We hope you teachers out there are taking note that your profession is perhaps the best represented among intentional travel families. Is it because of the multitude of job opportunities for English-speaking teachers? or that teachers tend to be driven more by passion than most? or that teachers value learning through experience? Oh, but I forgot…it doesn’t matter! Whatever the reason, take that certificate and make hay while the sun shines. Be a joiner (promise, that is the only time we will ever say that); go find out why all those teachers are doing as the Falks are doing, and go explore the big, blue ball!
Where did you go?
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
How long will your sabbatical be?
We have a two-year contract with the school we both work in.
What were you thinking?
My husband and I are both middle school teachers. Teaching abroad was something we had always talked about. We both wanted to pursue it, but we always found a way to not actively pursue it. We got married, had two boys and fell into a wonderful life. We started talking about it seriously again about three years ago. In 2010, I co-authored a grant proposal to Fund For Teachers to research in Ireland. We received the grant and spent time in Ireland living in a small town on the coast in Cork. While there, we learned much about the local culture and realized the impact of staying in one place. We learned so much and knew we wanted to bring that to our children. We knew that we wanted to expose our children to new ideas and culture, and the right way to do that would be to live in that culture.
But it was really a children’s book, No Excuses!: How What You Say Can Get In Your Way by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, that inspired us to move forward. We had a big decision to make. We had legitimate reasons for not doing anything about this, but then we asked ourselves if we could overcome and handle them. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. We were leaving family and friends. We had to manage a house, cars, finances and in this economy, our jobs. But the benefits of living abroad were too great. We wanted our boys to learn to take risks (calculated ones), to stretch themselves a bit out of their comfort zone in order to maximize their learning and understanding. We wanted to expose them to different people, places and ideas.We felt the best way to teach them was to show them through our actions. We know they are not realizing this now, but we hope that in the future, they will look back at our choices and use them as a model to help them move forward.
Where is home?
How are you paying for your sabbatical?
We work for the International School of Amsterdam. The international school community works in a similar fashion around the world. As part of the hiring package, schools offer a moving stipend. We were able to move with the school’s help. Both Brett and I are full time employees and therefore receive the benefits and salaries of a full time teacher.
What is your average monthly sabbatical budget?
We are living with less financial strain here in The Netherlands. We don’t have a car, and therefore save money on car payments and gasoline. We also pay much less on health care. Monthly, we are able to live off one of our paychecks and save the other paycheck for our travel funds.
What resources did you use?
Brett and I both joined International School Services. It’s a search firm for teachers who want to teach abroad and international schools who are looking for teachers. We went to a job fair in Boston last February. It was a nervous experience to be sure. Everyone is vying for the same positions. It’s like the Hunger Games for teaching jobs.
What did you do about language?
Our boys, through school, take Dutch three times a week. They can already speak some. Most Dutch speak English, if not, a lot of pointing and using my translator app on my phone.
What’s the best piece of advice you could offer a family considering a sabbatical?
It will take work. This didn’t fall into our laps and we worked very hard for it. But time with our children is so limited, and this experience has allowed us to spend irreplaceable time with them. There is never going to be the right time to go abroad, so plan well and go.
If you had it to do over again, you’d…?
Tough question. Because every action, intended or not, leads you to where you end up. I am not sure I can answer that question. The nature of the job fair is one in which we went in with no idea of where we would end up. We had parameters that if they were not met, we wouldn’t have gone. We were the right people for the right school.
Do you have a favorite quote?
My youngest, after our holiday in Lisbon asked “What’s our next adventure?” I think this will drive our time here.
Are you a teacher? Check out the life you could have, too. Follow the Falk’s family sabatical at Falk Travel Tracks.