Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Adam Pervez, “corporate tool turned nomadic idealist,” teaching and volunteering his way across the world!
Tell us a bit about your background, Adam.
Adam: I’m 29-years-old and from Strongsville, Ohio, USA. I’m an electrical engineer who worked in the Persian Gulf for an oil services company. When I realized I was actively contributing toward making the planet a worse place, I went back to school for an MBA in Spain and then headed north to Denmark to work for a major wind power company.
TT: Wow! Tell us why you are traveling and where you are traveling to now.
A: I had a very comfortable, six-figure corporate life in Denmark. I had achieved exactly what I wanted to achieve – working in renewable energy in Scandinavia. But after a couple months, I already realized that life wasn’t right for me. It was like someone else wrote the script and I was stuck living that life. So I figured out my passions, made a plan, and took what I call The Happiness Plunge.
I have branded my Happiness Plunge as The Happy Nomad Tour. I have blended my passions of traveling, writing, teaching, learning, telling stories, and helping others into one big adventure. I volunteer each place I go hoping to leave it a bit better than how I found it.
Having already traveled to more than 50 countries, this time I wanted my traveling to be more real. It’s about the people and places instead of the monuments and tour guides. I stay off the beaten path and refuse to pay for accommodation – thus I often stay with local families and experience what a week or two in their lives is like.
Having started in Mexico, I’ll continue south until I get to Peru. From Peru I will head to Asia, probably Vietnam, and head west, passing through India and the Middle East before heading down into Africa.
TT: Awesome! Where do you volunteer, and how do you find volunteering/teaching opportunities?
A: I usually send out a message to the Couchsurfing communities in the areas I am passing through as well as friends I have in the area. The local people often recommend various organizations or put me in touch with connections that help me find volunteering opportunities.
If that doesn’t work, I search online for opportunities. In the worst case scenario, I show up to a place with no volunteering assignment and look for opportunities upon arrival.
So far I have volunteered at a stray dog shelter, nursing home, two indigenous Mayan cooperatives, and an organization that takes used bikes and turns them into life-improving bike machines. Going forward I plan to volunteer at schools and orphanages more, but regulations in the countries I have visited so far has made this difficult to accomplish. But in Peru, for example, I already have such an experience lined up.
TT: Love it. How did you find the money to fund this travel?
A: I’m financing this trip from my savings after working in Denmark for 10 months. But I travel extremely cheaply, again, refusing to pay for accommodation along the way. One doesn’t need much money to travel the way I travel.
TT: Nice! Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
A: When I was in Leon, Mexico I was volunteering at a nursing home. Of the 11 residents, two were mentally together and one was more or less mentally together. The rest suffered from diseases that have compromised their mental capacity.
I became friends with the three that were in good shape and we genuinely had a good time each day. After my first week of volunteering, Roy, a 55-year-old former Federal Policeman who was shot several times during a drug bust and is now confined to a multi-year recovery in a wheelchair, asked me if I was coming back the following week. I had already decided to stay another week, so I told him that yes, I would be back the next week.
Like an excited child, he celebrated this news by putting his arms in the air and doing as much a dance as his wheelchair would allow. I had no idea our conversations meant so much to him, and I never would have guessed he would be so excited.
For me, it solidified what I am doing early on in my trip and made me realize that success while volunteering is defined by moments such as those.
TT: Beautiful. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
A: I have always enjoyed teaching and I think I’ve been a teacher in some capacity my entire adult life. Whether helping friends learning English, teaching the random things I’ve picked up after so much traveling, or being an ambassador for the things I embody, I think my travels, this trip in particular, have greatly impacted me.
For sure I am more patient, and maybe this is the most important quality in a teacher. I have realized that everyone learns differently and everyone retains information differently.
Due to a combination of my not-so-great Spanish and traveling all over in places with varying levels of English, I have learned how to express myself more clearly and in non-verbal ways.
Perhaps due to language barriers or perhaps due to my infinite curiosity, I think I’ve learned how to connect with people better – finding common ground where none might otherwise exist on the surface.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
A: I think the things mentioned above apply to me as a person, but I’d say all this traveling has helped improve my confidence. I’ve done a lot of crazy things as a traveler and I’m constantly pushing the boundaries of what I think I am capable of.
I feel comfortable pretty much anywhere. As a kid I was only comfortable at home, and now, in many ways, I feel more comfortable overseas. So I have learned to be more flexible, relying less on planning and more on adapting.
When I was in high school, a teacher said “the more I know, the more I know I don’t know.” Very true. I am very curious by nature, and all my traveling has only served to fuel that curiosity.
The great thing about traveling, though, is that not a day goes by where I don’t learn something. That wasn’t true when I was stuck in my cubical during my rat race days. I can’t see myself going back to that life where it’s so much harder to learn new things every day.
TT: What advice do you have for others who are dreaming of travel or travelers who want to teach?
A: I think you should have realistic expectations. Travel is what you make of it, and there is a learning curve to it like everything else. Be patient with yourself so you can learn what you need to learn while enjoying the experiences that come your way.
Realize that the grass is always greener on the other side. Personally, the grass is greener on the side I have chosen, but many people are unrealistic with their desires to drop it all and hit the road. Don’t escape from your current life. Create a path out of it. And realize that life on the road can be difficult and downright unpleasant at times. You have to take the good with the bad just like normal life.
Teaching is amazing no matter the context and I think teaching in an international environment makes it even more interesting. The potential to learn is far higher in such a situation, but I think it is even more difficult to ease into this more difficult set of circumstances as well. So when no one thinks you are funny or you think the students are talking about you behind your back, just realize it’s all part of the game.
Oh, and just do it! If traveling or teaching is your dream, go for it! Take the plunge and don’t look back. Just prepare and do the homework first to make sure you are setting out on the right path.
TT: Thanks so much, Adam, for sharing your remarkable story. Readers, feel free to ask Adam questions or share your reactions, and check out his site, www.HappinessPlunge.com!