My wife continually reminds me how lucky I am that she married me, despite my having only U.S. citizenship. Those of you with dual citizenship have already cleared one of the greatest barriers to long-term stays in another country: the dreaded visa process. Dee St. John describes how she took advantage of her New Zealand citizenship to give her children a great gift. What, for them, was a unique and incredible experience, was for Dee, just childhood as she knew it. To give her kids such a contrasting experience in their developmental years was to give them new eyes to see the world. “Mum, they don’t wear shoes here”—the first words from her son after his first day at school experiencing the native Mauri custom of leaving shoes outside (no shoes in the school). Dee gives the rest of the story…
Where is home?
Where did you go?
My home town, Hawera, a small coastal town on the North Island of New Zealand. A rural area with a population of about 11,000. Hawera is minutes from the sea and resides beneath the volcanic Mt Taranaki.
How long was your sabbatical?
We went on an extended family vacation which lasted eleven wonderful weeks.
What were you thinking (why did you do it)?
My job slows down after the ski season and before the summer holidays. My children were ages six and seven. The further along in school they got, the more difficult it seemed to leave for an extended amount of time. I had not seen my parents in three years, and it was also going to be my Dad’s 70th birthday. My husband and I also wanted the children to experience the place where I grew up.
What was your education strategy for the kids?
I enrolled them into a local primary school in Hawera for the term. It worked out that the 2nd term of the school year in New Zealand was around the same time we had been planning on going. I brought over the kids’ completed homework and a few tests to give the teachers there an idea of the level of education. They were placed in grades equivalent to what they were in Colorado. As they both have New Zealand citizenship, they were able to attend school free of charge. The kids enjoyed the school uniforms and methods of teaching.
How did you make it work?
My work typically slows for May and June. My husband would be staying in Vail for most of the time to look after the house and help out my clients. He was able to take over most of my duties during the off season, so we still had much of our family income. Any problems that did come up we were able to resolve through emails or Skype.
What advice would you offer a family considering a sabbatical?
What I’d have regarded as an ordinary, average day of my childhood was an amazing cultural experience for my children.
Have you done extended travel with your family? Help inspire other families to follow in your footsteps. Tell us your story.