In the last three posts I described my failure landing a working vacation on the South Pacific island nation of Palau. This type of dream-shattering disappointment is well-known to first-time authors, newly minted playwrights, and novice actors. Unfortunately, it is an occupational hazard of aspiring working vacation seekers as well. I did not want stories of my no-cost career breaks in England, Israel, Australia, Kenya, Turkey, and Zimbabwe to blind you to the real-world fact that locating a working vacation is neither guaranteed nor automatic. However, if you know what to do and how to respond, it is also not an unattainable dream.
The moral of the story is to expect rejection, not let it get you down, and have a follow-up response at the ready, exactly as described in Plan A, then Plan B, then Plan C. First, consider other institutions in the same city, country, or region that meet your language, program, and location requirements. If that does not work consider alternate countries or regions that might offer you and your family a similar cultural experience. The cost of these inquiries is insignificant—perhaps an hour of on-line research and a few minutes at the keyboard. In the “olden days” (pre-Internet) each attempt at contacting an overseas institution involved waiting weeks for a snail-mail inquiry to arrive on the other side of the globe and a response to trickle back home. In that environment contacting a large number of places was unrealistic. However, e-mail and the Web have changed all that, and it is now quick and easy, not to mention free, to contact a number of schools, agencies, or research centers.
For example, when I was seeking a working vacation in Nairobi, I sent email to a half-dozen institutions asking if they would be interested in hosting me for a short-term paid sabbatical–I did not rely on the employment whims of a single school. The nice thing about this “scatter shot” approach is that you only need to receive a single positive response, so the more places you contact the greater the probability of getting that hoped-for “Yes, we want you” response. And, remember, the payoff for that single success is a glorious overseas work experience on someone else’s dime.