Answering what she dubbed “R” and “W” questions occupied Bobbi Leichty before, during and even after her 2018 sabbatical.

Relax, rest, recharge, reflect, rejuvenate… the R words seemed self-evident to the Southeast Region EMS executive director. But what about who, what, when, where and why? Those questions and others accompanied Leichty as she drove onto the ferry in Southeast Alaska, intent on driving solo across the country and dipping her feet in the Atlantic Ocean.

Leichty organized her road trip around three of her favorite things: 80 degrees; 80s music; and 80 mph. When the latter got her stopped for speeding, twice, the license plates on her “red rocket,” came in handy. She didn’t get ticketed as law enforcement, like most everyone else she met, proved to be mostly interested in learning about Alaska.

“1 was a magnet for all kinds of attention at every rest stop, gas station or grocery store,” Leichty said, with people frequently asking what it was like to live so far from civilization.

Along the way, Leichty put 9,044 road miles on her car and more than 1,000 nautical miles. She crossed 15 states, one international border, eight mountain ranges (some twice), and more than 100 rivers. She visited with friends and family, saw the biggest ball of twine, the largest cast iron skillet and deftly escaped a 12-car interstate pile-up.

When it was time to head home, Leichty experienced mixed emotions, realizing that over the months of dropping in on old friends and stopping wherever she liked, she’d become a wanderer and didn’t want the summer to end.

But Leichty returned to Alaska to find her workplace had thrived in her absence and her home and animals were all well. When a hurricane was forecast to hit the area of North Carolina where Leichty had stayed in a VRBO, she finally answered her “why.” Getting in touch with the VRBO owners, whom she’d come to think of as friends, Leichty offered them a place to stay if they needed one. She realized that’s a benefit of travel: putting faces and names to what might otherwise be just a news story.

Another realization about “why” came even later. Leichty realized she needed to experience the road trip to understand that her identity and life purpose weren’t just about her job or living in Alaska. The sabbatical, where she learned to conquer her fears and expand her boundaries, had changed the course of her life.

“With thousands of miles of scenery, an immersion in history and plenty of time to contemplate things I normally pushed to the back of my mind, I realized I could thrive at anything I set my sights on, in any location I found myself.”

About the Sabbatical Program
Tribal executives and nonprofit CEOs/executive directors receive paid time away from the office for rest and personal renewal. The Foundation believes leaders can better serve their organizations when they have taken extended time away to refresh and reflect on their work, gain insight into what they want to accomplish in their careers, learn better ways to run their organizations and renew their personal energy. Learn more here.