The TO DO list

Type-A, you think?

  • How much are plane tickets? This is the greatest line item cost in our total budget. We opted to buy the tickets instead of using miles but with better planning we could have easily used miles for 2-3 of our 5 plane tickets. Miles needed to fly to South America are considerably less than miles needed to fly to Europe. At one point a round trip miles ticket was only 40,000 miles. It took us literally months to decide on our plane tickets and purchase them. Yes, sometimes we have analysis paralysis.
  • Get all of the kids their own frequent flier numbers since they’ll now have some serious miles to record (and later use).
  • Order a gluten free meal for my flights.
  • Arrange a shuttle from the Santiago airport to our Santiago apartment.
  • Figure out our cell phones and how to use them there with SIM cards or rent a new Chilean phone upon arrival. Turn off all the appropriate roaming settings on our iPhones so we don’t have enormous charges on accident.
  • How much does it cost to rent an apartment? It varies but some are as inexpensive as $400/month up to several thousand depending on size and location.
  • How do we rent an apartment—through an agency? VRBO? Airbnb? We went with Airbnb and rented a furnished 3 bedroom apartment with a gym and a pool, 900 sq ft for $900/m.
  • Ask our apartment host to do some light grocery shopping for us so when we arrive with three tired kids around noon Santiago time after 20 hours of travel we can feed them a banana and put them down for a nap.
  • Ask our apartment host to help us locate and buy a pack-n-play and high chair for the baby so we don’t have to bring ours.
  • First, what will we pack our things into? Big bulky suitcases will NOT fit in our apartment once we arrive but duffel bags are easily folded and tucked away. Buy five big duffel bags? Heck no! We have two and borrowed three from friends. We made an exhaustive packing list (bandaids, for example) and “practice packed” for one child to see what kind of room we’ll need. It is summer where we are going and we will pack 7-10 days’ worth of clothes for the kids and then obviously just do laundry. All three kids’ stuff may even fit into one duffel bag. I reserve the right to my own full duffel bag because I want some fashion options, duh. The good news is if we pack light and find we really need something we’ll just go shopping. Yay!!
  • Do we need visas? If so, what kind and what is the cost? (Luckily the USA and Chile JUST signed a reciprocity visa agreement so we don’t have to buy visas upon landing—saving us over $500)
  • How much does language school cost, what is a reputable one, where is it located, how many hours a week can we study, how many weeks can we afford/tolerate? I did a TON of research and landed on ECELA. We signed up for three weeks with an option to extend for four more weeks with the contingency that they had to help us find a playschool for our kids to attend while we’re at school.
  • Do all the necessary paperwork and entrance exams for our language school.
  • Where will our kids go while we are in language school? What will benefit them the most in terms of language acquisition and cultural exposure—day care or nanny? We opted for daycare arranged through our language school.
  • How will we get around Santiago? Bus? Subway? Both?
  • Where will we vacation while in Chile and how will we get there? This is always tricky because I think the tendency may be to do what’s popular in any given locale versus doing and seeing what you really care about. For instance, Patagonia seems like an obvious “must visit while living in Chile” proposition and yet it’s over 20 hours away by car. Or five plane tickets. Plus, what will we do there? Not go hiking/trekking for five days. So, maybe we’ll just have to miss Patagonia this time. Same with Easter Island and the Atacama Desert. One tip for successful traveling in a conscious space of abundance is to imagine that this is the first of many trips instead of trying to see and do everything as though Chile will soon disappear. If you love it, you’ll make time and space in the future to return. Likely we’ll stay within an 8 hour car drive from Santiago and still get our fill of fascinating places and people.
  • Do we need any special vaccinations? (typhoid and Hepatitis A—no surprise that our insurance wouldn’t cover them so that was an additional $350 on the budget)
  • Get everyone their flu shots
  • Get supplies for all medicines, vitamins and supplements we currently take or may need (Cipro for traveler’s diarrhea for example). We are bringing our kids’ nebulizer and related medications just in case. Santiago is known for its bad air.
  • How do we arrange to pull our two oldest kids out of school (preschool and kindergarten)? Evidently this is no big deal at this stage of our little kids’ lives as preschool is clearly not mandatory and kindergarten isn’t either in our state.
  • How do we have our preschooler’s seat at school held for her at her private preschool?
  • Should we get a house sitter or rent out our house fully furnished?
  • Who are good house sitter candidates?
  • Make enormous house sitter information list.
  • Make adjustments to home security system for house sitter.
  • Make adjustments to home warranty for house sitter.
  • Winterize our house and yard.
  • If we rent the house, who will take our dog?
  • How to get all of our regular bills paid while we’re gone? Signed up all of our regular bills to be paid automatically through our bank or through the company’s own website.
  • Who will collect our mail and how will we “see” it while we are gone? (We are face timing with our house sitter weekly just in case something comes in the mail that is urgent—like our mortgage being sold to a new company necessitating our bill pay needing to be immediately changed—that happened recently).
  • How will we collect rent from our renter and monitor our rental property?
  • Who will drive our vehicles while we’re away. We farmed them out to close friends who either need or want an extra vehicle.
  • Change the minivan tires to winter tires.
  • Change our auto insurance deductibles to a lower amount, just in case our friends have an accident.
  • We set up a Power of Attorney with a close friend in town giving him authority to deal with all insurance claims or issues with our vehicles or our home or our rental property, collect rent and deal with any issues with the rental property.
  • Suspend my gym membership
  • Get our son outfitted in a spare pair of glasses (or two).
  • Order Chilean pesos to take with us.
  • Get a credit card that does not charge international use fees.
  • Register all five of us with the U.S. Department of State. In all my years traveling the globe I have NEVER done this but I am grateful we did it this time.
  • Inform all of our credit card and banking companies of our travel plans.
  • Make photocopies of all of our passports and credit/debit cards, just in case.
  • Practice earthquake drills with the kids. They think this is hilarious!
  • Buy a new camera to document our trip. We opted for a GoPro which is pretty awesome when we strap it onto our kids and let them loose in the world.
  • Inform our parents of all of our travel details.

