Sabbatical Travel Is The Final Frontier Of Corporate Wellness
A new era of bespoke travel that promises fulfilment, connection and positive transformation is on the rise among high-net-worth individuals. And this Australian startup is leading the (re)charge.
If I see one more hustle hashtag on LinkedIn …” says Nicholas Ingate, ex-agency man and founder of Sabbatical Travel, trailing off. “Hustle culture. We’ve been there, you know? For the last decade, we’d all meet people in a work context, and you’d say, ‘how are you?’ And the answer would be ‘busy, I’m so busy.’ And we’d look up to that busy porn as if it was something to strive for. But the definition of success is changing. Now we want to be relaxed and thriving.”
You don’t have to venture far to stumble upon headlines, buzzwords and evidence of a collective discontent with the current state of work. As we wake up to the dangers of hustle culture, more executives and high-performers are seeking new ways to channel their ambition, focus on their mental and physical well-being and question their actions, purpose and place in society.
Just look at the rise of optimised self-care, including biohacking, primal-style fitness, microbiome health, sleep prioritisation, alcohol-free lifestyles and the questioning of and detoxification of masculinity. And, contrary to the reports that the “great resignation” was only for the corporate-adverse youth, the revolt against the grind is hitting organisations at senior levels. Newsflash: we’re all tired.
Last year, for example, a survey by Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence found that 70 percent of C-level executives were seriously considering leaving their job for one that better supports their well-being. The same survey found that more than 30 percent of executives are lonely, 40 percent are overwhelmed and 26 percent are depressed. Moreover, 81 percent of C-suite placed more importance on their well-being than advancing their career. Finding equilibrium has never been more vital. But the question many of these burned-out high-performers are left with is: “how?”
“We’re moving out of this phase of hustle culture and into this space of questioning not just your passion, but your purpose, and doing it in a way that gets results,” Ingate observes. And he should know: in 2019, this is exactly where he found himself. Sydney-based Ingate was a founding partner in a creative agency with representation all over the world, he serviced the crème de la crème of brands and possessed the bragging rights of huge success and growth that many dream of. And yet, he was unfulfilled, a feeling so unshakable and unnerving that at the so-called prime of his career, this executive decided to metaphorically drive into the sunset and leave it all in the horizon. “It was great, and we achieved so much,” he says. “But after a decade, I just got to a point where I was just questioning things. Does the world need another watch? Another premium vodka? Another car? I was done.”
Six months before the rest of the world was forced to slow down, Ingate sold his share of the agency and embarked on a 12-month sabbatical to find his purpose again. “I wanted to plan it properly so I could communicate to family that this is what I was doing. I was going to be doing long stretches of no phone, no laptop and different types of experiences. So I did what most people do: I went to Google.”
From solo hikes in the Himalayas to Ayahuasca rituals, silent meditation retreats and beyond, Ingate spent hours Googling in pursuit of filling the gap. “My first observation was there was just no brand, no source of truth, where one place housed all these types of experiences. It was just pages and pages of really hard-to-find stuff,” he says. “I was like, okay, cool. I created my own list, called friends and made a hundred phone calls and figured it out.”
This, he says, was the journey within his journey—a precursor to launching Sabbatical Travel, the idea of which came to him on day seven of a ten-day silent Vipassana retreat. Ingate had found his purpose in helping others find the clarity of spirit that his own sabbatical had given him, in the guise of the missing one-stop-shop for bespoke and therapeutic transformational adventures; curation-as-a-service for the self-actualisation market.
A typical experience with Sabbatical Travel takes place over a number of weeks and is divided into three parts: induction, experience and reintegration. After an “audit” of the client’s life, discussing self-worth, ambitions and the like, clients are paired with a performance coach-like “guide” to dive deeper into the sea of self.
“We’re not talking about skiing or solo hiking. It’s ‘what are you working on? What is a life well-lived? What’s missing in your life?’” says Ingate. “Why are you here? Is it to reconnect with your masculinity? To heal stress? Maybe it’s reconnecting with your spouse. If so, there’s a whole relationship intelligence piece that we will take you on.”
From here, the guide and a travel concierge work together with the client’s needs, time, budget, location and geo-curiosity to design the experience. Nature is central to each program and could see a client do anything from an immersive education in ancient practices in Peru to foraging and hunting for survival in the middle of a forest. A recent experience, for example, challenged one client to engage their primordial survival instincts in a New Mexico desert.
“The client had to build the skills to orientate himself, and the whole point was to push himself to the edge and bring forth and find who he is,” says Ingate. “We flew in family members to meet him at the other end. Like the return of the hero, so to speak. There was just this beautiful, heart-opening moment that will be remembered forever. That’s the kind of transformation we want to facilitate.”
Servicing just a dozen clients per year, Ingate caters to a highly niche clientele, one with time on their hands and a willingness to do the work. Those in mid-career transition, founders looking for new challenges, leaders and future leaders. Those whose definition of “transformation” moves beyond the momentary exhale of a regular luxury vacation.
“We know the transformation happens when you come home,” says Ingate. “You know, when you’re back at home and all those familiar stresses return, and you’re trying to process your thoughts and experience. We want to give clients a chance to bring those thoughts into their life, so we have a six-week integration process where our guide re-enters the conversation. And that looks like accountability, mindset shift, and it leads to behaviour change.”
This is where Sabbatical Travel answers that aforementioned “how”: while the experiences seem like the drawcard, the reintegration element is where the real evolution happens. “We teach survival skills, ancestral skills, primal fitness and the like to get back to this state of being,” says Ingate. “In creating these moments, we reintroduce the intention and can ask questions or have the client ask themselves: what is your moral compass? In the time we have left on this planet, what person do you want to be? What does family mean to you? And draw meaning from that deep place, which leads back to purpose and real growth… and that change, that’s what we measure ourselves by.
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