Rory at his arrival to Everest Base Camp in Tibet.

Rory at his arrival to Everest Base Camp in Tibet.

Teaching Traveling: Do you think you’re too old or entrenched in your career and mortgage to travel and teach around the world?

Rory Cummins explains why you’re not. Rory, tell us about your background.

Rory: It all started back in 2009. My desire to travel the world and fulfill my dream was a thought that was continually in the front of my mind, though it was one that I had been putting off as “someday.” With further inspiration from fellow travelers I’d met and an itching desire to make it happen now and not “someday,” I soon decided that it was time take the plunge. I started putting together a list of all the places I wanted to see and experience and finally made a step by step plan to be able to turn this dream into a reality over the next 6 months.

As I began to save and plan, I was also tying up all the lose ends in my daily life that would free me for world travel that I’d hope would last for a year or more. At 33 years old, there was a part of me that was skeptical about taking such a venture this late in life as typical travelers that take a gap year are in their 20s and haven’t gotten rooted into a career and mortgages. Still, I wasn’t going to let it hold me back and I knew that even traveling solo, which is what I started out doing, shouldn’t be an obstacle.

Rory's view when visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Would this be worth leaving a career for a time?

Rory’s view when visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Would this be worth leaving a career for a time?

At the time of planning my trip, I had given thought to both volunteering and teaching English along way as I had researched many different countries where this was an option including Taiwan, Korea, China and Thailand. At the time however, I decided to see where my travels would lead me, keeping an open mind along the way and allowing flexibility in my travel route. Today, I am still traveling after having left the U.S. back in the summer of 2011 and I haven’t looked back since or regretted my decision to leave. I have since traveled through twenty countries so far, mostly by overland travel and I’m now teaching and tutoring Chinese students in Shenzhen, China.

Sporting a very cool hat while traveling in Mongolia.

Sporting a very cool hat while traveling in Mongolia.

TT: Fascinating! How did you find this travel opportunity?

R: When I first completed my university studies, I left to travel abroad on a four week solo backpacking trip through Europe. It ended up being the best experience I’d had so far in my life up to that point and it turned into two months of travel after postponing my return trip back home. From that point on, it fed my desire to ultimately travel all over the world, and the “travel bug” had taken over. Unfortunately, my career and social life in my hometown kept me so busy that my world travel dream got put on the back burner.

However, after almost ten years since my first backpacking trip, the desire to go was still there and I decided it was “now or never.” There was no more room to make excuses in my life of why I should or should not go. I decided the worst that could happen is that I turn around and come home but the biggest fear was leaving a stable job I’d had the past 5 years and a solid career path. In reality, I realized “work” would always be there and I could pick back up where I left off. When this decision was made, I started researching round the world travel blogs, forums and speaking with fellow travelers for additional inspiration and planning to make the venture a success. I also decided it would be beneficial to write about my experiences to both keep in touch with friends and family along the way as well as to help offer other aspiring travelers for help in making the transition from 9 to 5 worker to full time traveler on my travel blog: Traveling Round The World.

The beaches of Lagos Portugal, snapped during Rory's RTW adventure.

The beaches of Lagos Portugal, snapped during Rory’s RTW adventure.

TT: Wow! How did you find the money to fund this travel?

R: I wish I could simply say that I was given travel funding by an organization or that I won the lottery, but truth be told, the trip was funded by my own savings. And after doing my homework on how to plan and budget for such an excursion, I realized there were ways to save tons of money on transportation during travel, as well as how to route your trip through certain countries and regions of the world to maximize your travel time without sacrificing the places you wanted to travel to and experience.

Traveling in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Traveling in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Long term travel is all about setting a realistic budget and you have to plan for mishaps along the way. Of course, I also realized that minimizing any recurring debts from home such as a mortgage, a car payment and other expenses would help to prolong my travel budget so this was also a focus during my pre-trip time spent at home.

TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.

R: It is a bit hard to narrow down my travel experiences to the one most powerful or moving moment, but if I had to choose, I would pick two places. Iceland and Tibet. Both held the most majestic and stunning landscapes I’d ever seen before and they moved me in a way that is nearly indescribably in terms of natural beauty. Put simply, they will take your breath away. If you have the opportunity to travel to either place, you won’t be disappointed.

TT: Very interesting! How have your travels impacted you in your career?

R: Before leaving on my trip, my entire career experience had been in the real estate and construction industry for sales and management. However, as mentioned before, I had given thought to both volunteering as well as teaching English along the way. I ended up doing both.

