The Frenchman’s story also brought to mind Doc Renneker, made famous in William Finnegan’s New Yorker piece “Playing Doc’s Games.” A married family practice physician, Renneker has carved out a deliberate niche of writing textbooks, working in inner-city clinics, and a private patient advocacy service for cancer patients as a means to build a career that accommodates his lifestyle of big wave surfing along the coast of San Francisco.
Expecting? No problem! Although neither the Frenchman nor Doc Rennaker have children, Jeremy and Winnie at Go Curry Cracker have seemingly cracked the code for a nomadic life, complete with a low cost birth abroad. Better still, Junior’s first year and a half was spent averaging a new country visited for every month he’d been alive.
An option for those with families looking to explore a new terrain while working includes taking a year-long gig in New Zealand or Australia. When I sat for my 10 year board re-certification at a local testing center, I met a fellow emergency physician who had just returned with his wife and 2 young kids from a year spent working in New Zealand. They loved the experience, and were able to return rather seamlessly to life and family in the suburbs of southern California.
There are many perks to family travel abroad. Our airbnb rental is a charming and light-filled colonial home blocks from the city center, and comes with a live in housecleaner who makes the beds daily, all for about $70 a night. Laundry service is cheap and convenient. We’ve been enjoying favorite tropical fruits like mango and rambutan daily, for just over a buck a kilo.
Family time here does not magically eliminate the drama of our strong-willed kids, but it’s amazing how not having an overnight shift to head out to leaves plenty of time to talk through feelings and improve communication. We’ve even adopted a new nightly activity where we lie in bed together as we’re putting the kids to sleep and share what we are grateful for experiencing that day. The cultivation of gratitude as a family has brought us closer together.
Not feeling rushed makes all the difference. Bedtime at home can feel like a procrastinating child pulling me away from what little free time I have to spend with my wife. Bedtime here is a luxurious opportunity to reinforce and reflect on our shared experiences. We laugh recalling a terribly off key street busker whose singing reminds the kids of their grandfather, and acknowledge the uncommon sensation of being in the minority at a Mayan outdoor produce market where more people speak Tzotzil than Spanish.
While it’s not too late to take a year abroad with my wife and kids, I do wish I’d planned one out 15 years earlier…here’s to your pulling off what I haven’t yet!