Summer Vacation Dilemmas for International Educators
When summer rolls around, all of us living and teaching overseas face the same dilemma: Do I travel for June, July and August, return to my home country, stay put, or embrace a combination of all three options? On the surface, this decision sounds like a problem half the world would love to face, but in reality the summer months can be stressful on both the psyche and the budget of international educators.
If the spirit moves you to stay put for the summer months, it would certainly be the most convenient and least expensive alternative. Living in a vibrant area with “beaucoup” culture could make this the ideal way to spend your vacation. Not so, if you’re in a cultural dead spot choked with traffic, pollution, heat, poor internet and high prices. Consider also that many schools supply housing and request teachers vacate for the summer months. Some schools even refuse to pay teachers’ housing during the summer, requiring them to find new digs at the end of the vacation or pay the rent out-of-pocket to keep the old place reserved. I’d avoid schools that fall into the last category.
When my family was new to the international teaching circuit we were eager to travel and explore. We spent one of our first summers overseas on the beach in the Dominican Republic. We rented a house next to the ocean and settled in for a relaxing vacation with the kids. Other summers we stopped on route to the United States, spending weeks exploring Thailand, Holland, Indonesia and other places of interest that fell in the general direction of home.
During Christmas and other extended vacations we almost always traveled within our host country and/or to surrounding countries of interest. And so, eventually the day came when we had seen lots of the world around us and ultimately longed to spend the summer months with family and friends back home. The problem was, we had nothing back home to return to. We had sold our house and cars ten years prior. For anyone that’s been on the circuit for many years this is can be a very real situation.
For a single teacher it’s easier to come up with a solution to being homeless. It’s far more convenient for one person to drop in on family and friends and stay for a while, but it’s not the same for a couple or a family like us with two teenagers. As much as our families back home loved and missed us it was just too much to expect aging parents to adapt to three months with four more people in the house. Experience tells me that the old saying “fish and houseguests begin to stink after three days” is probably true. Plus, living out of a suitcase for the summer is no joy, especially for a family.
Without a home base, returning to the States is expensive. We easily dropped 15K in one summer. Sounds unbelievable, but air fare for four, hotels, car rental, eating out, shopping sprees for kids’ school clothes and supplies, entertainment, gas, and it’s just endless, adding up fast at US prices. If you’re planning on returning home for the summer months you would do well to calculate your projected expenses and debit this from your gross income to get an idea of what you’ll end up with at the end of each year.
Eventually we bought another house in the States and our daughter has lived in it for the past 6 years while we continue on with our international teaching careers. With a place to go every summer, coming home is easy and far less expensive. We have our cars and a place to eat, sleep and call home. Of course owning a house you don’t live in can pose its own problems. But when summers roll around we’re glad we have it. Plus it’s appreciating in value year after year….well, maybe not recently but it will again.
What about You? How do you spend your summer vacations? Do you return to your home country, travel, visit friends or stay put in your current host country? Have you discovered a unique and novel way to spend your summers? Do you have some advice to share with the international teaching community on this topic? After all, summer comes every year for all of us.