I have to say the benefits really did make me a better deal as an employee. I basically went from someone who did things because he had to, just fitting everything in around work, to someone who pursued his own goals. Now that I'm back at work, I don't constantly lose sleep till I have to rush to work at the last minute; I schedule things so I don't have to, and I got my sleep habits under control. I don't bike to work just because I need some way to keep from getting fat; I sought out active, fun hobbies I can still engage in, like ice skating. I don't beat myself up all the time for being lazy; I have my own strategies now for getting myself to put in time on the right projects and not let things slip away. I also used to have trouble just getting basic things done like phone calls and finding a tailor; with my time off, I got things done and gained confidence that I could get any errand done.
I also feel so much more independent now. Google Maps plus free time to explore means I found so many wilderness sites and activities. Internet reading about joints plus time to work on the exercises mean any ache or pain that comes up is something I can solve. Compared to the time I tore a back muscle falling into a railcar, when all I could do is try to reduce the activities that caused me nerve damage and hope I got better, I'm so much better equipped to take care of my own health.
tl;dr Having full responsibility for yourself is great. I did a lot of things it would have been too late for in retirement, and the best part is the habits I learned when I had time are now ingrained enough I can do them even while working full time.
It's true that I buy time with money now when I never used to (I made 25-35% less but saved enough to cover the years off without touching my retirement). I think it's temporary while I have such extreme studying/shopping demands from the new job, and I will eventually have time to shop around again.
One change is that I spend less time on video games because I realized while I had two years off that I was not getting around to them not because I didn't have time, but because they weren't my favorite thing to do in reality.
Wow, this really clicked with me.
Games had always been a big part of my down time, often as a platform to stay in touch with friends from my home town after moving away.
My interest and enjoyment came in waves, based on what we were playing, outside life and a bunch of other factors. I did notice though, that the amount of time I spent didn't really relate to how much I actually enjoyed the games (or gaming in general).
I realised I didn't actually like playing games as much as I thought. I started pulling apart exactly what I _did_ enjoy, and what was actually tied to gaming (vs something I can achieve / obtain elsewhere).
First, I stopped buying single player games. The social side was a big part of why I liked games, and most single player games I do play, I don't finish. They're generally from a friend's recommendation, so I've started borrowing games from them once they've finished. It seems to avoid the hype train too. ("No Man's Sky was fun for a few hours, but you'll get bored. Try this instead.")
I love the aesthetics and creativity of games, and a lot of my enjoyment comes from just experiencing and absorbing that. I'm sure the SEGA and Nintendo sound chips constantly chirping from my TV set up the brain pathways that make me enjoy repetitive Techno so much now.
I've gone from playing guitar, to a stable of synthesizers and samplers. When an old NES tune pops into my head, I'll start jamming rather than fire up a game I've finished a dozen times.
I don't know if there was a point to that ramble, I just thought I'd share.
Why is it a shame that food, shelter and clean water have to be bought? They are cheap (well, shelter can differ) isn't that enough?
This doesn't mean that we won't get that again in the future thanks to some technological advancement. But that opens a completely different kind of issues.
But just look around you: everything that is man made has taken an enormous amount of effort and accumulated knowledge. It's not been made by people who worked three hours per day devoting the rest to socialisation and a painting lessons. The people who invented antibiotics worked their asses off in university and laboratories to find a way for other people to survive infections. All the tools that they were using have been invented by people literally living in their shops and laboratories, and mass produced in factories, keeping their availability high and their price low.
If you take any situation or object in your life and follow backwards the chain of work and invention that has been needed to design it, produce it and keep it working, you realise that this chain has required an enormous amount of effort by everybody involved.
This might be the relevant xkcd: http://xkcd.com/1741/
Reading this I'm surprised that you're not more worried about the thousands of great minds lost having to work hard their whole lives.
Our working time hasn't changed throughout the enormous productivity gains of the 20th century. But the amount and quality of available products has. It's hugely superior.
Maybe you could work one hour per day in our present time and have the same products available that you had in the year 1900. But would you? Or would you end up asking someone to work just that one more hour when it's for a good cause - some life to save, some impressive machine to build, someone waiting in a queue, having fresh bread on Sundays or bringing you to some holiday destination in August?
The rest was leisure time.
Under those societies it could. And there was little endogenous reason why that might suddenly change.
We've retained all the same exogenous risks, and added considerably more endogenous ones to boot.
