I received a comment from a reader finishing his 17th year of teaching at a branch of the University of Maryland in southern Germany. This individual writes “I have yet to take advantage of the return air ticket that the school provides—and I don’t intend to!” He is living testament to the intellectual benefits, personal growth, and plain good fun of an overseas working vacation.
With one exception. While this gentleman has had years to leisurely integrate into a different culture, most of us cannot leave home, friends, and family for that length of time. Unlike youthful nomads or wealthy runaways (think Under the Tuscan Sun) who quit their job, kiss friends and family good-bye, and head out on a life-changing adventure, most of us are limited to leaves of absence whose duration is measured in weeks or (if we are lucky) months. In addition, while many of us would relish exposure to a new and different way of life we also value our existing relationships, ties, and commitments back home and don’t want to burn those bridges. We want to use the concept of a working vacation to refresh and renew our life, not change it.
Well, I want to assure readers that you can experience the joys and benefits of working overseas without having to spend 17 years. Some of my shortest international postings–6 to 8 weeks–have been the most rewarding personally, professionally, and culturally. Please don’t think that a working vacation requires years away from your job, friends, and family. Even just a month or two can be sufficient for a thoroughly unique and rewarding professional and cultural experience. And, best of all, a month or two is an amount of time that, with the appropriate planning and forethought, could be available to many of the skilled professionals reading this blog.
So, regardless of whether you live and work overseas during a summer vacation, after retirement, on a sabbatical or short-term leave, while you’re between jobs, or by simply closing the store and walking away for a short time, a working vacation is a wonderful way to have a transformative cultural experience, grow personally and professionally, refresh and renew your daily existence, and have exotic adventures, all on the other guy’s dime!