TT: What OTHER things besides ESL can you teach in order to travel the world? How about DANCE? Welcome Klelia who is a ballet teacher around the world. Klelia, tell us about yourself.
Klelia: My name is Klelia, I’m Italian and I’m a naïve, clumsy travel junkie. I’m a dreamer, and I have always worked hard (and risked everything I had) to get what I wished for!
Life is too short to just settle for less. I left my parents’ house when I was only 19. I’m now 36 and I still believe that pursuing your dreams is the magic ingredient to be happy. There is no age to reinvent yourself, to change your career, to learn a new language, or to completely revert your life.
I’m the living proof that this is possible. As soon as I left home, I did every kind of job: waitress, hostess, receptionist, you name it. I studied environmental science and I also took a course in marketing and communication.
In the meantime I’ve been moving a lot, first Turin, then Rome and finally London, where I settled down for 6 years, working for Burberry as a Sourcing Co-ordinator. whilst learning English at age 30 (better late than never!) I had a steady career, and I could finally afford to travel a bit more (Amsterdam, NY, Brussels, Barcelona and Prague are some of the most remarkable trips back then). But I wasn’t truly happy.
I have a nomadic spirit; I need to feel free and constantly challenge myself. I realized that I was living a life based on society’s standards, so I decided to find my own calling. This time, I admit, it was hard. Only a fool, a crazy person, would leave everything behind, a good salary, a rewarding job and a nice house to just go and see the world. Well I must be crazy then, as that’s exactly what I did at the “tender” age of 35. I planned my dream trip for months, and on the 10th of February I was on a plane heading to Bangkok.
I wasn’t smiling, but my heart was smiling, together with every molecule of my body.
In 5 months many things happened (I document everything in a dedicated website) and I now find myself living in Thailand, in a remote village on the East coast, with an adorable boyfriend (met during my trip to Bali) teaching English and Ballet. I don’t have a TEFL certification. I am here because of coincidences and also because I always wanted to try teaching while traveling. My 8 years ballet experience led me to my current job. One day I was talking to the director of the school and I performed a split, just for fun. Three hours later 10 little girls had already enrolled for a ballet class. It was magic! I just reinvented my career one more time. And I couldn’t be happier.
TT: Amazing! Tell us about the travels you have been able to take as a result of teaching abroad.
K: This is one of the most difficult questions. I traveled so many places, and every time there was something unique. An encounter, a funny adventure, a breath-taking view… a sweet memory or a scary, challenging situation to overcome.
Let’s say that, considering the grand scale of things, my round the world trip is the one that stands out. Because of the emotional implications of it. Because I left a well-known path and I bet my entire life on this trip. Because my decision was so controversial among my friends and family. And also because I’ve learnt more lessons in 5 months than in my entire life. This is not a trip. This is a life changing experience. I could list the places I visited, the things I did, the people I met… but would this be enough to encapsulate what it meant to me? Not a chance. All I know is that I will never be the same again after this trip (if I ever will go back to “reality”).
TT: How did you find this travel opportunity?
K: The opportunity found me! I was sitting quietly and listening to what I really wanted out of my life. And there it was: Traveling the world. I always knew, I just thought it was impossible to achieve. I took the final decision after a very troubled year. I was sitting on a beach in Sardinia, my home country, and I just decided to go. It was the 18 of August 2012. Two weeks later I bought a one way ticket to Thailand for the next February. I just needed some time to sort things out at work, and time to organize some details and buy the necessary gear. I was ready to jump!
TT: Love it! How did you find the money to fund this travel?
K: One word: SACRIFICE, SACRIFICE, SACRIFICE. (I wrote a detailed article about it on my site.) I moved in with a friend to save the money of the rent, I opened a separate bank account to put all the savings for my trip, I sold all my belongings, I didn’t go out for dinners, movies drinks. I didn’t do anything except work and save. I sold my company shares, collected the unpaid holiday I had left and I manage to save $16.000 in 5 months: Enough to finance at least 8 months of travels. I was sure that I would figure something out whilst on the road… and I was right! Now I don’t touch my savings and I’m also working on a few long term projects to be able to travel indefinitely. This is what I really want, as well as to continue teaching ballet and starting a career of freelance writer. It’s hard, I know. But I will get there… Stay tuned!
