Home > Discussion Topics > The summer vacation dilemma: To go home or not to go home…that is the question!

The summer vacation dilemma: To go home or not to go home…that is the question!

Summer vacation is the time of year all teachers are waiting for (and I suppose all students as well!).  The 1.5 to 2 months of summer break is especially important though for teachers who work at international schools because it is typically when they take their annual trip back home to their native country.  When you live in a foreign country, half way across the world, it does indeed feel good to go home.  Even though you do create a new ‘family’ when you live abroad with the other international school teachers that you are working with, your home is where your real family lives.  Going home too can simply mean just going back to your home country, not necessarily going back to where you grew up.

Tulum, Mexico

There are some positives to going back and some not-so-positives to traveling back to your home country during the summer:

• Some international school teachers make their annual trip home during their winter break. Those that do typically say that they already went home during the winter holiday and don’t plan on going back 6 months later during the summer months; that would be too soon to go back!

• You get to see your old friends from when you went to University maybe or people that you went to high school with.  It is important to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances; Facebook still can’t compete with real face to face meetings with these people from your life. Also, you can tell them all about the adventures you have been on while they have been staying-put most likely in the same city that they went to high school in.

• Speaking of talking about your adventures.  Many family and friends from your home country actually don’t care very much about your adventures and traveling.  Very few of my friends and family even bring up the topic, and when I do, they don’t seem to be showing much interest in hearing the details.  Maybe it is not so interesting to them because traveling around the world and seeing more than 6-8 countries a year is just something they can’t relate to.  They also want to share what they have been up to, just like you, so I suppose there should be a bit of give and take to try and understand each other’s very different lives.

• If you go to your home country during the summer, you get to stock-up on all the favorite products from your old life.  Many international school teachers love to go to their favorite grocery stores to stock-up on all the products not available in their host country super markets.  Be careful though, food products weigh a lot and can easily make your suitcase go over the allowed weight on your flight back.

• You get to see your nieces and nephews in person, noticing how they are getting so much older now and all grown-up.  You can do things with them like taking them to the movies or for a few games of bowling.

• The price of flights and plane tickets to your home country are just unbelievably high now.  Many of us without a flight benefit just literally can’t afford to buy the plane tickets home.  Sure, at some schools, the school pays for your flight home each summer.  But, not all international school teachers are as lucky.  In many international schools in Western Europe, teachers are left to pay for their annual flight home themselves.  And if you have two children in your family, your total cost has just gone from $2500 for two people to $5000 for four people.  That amount is just not a feasible amount to pay for a trip for some international school teaching couples. Even with the annual flight allowance, you might have already used that allowance for your winter break trip home.

• Some international school teachers just want to stay put in their host country during the summer.  Some feel you don’t have the time to really explore the city, the nearby cities, the other cities in the country during the school year. And in the northern hemisphere, summer is the best time typically to explore these countries.  Some teachers also just simply stay put to save money.

• A month-long trip to Africa or a month-long trip to the Chicago area? A question you might be asking yourself in April. Some are faced with this international school educator’s dilemma each summer.  For many international school teachers, the price of the flight to go home is actually the same price it would take to go to more exotic places like Kenya or Costa Rica or even Bali.  Who would want to go home (a place you have seen many times already) in place of going on an exciting adventure?  Many choose the adventure option each summer!

• I absolutely look forward to going home (not the airport) during the summer. My wife and I have been on the road for what seems like a decade, and after traveling all year in exotic places, it feels great to get home soil under foot.  When I got married, my wife and I actually flew to our home state for our honeymoon.  Of course, if you lived in Oregon you might want to return there, too.  Seeing friends, lawn games, gently swinging in a hammock between two trees with the perfect distance between them (it is well worth the time to discover the right pair), visiting old stomping grounds…Oh, and food. Enjoying the foods that we miss all year long makes the trip through the airport worth it.

San Francisco, California

When some of International School Community’s members were asked the question: “To go home or not to go home?”  Here are a few responses we got:

“Choosing to go ‘home’ over the summer is always a tough decision. I usually head back to see friends and family. It feels really good to reconnect with the people you don’t see everyday and your own culture. After about 10 days though, I ready to head back to my other ‘home’ or my next adventure.”

San Francisco, California

“Absolutely go home! First of all, many schools will pay your ticket home during the holidays, but more importantly is the idea that one needs a “home base” when doing these international teaching assignments. There is a real feeling of refreshment when one goes home, it regenerates you sense of self, everything is familiar to you, and you regain the energy needed to face another year of the ‘unknown’.  On a side note, this year, I will not be able to ‘go home’ as I am too pregnant to travel back and forth before my second baby is born…and I”m already feeling the stress of it. Although, I know it is well worth it to stay in Brazil this time around….I feel a slight sense of panic every time I think of it.”

“For me, going home for the summer holidays is highly undesirable. For one, my ‘home’ is in the south of Australia and July/August are cold, wet months where people prefer to hibernate indoors rather than go out and meet up with old pests like me. In addition to this, I’m based in Europe now and July/August is absolutely beautiful here, especially around the southern countries like Spain, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro etc. Why go home when, what many Australians would consider a ‘dream summer’ is at my doorstep.”

“I will definitely be going home for the holidays if I can find the time to book my flights! Having just moved to a new country and started a new position at another international school, I am feeling the need to have something to look forward, as well as the need for “normalcy”. I want to see my family, taste familiar food, sleep in a soft bed, watch American TV, and enjoy all the comforts of being in a familiar place with familiar smells and sounds and happenings. I need a break from the stress. In my last international post, I remember that feeling of returning after having been at home for the holidays. I was so much more comfortable and knew what to expect upon my return. I needed that break to relax, be comfortable and then go back to a country and culture that I was starting to understand.

Having young children, it is even more important to me to travel back “home” for the holidays. They need to see family and are missing everyone and everything that they know. Every day they ask me when they are going to see their Grandma and Grandpa. They need that to look forward to until they feel they have friends and something to look forward to here. I am sure it will be the same for them as it was for me my first year abroad. Being home gives you an opportunity to reflect and think about the things you appreciate about your new home and culture. When they return here after the holidays, they will probably be excited to come back and see people they are just getting to know.

We look forward to our visit home and getting to celebrate the holidays in traditional ways that are familiar to us. I also look forward to the renewed energy and perspective on our new home. When we come back it will feel more like our new home.”

So, are you planning on going home this summer? Are you the international school teacher that makes their annual trip home each summer, the one that stays in the host country, or the one that is traveling to another country on some adventure?  Share your stories and reasons for your summer plans!

  1. Carolyn
    5 June, 2012 at 3:04 am

    I am going home. My mom would kill me if I didn’t. I only wish I had my own house so I don’t have to couch surf all summer.

    • 5 June, 2012 at 9:27 am

      That is true. There is a lot of pressure sometimes from your parents to come home. It is also true that it isn’t the most ideal to be sleeping at another person’s house for 3-4 weeks, or more than one person’s house as most international school teachers “hop around” during their summer trip.

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