What the Heck is a Working Vacation? (Act I)

Dear Readers,

It is coming up to the one-year anniversary of my blog, and I am flabbergasted at how much it has grown.  I have reached five figures in page views and am well past a thousand unique visitors, many of them relative newcomers. While enjoying my lighthearted stories of life in England, Israel, Australia, Kenya, Turkey, Zimbabwe, and Japan (especially the monkey waiters), recent arrivals to this site may not be aware of why I am writing this blog and what I hope to accomplish. To that end I think it is a good time to revisit earlier posts explaining the purpose behind my family’s overseas jaunts. (And for those who have been with me since the beginning, a little refresher course now and then isn’t such a bad thing.)

This reprise will come in three acts:  First the what–what is a working vacation and how does it differ from the journeys, wanderings, and roamings described on countless other web sites; second, the who–who is the audience that would benefit from this advice; finally, the why–why you should be motivated to pack up your family and travel to a foreign land to work, live, and grow.

Let’s start with the what.  In this blog (and in my book) I carve out a unique travel niche–a short-term overseas career break that I call a working vacation.  What the heck is a working vacation?

1.  It involves high-level professional work.  Unlike travel blogs for twenty-somethings, I am not talking about being a nanny, au pair, waiter, or the like.  There is nothing wrong with these jobs, and they are an excellent way for recent high school and college graduates to support themselves overseas.  The problem is that many older adults mistakenly think this is the only way to live and work in another country. They are unaware that professionals such as doctors, nurses, teachers, business executives, scientists, artists, engineers, government officials, etc., are all in great demand, and international institutions will gladly pay you to come and work with them. Even though you may be well past your teens or twenties, you have the same opportunity to live and work overseas as a younger cohort.

2.  It only requires a short-term commitment.  Most professionals enjoy what they do and like the city or town where they do it.  While not averse to a short-term temporary assignment they do not want to leave home for years at a time.  Unfortunately, travel blogs for ex-pats focus on how to sell your home, quit your job, kiss friends and neighbors good-bye, and move overseas for an extended period.  But you can enjoy many of the same professional and cultural benefits in a far shorter time, as little as 1-6 months, and when the posting is completed you return to your home, job, and, best of all, your regular paycheck.  No bridge burning required.

3.  You travel on the other guy’s dime. (Hence the blog’s name)   Unlike many other travel blogs, I am not talking about volunteer tourism in which you must pay your own expenses; I am not writing for people who won the lottery, are receiving huge alimony payments, sold their business for millions, or are living off the largesse of parents or ex’es–in effect, I am not competing with Eat, Pray, Love; Under the Tuscan Sun; or A Year in Provence.  Instead, I describe how to you use your professional skills to earn enough money to pay all or most of your travel expenses–flight, housing, living costs.  The goal of a working vacation is to not dive into your own wallet to support a travel habit, but have the other guy dive into his.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it!  Well it is, and my wife and I have done exactly that 15 times in the past three decades.  In the coming days I will address two other questions that are probably on your mind: 1) who are candidates for this type of travel, and 2) why you really should consider it.  Let me know what you think!

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