Family gap years are a thing. Why not take a sabbatical, beg for an international transfer, or just save up and take your whole family abroad for a year or two.
Think you've missed your chance to take a gap year? Truth is, gap years are not just for teens, recent graduates or childless couples. There's a growing trend for families to go discover the world together, whether they sail round the world in a yacht, backpack across continents or stay and work in one country for a while. Here are some things to consider before taking your kids off trotting the globe.
Read: Which gap year option is right for my child?
What you do during your family gap year largely depends on how much you can afford. Not everybody can take their family on an international holiday for a whole year. This British family sold everything they owned to fund their adventure, down to their favourite couch. Luckily, you don't have to go to such extremes. Here are some ideas for work while you travel:
Get a transfer
If you work for an international company, find out if there are any opportunities for short- or longer-term transfers to one of their offices abroad. They may be able to help you with the necessary paperwork, flights and accommodation as well. Bonus: you won't have to worry about finding work when you've returned home.
Depending on where you go, there's a lot of money to be made by teaching English as a foreign language. In some countries, you'll need nothing more than good English skills, but others may require a degree and teaching qualifications, such as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate.
Do you have an MBA, Masters or Doctorate, as well as two years’ experience in your industry? A number of Chinese universities welcome guest lecturers in a variety of professional fields, from media and communications to science and engineering. These programmes are short (only a few weeks long), but can be an ideal opportunity to earn some money while experiencing East Asia with your family.
Do a postgraduate degree
Instead of lecturing, you could study for a Masters or a Doctorate degree at an overseas university. There are some really great scholarships for South Africans to study in Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, America, India, Russia, Chile and Brazil (to name a few). For a list of bursaries and scholarships, see the Department of Higher Education and Training's website. This could be a good option in countries where one partner can teach English while the other is studying, such as China or South Korea.
Do you already work from home? If you're able to do your work from your kitchen table, then you could probably do it from a beach bar in Bali! There's a rising trend among tech workers, writers, editors, designers, marketers and even accountants and tax consultants to earn their living while travelling the world. All you need to become a "digital nomad" is electricity, a laptop and good internet connection.
Before you leave, it may be wise to speak to a financial advisor – just to make sure you keep things above board when it comes to tax and exchange controls when transferring money in and out of the country. The tax laws regarding income earned overseas may actually work in your favour, but you need to know exactly how they work.
Your kids' schooling
By law, your children have to go to school if they're between 7 and 15 years old. This doesn't have to dash your gap year dreams! If you're going to stay in one country for a while, you could enrol your kids in an international school. Some countries will also allow you to send them to a local government school, which could be a great way for them to learn a foreign language. Just keep in mind that this will be a very steep learning curve for them.
Read more: Should my child learn a foreign language at school?
Many parents opt for homeschooling instead. This comes with the most flexibility, since you can teach them on the go. Our government does have some clear requirements for homeschooling, such as registering your child for home education, keeping record of attendance and progress and providing proof of assessment. This may seem daunting, but there are lots of online resources to help you. Besides, few things will make their geography, history and maths lessons come alive quite like planning routes, walking among ancient ruins and calculating exchange rates all day long!
Read more: Homeschooling curriculums and information
What happens to all your stuff?
If selling everything you own doesn't sound appealing, you can rent out your home (furnished or unfurnished) while you're away. You could ask a family member to manage the rental for you, or you could hire an agent to look after your property and tenants. If you're only going away for a few months, try listing your home as an AirBnB sublet.
Most South African medical aids will cover you for a maximum of 90 days abroad. Basic travel insurance may cover you and your family for most medical emergencies, but if you're worried about proper, long-term medical cover or chronic medication in a foreign country, speak to your travel insurance company about the best options. Also find out if you are eligible for medical aid in the country where you're going to work.
- The Van Zyl family has been sailing around the world on their yacht since December 2014. Follow the adventures of this South African mom, dad and four teen daughters at FunSail.
- The Clarks left the UK for a one-year journey, but ended up spending over two years in South America, Asia and Australia. Read about The Clark Family's Amazing Adventures.
- Five American families share their experiences and advice for living abroad, whether for six months or two years, at ParentMap.
Have you taken your family abroad for a few months or a year? Do you have a story to share? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.