Funding for Families

Are you a parent or in a relationship? Does this sometimes make it feel like you'll never get to travel or do your own projects again? I know it did for me. Last winter, I was so nostalgic for traveling that it felt suffocating. Somehow my husband and I had built up this wall of impossibility, where we couldn't afford traveling or taking time off. And there was no relief in sight. Until I decided that this assumption wasn't true. I started to put together different ways to take time off and reduce my airfare. I think it's about the mindset. 

Before we had children, my husband and I lived in Senegal for a year. Luckily, my fellowship added an extra stipend for dependents, but I know that not all of them do. At the orientation training for a separate fellowship I did, one woman (who had a child and husband) was seriously fretting the financial feasibility of going abroad. "What about our mortgage payment? And I looked up the cost of living in ______ and our blanket fellowship stipend amounts to about HALF of what we'll actually need to live there." So a fellowship is not always the blank check you hope for. 

But here are some ways to make traveling with a family work:

1) Reconsider where you are going. Is there a similar place where cost of living is less? Even though you may have always wanted to live and work in Paris, take the time to consider all the OTHER amazing places in the world (and how much less it would cost to live there). 

2) Reduce your at-home expenses. If you are fortunate enough to own your home and have a mortgage on it, think about renting out your house for the year. Some countries have home-swapping services (like homeexchange.com) where you can trade homes for a duration of time. This would lower your cost of living both at home and abroad!

3) Think how your partner can make the most of the experience. This was hard for us, admittedly, when we lived in Senegal. My husband doesn't speak very much French and so couldn't work there. But he did do online and campus-based classes. Is there an aspect of your partner's work that could be enhanced by being abroad?

4) Don't send your kids to private school. I have known American parents who do both things: pay for private, American schools abroad and free public school. If your kids are young enough and don't need to worry about getting enough school credits while you're away, think about sending them to the local schools. Kids pick up language faster than adults and they will become more immersed in the culture. 

5) Reconsider whether this should be a whole-family adventure or an adventure for you. I know this may sound sacrilege and selfish, but some things are easier alone. Maybe it would be best to do the project or abroad time without your family (for now) and then they can come on the next one. This may mean your travels are shorter, or closer to home, but maybe that's the best way to keep the family balance stable. 

I hope these have helped you, they are certainly considerations I will be making!