Facing Your Biggest Fears to Take a Sabbatical Leap: Lisa Hoashi (Ep. 9, Part 1)



Lisa in the Columbia River Gorge, outside Portland, Oregon, her home city. Her sabbatical took her through the Western U.S., Southern Europe and Patagonia, before she settled on a farm outside Barcelona.

Prior to her sabbatical, Lisa worked in humanitarian aid communications. Her last work trip, in early 2013, took her to Zaatari refugee camp on the border of Jordan and Syria.

My survival shelter.jpg

To help prove to herself that she really could disconnect from work and find new passions in the world, Lisa signed up for a nine-month wilderness survival course prior to taking her leap.



“Every good sabbatical story can be divided into two parts: Everything that happened before my last day of work, and everything that happened after.”

In this episode, Leap Like Me host Lisa Hoashi shares the first half of her sabbatical story.

She candidly speaks about why she took her one-year sabbatical at age 34 – which included her lifelong dream for adventure and travel, a realization that her life wasn’t on the right track, the need to recover from work stress and burnout.

She also recalls the big fears that she had to reckon with before she could move forward, about her future career prospects, running out of money, not living up to others’ expectations, and even, missing the chance at finding a life partner and starting a family.

Lisa shares the practical ways she dealt with these fears, designed her year off, and got through all the logistics, budgeting and tough conversations.

Her sabbatical transformed her life: Pre-sabbatical, she lived in Portland, Oregon and worked in humanitarian aid and international development communications. Her typical U.S. singles urban life included long hours at the office, weekend fun with friends, and attempts to find love in the dating scene.

By the end of her 12-month sabbatical, she’d found love, moved to a farm north of Barcelona to enjoy a simpler life close to nature, and started her own business – and had the adventure of a lifetime.



  • How the idea of a sabbatical came from a desire for travel and adventure

  • Having a 30th birthday crisis, and hiring a life coach for greater clarity about life goals and how to get closer to them.

  • Realizing how important it was personally to have a fulfilling, challenging career; to have time off for travel, and to eventually find love and start a family.

  • In three years, almost taking a sabbatical twice, but then deciding that the timing wasn’t right.

  • Facing the biggest fears of not finding another job, running out of money, not meeting others’ expectations, looking like a failure, not making the most of the year off.

  • How trip planning and budgeting helped with money fears.

  • How meeting with mentors, looking at job opportunities and updating resume helped with career fears.

  • How growing up in an immigrant “American Dream” family added to the pressure to stay in a regular career path, and not take a break.

  • Preparing to break the news to parents, and boss and everyone at work.

  • Struggling to understand if it was better to just get a new job, or take time off.

  • Tactics for deciding a travel itinerary and daily and year-long budget.



1. What do you wish you had known before you took your leap?

2. What was the most unexpected thing that came of your leap?

3. For someone who is thinking of doing something similar, what one piece of advice would you offer? 



Get a free copy of my sabbatical planner: Six Steps to Launch Your Dream

Why Taking a Sabbatical Was The Best Money I Ever Spent — a blog I wrote for the Budgets are Sexy personal finance blog. I’ve included even more detail here about how I approached the sabbatical money question.

Here’s a screenshot of the very simple budget spreadsheet that I used to plan my trip. Click here to download an empty template.


My “Big Plan” budget

Click to download the template


The Power of Time Off, a TED talk by Stefan Sagmeister — this helped me to see how time off could actually improve my creativity, and what I brought to my future jobs.




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