight vote to living in Hawaii just because learning how to surf is both rewarding, fun, and cool. You can also get the fantasy most people have about moving to warm paradise to be a bartender out of your system.

M.K.: We've been to Hawaii (Maui specifically), and found it to be much like any other US city, complete with corner McDonald's. We did a ton of SCUBA diving all over the island and in a couple of the volcanic craters. It was interesting, but not breathtaking. So unless you are just really into hardcore windsurfing on the North Shore, I'd wouldn't recommend Hawaii. If you are going for fantastic beaches, warm water (much more so than Hawaii), and watersports, I'd pick one of the lesser travelled Caribbean Islands, or maybe an extended tour of several of them. The British Virgin Islands are very nice and certainly off the beaten path. When we were in Tortola, we only saw one other person on the entire beach all week long! Of course that environment is good only if you have a travelling companion. Have you considered Egypt, or maybe Moscow? If you go to Egypt, make sure your shots are up-to-date, and take a lot of anti-biotics before you go.

M.K. part 2: I personally like the Caribbean better. Just know which islands to go to. When we went to Tortola, we stayed all week and only saw one other person on the beach one time. The little villa we stayed in on the beach actually had an open-air shower. There is virtually no crime on the island simply because when something happens, the local cops know immediately who did it. Definitely don't go to St. Thomas. It is definitely the worst of the Caribbean Island experiences. Crowded and touristy. I also hear China is a good place to go and live like a King. But then again, so is Mexico. When we were in Mexico, a bottle of Coca-Cola was actually more expensive than their best beer. And lobster was the price of a McDonald's hamburger. Europe isn't a good place to go on the cheap right now...the Euro has gained way to much on the dollar so now its a 1:1 exchange rate. The only good thing about Europe is that you can see a shitload of different stuff in a lot of countries without having to travel very far. But anyway....enough.....maybe you should just plan that ice trek to the North Pole.

K.S.: As for sabbatical, I'm a big fan of getting to know your own backyard before exploring other areas. In other words, I would vote for the bike across America. I would hate to pass on knowing more about Tibetan history than the history of my own country. And whoever made the comment that Canada is just like America, clearly hasn't spent that much time there... Just my 2 cents. I'm eligible next year and haven't really decided what to do yet. I'm looking into opportunities to observe/work the harvest in Napa/Sonoma, etc. I'm also thinking of biking across some portions of the US.

U.S. State Department travel advice

S.Z.: Consider a bicycle touring through Europe. The nice warm sunny European countries.

S.B.: New Zealand: Highly recommended..if you like hiking, you gotta come here. Some photo albums: Hiking; Heli-hike; Siberia Experience; Rope climbing; Snowball fight; Milford Trek; Rafting-Bungee-ATV-Luge; Tongarira Crossing

E.S.: The bicycle trip across America sounds really cool. In fact, it sounds so cool that if you decide to go that route, let me know. I just might take a couple months off of work and go with you. I'd probably have to kill my boss to do it, but I think it's possible. Some of my best memories and experiences have been based around adventure that is educational. (working in an observatory, environmental research in northern Minnesota, etc.) There are several options such as crewing on a research sailing vessel down to Antarctica, or volunteering with some geology groups that do field work. They usually need "grunts" that do real science, but don't have the knowledge to theorize or plan the trip. What could be more fun than camping in the wilderness or sailing with like-minded cone-heads for a few months?

L.B.: Why isn't a European bike tour on your list? I don't know how much M. spent on his 6-week tour but I seem to remember it being pretty inexpensive. If you camp, you could get by on $50/day or less. Of course, M. spent a lot on dinner... Anyway, you can do a week or two at a time in the US but tickets to Europe with a bike add up.

K.G.: Having said that, being part of the Irish culture for even the first 6 months taught me that the best-travelled American is typically equal to the average-travelled Irishperson. Taking a year off work to go on a "walkabout" from here is standard. Even when one is 30. So, why not take advantage of the down economy, and convince INtel to give you an additional 9 months off (without pay) and go for a round the world trip? Shock value not working? Then here is the advice a friend of mine gave me when I moved over here: He suggested that I try and get to the "difficult-to-access" out of the way places and leave the easy stuff for weeks-long trips from the US later (possibly with someone who was less-travelled). I'm not sure I've done that, but it translates to your trip: Although you will not be able to make a 60-day bike trip in the US later, you could atleast do portions of it. No way you could do portions of asia/tibet/etc. Depending on your relaxation/motion desires, getting on the road with a pack in asia or south america sounds like your best option.

D.W.: I went on my sabbatical last year and I went to Nepal. I found a sherpa and he and I treked in Nepal for 5 weeks. I went up to Everest Base Camp from the Nepal side and then did most of the Anna Purna loop. You can easily do both treks if you set it up right. I had a great changing kind of experiences. I can show you pictures (about 300) and tell you stories if you are interested. Oh and price...$1200-1300 in airfare (you can probably do it for less) and then $15 / day for food and lodging. As far as gear goes, you probably already have everything you need....but if you don't, you can buy everything in Kathmandu for about $300. Although the Cycle Across America idea is one that I've always thought about doing.....

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