Operation: Soaring Eagle

Operation: Soaring Eagle – Or Why I’ve Given Up A Regular Paycheck For 6 Months


(Photograph from Eberhard Grossgasteiger)

Hello everyone! Hope y’all are happy and healthy wherever you are!

So, this title… I’m interested in how people might react to it. Operation: Soaring Eagle is the name I’ve given to the 6 month sabbatical I am taking from my place of work, after which time I shall be returning to my position which has been kept safe during my absence. This time stretches from March to September of this year and during this time I don’t have to do a single bit of work whatsoever, but obviously as the work stops, the pay also stops. I’d imagine some of you wouldn’t be too fussed about not having a regular paycheck since maybe you already have a good savings tucked away or you live quite a free range lifestyle allowing you to comfortably pick up work here and there. But I’d also imagine some of you couldn’t fathom a world where you don’t have a regular source of income for a prolonged period of time.

Let me tell you a little about my situation.

For those of you who don’t know, I work as an adventurous activity leader at a residential centre for primary school children with my partner, Megan. We’ve been working there for just over 2 years and it has been a very rewarding job with lots of benefits you wouldn’t find in other jobs. We introduce children to a variety of great activities, getting to be active and healthy and (mostly) outdoors during this time as well as getting school holidays off and nice long weekends. However, on the flip side, you’re frequently working 12 hour days, sometimes with not-so-well behaved kids, sometimes cleaning up the various messes they make, all while putting a big smile on your face and pushing yourself to be the most fun and engaging self you can be. This can mean that while we do have a good chunk of time off, a lot of it is spent laying on the sofa simply recovering from the working week we’ve had rather than actually getting up and doing things.

So as you can see, it’s a very mixed bag. A big part of the reason both of us have chosen to take this time off is that a prolonged period of working the way we’ve been working has had a detrimental impact on our health and our happiness with instances of illness and lethargy much more common over time. We’ve also had this feeling that while there are many great things about the work that we do and the company we work for, that maybe there’s some other way of making a living that suits us better, or that we can do alongside our current job.

So, what are we doing with this time? Some people we know who’ve gone on sabbatical have gone travelling for the full time, but we’ve taken a slightly different approach. Operation: Soaring Eagle, is a time for us to, yes travel, definitely lots of that, but also to rest and recover, see friends and family I’ve not seen enough due to work commitments and also experiment with other ways of making a living and creative endeavours (such as this blog!). I’ve been inspired by Marianne Cantwell and her book ‘Be A Free Range Human’ which I’d highly recommend to anyone interested in exploring ways of earning a living on their own terms.

Although we are currently enjoying a 2 and a half week stay in Montenegro (which I’ll write more about in later posts), the first two months of our sabbatical were spent in the UK. Although we got the occasional “Are you still here?” from people, we feel this time was invaluable.

For the first couple of weeks of Operation: Soaring Eagle, we just enjoyed being in our local area without the stress of work and having full control over how we spend our time. Having adjusted to that, we hit the road, meeting up with friends in the Brecon Beacons for a weekend of camping and hiking in beautiful settings. After that, I was able to get some good quality time staying with my family in the midlands. While I was down there, I took the opportunity to be a total nerd and drop in on MCM ComicCon and EGX Rezzed (which you can read about in the links).

Wanting to return to work more qualified than I was when I left, I took the opportunity to go on a Canoe Leader training course near Betws-Y-Coed, which also spurred me into upgrading my paddling kit. The rest of our time before leaving for Montenegro was filled with visiting good friends near and far, building contacts for freelance working in the field of activity instructing, writing and game design, getting this blog off the ground, as well as planning and preparing for this trip we’re currently on! We would never have been able to do all this had we still been running on empty at work and people have commented on how much happier and lighter we both look!

Right now, we are staying in Montenegro’s gorgeous Lustica Peninsula on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. We’re staying at a place called The Adventure House with a company called Playworking, where we are doing a mixture of travelling, holidaying, adventuring and writing!

We’re out here for another week before returning to the UK to rest and do some work on a freelance basis. As I’ve previously said, a big part of the reason we’re taking this sabbatical is to experiment with different ways of earning a living. Plus, a little extra money while we’re not working full time is certainly going to be welcome!

In June we’ll be heading to Sweden for a camping and paddling tour that has us starting out in Gothenburg before travelling north and canoeing down the Klaralven River, experiencing Sweden’s wild heart!

After a very short stopover back in the UK we’re then off to Iceland for 7 weeks over July and August, volunteering as operations team leaders for a trail maintenance project in the south of the country.  Sounds tiring but we’re very excited about it!

Now the big question you probably have is how I’m affording to do all this. Whether you leave your house and go travelling full time, or do what we’ve done and keep your house as a home base, it’s going to cost, and unless you find other forms of income, you won’t have those paychecks coming in to subsidise what you’re spending.

I will talk more about budgeting and planning to find the most cost effective and adventurous travelling experiences you can, but for now I’ll mention a little about the mindset me and Megan operate in to allow us to do these kind of things. We are both keen travellers; going on adventures is pretty much our favourite thing. This means that while others go out for big meals and pub crawls every night or get all the latest games and gadgets fresh off the shelf, we think about our next adventure and start saving. We may splash out on a big meal out occasionally, but mostly we prefer to eat in and cook, playing that 3-year old game we still really like or going for a walk in the hills, enjoying the simple things and discussing plans for our next big break with the savings we’re building up!

Still not convinced? Then have a look at this article from the Harvard Business Review which puts forward the idea of rather then spending our time to earn money, we can sometimes say ‘no’ to money to spend our time better. There have, of course, been times when bills, rent and travel costs all need to be paid when I’ve momentarily wondered what I was thinking saying no to a regular stream of income, but now I’m this far into Operation: Soaring Eagle, I strongly feel that the great benefits are far outweighing the costs!

That’s all for now! I will write more about our experiences in Montenegro in later posts. If you are interested in taking some time off your work, trying to find a new lease of life or just after travel tips and information on the places we’re visiting then be sure to check out future pieces! If you can’t wait til then, you can check out my Instagram (@tallhobbitadventures) for semi-regular updates on our travels.

Until next time friends!


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