The Family Sabbatical Abroad

Today’s guest post is by Carrie Wagner.  Carrie is an author, photographer, educator, sojourner, mother, wife and friend!  She is also a Melibee Global speaker, at least when she is not on a family sabbatical abroad!  Carrie and her family left the US this spring and have been living in Peru for several months.  Enjoy this glimpse of what it is like to take two kids out of school for nearly a year to give them a true, experiential education abroad. (Note:  All photos are courtesy of  ©Carrie Wagner.)

When my husband told me he had lost his job, my heart sat in my stomach for all of an hour. Then my creative wheels began to turn. It was our 22nd wedding anniversary. We had two kids (12 and 14), a mortgage, 2 cars, a middle-class US household of stuff, and me, an independent photographer and writer with no contracts underway. A roller coaster of emotions carried us into Christmas when we announced to our two boys that we would store all of our belongings, rent out our house, and move to South America for a sabbatical year.

Our numerous trips abroad as a family, including a month sojourn to Guatemala for language school, prepared us for this extended journey. Nevertheless, our bold decision carried risk and was met with resistance from our youngest son. Our eldest, who inherited a strong sense of adventure from both of his parents, is also incredibly driven. He immediately saw the value embedded in this type of adventure for future endeavors.

Benjamin practicing Spanish in the market.

Now, two months in Peru with Machu Picchu and Ausangate Mountain remaining ahead, we have a good foundation of Spanish and are beginning to navigate normal life with confidence. Following our time in Peru will be six months in Ecuador where our children will attend school and my husband and I will seek meaningful ways to contribute to a local community.

I’m sitting in Pisac, Peru on a brisk but sunny Sunday morning.  In front of me an empty town square is being transformed into a colorful, bustling market. The streets are filled with fruits and vegetables, traditional clothes and crafts, Andean musical instruments, jewelry, and much more. Our kids are heading out on their own to bargain for their own treasures.

Bob, Carrie, Adam and Benjamin Wagner with a new  friend.

As we had hoped and suspected, Benjamin’s resentment towards his parents has faded, and his magnetic personality has lead us through Spanish speaking territory with ease and pleasure. Basically, we’re having a ball.

I imagine it requires a certain mentality to leave the comforts of home, take kids out of school, and roam the globe without a particular work objective. It’s a mentality common among sojourners and one that is difficult to explain otherwise. Having lived in Africa for six years and traveled through many countries on several continents, my husband and I have always dreamed of this type of experience for our family. But living a dream doesn’t mean having all the answers or even knowing what the dream entails. Most sojourners we have met (travelers on a tight budget like ours) admit to succumbing to serendipity and being pleasantly surprised by the organic nature of their adventure. This is certainly our story. We left the US with a sketch of a plan and have enjoyed experiences that we could have neither planned nor anticipated.

Adam in his Spanish class. (The entire family took several hours of language daily.)

As our thoughts begin to transition from what we have learned in Peru to what lies ahead in Ecuador, gratitude abounds in all arenas. Our blog posts and photo galleries  share bits of our story, but more importantly, they document a year that will be treasured forever. The language skills and travel savvy that our kids are obtaining will certainly position them well for international work, but of more importance, it will give them a broad perspective of an interdependent world that requires thoughtful engagement for sustainability. This is the mentality and values we wish to instill in our children.

It’s awkward to say, “I’m happy about the job-loss,” but I’m happy about the job loss. We would not have done this otherwise. When we return home, my husband and I will quickly shift paradigms back to a fast-paced professional world.

My re-entry will include speaking engagements and global education workshops as I have done in the past. I’ll share the same message that I blog about. Be bold. Live Dreams. Care. Be grateful for everything. Experience, Discover, Engage – Global Citizenship. 



About the Author:  Carrie uses her 20 years of international experience to inform and inspire audiences to seek global citizenship. She is a native of North Carolina (USA) and worked with Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) for 11 years, serving in Uganda for 3 years, in South Africa for 3 years and as International Training Director. Her experience covers the spectrum of grassroots community development to international development and coordination of training programs in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Carrie’s story was most recently covered in WNC magazine. You can learn more about Carrie Wagner at  She is available again for speaking engagements through Melibee Global beginning in January 2013.


  1. michellesings says:

    Fascinating what this family did. Talk about making the most of things. Thanks for sharing this,Missy. Keep up the good work!!! 😉

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      Carrie and Bob are definitely inspirational! Their sons are quite the global citizens already, at such a young age. I can only imagine their impact on this world when they are even older!

  2. Sabrina says:

    What a great example of turning a "crisis" into an opportunity. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to reading more in your blogs.

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      They are a real example that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. This involved packing up their entire home and renting it out – and finding a friend to watch not only the dog, but the fish too!

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      Carrie emailed to say that they just finished climbing a 10,000 ft mountain before leaving Peru. ANYTHING is possible when we put our minds to it!

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