Enjoying the sunset on the beaches of Goa, India. Wow, Rory... WOW!

Enjoying the sunset on the beaches of Goa, India. Wow, Rory… WOW!

I began doing some volunteer work in a small village in Laos which included teaching to the local village children a few months ago. All in all, it was an unforgettable experience and something I’d recommend to anyone on a trip around the world. The organization I volunteered with was the SAELAO Project in Laos and it was very rewarding however, there are many volunteer programs all over the world which you will discover along the way as you travel. And for teaching English in China, the experience has also been rewarding and has taught me how to interact with the Chinese culture and broadened my knowledge of Chinese business and customs.

Finding an overlook at the Old Walled City of Dubrovnik, Croatia in Europe.

Finding an overlook at the Old Walled City of Dubrovnik, Croatia in Europe.

TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?

R: My travel worldwide has definitely affected me on a grand scale. I have a much larger “international view” of the world than before I left and it has afforded me networking opportunities all over the globe from those I’ve met along the way. It allows you to see first hand how one culture differs from the next and makes you reflect back onto your own culture and upbringing in your home country. It has been a daily learning experience along the way so you gain more and more knowledge for each day that passes. It also leaves you with the fulfillment and satisfaction of having achieved your dream if you aspire to be a world traveler.

Rory's home when living in a Ger Tent in Terelj National Park, Mongolia.

Rory’s home when living in a Ger Tent in Terelj National Park, Mongolia.

TT: Love it! What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers curious to teach?

R: For some advice I’d give to anyone looking to travel… if you truly want to go, then make a plan, set a date and do it. You have absolutely nothing to lose and you will gain more from the experience and be better fit when you re-enter the working world than when you left. And trust me, work will always be there when you get back so don’t feel travel will damage your career! If your company loves the work you do, they will likely want to hire you back upon your return. You will also live without the regret on what you didn’t do in life. They have said that what people regret most in life is not the mistakes they have made but the opportunities that they missed!

Rory's path on the way to Mt. Everest in Tibet.

Rory’s path on the way to Mt. Everest in Tibet.

If you want to learn more about round the world travel, planning a gap year or general travel advice, you can find me at my travel blog: Traveling Round the World.

I am happy to answer any questions you might have and offer help and recommendations. Wishing you travel success!

Catching the sunrise in world-famous Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Catching the sunrise in world-famous Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

TT: Thanks so much, Rory! Clearly, travel and teaching abroad is possible at many ages and life situations. Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this inspirational traveler?

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Posted by Lillie

Lillie started TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share the infinite ways to combine education and world exploration. Lillie has been a Boston teacher since 2003, and chronicles her own travels at AroundTheWorldL.com.

28 Comments

  1. This is a great interview! I absolutely love the idea that it’s never too late to start traveling. Rory’s experience (travelling at age 33, paying for expenses out of pocket) just goes to show that travel is possible even without receiving funding by an organization. Wonderful post!

    Reply

    1. Thanks Jessica! Yes, travel is definitely doable for all us with just some planning and a will to get going!

      Reply

  2. Rory,

    Your photographs are beautiful. Can you talk about the cameras you’ve used along the way, and how you conserved on packing space for your electronics?

    Reply

    1. Hi Arlis!

      Thanks for the comment… it always helps to have wonderful subjects to shoot:)

      Actually, all these photos were taken with a point and shoot digital. 4 of them were taken with just a Sony Cybershot and the others from China, India and SE Asia were taken with a Canon S95 which is definitely better than the other one but still far from a DSLR. I upgraded to the S95 when I got to China…
      This definitely helped on the conservation of both space and weight. The reason I decided not to take a more expensive camera was not just for those two reasons of space and weight but also for the liability of it on a long term trip as well as the fact I’d rarely want to carry around a DSLR at night without it being cumbersome.

      I did travel with a lot people though that had DSLR’s and if you were going to go this route, I’d just recommend carrying a small point and shoot too so you’d have something at all times day and night. I can’t tell you how many amazing shots came along of ‘random crazy travel stuff’ to photograph along the way and most often, they could only be captured in less than 10 seconds so it helps to have something quick on hand.