Certainly we’ve forgotten something. Can you think of anything?


Sabbatical versus Vacation

We are going to Chile for a sabbatical, which is markedly different than a vacation. While I’m certain we’ll have FUN, we are expending this intense amount of time, energy and money because we want to LEARN and expose ourselves to a different culture, land, history, language. I’ve been on a lot of vacations. Mostly they are relaxing and fun and interesting (well, maybe not really relaxing when we take our children with us, but still…). But what I’m after in life is an increased learning curve. Unfortunately, it makes my teeth ache (from the grinding smile) when people say, “oh, have a fun time on vacation.” I want to reply, “if you sent your daughter to college for a semester would you say ‘have fun’? or would you say something more like ‘this is going to be an intense education, life, cultural experience for you—learn A LOT and embrace it!’”? (and don’t waste my money goofing off and failing your classes!).



Of course, I realize that these kind people are simply expressing good will towards our voyage and that sadly this expression really shows how fundamentally strange it is in American culture to take a break from the constant hamster wheel of life and work and learn something new. They don’t know what else to say. Most people honestly look at our family like we’re strange creatures because we are doing something that, “I could never do.” Which is surprising and challenging because I think—due to some awesome training and coaching over the years—that most people can do anything they want if they’re willing to pay the price. And by price, I mean far more than money. Sacrifice and drive and getting clear about what you really want in life. We’ve all just become SO accustomed to our own ritual of life (and fear and limitations) that we don’t fiddle with the system to make the system work for us. I learned a LONG time ago how to make the system work for me, but more on that later.

Most people associate sabbaticals with college professors who take a year away from teaching to do involved research or write a book. That said, several US Companies offer sabbaticals to employees and indeed even a law firm here in Yakima, Washington offers a sabbatical/work break for partners.

The concept of sabbatical actually originates in the Bible (Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Exodus). Leviticus 25 commands that people, animals and land work for six years but on the seventh year they all rest. I’m not particularly religious but even I can see that this kind of scheduled break might be great for your spirit AND your work. In modern time sabbaticals exist so that people can go out into the world and do something profound like write a book, learn a language, travel extensively or learn a new skill that will advance their career or their life. It’s been a LONG time since I sat in a classroom trying to learn something new but soon I will be one again as I take up 20 hours of language school alongside my husband in Santiago. Our kids will be the biggest beneficiaries. Their little worlds are about to be rocked in a very big way. They’ll be in playschool for 20 hours a week with Chilean children while we toil away in our classroom. I have assured them that their little brains are mightily more powerful than ours and that they’ll be translating for us within a week. It will be thrilling. And exhausting. And there will be times when we curse our crazy selves. When we’ll hate, hate, hate Chile and the language and the learning. But more frequently (I hope) we’ll be in love with our adventure and fulfilled in ways we cannot even imagine right now.

AND. We’ll make time during our sabbatical to go on vacation a few times!