I received an interesting comment from a reader completing his 17th year of teaching at an overseas branch of the University of Maryland. This individual, who is certainly integrating into the local community and becoming part of an international culture, writes “I have yet to take advantage of the return ticket that UMUC will provide—and I don’t intend to!” He is living testament to the intellectual benefits, personal growth, and plain old fun of long-term working vacations.
With one exception. Most of us do not want to leave home, friends, and family for that length of time. While we appreciate an exposure to another culture we also value our relationships, ties, and commitments back home.
I want to assure readers you can experience the benefits of long-term travel described in my last post without spending 17 years. Some of my shortest overseas stays–6 to 8 weeks–have been the most rewarding, personally, professionally, and culturally. Please don’t think a working vacation requires spending years away from job, friends, and family. Even a couple of months is sufficient to have a unique, exotic experience. The longest time I spent working overseas is nine months, and while I have loved going away I have always enjoyed coming back, sharing my stories, and planning my next adventure.
I also received email from an individual chastising my blog for its”monetary orientation” and stressing the “no cost” aspects of working vacations. They want me to mention the benefits of another type of overseas work–volunteer tourism, sometimes shortened to voluntourism.
I am happy to mention this socially responsible form of international work, and I applaud the good work done by its adherents. I am more than happy to post links to volunteer tourism Web sites for people to check out.
However, like leaving home for 17 years, this is also a form of travel that many of us are unable to consider. Volunteers are unpaid and, in addition, often must shell out thousands of dollars to the agency arranging the opportunity to pay for staff, planning, insurance, and orientation. Many people could not afford to take a leave of absence from work but not be paid for their efforts in the host country. It is simply not economically feasible.
So, while I recognize there are different ways to live and work overseas, the type of experience I will be describing involves short-term paying jobs that cover much or all of your travel and living expenses. If either permanent overseas employment or international volunteer work appeals to you then go for it, and I will salute your sense of adventure! You just won’t be able to read much about them here.