Category Archives: Useful Web Sites

Another Great Working Vacation Website

In my last post I identified an excellent online resource for short-term volunteer postings:  Volunteer Stays.  This is the fourth time I have brought a working vacation resource to the reader’s attention:  Transitions Abroad, described in the post A Great Web Site for Working Vacation Planners; International Executive Service Corps, a site listing overseas positions for business and financial specialists discussed in Working Vacations for (Almost) Everyone; and, finally, Doctors Without Borders, a portal containing all sorts of wonderful short-term opportunity for a wide range of health professionals.

Well, I would like to raise that number to five by identifying another outstanding working vacation blog, The Wandering Educator, a site that is, in their own words, “A Global Community of Educators Sharing Travel Experiences.”

My "Official" Badge as an Editor of the Wandering Educator Web Site

(Full disclosure:  I was recently named Academic Travel Editor for this site and have contributed articles.)   The Wandering Educator is not so much a searchable enumeration of overseas jobs as it is a collection of stories, travel memoirs, and words of encouragement from teachers who have lived and worked overseas and who wish to share those experiences with friends and colleagues.   For example, the site currently contains articles about the benefits of taking academic leave for periods as short as one week, one scholar’s working vacation experiences in the townships of Johannesburg, South Africa, and arguments for why a working vacation can help you get out of that academic rut.  The site also contains links to useful travel resources such as book reviews, information on home rentals, and inexpensive airline and train tickets.

If you are a teacher, at any level, considering a short-term working vacation you really should give this Web site the once over.  And, if you are not yet among this cohort you definitely should read my book, On The Other Guy’s Dime, as well as some of the postings on this blog to get yourself into that frame of mind.

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Volunteer Tourism

I want to thank reader Adele for posting the following comment:  “Michael, I recommend you check out Volunteer Stays!”  Well, I did and discovered that it is a Web site whose goals, described on their home page, are virtually identical to those of my own book and blog:

“You’re not interested in packaged vacations. You want to see the world and experience other cultures and ways of life. You need a little adventure in your life, and you know that the best vacation memories are the ones that involve a connection…to people, to nature, to the undiscovered parts of yourself.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!  So, if a volunteer posting overseas piques your curiosity, check it out.  The site has a search feature that allows you to list your professional skills, dates available, and countries or regions in which you are most interested.  It then tries to locate an overseas job that best matches those desires.  Right now there are not a slew of positions but, hey, it’s rather new so cut it some slack.  I am sure the number of listings will grow rapidly in the coming months, and you can check back as many times as you want to see what is available.

I only ask you to remember one thing:  Unlike the positions described in my blog this is volunteer work, usually about 20 hours per week–enough free time to enjoy the physical, cultural, and historical sights of a region.  But you will be responsible for transportation and visa costs and will not receive a salary, although in most cases you will be provided with accommodations and meals.

My book on the new arrivals table at the Columbia Book Store. Only one left!

So, if you can get away from home for a while and subsist without a salary (e.g., retired,  student on holiday or summer vacation, just won the lottery) Volunteer Stays is a great way to locate a temporary position overseas, settle in, and become an integral part of a new and different culture.  It is also a great way to turn that holiday into an opportunity to help others.  However, if  receiving a salary is a non-negotiable feature of any position you would accept, then please check out the paid working vacation strategies described in my book, On The Other Guy’s Dime.

How To Rent Out Your House

Finding responsible (and paying) tenants to live in your home while on a working vacation is neither difficult nor expensive, and it should never be an excuse for turning down a short-term overseas posting. Here’s how:

If your city is home to a medium- or large-sized college or university, like the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, it will almost certainly have a housing office providing information for medical residents, new faculty, overseas researchers, sabbatical visitors, and other assorted academics coming to town for a short-term stay.  Best of all, the cost of posting your home on these college databases is usually quite nominal. Large universities have hundreds of scholars flowing in and out of campus each year, so it is a great way to connect with a large number of high-quality, short-term renters. Be sure to list your house three or four months in advance of departure to give yourself enough time to reach these individuals.

