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Stay for a While: the 12 Best Countries for a Radical Sabbatical

Travel Insider Guides
by Stephanie Grace Mejia Loleng Jul 31, 2017

IF YOU’RE PLANNING on taking a break from the day-to-day, consider taking a sabbatical. With basic planning and a sense of adventure, you’ll find that there are many budget-friendly options.

Below is a list of countries and activities to get you started on your journey.

1. Go trekking in Nepal.

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Trekking is the best way for travelers to see parts of the country only accessible by foot. Walking is the main, and sometimes only, form of transportation for many Nepalese who live in small villages in the countryside. Pokhara, located northwest of Kathmandu, is the gateway to popular trekking routes such as the Annapurna Circuit where you’ll walk alongside yaks, schoolchildren, and locals carrying goods to and from villages. If you want to catch a glimpse of the world’s tallest peak, you can also trek to the Mount Everest Basecamp. Several tour operators offer guided trekking trips that range from a few days to a few weeks. The best time to go is in April or October when the weather is ideal for trekking.

For more information, check Matador Network’s guides to trekking in Nepal:

2. Join a yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico.

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Located two hours south of Cancun, Tulum is a quiet beach town located along the beautiful Riviera Maya. Many resorts offer yoga retreats for stressed-out urbanites wanting to escape their busy lives. Depending on what you’re looking for, choose from an intensive yoga boot camp or a more relaxing program that involves yoga in the morning followed by lounging in your very own beachside cabana.

For more information, check out Matador Network’s guides to Mexico:

3. Sign up for a bed and breakfast farm stay in New Zealand.

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Depending on the type of farm stay you sign up for, you may be asked to roll up your sleeves and pitch in just like a true Kiwi farmhand. You’ll wake up to a hearty breakfast, followed by rounding up sheep or feeding calves. It’s a great way for kids to interact with farm animals and to learn about life on a farm. And it’s also a good trip for solo travelers or couples who want to meet locals and mingle with other travelers.

4. Learn about conservation in the Canadian Rockies.

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Experience the beauty of the Canadian Rockies by volunteering for a conservation program at Banff National Park. Spend your days hiking along the trails, where you’ll report wildlife sightings and trail conditions, or help with general maintenance and clean-up of the park. Volunteers stay in hostels where they get a chance to meet other volunteers from around the world.

5. Hop on the Trans Siberian.

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If your idea of adventure is riding on a train for seven days through huge country, with varied landscapes and a rich history, take the 6,152-mile (9,258 km) journey from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Or venture outside of Russia, on one of its two routes to Beijing, one through Mongolia (4,735 miles or 7,621 km), and another one through Manchuria (5,623 miles or 8,986 km). All trains stop in locations where you can opt to stay overnight to sightsee and break up the multiple-day journey.

For more information, check Matador Network’s guides to traveling on the Trans Siberian:

6. Apply for an artist-in-residence at a national park in the United States.

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Do you dream of having an uninterrupted stretch of time to write, paint, or play music while living in a forest, near a meadow, or along a seashore? If so, the US National Parks Service offers artist residencies located around the country. You could get a chance to stay in a wilderness cabin in Denali, or along the sand dunes in Cape Cod. Residencies last from two to four weeks which gives you a nice chunk of time to work on your projects — in a natural setting.

7. Or become an artist-in-residence in Berlin.

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Berlin is a city filled with creative energy. With the many galleries and studios throughout the city, it’s no surprise that there are so many artist-in-residence programs. Whether you’re a graphic artist, a painter, or a writer, spending a few weeks or even a year in Berlin is do-able if you can secure a residency.

For more information about living in Berlin, Check out Matador Network’s guides:

8. Teach English in Tanzania.

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When many people think of Tanzania, the first thing that probably comes to mind is going on safari or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. But how about living there to be immersed in the culture? You can do that by teaching English to young people in order to help them gain a valuable life-skill. Secondary school instruction in Tanzania is taught in English, which means English teachers are a valuable resource. Opportunities range from volunteer work at public schools, to well-paying jobs at private schools or international schools.

9. Hike the El Camino de Santiago in Spain.

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Known to Catholics as a religious pilgrimage to the city of Santiago de Compostela, where it’s said that the martyr St. James is buried, El Camino de Santiago has become a network of popular hiking routes in Europe. There are many routes, but the most popular is the Camino Francés, which starts in France and is a walk on mostly paved roads. Because of its popularity, you’re sure to meet other hikers along the way and may even vary your course according to recommendations from those you meet.

For more information, check Matador Network’s guides to walking El Camino de Santiago:

10. Summit one of the world’s highest peaks on a climbing expedition in Argentina.

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If you’re the adventurous type, with experience in mountain climbing, a trip to the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere could be just the thing for you. Aconcagua is located near the western edge of Mendoza, Argentina and is a popular place for climbers. The three-week trip with experienced guides will lead you up a less populated route up the mountain. With pack mules and porter support, you’ll only need to carry a light backpack. And after you finish your trip summiting Aconcagua, celebrate by joining a relaxing wine-tasting tour in Mendoza.

11. Experience a two-month meditation retreat in Cambodia.

Photo: Fabio Lamanna/Shutterstock

Join a meditation retreat where you can immerse yourself in silent guided meditation sessions, daily yoga — and work on a community project. This two-month retreat gives people a chance to begin or deepen their meditation practice in a peaceful setting.

Vagabond Temple Spiritual Home, is located just outside of Sihanoukville, a beach town along the southern coast of Cambodia. You’ll stay in a traditional Khmer house surrounded by a lush garden. There are also dormitory-style rooms in a wooden bungalow near the main house. Vegan meals are served three times a day, including some traditional Cambodian dishes.

12. Explore Eastern Europe by bike.

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The Czech Greenways Travel Club has helped to create a network of biking routes that are well-marked and located near affordable hotels. If you have the time, bike the 250 miles from Vienna to Prague along the Dyje River in Southern Moravia and the Vltava River Valley in Southern and Central Bohemia.

In Hungary, Velo-Touring offers affordable bike tours from Lake Balaton to the Villany wine region. They also offer tours to the thermal spa areas in Hungary. You can also opt to rent a bike from the Balaton region where many hotels and hostels offer bikes for rent for a day or even a week. More information on biking in Eastern Europe is available through Transitions Abroad.

For more information, Check out Matador Network’s guides about biking in Europe:

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