TeachingTraveling.com: Welcome, Caz! Please tell us a bit about your background.
Caz: I am from a small coastal town about an hour north of Sydney, Australia. I graduated from University as a primary school teacher in ’97, and three days after, I set off overseas on a travel adventure that really hasn’t ended.
My first experience traveling was backpacking through Indonesia for 3 months with 2 girlfriends. From there I moved to London and started my teaching career in the most challenging area of London. I quickly learned how to manage children who threw chairs around the room and cursed wickedly at me as well as learning how to teach refugee students and those from diverse, cultural backgrounds.
I traveled Europe in a camper van during the summer with 5 girlfriends while teaching, as well as lots of other shorter getaways. After two years teaching in London I took a break and worked in a restaurant/bar in Dublin before traveling through Thailand and Vietnam. I returned home to Australia to teach in Sydney for 2 years. I met and married my husband Craig, and then 3 days after we were married, we left for our “5 year honeymoon.”
TT: Ooo! Explain your “5 Year Honeymoon,” please!
C: Craig and I both taught English in Bangkok high schools; somehow Craig ended up teaching at what is known to be the best school in Thailand, Triam Udom Suksa, and I taught at the famous Wat Saket High. We used this opportunity to travel around South East Asia.
We then moved to Dublin where I taught ESL to small groups of children. I was also a resource teacher to the Irish traveling children, a minority group. I only wish I understood what they said as I would love to write some blog posts on my experience. I could never in a million years present their accent and vernacular in my stories.
Africa was our next stop for a 4 month backpacking journey. We then went a bit adventurous working on a Pearl Farm in Western Australia. Once we saved enough money we moved to America.
We spent 4 years in the Raleigh, NC area and road tripping the US. I taught 5th grade for this period of time as well as running a morning TV cultural broadcast program on Australia.
We came home for an 18 month break in between and had our beautiful baby girl Kalyra who is now 3. 2 months ago we returned back to Australia and are already planning our next international move.
You can read more about Caz and Craig at their blog.
TT: Wowza! Amazing! What travel experience is leaving you longing for more?
C: Craig and I backpacked from Kenya to Cape Town for 4 months in 2004, we camped in a tent most of the way and traveled the way the locals do- that is in crowded minivans and on the back of pick up trucks. It was truly and incredible experience, made all the more memorable by seeing so many wild animals in their natural habitats. Africa just gets under your skin. I have returned to South Africa since and am dying to return again.
TT: How did you find all your phenomenal travel opportunities?
C: My brother had been living in London on a working holiday visa about 2 years before I moved there. It was his stories of travel adventures and expat living that really inspired me to do the same thing.
That was my first travel experience and since then I have actively sought for myself how I can live, work and travel in other countries. This always opens up doors to travel experiences. I usually find these opportunities through friends or websites.
TT: How did you find the money to fund all your traveling?
C: When you travel on a working holiday visa you don’t need to save as much money. This is how we have managed to travel for over 10 years. When you are living in another country you are traveling just by way of being immersed in a different culture. You are also earning the local currency which, depending on where you are living, can go really far. Earning and traveling on British pounds can make your money stretch a lot further then Aussie dollars.
The money for our trip has always come from savings due to working. We have had some success in real estate investing which helped fund some of our travels. The teaching program in the US paid for my flights and the teaching program in Bangkok provided us with a Bangkok hotel.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful,
interesting, or funny.
C: Oh boy… this is a hard choice. I think some of my most powerful experiences have been in Vietnam and Laos. The lessons I learned in these countries have had a powerful impact on my life.
Spending time in Vietnam wandering the streets and seeing the effects of a 10 year senseless, brutal war has told me that war is never a good thing. I remember my first time in Vietnam in ’99 spending time on the beach in Nha Trang and having a man with no arms and legs waddle up to me with a bag for spare change. He was there again in ‘02 in the exact same spot.
I have never forgotten him and I always remember him in those moments when I start to whine about the trivial aspects of my life. And that is when I say, “I have two arms and two legs, I have nothing to complain about.”
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
C: I think I could write a whole book on this answer alone. My travels have taught me how to build relationships and communicate with people from many different backgrounds. Travel has helped me to become more positive and encouraging. I have an incredible amount of confidence and ease. I am so flexible and adaptable and I love to learn. These are all the qualities of an effective teacher.
I would not be who I am today if it was not for travel. I can walk in to any class, in any school, in any country and feel completely confident that I can connect with the students, manage them, teach them about the world around them and inspire them to learn and live their dreams.
Each country has its own curriculum and teaching methods. I have been able to take what is the best from each country and apply it to my own classroom. I am a much stronger and more dynamic teacher as a result.
I’ve been able to teach students not just about my own country, but also about many countries from around the world. My photos and stories have inspired and motivated many students to want to do the same thing.
Nothing makes me happier than to hear a student talk of their dreams to live the same life that I have: to explore and be a part of their world.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
C: I really wish I could explain how travel has impacted me in this short answering space.
My travels have allowed me to grow into a more positive, open minded, free spirited, and empowered person. I recently wrote a free ebook, which shares 20 lessons travel taught me in order to live a more empowered life.
Travel has empowered me to know that I always have a choice in how I respond to situations in my life, to understand that everything in life– good or bad– passes, and that life is all about the memories. I make sure I live my life so that it is a story to tell.
TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
C: Enrich your teaching experience by teaching abroad. There are no degrees or extra years of study that can ever provide you with more knowledge on how to be a better teacher than by teaching around the world.
Yes, it is a scary experience. To walk into a classroom on the other side of the world and teach children you know nothing about, who may even speak a different language than you; to teach them a curriculum and in a method that you don’t know anything about is terrifying. But I am a believer in sink or swim. You will find your way to swim and you will only come out as a stronger, more compassionate and loving teacher.
I’ll leave you with some words that the director of my USA cultural exchange-teaching program said when we first arrived to teach in the foreign US system (which, believe me, was completely different to Australia and very challenging).
The leader of our program, David Young, was giving us an inspiring speech about the company’s mission and what we as teachers, being a part of it, meant for the students in America. He finished off his speech with this question,
“Put your hands up if the thing you are most frightened about by being here now is walking into the classroom to teach in a system you know nothing about?”
Over half of the room, raised their hands, including me.
He then asked, “Put your hand up if the thing you fear the most is driving on the opposite side of the road?”
A smattering of people raised their hands while the rest of us chuckled.
“Yes,” he replied. “You don’t need to be afraid to teach in our foreign classrooms, you are capable and you will quickly find your way. You should, however, be afraid to drive on our roads. This is the only thing you should fear, as it’s the only thing that threatens your life. Just remind me to stay off the roads when you do drive”
Just go and do it. You have nothing to fear and everything to gain. There is a world of such joy and wonder for you to become a part of. Expand your thinking, expand your experience and make your life a story to tell. It is all about the memories!
TT: What a story and what a life! Inspirational. Thanks, Caz!