Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Ideal “Grown Up” Working Vacation, Part II

… more about the ideal grown-up working vacation.

4.   Expectations. Young people may be content simply to live and work in an exotic location, but professionals and their families will not be lured overseas by work experiences alone. While contributing to a developing economy and interacting with local experts will be of primary importance, senior academics and skilled professionals will expect ample opportunity to experience the culture, history, and natural beauty of their host country.  A working vacation must permit participants to take full advantage of what the host country and its region have to offer.

5.   Comfort Zones.  Finally, and perhaps of greatest importance, is that “grown-ups” want and expect a  higher level of comfort than we had when bumming around Europe in our teens or twenties. We no longer travel with a backpack, student discount card, and $20 in our pocket. We are not willing to eat cold pizza and crash for the night on someone’s couch. Reasonable accommodations, personal safety, quality health care, public transportation, good sanitation, and access to healthy and tasty food are of far greater importance.

Living in a Yurt in Rural Mongolia

In summary, then, I will be describing an overseas work experience similar to the Peace Corps but modified to make it attractive to established or retired professionals between roughly 30  and 70.  Specifically, it would last a minimum of one month up to a maximum of twelve, with two to five months typical, make full use of high-level skills, and provide comfortable, safe living accommodations for participants and their families, all within an environment where work and pleasure, professional growth and cultural immersion are of equal importance.

In the coming weeks and months I hope to  convince you that this type of working vacation is the ideal way to combine a paid job with adventure travel and give both you and your family the opportunity to live in and become part of an overseas community.

The Ideal “Grown Up” Working Vacation (Part I)

My target audience for this blog is 30- to 70-something academics and professionals.  For those individuals what would an ideal, short-term, working vacation look like?  How would an overseas posting for us “grown ups” differ from those mentioned in my last post–Peace Corps, VISTA, or Teach for America?

While it is difficult to make sweeping generalizations about such a large and diverse cohort as “experienced professionals,”  “mature academics,”  or “recent retirees,” I think it is fair to say that as a group we would share some or all of the following characteristics that distinguishes us from more youthful nomads:

1.  Commitments.  Unlike students who head off to Europe, Asia, or Africa and don’t rush back, because it means finding a job, going to graduate school, or “settling down,” people in the 30 to 70 age bracket typically have deep community roots and significant family and work commitments that will make it difficult to get away  for a year or two, the typical duration for younger volunteers.  To consider taking a working vacation most professionals require programs of two to three weeks up to a maximum of one year. The most common block of time that can be freed up by those in private sector jobs or academic positions is about two to five months—typically a summer vacation, one-semester sabbatical, or a short-term leave of absence.

View From the Highway On A Drive To Tibet During My Working Vacation in Nepal

2.   Skill sets. Established professionals have honed their skills to a high level. By comparison, programs like the Peace Corps are aimed at recent college graduates with little experience; volunteers often carry out a limited range of tasks—small-scale farming, teaching ESL (English as a Second Language), youth outreach, or community organizing. In contrast, experienced professionals with a Ph.D., Ed.D., M.D., D.D.S., J.D., M.B.A., M.Phil., M.Sc., M.A., or M.F.A. degree have advanced knowledge in skilled occupations.

3.   Families. Unlike students,  professional often arrive in country with a spouse and one or more children in tow. While living in a remote village far from the nearest health center might be something we would consider in our youthful idealism and ignorance, most of us would hesitate to accept those arrangements when traveling with children. Being posted to a country with a history of violence might not scare off young travelers, but it would be disconcerting to those of us with dependents. Working vacations need to be set in a safe environment and include appropriate schooling, health care, and recreational activities for families with children.

More to come …

What is “No-Cost Travel” Anyway? (Part II)

After reading my last post you might be shaking your head right now saying “Yeah, sure. I’m going to head out to Portugal, Panama, or Papua New Guinea with someone else picking up the tab.  No way!”

Well, stop being such a skeptic.  Every year thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of young, 20-something college graduates do just that, via the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA, Teach for America, or any number of other well-known and highly popular global exchange programs.  These agencies cover the cost of transportation (including an occasional trip back home), room and board, and provide a small stipend in exchange for a one or two years of socially responsible work within the U.S. or overseas.

