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.
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 …