Teaching Traveling: Interested in teaching abroad in Taiwan, but don’t have extensive education experience or certification? Read this interview with Dan and Casey from “A Cruising Couple!”
Tell us about your background, Dan and Casey.
Dan & Casey: We’re Dan and Casey, originally from Apex, North Carolina. Casey went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in International Studies and Spanish. Dan attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he studied Environmental Science. During our time at college we were both really fortunate to have many travel opportunities, spanning twenty-something countries on six continents. Travel has always been something very natural to us, and we feel most in our element when we’re exploring new places. Oh, we’re also high school sweethearts that tied the knot after graduating University! It only made sense to begin our new married life together by traveling to the other side of the world—so that’s exactly what we did! After a seven-week honeymoon road trip across the United States, we packed up our few belongings and moved to Taiwan.
TT: Wow! Tell us more about your travels.
D& C: Although neither of us had taught seriously, we both had a bit of experience with education. Casey spent a summer teaching English at camps all over Italy, and Dan was an outdoor recreation instructor. We enjoyed teaching, and it seemed like the perfect way to provide an income while also allowing us to travel. For the past two years, we have been living and teaching in Hsinchu, Taiwan, and we couldn’t be happier! Taiwan is an amazing place to live. It’s small, and the high-speed train makes travel around the country fast and accessible. The people are incredibly hospitable, and every day we are amazed by how genuinely interested the Taiwanese are in making us feel at home. We really believe there’s something here for everyone, whether you are looking for breathtaking mountains to hike, dramatic coasts to cycle, intricate temples to explore, or exotic flavors to try.
Taiwan is the perfect place to look for a teaching job, even if you don’t have a TEFOL certificate. There are lots of schools that will provide you with teacher training, structured lesson plans, and all the support a new teacher might need. While this sort of system is not be for everyone, it has been the perfect way for us to learn our way around the classroom. Now we can say we are comfortable teaching a variety of students, from three year olds to fifty-three year olds! However, we do advise travelers to be careful when deciding if teaching is for them or not. We have met so many people that come to Taiwan and end up miserable, primarily because they have no desire to teach. Unfortunately, not enjoying teaching-the thing you came halfway across the world to do-ends up leading to resentment for the country you’re in. Teaching is a wonderful way to support traveling and living abroad, but you must at least have some desire to teach.
TT: Great advice. How did you find this teaching travel opportunity?
D & C: We found the opportunity to teach in Taiwan via a good ‘ol Google search. Taiwan is a popular place to teach English, and it is quite easy to find jobs both prior to and upon arrival. While we secured our jobs in the United States, we have heard a lot of the higher paying jobs are easier to obtain once you are already in Taiwan. Of course, this is best if you have teaching experience and a bit of Chinese knowledge!
TT: How did you find the money to fund your travel?
D & C: Instead of asking for typical wedding gifts, we had a honeymoon registry of financial donations for travel. After all, we weren’t going to be able to bring porcelain to Taiwan. Our registry let our wedding guests give us incredible experiences on our honeymoon road trip, like hot air ballooning in New Mexico and wine tasting in Napa Valley. It also included contributions to helping us fund our relocation to Taiwan, which we were so incredibly grateful for. Securing our jobs before leaving the United States also insured that there would only be a small time period without any paychecks. Definitely talk to different companies before arrival, as some will pay for your flights to Taiwan or offer interest-free loans to help you get started.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
D & C: We mentioned earlier that Taiwanese are extremely hospitable. Often when we tell people this, they assume we are referring to asking for directions or helping us translate bills. But seriously, it goes much farther! For example, one day we were with some friends, driving around the mountains in search of a hiking path. Being the awesome planners that we are, somehow we didn’t take into account that two people riding on the same scooter while trying to maneuver up and down steep slopes uses about twice as much gas as normal. In the middle of nowhere, we were riding on an empty tank, wondering how we could possibly transfer gasoline from our friend’s scooter into ours. We couldn’t even remember the last point we had seen a gas station!
Not a moment too soon, we stumbled upon a camping site where the owner promptly came out to greet us. (A group of foreigners lost in the mountains tends to attract a bit of attention from the few passersby.) When we explained our situation in broken Chinese, our new friend immediately went to fetch a garden hose that could be used to transfer the gas. He was thinking the same thing as we were-use the garden hose as a straw to suck the gas up the “pipe” from one tank and then drain it into the other.
But here is where it gets ridiculous: The campground owner, a complete stranger to us, immediately shoved the rubber pipe into our friend’s gas tank and began the procedure of sucking the gasoline out himself! Unfortunately for him, this appeared to be the first time he was attempting such a feat. More than once he actually ingested the gasoline, but still refused to give up the task at hand. And in the end, the only thing he had to say was: “It’s stronger than whisky!” Needless to say, we were quite grateful to have stumbled upon such a kind man just before getting stranded with no civilization in site.
TT: WOW. Amazing! How have your travels impacted you in your career and life?
D & C: Traveling has shaped the people we are today; it has molded the way we look at life, our attitude towards trying new things, what we view important. It’s difficult to only choose one thing, but if we had to narrow it down, we must say that traveling has taught us people are pretty much the same, no matter where they call home. We all basically need and want the same things: health, food, security, and love. The only difference is the way we obtain these things. In turn, this awareness has augmented our compassion for all people. For example, when we heard about flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia, we truly sympathized because we could think back to all our acquaintances we made there; we placed faces with the natural disaster, and hoped these faces weren’t harmed. The same occurred after the devastating earthquake in New Zealand, the tragic bombings in New Delhi, India… the list goes on and on. We are extremely grateful for the relationships travel provides, and its true ability to create a “global citizen.”
Additionally, traveling around Asia and living in Taiwan has reaffirmed our passion to make long-term travel a possibility. Every day we are amazed by something new; we learn something new; we are pushed to try something new. I think it is this constant state of discovery that really inspires us to keep traveling and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.
We’ll be finishing our time in Taiwan come August. After that, we are still fine-tuning our plans, but we will definitely be traveling around Asia and writing about it on our blog, acruisingcouple.com We encourage readers to stop by our site to find out where we are, what we are doing, and offer travel suggestions!
TT: Nice! What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel?
D & C: Just go do it! There are lots of opportunities to teach oversees, all around the world. And there is a wealth of information on travel blogs and websites like this one!
TT: Thanks so much, Dan and Casey! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?