Taking a long term sabbatical overseas with a family | An Interview with Matt Koenig

Taking a long term sabbatical overseas with a family | An Interview with Matt Koenig

Matt Koenig of 1 Year SabbaticalThis is an interview with an awesome guy named Matt. No, it’s not me but thanks anyways :). It’s with Matt Koenig of 1 Year Sabbatical. Matt was actually one of the first people I connected with online and I recently met him in person at the World Domination Summit. Matt’s an incredible guy and is taking his family to Indonesia for 1 year starting this August. Below are some deep answers to what inspired Matt to do this and many other things that go along with moving overseas with your family.

Welcome Matt Koenig.

What inspired you to take a 1 year sabbatical?

The primary inspiration was just realizing that I was stuck in a rut and wasn’t happy. It wasn’t that I necessarily disliked my job but I disliked the routine. Something needed to change. As cliché as this sounds these days, a friend recommended I read Tim Ferris’s book “The 4-hour Work Week” and after reading that I realized there were options out there I hadn’t considered or even imagined. But what really got me going was Chris Guillebeau’s manifesto “A Brief Guide to World Domination”. I realized that I didn’t have to live my life the way others said I had to. Since my wife is Indonesian and we have a strong connection to that Country we came up with the idea to take a career break, a 1 year sabbatical, and live abroad for a year with the family. It just seemed too perfect. I’ve always been of the belief that if things are not how you want them to be then then you should do whatever it takes to make changes.

What excites you about moving to such a different place?

I’ve been to Indonesia before and just love the people and culture. It’s just an incredible place that really makes me feel at home. I’m excited about being able to learn more about the culture and become an advanced tourist. Before this the longest time we’ve spent in Indonesia was 2 months and it just wasn’t enough time to really start to feel anything beyond a vacation. We were just starting to feel like we were settling in when we had to leave and fly back. I’m excited about being able to afford all that wonderful and healthy tropical produce (have you seen how much a single mango cost in the US?). I’m excited about being able to spend more time with my family and for my kids to learn more about the other half of their cultural heritage. And I’m excited about being afforded the time to develop various business ventures I’ve wanted to pursue. I love photography and I’m excited to be able to have more time to put into it.

What have been some of the challenges so far with this decision?

I think the biggest challenge by far has been actually believing that we can do this. If you give yourself time to step back and really think about it all it really sounds crazy. Give up a good job in this economy to go live abroad? When people hear what we are planning to do they look at us like we’ve gone off the deep end. It’s been challenging financially to put away the money that will be required to make it a year in Indonesia. We’ve had some debts that we needed to pay off first as we realized this venture would never be possible unless we were totally debt free. And I’m happy to say that we have made great progress on that at the expense of saving money. It’s been difficult to stick to the sacrifices we told ourselves we would make but I think in the end we will meet our savings goal. Of course I would feel much more comfortable if we would exceed it. It’s challenging when you have kids because they don’t always understand the concept of sacrifice.

 What does your family think about the idea?

Well my wife is all for it obviously. This is all kind of a home coming for her. My two sons are excited but I’m not sure they really comprehend what this all means for them. In terms of other family members they have generally been receptive to the idea and have encouraged us in our planning. I’m not sure they really believe that we are going to follow through with everything though. My parents have the obvious concerns of my career and employability, health insurance and other insurance issues, retirement savings and of course the fact that we will be on the other side of the world from them. My in-laws in Indonesia are very excited as it’s been since 2005 that we were last there and they have yet to see in person their youngest grandson. None of my co-workers beyond my boss know about our plans. Thankfully my boss is really cool and is onboard with the whole idea.

Some people would probably say you are crazy for giving up such a good job but what do you think?

Well it’s been a concern for sure. Part of my mind is screaming at me telling me not to be a fool, not to give up the golden handcuffs, to maintain the security. And it’s easy to come to that conclusion in light of all the economic indicators telling us to bunker down, don’t take risks, to maintain the slow and steady but safe course. But when you really think about it nothing is really safe. My job could disappear tomorrow if that is what the company deemed in their best interest financially. This is what it really comes down to for me. Do I want to sit around in my basement cubicle dreaming about the adventures that others are having right this very moment? Or do I want to take a chance, open up a can of risk and create some amazing adventures of my own? I’d much rather create and experience my own adventures than live vicariously through someone else. It’s like getting served a piece of cake without any frosting. We all know the frosting is the best part. I want more frosting. Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not some irresponsible jerk that is advocating everyone quit their jobs and life a carefree life with no concern for the future. I’m just the opposite. I’ve gone into this 1 year sabbatical with a clear head and plenty of research. I know that my saving for the future is important and I have a plan to make sure that I don’t get behind in my retirement savings. But I also don’t want to wait until retirement in order to enjoy retirement. I don’t buy into the whole deferred life plan. I think if you have the opportunity to live the life you desire then why out it off until some golden age that you have no guarantee of ever reaching? Life is short. Do it now while you can. And that is what we intend to do.

You’ve started a great blog to chronicle the journey leading up to the big moment. What has that been like and what message do you want to send to your readers?

Starting the blog was one of the best things I’ve done. Through the blog I’ve met lots of great people such as you and have received so much encouragement. Through the blog I’ve also encountered more traveling families than I ever imagined. Seriously, there are lots of families out there doing exactly what we are planning to do. So if there is one message I would like to send to me readers it would be don’t let having kids hold you back from traveling. While it may offer up a different set of challenges it’s not impossible. Just ask people like Christine Gilbert of Almost Fearless, or Colin and Tracy Burns of Our Travel Lifestyle or The Vogel family of Family on Bikes.

What are you hoping is born from this fantastic journey?

If I’m to be completely honest it would be a new lifestyle. It’s not that I dislike my current job but I see so many unique and interesting opportunities out there that I would love to try out. I was talking with a friend the other day about careers and how I have had several including a chef in a restaurant, wildlife biologist, data processor and network analyst. All have been things that I have been interested in and pursued. But none of them have lasted the duration of a typical career because I’ve always desired to move onto the next thing once the “career” began to feel stagnant. So in that respect I’m hoping (or rather planning) on a new lifestyle and new career being born. I have a few ideas that I want to pursue and develop so we’ll see where they lead to.

Any advice for other people considering taking a sabbatical with or without family?

I guess my advice would be to plan out what your goals for your sabbatical are and have a purpose and a plan for how you will spend the time. A sabbatical isn’t just an extra-long vacation. It’s a career break to allow yourself to pursue some specific goals and ambitions that you’ve always wanted to pursue. So make sure you know why you want to take a sabbatical first, then plan out the details. Also, don’t let finances hold you back. Sure, a year in Europe can be expensive but there are lots of places around the world where money goes pretty far so don’t let the issue of money hold you back. Do the research and you will quickly see that a sabbatical is obtainable on almost any budget. We are doing it on a shoestring budget so you can check us out and see how we do it. We definitely plan on putting up specific budget information during our year in Indonesia. Finally don’t let fear hold you back. Our minds set up roadblocks that can be difficult to overcome. Fear is a natural emotion but when it interferes with and dictates how we live our lives it becomes a serious burden. Work through it and don’t let it hold you back. Life is too short to feel trapped in your own state of fear.


You can follow Matt Koenig and his adventure by visiting his site 1 Year Sabbatical.

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  1. Hey Matt! Thanks so much for interviewing us. And it was awesome to finally meet in person at WDS.

  2. Mike Hammar says:

    “If we wait until retirement to enjoy ourselves, there may not be enough of ourselves to enjoy it.” – Mike Hammar

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