1. Completely upgraded my outdated skill set - from C++/Oracle to ES6/React/Redux/Node.js etc.
2. Completed a life-long dream of writing a full length science fiction novel (not yet published, sadly)
3. Developed computational psychology model (pet interest) that might one day be the basis of a paper
4. Learned proper leadership skills, public speaking skills and people management skills
5. Much better health - exercised, got plenty of leisure time (worked only 30hrs/week)
6. Networked through pro-bono consulting
It was financially punishing for me, but ultimately it was more than worth it. Last year I returned to the industry full time (a different industry this time). The additional skills/experience in the resume opened up a lot more higher level opportunities that I would never have been able to pursue 3 years ago. Right now I'm in a management level position doing exactly the kind of work I want to do, and I doubt if I'll ever have to worry about finding a job...
By the way, for anyone who asks, those 2 years were easily the happiest in my life.
Edit: cons: be ready to be poorer!
2. My previous job was 10 years of mostly proprietary tech. Had no time to pursue other things seriously. Dealing with the newer technologies in a production setting (in the non-profit) helped more than any other learning process would have. Also, going from a small fish in a very big corporate pond to a big fish in a very small pond meant having to take a lot more responsibilities for product, delivery, strategy and HR. It was like a mini skill incubator. I also had enough time to do some serious consulting work, which opened up a lot of opportunities.
3. Quite bad. Savings are quite low currently. My living standard is still somewhat lower than my peers. But opportunities within the next 2-5 years are huge. Had I remained in my old industry, I'd have been a technological fossil by the time I'm 40 (I'm 37 now).
I was pretty nervous about coming back to software development, but it turned out fine. I'm not very ambitious career-wise, but I can support my family. I'm doing web development (there was some catching up to do!) and servers & ops on AWS, which I was able to jump right back into. Linux hasn't changed much!
I tried to find work in the US from China, but nobody took me very seriously, so I came back in late April, interviewed in a few places, partly while on a road trip, got 3 offers in 3 different cities, on a spectrum of interesting to well-paid, and all ethical, and accepted one in June (the middle one -- reasonably well-paid, reasonably interesting, in a low-cost-of-living location).
It helped having support of people in the US (my parents, who gave me a home base, and friends in various cities who I could stay with) and being not-very-ambitious -- I'm happy to just be a software engineer / ops guy. I don't need to be very high up the food chain. Companies seem hungry for people who are professional and skilled and get along with people.
I definitely sacrificed something professionally by spending those 5 years in China. It was an expensive sojourn. But I am happy we did it. We were very lucky to (1) all be healthy, (2) have enough money saved to make the leap, even though we knew it would be temporary, and (3) have at least one of us employable in the US (me, the programmer) and abroad (my wife, the ESL teacher). It was a monetary loss for sure! But I learned a lot about life and not worrying about every little detail, and it was an experience that strongly shaped our three children, both for better and for worse. And I think it helped bring the US and China together a little, on a personal level, in the friends that we made and the things we learned.
I think it depends a lot on your kid's personality. I was a quiet, introverted kid who was far ahead of my grade level. I wasn't really interested in sports, just computers. I did not fit in well at new schools and it took me a while to develop friendships. That got worse as I got older - starting at a new high school was particularly challenging.
So now I'm a strong believer in providing a stable environment for my kids. To the point where I think parents who move their family around for themselves are being a little selfish.
Youngest is extraverted, confident, and resilient by nature. I'm pretty sure the trip was a net plus.
Middle has anxiety and couldn't get counseling or treatment in China, and the anxiety developed into a pretty severe disorder. (In treatment now in the US.) But she also gained perspective on different cultures and approaches to life and has friends around the world. So some good outcomes, some bad.
Our oldest is introverted and thoughtful, but she's slow to recover from setbacks, and there were plenty -- especially academic -- from living abroad. She's also very slow to make friends. Probably a net negative for her. I think she would have been better off staying in one place. But maybe she'll be okay. Grandma tells me not to worry.
Pro is that I can pass as a native both in the US and France.
Con is that I don't feel at home in either place; to my American friends I'm the French guy, and to my French friends I'm the American guy.
Overall I think it's mostly positive though. Certainly wouldn't have bad the breadth of experiences I've had otherwise.
There are also deeper questions, like whether I should raise my kids in the US, France, or someone else altogether- but this won't be an issue for another while.