There are other online sites posting information about temporary housing. The largest and most well-known is craigslist, which includes a specific category entitled “sublets/temporary housing” for hundreds of cities in the United States and Canada and, best of all, the posting is free. (However, be prepared for an onslaught of e-mails from scammers eager to send in a deposit as soon as you provide a bank account and Social Security number.  Don’t do it!) Another popular site is sabbaticalhomes.com, which focuses on the housing needs of academics and skilled professionals coming to a city for a one-semester or one-year visit. It includes information not only on home rentals, but home exchanges and house-sitting services as well.  We found our most recent renter, a pediatric surgeon moving his practice to Minneapolis, via this Web site.

Another possibility is to identify cultural institutions and corporate headquarters in your hometown who bring in professionals for short-term visits. For example, Minneapolis is home to the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, the Guthrie Theater, and the Walker Art Center as well as the world headquarters for  3M, Honeywell, Medtronic, and Northwest Airlines (now part of Delta), and we have listed our home with the Human Resources office of all these institutions. One summer we rented to a guest conductor in town for our local summer music festival; another time we rented to a visiting software engineer from Australia temporarily assigned to the Honeywell Research Center.

So, although it may take a bit of telephone calling and Web sleuthing, it should not be overly difficult to locate a high quality renter to live in and care for your home while you are overseas.   And remember, carefully file away all those contact names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and Web sites for future reference.  You really don’t want to repeat the entire process from scratch when planning your second (and third and . . .) overseas working vacation.

There are lots more helpful hints about renting out your home (as well as finding temporary housing at your destination) in my book.  Check it out.

A Great Web Site For Working Vacation Planners

There are numerous Web sites to help you locate and plan a working vacation.  I mentioned some in earlier posts–Great Blogs to Check Out and Working Vacations for (Almost) Everyone–with another dozen or so in Chapter 14 of my book.   Now  I want to point out a site that may be the single most important working vacation Web portal of all– Transitions Abroad.  For the last 34 years it has been a pioneering travel resource for anyone thinking of working, living, or studying abroad.

Transitions Abroad is a veritable smörgåsbord of helpful hints regarding overseas work.  Within its pages can be found a wealth of information on paid jobs, internships, and volunteer work; short- and long-term postings; professional, semi-skilled, and unskilled work.  For example, under the link “International Jobs” are tips for finding overseas careers, books and articles on international work, pointers to worldwide job portals sorted by profession, and links to websites to help you manage the complex task of relocating to another culture.  If you click on “International Careers and Jobs by Profession” you will find individual listings for Teaching, Business, Arts, Engineering, Health, Law, Public Policy, and the Environment, to name just a few.

For younger job seekers who may not be as far along in the educational pipeline, Transitions Abroad includes information on study abroad opportunities as well as entry-level jobs ideally suited for college students and/or recent graduates, such as being an au pair, working on a farm, teaching English, or summer jobs in the hospitality industry. For those who wish to combine a traditional vacation with short-term, unpaid work in a developing country there are links to meaningful volunteer postings in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central America, South America, and Oceania.  And, even after listing all these features, I have probably described (like the proverbial iceberg) about 10% of what is available on this site.

So, if you are interested in planning a working vacation–from one week to one year, paid/unpaid, professional or entry-level, with or without family–you should do the following:  1) learn about the joys, benefits, and potential pitfalls of working vacations from my book On The Other Guy’s Dime: A Professional’s Guide to Traveling Without Paying, and then 2) log on to the Transitions Abroad website to browse the wide range of working vacation opportunities just waiting for you to apply.

Working Vacations For (Almost) Everyone!

One of the popular misconceptions about working vacations is that they are exclusively for academics–only possible during the months of June, July, and August and only to schools and colleges around the world.  At book signings and call-in shows I often get snide comments saying, in effect, “Excuse me, but I don’t teach so I don’t have the opportunity to live and work in exotic locations like you do.”  And no matter how much I try to convince them otherwise, they stubbornly cling to this mistaken notion.  Now, thanks to Mr. David Rowell, creator of the blog Travel Insider and a recent reviewer of my book, I have  additional evidence to show that this view is utterly incorrect.

In his review David referred to the Web site of the International Executive Service Corps, abbreviated IESC, a non-profit organization founded in 1964 with a focus on helping developing nations grow their business and financial infrastructure.  Their “executive service corps” model was inspired by the success of the Peace Corps, and they utilize volunteers as well as paid consultants in fields such as banking, financial services, accounting, technology management, international trade, hotel and tourism management, real estate, capital formation, natural resources, patent law, and government regulations.  Their employees currently serve in 130 countries around the globe.

