OK, maybe the Kelleys aren’t the best example to demonstrate how families overcome obstacles, face challenges, swallow toads, and juggle knives to take their family sabbatical. We met Dan while we were living in Cuenca, Ecuador because our kids attended the same school where they all stuck out like…well, like white on rice. We were instantly jealous. Here we were spending our savings for our sabbatical, while Dan’s expenses were essentially covered and he received a salary. Sure, he still had a real job he had to do (cue mournful violin), but all in all…dang, we’re still jealous.
Where is home?
Where did you go?
How long was your sabbatical?
I was in South America four months and the kids were with me three of those months, and Mara joined us for one month.
What were you thinking (why did you do it)?
I work for a college with a semester abroad program and occasionally have the opportunity to lead these programs. So the opportunity to take our kids (ages 4 & 6 at the time) along to experience another culture, learn Spanish, travel, and spend more time together was a no-brainer. My wife, Mara, couldn’t escape her work so easily, but she was able to join us for a month there. She took the kids back home with her, and I visited the mountains of Peru for a bit before returning home as well. We visited the Amazon rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, and other parts of Ecuador in that relatively short time. Really, “What were you thinking” would be the question had we declined an opportunity like this.
What was your education strategy for the kids?
They attended a local private school in Cuenca called Santana. It was, for Ecuador, a pretty upscale school, but by our standards very inexpensive. They learned some Spanish (which they continue to learn back home), and they also got to learn how to wear a “different” skin color (Let’s play spot the Irish kids in a sea of South Americans!).
How did you make it work?
I have the opportunity to lead study abroad programs for the college where I work. I led one before we had kids to east Africa for four months in 2002 and wanted to do it again, this time with the kids.
What advice would you offer a family considering a sabbatical?
Learn more of the language before you go. But go. We Americans need to travel outside the country and our comfort zones more often. Living abroad is hard and it stretches you, but it’s a good kind of stretch.