It wasn't so much the living away from home (we were overseas for 2 years when I was 10 years old) it was the return - the shocking disparity between how I now saw the world, and how my peers (who were frozen in time in my memory) saw things. It forever separated me from them in ways they could not understand.
In hindsight, it was one of the best things my parents did for me - compared to most of my home-grown peers, I adapted faster to new situations and had little difficulty adapting to life as an independent adult - in my opinion, thanks to the expanded perspective I gained when I was younger.
YMMV, but IMO, calling it "challenging for a child's social development" implies a negative, but it really depends on what your goals for that child's development are. It's certainly an experience I'd like to repeat for my own children if I can make it happen.
I've seen other research with similar findings. Having moved cities/provinces three times in my childhood (granted within one country) I have to say that it doesn't seem it was tough on me, but I know people who say they wish they hadn't been moved so much. Another part of it for me is that I really like where I ended up; and importantly, I gained all of my social skills after moving to my final childhood municipality, so I associate it with social success.
Our children's experience was very much tied to their extraversion. The most extraverted is doing the best, and the least extraverted has had the biggest net negative outcome, in my opinion.
I've met countless 20-somethings doing the same, and a surprising number of mid-career professionals, and they're all European.
I have yet to meet a single person in almost 2 years of international travel that is from the US and was willing to take a break in their career.
I hope this American culture shifts towards Europe in the future. Americans are left out of this experience and cultural exchange, and seen as choosing to rather stay at home to toil over their bank accounts. The professional and personal benefits are more than adding 1 more year of your working life will ever get you, and besides, I want to see the change because I have a vested interest in finding a job when I come back.
> The vast, vast majority of Americans simply cannot afford to take extended time off to travel internationally
It can be done very economically; students with almost no money do it, staying in hostels, taking trains, etc. I know one guy who worked his way through, at least to some extent. If you have kids and a mortgage, that's a different story.
And of course there's that widely publicized study showing that 63% of Americans can't even afford a $500 emergency bill to repair their car or pay for a medical procedure. Buying a plane ticket to Europe and meals/lodging, even at grocery store & hostels level, is out of the question for average non-tech worker.
My point is that if you look at the percentage of Americans who can afford to take a year off work, afford to get to and live in a location like Western Europe, and still have a decent chance of regaining a good job upon return, you've easily excluded 90%+ of the population.
It should be pretty easy for any developer in the US to sock away several hundred thousand dollars by mid 30s. I did it.
Simply continuing to live as I always have, regardless of raises, has made the most difference. Granted, children and marriage are two things that I'm very unlikely to do anytime soon, as I feel it is simply too risky in the US as a man.
But yes there is something in our culture that impedes travel and long vacations like this. I have visited many places off the beaten path, and one thing I've noticed is that Europeans (especially Germans) really seem to get around the world - they prioritize it, while in the US I've only recently taken my first vacation in many years where I did not bring my work alone with me. I think the lack of job stability really makes Americans feel anxious about employment. One can lose their job here and be out the door in 30 minutes, no warning. There is absolutely no safety net for males in US society, and one trip to the ER without health insurance can screw you over financially.
But like I said, salaries in the US seem really high, so it can certainly be done. In fact, I prefer this to the EU system as I am in full control of my life, and by saving more money that isn't taxed as much, it's possible to retire far earlier than engineers in the EU or elsewhere.
You need to get your news from more than one source. HN is not a representative sample. I can't overstate this.
I can tell you that having lived in the US and Europe it is MUCH easier to travel as a European resident:
* 21 days of vacation every year, by law, that people actually use. 6 weeks for some places, like Germany (how do you think it is they travel so much??) In the US if you get vacation it's common to be shamed by your coworkers and bosses if you use more than a few days. A friend of mine works for a company with "unlimited vacation". He just visited Morocco and Portugal for a few weeks and was chided by colleagues for it. He is an incredibly talented and in-demand engineer, though, so he can tell them to shove it. Most people cannot.
* You can leave your job and not be stuck with terrible health insurance (Obamacare is a start, but when you're a footloose 20 something what the hell good is a plan that costs $150 a month and has a $6000 deductible?)
* If you have student loans at all, they're generally quite small.
* The social safety net is stronger; jobseeker's allowance, the dole, etc. are not as hard to qualify for as unemployment is in the US. Think to yourself - in the US, the worst possible consequence of taking a vacation is that you'll be sleeping in gutters after you get back and your boss fires you to set an example. In much of Europe you collect benefit (modest, but still something) and live with roommates.
