No-Cost Academic Travel

by G. Michael Schneider / Dec 23, 2011 / 0 comments

In my role as Academic Travel Editor I have been discussing how teachers can take advantage of "no-cost travel opportunities" all over the world.  In this post I want to explain in more detail what I mean by this.  Actually, let me first explain what I don't mean:

•  I don't mean something as trivial as getting a hotel room "comped" because you are losing at the craps table or suffering through a high-pressure sales pitch.

• I don't mean something as short-term as having your schools pay for a week or two overseas while you attend a convention or meeting–even if you are able to slip out for a little golf and swimming.

• I don't mean quitting your job, selling the car, and heading overseas for years. I call this the “wandering nomad” mode of travel, but it is a mode that most of us would find impossible to pull off.



What I do mean by the phrase "no-cost travel" is having the opportunity to become part of an international community without giving up your job and without forking out tons of money.  I am talking about working overseas for 2 to 6 months while on temporary leave from your teaching job (perhaps during sabbatical or summer break) while earning enough money to finance your stay in the host country.   For example, my wife and I lived for three months in Nepal where I was teaching summer school at the University of Kathmandu.  Our accommodations, as well as the cost of household staff, food, and utilities, were fully covered by my salary.  The award also included airfare and enough supplementary funds for a one-week side trip to Tibet.  The net cost of this Himalayan holiday was $0, and by working in Nepal, rather than visiting as a tourist, I learned a great deal about the country and established friendships with Nepali colleagues with whom I am still in contact.  I have been lucky enough to repeat this experience another dozen times, from Australia to Zimbabwe, Mauritius to Mongolia. 


These working vacations, as I like to call them, are a realistic goal for any academic with a spirit of adventure.  They are also a wonderful way to have unique travel experiences that you might otherwise not be able to afford as well as overcome the boredom and repetition of a job and life that, while highly enjoyable, are becoming far too predictable.

Right about now you might be shaking your head saying "Yeah, sure. I'm going to head out to Portugal, Panama, or Papua New Guinea with someone else picking up the tab.  No way!"  Well, stop being such a skeptic as this is a common occurrence among the students we teach every day.  Every year thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of young, 20-something recent college graduates do just this, via the Peace Corps, Vista, AmeriCorps, or any number of other well known global exchange programs.  These agencies cover the cost of transportation, room, and board, and provide a small stipend in exchange for one or two years of socially responsible work.  Just because you might have added a few years, a few dependents, and a few pounds, why can't we 30- to 70-somethings on the other side of the podium do exactly the same thing?  Well we can, and that is what I mean by the idea of working vacations or, to quote the title of my blog, traveling on the other guy's dime. 


However, we need to make a few "tweaks" before this idea is fully palatable to academics and recent retirees long past their college graduation ceremony. For example, most of us would be unable to commit to the one or two-year term required of those positions, and many would find the living conditions a bit too Spartan for us and our family.  In the coming months, I will be describing the changes needed to produce working vacations that would be extremely appealing to academics and retirees with an itching to see and experience the world.  And, trust me, these opportunities are out there.


G. Michael Schneider is the Academic Travel Editor for Wandering Educators. You can read more of his work at, and learn more about his new book, entitled On the Other Guy's Dime: A Professional's Guide to Traveling without Paying.