Most people's reaction when they hear about taking extended time off from work tends to be one of surprise. The whole concept flies directly in the face of everything we've learned about how to conduct a career, and usually it's not something most people consider a possibility.
But it's a possibility I'd like you to consider, to at least get familiar with the idea of it so that you know it's an option in case you need it. And statistically, chances are that you will need it at some point in your life.
And the reason for this is that the modern workplace is nothing like anything that came before it in terms of the exposure to stress, both in its pattern and in its intensity. I talk about this more in 'This Is Not Your Father's Career'.
But even apart from burnout, there are often great reasons to take sabbatical. As the bard has said,
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
And so it is with modern careers. Back in the day, a person could reasonably hope that the lifespan of his industry would be longer than his career. This is no longer the case. For one, people change jobs and industries at an unprecedented rate, and secondly the rate of change of technological evolution means that almost all jobs or specialisations are at risk of obsoloscence.
And since professionals do not have any occupational guarantees, it falls upon ourselves to keep ourselves from becoming obsolete. This is another great reason to take a study leave. I discuss this more in the post on 'Volatility'
But in the end, all these logics are for people who have not tasted the magic of sabbatical. The real reason for taking sabbatical is because the world is a beautiful, rich, bewildering and amazing place, and I don't want to have to wait till I'm retired to really dig into this feast. I want to experience everything this world has to offer, and from time to time, this means having to step out of the confines of work life and go walkabout in this Garden of Eden.
Sabbatical is how I honour the wonder of creation.