I recently received a comment that reflects a common belief among many skilled professionals. Debra, a public school teacher from North Carolina, posted the following on this blog: “I heard you on the radio yesterday and was so excited to look up your book. This is something I ponder every day. I am in awe of those who have figured out how to do this.”
The fact that anyone could be “in awe” of me and what I have done leaves me speechless! I am an rather ordinary teacher at a small college in Minnesota. Although I have good classroom skills and have written a couple of textbooks, I am certainly not what anyone (even my mother) would call an academic superstar. No one would mistake me for a supernova from Harvard, Yale, or Princeton; I have never won a prestigious award; no one ever asked me to appear on their TV talk show to express an expert mathematical opinion. (Although, ironically, I have been on more than a dozen radio and TV shows to chat about working vacations!) In short, there is nothing special about me that couldn’t be said of thousands of other teachers toiling away in the academic trenches.
In that case why was I the one who ended up traveling the world from Australia to Zimbabwe? Why did I get to live on a tropical island paradise and walk with wild game in the Serengeti? How did I get to visit indigenous tribes in Borneo, stay in a Buddhist monastery in Bhutan, and hike the high Himalayas, all at no cost to myself or to my family? The short answer–I applied for it and did it!
For the past year I have been arguing, convincingly I hope, that professionals like you and I can apply for and obtain no-cost short-term working vacations. You needn’t be a partner in a Wall Street law firm, don’t have to be Chief of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, and don’t need a Pulitzer, Oscar, or Tony on the mantel to spend time abroad. What you do need is the belief that there is a realistic chance for you and your family to leave home for a few months, live overseas, and experience a different culture. You must believe this is not just something “others” do; not something only “a lucky few” get to achieve; not something you see in National Geographic but can only dream about. You must honestly think “I can do this.”
Once you understand this the rest of the process is simply details, none of which are onerous and all of which are explained at length in my book. There is absolutely no reason why you and your family cannot have the same type of exotic adventures my wife and I have experienced for the past three decades. My goal in writing On The Other Guy’s Dime is for you (not me) to be the one who other people look at and say “I am in awe of what you have been able to accomplish!”