Teaching Traveling: Want inspiration for how to combine full-time teaching with summer travel around the world? Meet Michelle Weigold, who is doing just that! Michelle, tell us about your background.
Michelle: I was born and raised in northern Kentucky, and growing up I always had the travel bug. My family allowed me to go on a few international trips in my younger years, and after a study abroad trip in college I was hooked! After graduating from the University of Kentucky, I worked in real estate for two years. During that time, I realized that I wanted to do one final stint of long-term traveling before I could really settle into a career path — so I picked up and moved to Valencia, Spain. While I was there, I spent time exploring Europe, practicing the language, and participating in bilingual language exchanges.
Upon my return to the US I realized I needed to have a career more aligned to my passions, and so I enrolled in a Master’s program at Xavier University, where I earned my Master of Arts in Spanish Education. I am now 29 years old, married, and a high-school Spanish teacher in Cincinnati, and I plan to use my summers to travel! My hope is to reach 30 countries by age 30, which I should hopefully achieve by this August!
TT: Love it! Tell us more about your travels.
M: While I was working in corporate America prior to my teaching career, I was able to combine vacation days and travel over the Christmas holidays for 17 days. I backpacked around 5 countries in South East Asia (with my now husband), beginning in Beijing, China and ending in Bali.
The experience was incredibly eye-opening — especially being able to witness isolated Khmer temples in Cambodia. The fact that visitors can enter without buying a ticket, and can freely climb around on ancient ruins just show how “undiscovered” parts of that country are — and I love it!
TT: Nice! How did you find this travel opportunity?
M: I did my research. I have a slew of websites I always use to plan and research my trips to find the cheapest options possible. I also don’t have an issue with using public transit and staying in cheap hostels when I am in the country, so this makes it quite affordable! The initial idea for this trip came from my goal of seeing the Great Wall of China, and the trip expanded from there!
TT: How did you find the money to fund this travel?
M: I relied on my personal savings. While working in my mid-twenties, I lived with my parents. Not having to pay rent allowed me to put aside a significant amount of money each week, which I would put immediately into a separate account I set up specifically for travel. It took about a year to save up, but of course it was worth it! I think when it comes to finding money for travel, you need to make it a priority — plain and simple.
TT: Tell us some moments from your travels that were particularly powerful.
M: When I was living in Valencia, Spain I made a point to meet up with some locals who were trying to learn English. We would have a language exchange or “intercambio” and take turns speaking in the two languages. At one point, I realized that I was speaking in Spanish without having to “think” about it, and it was a bit of a light-bulb moment, and I think at that point I realized I was (more or less!) fluent. It is so exciting, and a powerful experience, to be in the country, speaking the language, and conversing with locals about their culture and lifestyle.
Another travel moment that made me truly feel like I was “one” with nature, was camping in a tent in the Serengeti. I remember laying in my cot and hearing lions roar outside of camp, and the sound of elephants knocking down trees. It was a little scary, but very exhilarating!
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?
M: As a Spanish teacher, I find that I incorporate my travels into my teaching all of the time! I have traveled a lot in Spanish-speaking countries and so I can easily incorporate the cultural elements and language variations into my lessons. I often use personal photos or stories to inform students about how fascinating and unique cultures different from our own can be, and I find that having been there and seen the sights or icons we talk about first-hand gives me more legitimacy when I go to teach the students about them. It is one of my main goals to convince all of my students to study abroad one day!
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
M: For me, it defines who I am. I have always been fascinated by languages, cultures, natural sights, exotic animals, and I can’t imagine living a life without constantly traveling or making plans to travel and see more of this amazing world we live in. When I got married in 2014, we actually had a travel themed wedding, and coming up with the ideas and plans for that made me realize just how ingrained travel has become in my life! It is such a passion that I now run my own travel blog, and spend time writing, publicizing and collaborating with fellow travelers!
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
M: Make travel a priority. Sacrifice going out to eat, buying a new purse, designer anything, and eventually, you will have the money saved up. Be willing to stay in hostels, or try Couchsurfing.org and you can save even more!
TT: Thanks so much, Michelle! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?