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
Powerful: an 8 hour bus trip from Phnom Phen to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s been one of the most shocking, emotional experiences of my life. What my eyes witnessed is difficult to explain. Poverty at its pure state. People living in degraded huts, with no fresh water, kids searching for food on huge piles of trash, surrounded by stray dogs and pigs. And yet, these people, after suffering hunger, thirst and one of the most cruel genocides in recent history, are constantly smiling. They are sincere, warm people and have an inner elegance and natural kindness that I have yet to experience in other populations. I fell in love with the country instantly.
Interesting: Definitely Indonesia. I spent 1 month there, mainly Bali, Ubud and Gili Islands and I only had a glimpse of its beauty. Everything is so green and wild and the natural elements are so powerful and overwhelming. I will definitely go back there when I have the opportunity. I will always remember one of the best sunsets of my life and the best moon rise I’ve ever seen!
Funny: Oh dear. My website is basically a collection of funny tales. I am a pretty self-ironic/clumsy person and I tend to see the fun part in every situation. Like battling with scorpions and huge spiders in my Thai house, showering with cockroaches, or being covered in pigeon excrement whilst sleeping on a bench in Florence. Another funny moment of my nomadic life was when I accidentally went into a couple exchange sauna in London. One of the most embarrassing evenings of my life. But as for every funny story, it is hilarious just when you think about it afterwards. After all, I started by saying that I am hopelessly naïve!
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?
K: In my case the travel itself is the main reason why I am a teacher now. To be able to teach something you first need to learn some lessons yourself. And being a nomad since age 19 was the best school I’ve ever attended! You can easily take a TEFL course or similar, but the best teachers are those who are able to open a breach in their student’s mind. They teach them to think independently, and to be critical about every concept they receive. This is one of the main lessons that I’ve learnt during my travels, but my Philosophy teacher played an important role in my “education” towards life and now teaching. If I have the travel bug, if I had accomplished so much in my life it’s mainly because of her. Honestly? If you ask me about Kant or Plato, I don’t remember a single thing about them (yes, shame on me!), what I remember very well, more than 20 years later, is her attitude about life, her critical spirit, and her way to teach us to be independent, brave and go for our dreams. She was a traveler. I bet that this detail played a huge role in her ways of teaching. I’m not even close to be as good as she was. But she is my guide and my inspirational role model. Traveling is opening my mind in ways I didn’t even imagine. Yes I explain the ballet moves and choreography, but what am I really doing after all? I’m “selling” a dream to these kids. And, who knows, maybe some of them will be brave enough to try and make this dream real! This is why I decided to accept this great opportunity. In addition to this, a teacher should always be a Physiologist. He needs to find the potential in each individual and encourage it with every possible tool. I think this is much more important than being brilliant in teaching English or any other discipline. This is what teaching is all about in my opinion.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
K: I simply would be a totally different person if I didn’t have the experiences I had. But I often wonder if are the travels that impacts me or it’s me, with my basic values and personalities, to impact on my travels. I guess it is a little bit of both really. And I find it fascinating.
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
I can only give my modest advice in terms of teaching Ballet in Thailand. There are more aspiring ballerinas than you think everywhere in the world! I noticed that most people are only focused on teaching English, which is great, don’t get me wrong, as there is always a school searching for an English teacher somewhere. But if you had some previous experience as a ballerina and you are an energetic, positive person, you could easily teach ballet to little kids. My girls are aged 5 to 10 year old and you can teach them the basics and some medium level technique. They don’t need to be perfect, let them enjoy the experience of using their body to express grace and elegance and you will be half way in doing a great job!
I will suggest to do a research on the web for ballet teaching jobs (there are a few here in Thailand) but if you don’t have a certificate as a ballet teacher don’t aim too high in the beginning. Try to ask in small villages where the competition is low or non-existent . Even if you don’t find a dedicated dance school don’t get discouraged. Spread the voice around town, give away flyers, attach them to shops or normal schools and start with private lessons. To do so, you need to rent a house for at least 5/6 months in order to be committed long enough to teach them the basic and create a mini show. Invest in a mid-size full figure mirror and go for it!. For the final show you can always rent a space in a gym or sort something out, get creative! If people see your enthusiasm they will easily get involved and will help you out. Good luck!
TT: Thanks so much, Klelia! Readers, what comments or questions do you have for this ballet teacher abroad?