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Published: August 17th 2016
The longer I travel, the stronger my feelings that I made the right decision to leave the UK get. I had no idea how long I'd be traveling for when I left for Indonesia in April 2014. I didn't even know whether I'd like teaching children or not. Now I seem to know the answer to both of these quandaries; for at least another 20 years, and 'I love it, and want to continue doing it as I travel!'
Why do I still want to travel after having lived in four countries over three years then?
I'd say the primary reason is that I don't like feeling too comfortable in life; I get lazy, I don't read, and I don't learn anything about the world or myself. I left the best-paying job I've ever had to take a job that paid a third of my salary in another country. I did that because I was bored and felt too comfortable, and I didn't want to settle for that. Living in another country means that you're consistently placed in difficult social situations, and confronted with unfamiliar habits that are part of the culture, among other things. Although one can become more relaxed about these aspects of immigration, they don't seem to grant you reprieve for too long before a new cultural difference pops up.
Furthermore, whilst traveling I'm closer to desirable destinations than if I lived in the UK. Two week drunken holidays are fun, but they're not a huge life experience. I'm not much for fancy restaurants or suited dinner parties for the same reason. If I'm in Mexico, for example, the whole of Latin America is within a £200 flight. My next teaching destination is close by, probably in Ecuador or Colombia, and I'd like to travel there by bus, stopping off a few times along the way. Peru was £170 to fly to from Mexico though, so it won't break the bank to fly a little further to my next job if need be. I also get the cultural benefit of living in a place rather than simply seeing it for a fortnight, which just isn't enough time to really get to know the culture. I still see and hear new things in Peru after 6 months here, and having more time in a place allows you build relationships you wouldn't otherwise build.
Language is another reason that I'm still traveling; it's hard to learn another language in the UK, and to be able to speak it every day. I have an acute curiosity for languages and communicating with people, and it's best to learn another language in the country in which it's spoken. That usually means coming to new country with next to no proficiency in the language. Had I met someone in the UK who'd been in my country for 6 months and couldn't have a basic chat with me, then I would likely have treated them with disdain. That lack of respect for people who don't make the effort subsided a little in Taiwan; given that my Chinese never rose above beginner level (not for wont of trying for the first few months, mind). However, I still feel strongly that it's respectful to learn the language of the place you're living in, especially when the people are so warm and friendly, and absolutely if you plan on living there for a sustained period. I love the milestones of language, as I've hit them in Spanish; ordering meals easily, having a five minute introductory conversation in a shop, understanding directions, understanding children (a challenge), reading the news, having drunk conversation you can actually understand, etc. My eventual goal is to settle down somewhere very rustic, and to learn the colloquial dialect. In Peru they have a language called Quechua, which was spoken by the Incas. Just to be able to converse in that language is a wonderful idea, but I'd need to be able to use it daily for it to motivate me, hence the rustic aspect of my eventual settling-down place. Quechua being an example, some languages are so different to English that it hurts your head to get acquainted with the basics sometimes. But languages teach you things about cultures that you can't easily capture through other means. For example, Taiwanese people don't ask "how are you?" when they greet one another. They ask "have you eaten?" It's indicative of the importance of food in their culture that the time you last ate is of more importance than how you feel in yourself.
Myself. I'm just not compatible with settling down in one place yet. My personal stance on property, for example is that owning one in the UK is only possible if you get financial help, and subsequently pay for it until your hair turns grey. Even if this wasn't the case, I have no current interest in owning something that ties me to one place forever, unless I sell it for a probable loss. I suspect this will change a little in later life, and so I would eventually like to own a small, sustainable home in a small to medium-sized village where I can take part in the culture around me, whatever culture it is. I look forward to a relaxing relationship in that scenario. People often think that my apathy for the concept of marriage is synonymous with a fear of commitment. Not so. I'd love a serious relationship, but there's no purpose in seeking one until I'm certain that I'll settle down in one place, or unless the lady in question has the same lifestyle as me. Marriage is unpalatable to me simply because I believe that life and people change too much to place a contractual agreement on love.
Work. I like teaching, and would want to teach if I were ever to go home for a long spell, and getting a qualification to teach in the UK is no joke. 3 years in university in Newport was long enough to convince me that I don't fancy repeating the experience, even if my time at university introduced to me to such a diverse group of people as I couldn't have imagined in the sleepy village I grew up in... Experience wasn't the only thing I went for, though I regret that I didn't get much else from the three years I spent in university. I was fascinated by two units of the six that were in my course, whilst not being particularly moved by the other four, but you can't only take two units for the BSc. Also, I certainly don't fancy paying the rather private school-esque amounts that they're asking for now. Education should be free when you're an adult, and can fully appreciate and utilize it. That's by the by now, for me, as I'm firmly planted in the working world, and I'm rather spoiled for choice with job opportunities! Even more so due to a combination of experience of teaching kids, adults, one to one, and also teaching those classes in foreign countries. I've just started teaching business English online, which is interesting. I teach people from Japan, China, and Latin America, whilst sitting in my little room above the school. I usually teach online from 6am-9am, which gives me plenty of time to grab breakfast before I teach my morning class in the classroom. My mid-term plan is to continue teaching 15 hours a week online whilst traveling and teaching in classrooms too. I can earn about 100 pounds a week just from teaching 2 or 3 hours a day online, and that's enough to live off in Latin America, unless you're living in a capital city! I've also had an idea (still in it's infancy at present) of teaching Spanish outside of Latin America, should the equivalent course be as *ahem* straightforward an affair as my TEFL course was. I still have a long way to go with my Spanish, and have a lot of grammar structures to learn, but I'm certainly going to be in the right place to do so over the next few years!
All things considered, I'm very content with my lifestyle choice. Reading signs in another language and realizing that you understand them word for word, talking with a stranger on public transport, and laughing with a family of locals at a party are just a few of the things I have come to love about living in other countries. I have earmarked 5 years out for Latin America, and would possibly like to live in Europe after that. Hopefully, by the time I leave Latin America, I'll have a second language that I can offer my services for, with the requisite qualification to boot, a steady income from teaching online, some more good friends, and a little more knowledge of the cultures and people I'll be temporarily leaving behind! (I plan on returning at some point!) Not bad really, as this is the way of life I've come to love.
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