By the time our family returned from Israel after three enjoyable months of work and play I had learned a great deal about overseas life that would stand us in good stead on future trips.
I learned that it was no longer necessary to sit back and wait for an attractive offer to fall into my lap; instead, every newspaper article, TV show, radio program, professional interaction, or chance meeting has the potential to generate a short-term working vacation. A magazine story about the construction of a new university in sub-Saharan Africa could, with the appropriate inquiries, lead to an invitation to join the faculty. A casual conversation about consulting positions could, with a timely and well crafted email, turn into a personal offer. A TV feature about a new clinic in Southeast Asia could be a clarion call to health professionals working in the area of tropical medicine, and that exchange teacher visiting your school from South America could become the source of a reciprocal invitation to teach in his or her home country. Whenever you hear about an overseas opportunity that might be applicable, initiate a personal contact or e-mail conversation to determine if there is any way for you and your family to take advantage of it.
Those three months in Israel demonstrated that my family and I could do quite well on our own, without requiring an extensive support system. Having a large circle of friends in the host country is wonderful, and having locals help with housing, banking, and shopping is a nice benefit. However, although useful they are not essential. Never let the lack of contacts or family ties stop you from planning and carrying out a working vacation. You will meet people and, at a minimum, have yourself, spouse, and children to fill up your days.
Finally, I learned that even in a country undergoing serious problems, such as the extreme hyperinflation encountered in Israel, these concerns should be seen as learning opportunities, not impediments to travel. Experiencing these problems yourself, as long as they do not threaten personal health or safety, can result in a better understanding of the financial, political, and cultural plights affecting much of the globe.
Most importantly is that in those three plus months I started my transformation from, perhaps like many of you, a person who had grown far too comfortable with his local surroundings into, if not yet a sophisticated world traveler, at least someone open to new experiences and not afraid to venture beyond self-imposed boundaries. After my wife and I absorbed the lessons of this most recent sojourn we came to realize that our set of potential working vacations destinations had widened greatly. England opened up our eyes; Israel opened up the world.