OK, What Comes Next?

In an earlier post entitled My London Epiphany I described how that first working vacation arrived as an unseen bolt from the blue, an unexpected invitation from someone I lunched with six months earlier. My minimal contribution was being convinced by my wife to take advantage of this opportunity. However, receiving a second unexpected invitation would be highly unlikely, so the question now is how do my family and I duplicate that magical London experience? (I would love to receive comments from readers who have worked overseas about how they obtained their first working vacation adventure.)

It had been more than two years since our return from England, eyes newly opened, eager to set off for points far and wide. However, rather than aggressively pursuing opportunities, I slipped into a holding pattern of work, home, and family. I was waiting for a call inviting me on yet another all expenses paid working vacation, but in two years the phone hadn’t rung and no offers were forthcoming. Instead I worked, bowled, and played poker. I was getting lazy and comfortable.

What I learned during this period of inactivity is a philosophy I have followed unfailingly for the last thirty years: It is almost always a losing proposition to sit back and wait for something good to happen to you by chance. Instead, you must proactively and aggressively campaign to make good things happen to you. It is generally a waste of time to wait for a travel opportunity to fall into your lap; instead, you must actively generate offers from the clues around you.

The Three Gorges Area of the Yangtze River. Part of Our 12-Day Stopover In China On The Way To Our Three Month Working Vacation in Mongolia

Every newspaper article, TV show, radio program, conference, or professional interaction has the potential to turn into a working vacation offer. For example, a magazine story about the construction of a university in sub-Saharan Africa could, with the appropriate email inquiries, lead to an invitation to work with the new faculty teaching classes and designing curriculum; a TV feature about a primary care clinic in Southeast Asia might be a clarion call for short-term visits from health professionals in the area of tropical medicine; that exchange teacher visiting from South America could be the source of a future invitation to visit his or her home country. Whenever you read about or hear about an overseas opportunity that might apply to you, initiate a personal or e-mail conversation with the people involved to determine if there is any way for you and your family to take advantage of this opportunity. No story, no article, no meeting, no lunch date, should be considered too small, too unimportant.

In this case my clue came disguised as a short and seemingly insignificant notice on page twenty-three of the Chronicle of Higher Education, a newspaper published for college faculty and administrators. Your eyes could easily have glanced over the story and never missed a beat. However, that tiny article became my family’s ticket to a second all-expenses-paid, three-month overseas adventure.

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