* Cars - it's a lot harder to save when you're basically forced to spend $250-$600 a month for basic transportation. You might point out that there are alternatives, and there are, but in the US it means paying a TON for rent in order to live in one of the few nice neighbourhoods in the country.
* Most of all, not everyone is a developer. Perhaps people who make $30k a year should be able to take some time off, even for a modest vacation near home, without being in abject terror of seeing their lives ruined for it?
In contrast, I see salaries in even expensive cities like Amsterdam, Madrid, Munich at far less. When you add in the higher taxes in the EU, were talking significantly less.
And yes, for many people in the US, things like health insurance, cars, and college debt are big problems.
Here's a little secret, though: in the US, if you play the game correctly, you really can win. That means you actually buy catastrophic health insurance even when you're young and probably won't use it. It means taking out half your college credits at one of the community colleges that are very inexpensive, then finishing up with a lucrative degree at the public college. It means buying a used, modest and dependable car, and not a fancy German cash cow or huge SUV.
Most Americans follow everyone else blindly into massive debt via conspicuous consumption and poor planning. The EU tries to make sure nobody gets thoroughly screwed, and that's admirable. But it also seems like one is pretty limited in how far up or down they can go.
I've lived in the EU (and other places far worse), but I still think America is best for someone like me that doesn't want the typical 9-5, wife and kids, etc. But if I did, then I'd prefer the safety net of the EU. I'm also privileged, I can admit. For some Americans born with a disadvantaged lot, the US is a cruel shit show
As a soon-to-be resident of the NYC metro area, I was shocked to discover that the monthly costs of those alternatives effectively added up to a car payment.
If you can live without a dedicated car (taxi, Uber, car-share, rentals), it's often a surprisingly affordable option. The critical loss is in the flexibility of auto-based transport, though again, that hinges greatly on the alternatives offered by the location.
Humans existed without cars for nearly 200,000 years.
Well, depreciation is irrelevant if I consider the entire car payment a sunk cost. Anything I get for selling the car is a bonus. Otherwise yes, there are additional costs.
> If you can live without a dedicated car (taxi, Uber, car-share, rentals), it's often a surprisingly affordable option.
That is the part that hinges on location and the trade-off between transportation costs and domicile costs.
> Humans existed without cars for nearly 200,000 years.
Humans existed without cities for about 197,000 of those years, but I'd rather not go back to that.
After 14 years in Dallas I have never broken the six-figure barrier. I am only about to do so because I am moving to NYC.
> It should be pretty easy for any developer in the US to sock away several hundred thousand dollars by mid 30s. I did it.
I have only earned several hundred thousand over the course of my career. It would not be easy for me to save it even if I wanted to spend less on more immediate gratification.
Why don't people in the US simply found a safety net among peers with comparable motivational and educational background instead of crying that the state has to provide it?
In general stuff like this suffers from the free rider problem - after all, who in their right mind would pay to build a lighthouse when anyone who wants can enjoy use of said lighthouse without paying?
That's why I wrote "among peers with comparable motivational and educational background [and/or shared values]". This should reduce the free rider problem a lot.
Who is most likely to join? Someone who intends to take benefit from it, or someone who is hoping to never use the benefits?
Since I've come back I make sure to include PTO in any salary negotiation. No point in making a lot of money if you can't take the time to enjoy it.
My family has just done 2 years at sea. The gaps in employment were easy to explain.
I recently took an 18 month sabbatical from my banking software development job and it was well worth the risk. I had been working for 11 years. I ended up getting my old job back when I returned because I did not leave on bad terms. I probably would not have if I had stayed there any longer as work and London life was turning me into an angry selfish person in general.
My only regret is that I didn't buy a flat or house just before I took the break. Whilst employers are more than open to the idea of a long sabbatical in my industry, lenders are not. Right now I am earning just as much as I used to but I am struggling to get a home loan despite having an excellent credit rating. They see that hole in your work history and it gives them the jitters. I should have bought a place and rented it out before I went traveling.
But equally property really ties you down if you are dependent on paying a mortgage. If you live somewhere with not huge demand for rental, then you cannot leave your job.
Mortgages and property prevent many people from taking time off, I could tell you of loads of people I know who cannot take time off because they need their monthly wage for mortgage.
I would personally avoid buying a house before jumping off as that would occupy my mind instead of freeing it. My 2c.