      Happy to answer any more questions you have. I have also listed both those cameras in more detail on my blog…

      Reply

  3. It’s nice hearing from people in their 30’s and above! I’m 32, traveling, and living in China but I mostly meet people between 22 and 26. πŸ™‚

    Reply

    1. Hi Joy!

      Great to hear from you and I agree with you on that… I’d say most people you meet on the travel road are in their early or mid 20’s though the rest are made up of folks of all ages. For me, I just didn’t want to wait any longer and put a career on hold:)

      Where in China are you currently? I was recently living in Shenzhen for about 5 months teaching…. I miss it already however I don’t miss eating rice and noodles everyday! …j/k

      Reply

      1. I just finished almost 2 years in Xi’an. I’m home for the holidays but going to Nanjing this month for another year. Did you like Shenzhen? I’ve heard mixed things. I was interested in living there because it’s so close to Hong Kong. πŸ™‚

        Reply

        1. Thats great… I spent some time in Xi’an but never made it to Nanjing. As for living in Shenzhen, it was good. Its a modern city with great weather, very close proximity to get to the beach and you can be in Hong Kong within an hour. It is also known for its exports so it gets a lot of foreign businesses that operate there. It’s not really a place you’d want to visit for more than a few days since the city is less than 40 years old and there isn’t any history there but its very new and clean and an ideal spot to live if you like Macau, Hong Kong or even Guangzhou. I have a friend teaching in Nanjing though not sure if he’s still there….Are you fluent yet? πŸ™‚

          Reply

          1. haha. Not fluent but I study a lot. it’s a hard language! Spent a semester at a University in Xi’an and will hopefully do 2 more semesters in Nanjing. πŸ™‚ I can see why Shenzhen would be a good place to live. I don’t think i’m ready to give up all the history yet though.

          2. I completely understand… on both the difficulty of Mandarin as well giving up on the history. To even be able to carry on a conversation is impressive! Best of luck with everything and if you ever travel though Shenzhen, let me know!

  4. Kudos Rory!

    Glad to hear you living your dream, and I’m right behind you my friend…

    Reply

    1. Thanks Dion, glad to hear you’re going to follow in my foot steps… you’ll have no regrets! Best of luck…

      Reply

  5. Great Sharing by Rory! Very inspiring πŸ˜‰

    Probably I will consider πŸ˜‰

    Reply

  6. Guess I better get cracking….I’m 31! Great interview…

    Reply

    1. Thanks Terry! Yes it does! Going back to one is about the last thing I want to do:)

      Reply

  7. It’s nice to hear Rory’s take on traveling mid-career. There are times that I think Charles and I are the only ones putting careers on the backburner for travel πŸ™‚

    Reply

  8. Ok whew–I’m glad someone else said ’33 is old?!?’ I’m 32 and I’m just finishing up my year off. I didn’t go around the world, but I certainly traveled more than I ever could have had I not taken a year off (106 days of mostly-solo travel while still maintaining my home, mortgage and (sort of) my marriage). And though I’m approaching 33–and need to work for a few more years to save up again–I plan to do it again. And again. Until I’m ACTUALLY old. Like 99. πŸ˜‰

    Reply

    1. Nice! I am 37 and just finished up roughly 9 months of solo travel — and then returned to the states, landed an awesome job and am planning on being here until I can save enough money to go do it again! But for longer next time…. πŸ™‚

      Reply

  9. WOW – Very inspirational. I am 64 and still in the dream stage of planning, but i am determined to do it. Thank you Lillie for helping to keep my dream alive.

    Reply

    1. Keep us posted on your amazing plans, Marla!

      Reply

  10. Oh no! If 33 is old for traveling, I am not sure where that leaves the rest of us…..

    Reply

    1. Hehe don’t worry! I’ve published articles recently with travelers in their 70s who are rockin’ it out. Perhaps a better term is “established.”

      Reply

      1. Yes….. I like that better….
        though, i have to say, it makes me giggle a little to think of myself as ‘established’….. though I don’t think of myself as old either….. just not in my 20s. or …. early 30s….. πŸ™‚

        Reply

        1. Hmm, well then what’s the word for the ties that start to pull us to remain in one place close to home?

          Reply

    2. Hi Aurora,

      My being ’33’ was just to the point that a lot of the crowd, at least on the travel route I’d be on, were mostly fresh out of school. I think it was more of a point that even if you’re up to your neck in a career of 10, 20, or 30+ years, you should still go if that’s what you want to do…You’re never too old for anything in life… and I plan to keep on traveling for the many years to come and I hope a lot of others are inspired to do the same:)

      Reply

      1. Thanks for clarifying, Rory! πŸ™‚

        Reply

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