Today we meet Jil Dobbe, a serial expatriate whose teaching has taken her off the beaten track to some amazing expatriate destinations throughout the world. Jill has often relocated with her children in tow and has used her experiences of relocating with her family and managing her relationship with her husband to write a book that she hopes will give people who wish to sample life overseas real inspiration and practical advice. Here she shares her story with us.
You are somewhat of a serial expat. Can you please tell us a little about your background. Where are you originally from and why did you first move overseas?
I am from Wisconsin and grew up in a small town. I was always interested in traveling and got to travel to Russia, London, and Belize while in college. While pursuing a degree in elementary education I started looking into teaching overseas. I met my husband who was also an educator and together we visited our first overseas teacher hiring fair and ended up moving to Guam with our two small children and the rest is history.
Which countries have you lived in?
I am now up to seven countries-Honduras, Egypt, India, Singapore, Ghana, Mexico, and Guam.
Which of these did you like the most and why?
I believe that my family most enjoyed Ghana, West Africa. We lived there the longest (five years) and our children completed their elementary school years while we lived there. In fact, I was the only 2nd grade teacher and was able to teach them both while we were there. The people in Ghana were extremely friendly and I still maintain close ties with the Ghanaian teachers who continue to be close friends of mine.
Which of these did you like the least?
I believe that Guam was probably the most difficult for us. It was our first time living and working overseas, our children were toddlers, and the school environment was tough.
What are the three biggest lessons you have learned from your expat life?
I have learned to be a more patient person, especially when I have to go without water or electricity and can’t do anything about it. I have learned to go without things that in the U.S. I felt I absolutely needed, such as the beauty and hair products that I can get so easily in the U.S. Mostly, I have learned to acclimate myself better to whatever surroundings I find myself in.
What advice would you give to someone who was relocating to an overseas country for the first time?
I would say do your research so you know what to expect. Learn some common phrases if the language is different. Also, there are many expat websites that you can go on that will give good information about living in various countries. Contact them to learn about daily life, what things you should bring over that you can’t get there, etc. I still travel with a suitcase full of English paperbacks. I can never find enough books wherever I go.
You have written a book that tells the story of the first ten years of your life traveling with your family. Please tell us more about the book’s content.
My book is not just about traveling with kids, but also about the relationship between my husband and myself and how we had to rely on each other. There were frustrating times when we ran out of money, couldn’t speak the language, and when he got sick and tired of carrying around all of our luggage. Despite all the ups and downs it brought us closer as a family and we experienced so much together while we tried to keep an open mind and sense of humor about it all. The last chapter in my book also deals with the reverse culture shock that our family went through when we returned to the U.S. after 10 years overseas.
What prompted you to write it?
After my husband and I returned from India we were unsure as to what we were going to do next. Did we want to stay in the U.S. or look abroad? At one point he said, “You should write a book about our experiences of living and teaching overseas.” So, I did just that.
Why do you think your book needed to be written? What will it do for other people? How will it help?
When I began writing I wrote with the theme in mind, that you can travel with kids, and traveling is a fantastic education for them. However, I also realized that there are not very many books out there on couples teaching overseas and it is such a growing field. So I also wrote about what families can go through who teach in overseas schools, what the schools are like, and what the living conditions are. I hope that my travel memoir will give others who are considering teaching overseas more insights into what it is all about and what a unique and exciting lifestyle it can be for families.
How did you publish your book? Did you find an agent, a publisher or did you publish it yourself? Please describe your process and tell us how you found the experience.
This is my first published book and I was completely new at the whole process. I started looking for a publisher in my home state as I wanted that connection even though I was living overseas. I did find a new publisher who was interested in my book. She was very personable and we were able to do pretty much everything over email and Skype. When school was out last June and I returned to Wisconsin we met up at a Barnes & Noble and she handed me my galley. I was only home for six weeks, but she got things rolling quickly for me and during those few weeks printed 250 copies and scheduled a book launch and book signings for me.
What tips can you offer to expatriates who are considering writing their own books?
I would tell them to go for it and that there is a market for travel memoirs and everybody’s experiences are different and interesting. Whether they make their memoirs serious, humorous, or philosophical, there will always be readers out there who are interested in your travel experiences.
What’s next for you?
I have begun my second travel memoir, which will be about living in India, Egypt, Honduras, and wherever we go to next. In that book I want to write more about the different types of overseas schools that we were in and how they were different. When we worked in Egypt we were at a school that called itself “international,” but in reality was 99% Egyptian Muslim. It was a unique school and experience for us.
And finally, where can people buy your book?
My travel memoir is located on Amazon.com and B&N.com. I am also on Goodreads. My author page is www.facebook.com/JillDobbeAuthor.