We quickly settled into a comfortable routine in our new home. I would take a bus to work each morning and write for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours while enjoying pleasant lunches and coffee breaks with new-found friends and colleagues at the university. (If you cannot make friends in Australia you must be one of the more finicky individuals on earth as Sydneysiders are a most cheerful and gregarious lot.) While I was at work my wife and children (now 15 and 12) would run family errands–grocery shopping, post office, laundry, haircuts–or sample the leisure-time offerings of this most livable of cities. They traipsed to and through the zoo, botanical gardens, museums, and historic neighborhoods. They applied for and received Australian library cards and spent many happy hours at the lovely Woollahra Municipal Library situated right on the Sydney waterfront.
Evenings were often spent with a burgeoning circle of friends who would invite us to dinners, movies, and picnics–yes, it was winter but winter in Sydney often means temps in the 50s or low 60s, nice enough for outdoor activities dressed in a sweater or light jacket. My son, on his cross-country team in high school, and I went jogging along the waterfront each afternoon and entered the “City to Surf” road race, Sydney’s answer to San Francisco’s Bay-to-Breakers run. This 14 km foot race starts downtown and winds its way through city neighborhoods before ending at Bondi Beach where there is a giant celebration on behalf of the 70,000 or so entrants who can drag their bodies to the finish line, a cohort that included me–in a time of 1 hour 19 minutes, about 15 minutes behind my son.
On weekends (sometimes three days rather than two if the writing was going well) I would join my wife and kids to see the biggies of Sydney tourism–the Opera House, Rocks, Circular Quay, Harbor Bridge–or take out-of-town trips to Canberra, the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley–Australia’s answer to Napa. Occasionally the family made longer trips afield, including a rail journey to the outback city of Broken Hill, a place of such unique character and charm it deserves its own blog post, which I will happily provide next time.
As you might surmise from this brief description of our 3+ month stay, my family and I were making a good life for ourselves down under. Critics of short-term working vacations will argue that three or four months overseas is insufficient time to get a real sense of a place and its people. While I will be the first to admit that three months offers far less opportunities for cultural insight than three years, the fundamental point of this blog is that a short-term overseas stay is sufficient to provide you and your family with a memorable cultural experience. And, best of all, it can provide that experience without the need for you to be 1) independently wealthy, 2) willing to drain your life’s savings, or 3) living off the largesse of parents or an ex.
So, if you have the wherewithal and funds to leave everything behind and head off to Borneo, Burundi, or Bhutan for a few years, then good on ya, mate! But if you are like me, with long-term family and job commitments that cannot be easily chucked, why not think about one of these shorter working vacations. They are a superb way to grow as a global citizen as well as refresh and recharge your internal batteries which can often start to run a tad bit low.