When I was starting a company and without a salary it was really hard to find a landlord who was OK with this. Some seemed to be thinking "eh, this is different from the norm and I have plenty of applicants so it's not worth the mental trouble", and others "irregular income situation probably means they sell drugs".
My observations are from US where more than one family I know bought a house (old house, expensive because of the good school district, which is why they bought it), assumed low maintenance costs, then got hit with some sizeable repairs (as the house is old). Not trying to generalize, that's just what I saw.
When an organization can operate without your presence for over 300 days, your role may not be very necessary.
The surprising costs of a mid-career break involve falling far enough behind industry trends and methods, that it would be faster to train a new person than retrain you. The article is very optimistic about the rate of change in any workplace, and also an employer's willingness to support this kind of extended vacation.
In programming -- and, I think, perhaps in most industries -- more people fall behind in learning because of their job than because they're out of the daily grind. Any large-scale enterprise is chock-full of devs who have plenty of experience developing inside Websphere, Liferay, Sitecore and so on, but who haven't had the time between work, family and sleep to gain knowledge and experience in SPA development, CI, CD, microservices, and so on, let alone more outre topics like ML or NLP. Giving knowledge workers the opportunity to sabbatical out and build new expertise would benefit both them and their employers.
Which is a good thing. Everyone should be replaceable in corporate jobs, maybe not a startup, which makes sense. If you're not replaceable then your business is not doing the best it can to future proof itself.
I try to find my replacement actually, I take the interns and coops in every meeting as well as CC them on all emails. I do not see myself in the same job for my entire career, what better bargaining tool to move up than say you have your replacement ready?
I'm glad to work for an employer with more enlightened work rules. When I had my back surgery, I was out for nearly 6 months. We had about a weeks notice, and my #2 person was able to take things on and I was able to transition most projects to her. Everything went fine. Actually it was a great thing because my fill-in's talents became apparent in my absence, and she got promoted later as a result.
Any workplace that changes so quickly that an above average player is totally out of touch in <1 year, the place is a shitshow.
I tend to believe the rate of change in programming is grossly overstated anyhow, but that takes it to truly absurd levels.
I lucked out, though, because the team decided these technologies were woefully outdated, and we were to migrate to Gulp, React, and Postgres.
Unfortunately, end of this year, and these have been eclipsed by Angular 2, JSPM, etc.
Part of the way I've resisted being sucked into the JS vortex over the past few years is that I thoroughly reject the authoritative claims that I should be using X or Y, on the grounds that I don't particularly respect the technical judgment of the people making those claims. (And check that last clause carefully; all the Next Big Things are generally engineered pretty well, it's the advocates berating you for not keeping up to date that I'm dissing.)
For an alternative view: When an organization can't operate without your presence in that role, how can they consider promoting you out of that role?
I've seen people stall their careers by becoming the only person able to cover a particular role. I personally fell into this trap for a couple of years.
In hindsight, feeling like they couldn't do without me for a week or two for a holiday was a huge red flag. Since then, I've been conscious and cautious of this, and actively planned to avoid it.
Anything I feel I'm the only one who can cover, I make a point to properly document the process, have someone shadow me the next time I need to do it, and eventually perform the process themselves while I supervise.
Not accurate. You can be promoted and take on additional responsibilities and/or title.
Playing politics, dressing better, getting in shape (opposite of the typical hoody-ed neck beard) and befriending those above you, while learning a little bit of lots of business facets, is the path to real promotions.
Not always true, I took 6 month break from a large consulting firm - they have thousands of consultants so you can take a break without killing the company but obviously they want as many consultants billing hours as possible.
Small things change here and there and suddenly you don't understand the beast.
Granted, this is not a general case, but do not underestimate several months work by a team of people.
I'm skeptical that all of that changes often enough to make a rehire less valuable than a new person. Sure, you may have switched to k8s from docker. In that kind of environment, can you really get a new person really productive in less than 6 months? And with the new person, you're never really sure they're actually capable of doing the work, until they do the work.
Ok, sure, if the potential rehire wasn't all that great, it's probably worth rolling the dice. But if they can point to a few successful projects, why not rehire? You know they're a cultural fit. They accept however dysfunctional the organization is, and tolerated it well enough to want to come back. Plus they know a bunch about how to actually get things done in your particular structure.
