Radical Family Sabbatical | Give Your Family The World


Families Afoot: The Tveits

RFS February 13, 2013

I have a new definition for wanderlust: when a picture looks just like where you live now, and you still want to go there. Looking at some of the incredible Argentinean scenery captured by the Tveits on their sabbatical, I imagine summer here in Vail, Colorado (even better than winter, if you ever get the chance) but with the strangeness and mystery of the foreign. And maybe that’s exactly what drives us—that feeling of foreign, of turning what we know on its head and seeing it from a different angle…of being outside our comfort zone. As Ellen says below, without challenges what would we have to talk about? See what she has to talk about below, or check out their whole adventure at their blog, More Than One Casa.




Names/Ages of family members
Peter (41)
Ellen (40)
Louis (4)

Where did you go?
Bariloche, Argentina

How long will your sabbatical be?
15 weeks

What were you thinking?
We wanted to give our son a Spanish language immersion experience (he’s four and a half and attends a bilingual preschool, and we expect him to attend a public immersion school in the fall). We also wanted to check out of our hectic and not-always-satisfying “real” lives for awhile and have an adventure together.

Did you volunteer or contribute in some other way to your host community?
Pete volunteered a few times at a soup kitchen. If we come back (and my Spanish is better), volunteering is something that we can consider doing more of.

Where is home?
St. Paul, Minnesota (USA)

Not St. Paul

What do you expect/hope will be different about your life upon return?
We are flying back to Minnesota in a few days, eager for the comforts of home but dreading a return to a sedentary lifestyle and work-related frustrations.

What was your education strategy for the kids?
We arrived in Bariloche at the end of the academic year, and it was difficult to find a preschool that would accept a new student since jardines infantiles (as they are called there) either close completely over the summer or have a transition time before starting a summer program. Ultimately we settled for a day care center that was not our first choice because at least our son would be with kids his age and be exposed to native speakers for a few hours every weekday. About halfway through our sabbatical we were able to switch to a center we liked better.

How did you pay for your sabbatical?
We found a family to rent our house while we were gone, one of us was technically “on vacation” and receiving a paycheck, and we were fortunate to be able to draw on an inheritance.

How did you handle your professional life?
I took a leave of absence from my job and, because of his work schedule, Pete was able to use two years’ worth of vacation to cover most of his time away.

What is/was/will be your average monthly sabbatical budget?
Inflation in Argentina is currently estimated at 25%. Bariloche is a tourist destination (its sister city is Aspen, Colo.) and we were there in high season. We did not live cheaply.

What resources did you use?
We consulted with South American friends and acquaintances, searched for personal travel blogs (after we’d narrowed down our destination list), and read the Family Sabbatical Handbook by Elisa Bernick. Pete had already traveled quite a bit in Latin America, including Argentina, and I had lived abroad for year-long stints in France and Latvia, so we also had an idea of what we were getting into.

What did you do about language?
Pete has studied and used Spanish for a decade. His excellent command of the language was key to getting us settled and connected as quickly as we did. Lou had a foundation in Spanish because of preschool and speaking Spanish with his dad at home and with an Argentine family friend. I was the weak link. my knowledge of French was helpful, but I was basically starting from zero. I studied Spanish in group classes for 20 hours every week and Pete used private classes to refine his skills. In addition to day care, we enrolled Lou in a tae kwon do class. This was a great way to meet other parents. We were fortunate to get connected early with some wonderful people who invited us for play dates and outings, and those social encounters really motivated me to work on my Spanish.

What’s the best piece of advice you could offer a family considering a sabbatical?
Take calculated risks.

If you had it to do over again, you’d…?
I’m not sure I would change anything. Of course we had challenges, but without them what would we have to talk about? We really had a great experience and would like to come back to Bariloche for another extended stay.


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Comments (2)

  1. Hi! I just moved to bariloche from Michigan with my husband and 2 daughters Sofia and Emma ages 4 and 5… We two arrived at the end of the school year and would like to find day care for our children so they can learn Spanish and be with other children. What ended up being the better choice for your family?

    • What a fantastic opportunity, Sarah! I’m afraid I don’t have the good fortune to speak with authority on Bariloche, but Peter and Ellen could. Reach them through their blog, MoreThanOneCasa.com.


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