Paid consulting projects vary in length from one week to several months, exactly the length of working vacations I have been espousing in this blog, and more than enough time for a superb cultural experience.  If selected as a consultant you receive air fare, housing, and a per diem allowance sufficient to cover most or all your travel expenses.  In addition, if the appointment lasts for more than 28 days, IESC includes airfare for a spouse.  Essentially, IESC allows you to travel the globe, contribute to the development of an emerging economy, and have an amazing cultural adventure all (as I have said many times before) on the other guy’s dime.

This site expands the opportunities for working vacations to include industrial, business, and financial professionals in a wide range of specializations.  If I had more time, I would also include a lengthy description of Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organization that hires professionals in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, sanitation, hospital administration, epidemiology, and public health for short-term postings in 60 countries around the world.

So, please don’t fall back on the tired old argument that a one or two month working vacation is the sole purview of high school and college teachers.  Trust me when I say there is no shortage of opportunities, regardless of your specialization, only a shortage of the motivation needed to search for them and, when found, to enthusiastically go after them.

Some Sound Advice From Two Great Guys

I recently came across a wonderful blog entitled Two Guys Around The World.  (It was voted outstanding travel blog of 2009.)  In the words of Sam Powers, one of the two guys: “I’m young, single and just graduated from college. If I don’t travel the world now, I never will.”  So, with his friend William Reinhard, he set off to experience life in totally new ways.  They traveled the world for a little over a year, living and working in more than a dozen countries, blogging as they went.  Their goal was to inspire other young people to do the same–to leave the safety of a comfort zone full of excuses in order to gain a better understanding of the world in which they live.

These two guys are truly my soul mates, and through their writings they are trying to gain for their readers the same things I am advocating for mine–encouraging them to live and work overseas, experience a new culture, have some amazing adventures, and learn about the world beyond their home.  However, I respectfully disagree with them regarding the premise that you need to be young, single, and a freshly minted twenty-something college graduate to have this type of experience. While we are certainly preaching a similar message, we are talking to very different audiences.

I hope my postings will have convinced you that the chance to live and work overseas is not something privy only to youthful nomads who have not yet entered the workplace.  Sadly, this is an all too common misconception that has stifled the dreams of many.  I have repeatedly argued that a short- to medium-term career break, what I call a working vacation, is an opportunity widely available to us “more mature” adults as well.  And best of all, it can be achieved without having to sell your home or quit your job–as I have demonstrated in the past 70 or so postings.

So, even if you did not take advantage of overseas work opportunities in your early 20s, please don’t believe it is too late to do so now.  Don’t let your dreams remain locked in your head, never to be realized.  In the words of those two guys Sam and William: leave the safety of your comfort zone, discard those excuses about children, pets, home, and job, and actively seek out a short-term sabbatical experience that exposes you to the fullness and richness of life–even a life that is now well into its fourth, fifth, sixth, or even seventh decade.

Some Great Blogs To Check Out

A few weeks ago I attended a meeting of the Twin Cities Breakaway Group, an assemblage of mid-career professionals who are thinking about living and working overseas.  They are seeking a cultural immersion as well as the opportunity to try something new and exciting in their lives–exactly the people I am addressing in my blog and my new book.  It was fun to spend time with this group of like-minded individuals.

The speaker at the meeting was Sherry Ott, author of  OttsWorld: the Travel and Life Experiences of a Corporate American Runaway.  Sherry is a 40-year old ex-IT professional who, four years ago, quit the cubicle scene and set out to see the world.  She has been blogging about her travel experiences since 2006.   Sherry is also a contributor to the Web site Briefcases to Backpacks which offers useful travel information and assistance for those planning to take either a short-term sabbatical or an extended career break.  Finally, she is also the founder of a movement entitled Meet, Plan, Go whose goal is to motivate and empower people to realize their  long-term overseas travel dreams.  The group sponsors an annual Career Break Boot Camp (this past year it was held in 13 cities) to help people plan and carry out their career break aspirations.  Sherry’s message is exactly the same as mine–if you want, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot take a short-term hiatus from your job and career to have an enriching, eye-opening, and oftentimes life-changing experience.

These are all sites that you might wish to check out, and I have added them to my blog roll in the right-hand column.