Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. This month’s Blog Carnival is hosted by Heather Richards over at Travelling Vanilla Bean. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article on my blog on the 4th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will let you know how you can start participating!
Travel is life’s greatest adventure in my eyes. What better way to explore the world around me, learn a dozen-plus new things a week, form incredible friendships and grow as a person? My experiences abroad have been both friendship-building and isolating, straightforward and challenging, but never dull.
There’s no one correct way to travel- everyone finds their own path. Some jump of the deep end and find themselves in the heart of Africa with only a roughly hand-drawn map to guide them. Some take guidebooks and famous landmarks and the well-traveled route. Solo, groups, couples, long-term travel or a weekend getaway- all these choices have the potential to enhance our lives and provide growing experiences.
I’ve lived abroad. I’ve taken shorter trips. I spent nearly half a year exploring Australia, and I spent a 12-hour layover running around Singapore with a couple of friends. I value both ends of the travel spectrum, but in many ways I prefer to spend weeks or more in one country, digging deeper and seeing more, and benefiting from my time:
A deeper connection to a place and its people
Volunteering n Honduras, I woke up in the same hut every day, greeted the same sunrise, smiled at the women serving my meals and learned their names. I was on an island for six weeks with a group of great people, learned their stories, and picked up a little more Spanish.
I dug my toes in the same warm sand, watched geckos and sand crabs crawl about, and recovered ripe yellow mangoes from the ground. Every day I tumbled backwards into the crystal-clear Caribbean and continued collecting data on marine reef health, and felt like I was a part of something much bigger than myself.
I’ll leave my life here in Korea with a much better understanding of what makes this place the way it is- I’ll hopefully have formed long-lasting friendships and seen and learned much more than a short-term traveler can hope to.
Seizing opportunities not available to the casual traveler
In Australia, I lived in a less-than-ideal sharehouse with 8 other people from all walks of life, hailing from India, Australia and the US. My interactions in that house were sometimes frustrating, sometimes fantastic, and never boring.
As an exchange student, I worked on class projects with Aussies who gave me the lowdown on the best things to see and do in Melbourne and the state of Victoria. I joined class trips, even staying overnight in a national park and collecting data for a research project. I went hiking and stayed on friends’ couches. Life was certainly an adventure.
Once I’d befriended fellow Deakin students in Australia, unexpected possibilities opened up. Do backpackers spending a month in The Land Down Under have hiking equipment and a car? Unlikely. However, two classmates did, and I truly lucked out in joining a 3-day, 35-kilometre hike in stunning Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria. We battled rain, wind, hail, leeches, streams, soggy boots, frigid knee-deep water, and hungry, thievin’ possums, and despite (or perhaps because of!) these challenges it is one of my most vivid and profound experiences in two continents and seven months of traveling.
Goodbye, frantic rush to cross off items on a bucket list. Hello, unexpected journeys!
At the moment, a year-long contract teaching English in South Korea allows me to relax my travel itinerary and focus on building friendships and connections and making sense of terra incognita. It also gives me an opportunity to check out places I might not have thought to go to otherwise. Hmm, a girl I know is visiting a friend in Daejeon for a wine festival? Why not tag along and see what’s cool in Daejeon? I can spend my weekdays forming relationships with my students and finding the best gimbap restaurants, saving the weekends to tackle a new neighbourhood in Seoul or conquer a new mountain.
And that’s just what I intend to do! I hope you stay tuned for more adventures 🙂