… and now the final act. Previously, I discussed what a working vacation is (Act I), followed by who might benefit from such a beast (Act II). In this post, Act III, I address what is probably the most important concern for those reading these missives–why would you want to schlep your family around the globe for months at a time to live and work in a strange new environment ? That, good friends, is the $64 question, and I wish to provide the $65 answer.
1. Cost. The first reason comes directly from the name of this blog and my travel book: On The Other Guy’s Dime. Vacations are not cheap, and long-term vacations that include spouse and children can be particularly pricey. A working vacation is a way to travel for an extended period and not break the bank. There are numerous books about living and working overseas (think Under the Tuscan Sun or A Year in Provence), but they always seem to have been written by independently wealthy individuals who just won the lottery, inherited scads of money, made a bundle selling a business, or quit their job and are merrily consuming their life savings. Most of us do not fall into these categories, but we still want to enjoy the benefits of extended travel. A working vacation, in which you earn enough via work to cover travel costs, is an option available to all, not simply the rich.
2. Professional Renewal. I don’t care how much you love your work–and most professionals do–when you do the same things day in/day out, year after year, a sense of repetitiveness eventually sets in, and you begin to feel a “staleness” in your daily routine. A working vacation, in which you use your professional skills in new and different ways and in a new and different place, can refresh the soul and bring a renewed sense of pleasure to the workplace. It is an adventure that can add excitement to what may not be a very exciting life.
3. Childhood Growth. The joys of a working vacation are certainly not limited to adults; in fact, the personal growth and maturity that accrues from living overseas can be even more pronounced in young children. Just as we know that youngsters are far more adept at learning a foreign language or mastering a musical instrument, they are like living sponges soaking up the lessons and experiences of overseas life. Being part of another culture, even for a few months, is not only exhilarating for parents, it can be a truly transformative experience for children.
4. Cultural Immersion. On the typical 1- or 2-week family vacation you may go on tours, see historical sites, eat well, and relax by a pool. You may climb a mountain, go on carnival rides, and build sand castles on the beach. Fun, absolutely, but limited in that you rarely have an opportunity to meet locals, participate in their social, cultural, and religious activities, learn about the region, or get involved with community organizations. The country is defined by the airport, hotel, and views from a bus window. However, when you work for a local institution and have the time to interact with neighbors and coworkers you begin to understand and appreciate your host country and its people. You learn about a culture not by observing it from a distance but by becoming part of it.
In summary, then, a working vacation is a wonderful way for the entire family to combine the relaxation of a holiday with the intellectual growth that comes from interacting with and learning from other cultures. And all this on the other guy’s dime!