Our third overseas adventure occurred in summer, 1985, about two years after our return from Israel. We didn’t travel in 1984 as I was busy trying to achieve tenure, successfully as it turns out. This delay illustrates the main difference between the short-term jobs described in this blog and the longer odysseys found in many of the “traveling nomads” or “working overseas” sites.
Unlike those individuals I do not give up my day job to travel but take working vacations as part of my regular professional life during summer vacation, sabbaticals, or unpaid leaves of absence. This means I cannot guarantee I will be able to go away in any given year; instead, our plans must be coordinated with the demands and responsibilities of work and family. The upside, though, is that I return from these overseas experiences to a job, home, and resumption of my regular paycheck. In my opinion short-term working vacations offer skilled professionals the best of both worlds–travel and employment–without the stress of having to restart one’s life whenever you choose to return. Furthermore, shorter trips allow you to experience multiple cultures, not just one. My family has been lucky enough to go on more than a dozen working vacations in the past thirty years, from Australia to Zimbabwe, Mauritius to Morocco, Turkey to Tibet, with new ones still to come.
This third working vacation was financed in a far different way from the first two in which I taught classes to cover expenses. In this case the “sugar daddy” was my publisher John Wiley & Sons, New York. In 1978 I authored a computer programming textbook that turned out to be wildly successful, selling over 100,000 copies. (Due far more to good timing than good writing.) In 1982 I wrote a second text that also did very well. In early 1985 my editor asked me to pen a second edition of the first text, and to free up time he provided me, to my complete surprise, with a generous grant to allow me to focus on writing for three+ months that summer. I am sure he imagined I would hunker down in my office, school library, or den, coming out only to eat, sleep,and sharpen my pencil. However, our publishing agreement only specified what I was to produce and when I was to deliver it, not where I had to write. That unplanned and totally unexpected publication grant was to become my family’s ticket (both literally and figuratively) to our next dream destination–Sydney, Australia. As I have said in many earlier posts, you never know how or when that next working vacation opportunity will present itself–over lunch at a conference, in a brief article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, or, as was the case here, buried deep inside the legalese of paragraph 7 of my publishing contract.
So, on May 20, 1985 I packed up my books, notes, research materials, laptop computer, spouse, and children (as well as scuba gear and flip-flops) and boarded a plane for Sydney, Australia, with stops along the way in Hawaii, the Fiji Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef. Thank you so very much, Mr. Wiley. I couldn’t have done it without you.