From September 2, 1995 until August 30, 1996, Henri J. M. Nouwen kept a journal of his sabbatical year apart from L'Arche Daybreak, the community for mentally handicapped people where he lived. It is a vivid testament to his passion for friendship. At one point he calls this relationship "a real discipline. Nothing can be taken for granted, nothing happens automatically, nothing comes without concentrated effort."

Nouwen mentions over 600 friends in his journal as he travels widely, finishes books, and ponders the future. Although he is constantly bothered by fatigue, he tries to find a way to use that feeling as a means of "deepening his soul." Nouwen reveals his joy in the daily Eucharist and his habit of writing with a lit candle "to help make my writing a way of praying."

There are several interesting visits with his father who is 93 years old. They are able to talk a lot given their mutual interests in art, literature, and the spiritual life. Nouwen also writes lovingly of his admiration for the Flying Rodleighs, South African trapeze artists who inspire him to think creatively about faith, spirit, and community. In one of the last entries this dedicated priest and pastor notes his intention "to keep looking at Jesus as the one who calls us to the heart of God, a heart that knows only love."

Sabbatical Journey is Henri J. M. Nouwen's last book; he died of a massive cardiac arrest three weeks after his return to L'Arche Daybreak.