Just because we have added a few years, a few dependents, and a few pounds, why can’t we 30- to 70-somethings do exactly the same thing?  Well we can, and that is what I mean by the idea of a working vacation, or traveling on the other guy’s dime.  However, we need to make a few “tweaks” to this idea before it is fully palatable to skilled professionals, academics, and retirees well past their college graduation ceremony.

Teaching A Class of Monks at the Nalanda Buddhist Monestary During our No-Cost Stay in Bhutan

In my next post I will describe exactly what changes are needed to produce working vacations that could be extremely appealing to those of you reading this blog  and with an itching to experience the world, not just see it.  And, trust me, these opportunities are out there.

What is “No-Cost Travel” Anyway? (Part I)

In the coming weeks and months I will describe how professionals with marketable skills–doctors, lawyers, teachers, scientists, business people, artists–can take advantage of  “no-cost travel opportunities” around the world.  But first let me explain what I mean by this phrase.

Actually, let me first say what I don’t mean:

•  I don’t mean something as trivial as getting a hotel room “comped” because you are losing at the craps table or having someone pick up a dinner tab while you suffer through a high-pressure sales pitch.

• I don’t mean something as short-term as having your company, agency, or school pay for one or two weeks overseas while you attend a convention or meeting–even if you are able to slip out for a little bit of golf and swimming.

• and I don’t mean quitting your job, selling the car, giving Fido to a friend and heading off to another country for an untold length of time, perhaps forever.

What I mean by the phrase “no-cost travel” is having the opportunity to live within a different culture and become an integral part of an international community, all without giving up your “day job” in the US and without forking over tons of (or even any of) your own money.  I am talking about working overseas for 1 to 12 months on temporary leave from your regular job while earning enough money (or getting enough grant funds) to finance your stay through work in the host country.

Our Home in Kathmandu, Nepal During A Two-Month, No-Cost Stay

For example, here is the spacious four-bedroom home where my wife and I lived for two glorious months in Kathmandu, Nepal while I was teaching at the University of Kathmandu.  The rental of the house, as well as the cost of household staff, food, and utilities was covered  by my Fulbright Grant.  The grant also included airfare and  enough supplementary funds for side trips to India and Tibet.  The net cost to me of this two-month Himalayan holiday was $0!  And, by working in Nepal, rather than visiting as a tourist, I had the opportunity to become friends of Nepalis with whom I am still in contact today–a rarity on your hectic two-week packaged tour.

These working vacations as I call them are a realistic and attainable goal for any professional with a marketable skill as well as a spirit of adventure and discovery.  It is a wonderful way to have unique travel experiences as well as overcome the boredom and fatigue of a job and a life that are becoming far too predictable.

A Professional’s Guide To No-Cost Travel

What could be better than a one-week, one-month, or even one-year excursion to some exotic locale? That’s easy—having someone else pay for it. This sounds a bit cheeky, even a tad unsavory, but it’s a realistic and attainable goal for high school and university faculty, as well as skilled professionals such as doctors, dentists, nurses, lawyers, engineers, scientists, government officials, and business specialists. It is also an option for retirees healthy enough for long-term travel.   I can personally attest to this assertion having made more than a dozen overseas jaunts in the last three decades without once having to pay my own way.

As I did more and more overseas work, I accumulated a wealth of practical knowledge about how to locate the best opportunities, negotiate terms of the visit, rent our home, find housing and transportation in the host country, and travel easily and safely with young children. Curious, not to mention jealous, colleagues began asking questions about these trips, so I would relate my stories and explain how they could create their own adventures to their own dream destinations.

I often wondered why more academics, professionals, and retirees, many with résumés and reputations far more impressive than mine, did not take greater advantage of these no-cost travel and work opportunities—and that is how this blog was born. It will be a travel memoir where I share stories about some of our memorable adventures. It will also be a “how-to” guide passing on the skills I acquired over the years—the ability to locate overseas opportunities and the knowledge to turn that information into reality.

A Camel Safari in the Gobi Desert During Our No-Cost Trip to Mongolia

My goal for this blog is to share with you what I have accomplished and motivate you to try it yourself—to live and work abroad, have some fun and adventure, and grow professionally, culturally, and intellectually—all on the other guy’s dime.