We lowered our costs significantly right before I left work. We moved to a small but adequate house in the far suburbs. My mortgage is about one-eight the mortgage of peers in my profession at my level, even when I include the rent I pay now for a tiny personal office nearby.
Chen, featured in the article, was one inspiration to take the plunge. I found his LinkedIn CV, which describes that period: “Father and Husband, Sabbatical, September 2011 - August 2012. We took a year off from our life in Boston and lived on a remote island in Norway just north of the Arctic Circle.” I liked that. Ideally I emerge from this period with a sustainable business of my own, but even if I return to working for others, as long as I have an interesting, compelling story about what I was up to during my time off, and how it made me better - which I will - I doubt the period will cost me much (if anything) in interview terms, and it may benefit me.
Glad to read the experiences of others here who did this and didn’t regret it. If there are people who took time off and did regret it or have advice about how (not) to spend the time, would love to read that too.
Honestly it sounds more along the lines of a usual stay at home dad, the location notwithstanding. The only reason they moved there was wife's origin and offer of employment.
If you reverse the genders it happens all the time, just that no one would call that 'sabbatical'.
Because a sabbatical means that for a limited time you will do something different that you always wanted to do and go back to the job afterwards. Not cultivating a new hobby which will distract you from your job for the next, say, 15 years.
Im convinced that I got the job because my energy and enthusiasm levels were completely reset after my time away from working.
In August this year I left that job and I've been living in Thailand for the last 2.5 months, and already I feel completely reset and ready for new challenges.
The most important part of a career break is to use the time wiseley to either work on yourself, or work on your skills, or both. If you just sit around on your backside playing XBox and doing the same shit you did while you were working, then you're probably not going to benefit from it.
Yes this path may not be available to friends who went down the family/mortgage path but they have benefits in their life which I don't have. Different people, different priorities I guess.
This is why it is important to plan the sabbatical year so that it is personally beneficial and also not detrimental to the organization and its people.
So I quit and went Funemployed for 1.5 years. Doing some game development etc.
Went self-employed afterwards and got to work from home and make much more money.
I learned much and even tried to finish my masters degree, but the new job prevented me from getting the thesis done, haha. But maybe next year.
If you're one of those lucky enough to be able to just jaunt off to a faraway land for a "career break" then congratulations! But these articles claiming it's something that you, the reader, can do, are pretty silly.
I suggest you have some prejudices that you need to resolve.
You may want kids, but this is neither a need nor an obligation. A desire, AKA a life choice.
The post I objected to then referred to people being 'held back' by such life choices. That's a judgement call right there by the poster, and it's a poor one. In my opinion, it's misanthropic.
Yes, having children is technically a life-choice in the West. However, I've noticed a disturbing pattern where people classify children with things when discussing them. The humanity of the child is de-emphasized and the classification as a thing is the focus.
It's one of the acceptable prejudices in Silicon Valley, and like ageism in the Valley, it's so normalized that many people don't even notice it.
It is literally true. I have two kids (100% by choice and I'm thrilled with that choice). However, they absolutely hold me back from doing things that I might do if we were still DINKs or if I were single. Being married (another choice that makes me extremely happy) holds me back from doing some other things that I'd do if I were single. None of the statements in this paragraph should be construed as meaning that I dislike my wife or kids.
I don't see the misanthropism in making a factual statement that some people feel that they can't drop their job and travel the world for a year because they have kids (or a mortgage, or student loans, or any other reason that ryan listed).
There are other things like solving problems by violence that are similarly wired. This does not mean that in the modern society this is acceptable. In the same way having children should be considered as an expensive life choice.
But this does not hold in the first world. So in the first world it is a (IMHO rather expensive) life choice.
Seriously though, until universal basic income is a thing, those of us who must work for a living will continue to work for a living. This is capitalism in action.
It's not an academic's typical sabbatical, but it's a nice perk to disconnect as well as force us to not be excessively dependent on a long-time veteran for daily ops.
To your last question, it's a company perk, so wasn't negotiated; my first one went very well; I caught up on some hobbies that I'd let slide and did some fun travel and am looking forward to my second one.
That's not a sabbatical, that's a normal summer vacation in Europe :)
Oddly though, all of my personal coding projects went almost immediately into the bin. I didn't have the motivation to push them when I was employed and lost all motivation when I didn't touch the field on a daily basis.
Job A: 2007-2009
Job B: 2010-2014
On the other hand, I haven't try to get another job since. Mix of freelancing and working on my own projects is replacing my income.