There are two types of world travelers—the repeaters and the not agains. Repeaters have found their dream destination and go back year after year to the same village, the same B&B, the same lake. They are the couple who return every March, like swallows to Capistrano, to that quaint little inn in the south of France; who pre-book every year at their special hacienda on the Mayan Riviera; who canoe the same rivers and eat at the same restaurants, year in, year out. In contrast, the not agains love the places they have been but prefer instead to seek out new sights and unexpected adventures. Repeaters are the “bird in the hand” group, not agains the “two in the bush.”
I have no quibble with repeaters and congratulate them on discovering their one perfect Eden. Even better, the task of locating the next working vacation is far simpler for repeaters than for the not agains. After completing the first employment contract, sit down with school, agency, or institute administrators, tell them how much you enjoyed your stay, how professionally and culturally rewarding it was, and ask if they would be interested in hosting a return visit in the near future. Assuming you have not screwed up too badly and funds are available, there is a decent chance they will be eager to invite you back, and the planning for your next working vacation will have been fully accomplished. Nice and simple.
I followed that path myself after a 2007 cold call resulted in a six-month visiting professorship at Columbia University in New York City, home of my now-grown children and grandchildren. I renegotiated that initial offer into a return visit for the 2008-09 academic year and beyond. I just completed my third teaching stint at the school with plans for more in the near future.
However, in 1992 my wife and I definitely belonged to the latter group, the not agains. We loved all our working vacations and found every city where we had lived—London, Jerusalem, Nairobi, Sydney, Istanbul—a destination not yet plumbed to its fullest depths. Each site still tempted with possibilities of fresh explorations and new discoveries. When we would return home, bubbling over with stories about the sights we’d seen and the people we’d met, friends and family were sure that our next trip would take us back to the same place—working vacation redux. However, in almost three decades of travel, until our return to New York City and Columbia, it never has. As much as we’ve enjoyed and savored each and every trip, when it came time to think about the next one we would stare at a world map and see too much unexplored space, too many countries not yet experienced. The U.N. has 192 member states and so far we had lived and worked in five. It seemed much too early for reruns.
I would love to hear from readers which of these two schools of thought best describes your own traveling philosophy. Whether for a brief one- or two-week family vacation or a long-term working adventure do you prefer to fall back on the tried-and-true or are you more about exploring the as yet unexplored? Please share.