Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Sam, the experienced teacher-traveler behind from Indefinite Adventure! Sam, tell us more about background.
Sam: I’m from London, UK, currently travelling in South America with my partner, Zab since the beginning of 2013. Before that, I was teaching English as a foreign language in various places around Europe, which I did for about 3 years across Austria, Hungary, Germany and Spain.
TT: Tell us more about your travels.
S: I took a break from teaching at the end of 2011 to travel in the Middle East on my own for about 12 weeks. I travelled through southern Turkey, Syria, Jordan and a little bit of Egypt, where I tried learning some Arabic (which I’ve now mostly forgotten!), enjoyed the food and was touched by the people’s generosity and welcoming attitude, especially in Syria.
TT: So interesting. How did you find this travel opportunity?
S: It was an independently organised trip. I just booked flights and went, having only a vague itinerary and a flight from Sharm-el-Sheik in Egypt back to London just before Christmas booked in advance. Everything else was decided on the trip.
TT: Nice! How did you find the money to fund this travel?
S: I travelled with money I’d saved during the first 9 months of the year teaching. The job I had was covering my travel and accommodation expenses, and I was living frugally while teaching, so I had saved up more than I had expected to. Anyway, it was actually a surprisingly cheap trip, and I certainly didn’t end up depleting all my savings!
TT: Very reassuring. Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
S: I am not in any way a football (by which I mean soccer to north Americans) fan, but I will always remember the day that the Syrian team won against the Qatari team in November 2011.
I was in Aleppo, Syria’s second city, enjoying a quiet evening with friends, when suddenly the whole city erupted in celebration. The streets were quickly filled with people (actually only men) waving the team’s flag, honking their horns and shouting in excitement. The atmosphere was amazingly joyful, and unlike a similar situation in my home country might have been, it all felt very safe and civilised.
TT: Fascinating. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
S: I think they have made me more patient. Not knowing when your bus is going to depart because there is no fixed timetable, and you just have to wait till it’s full or until the driver decides it’s time to go has made me a more patient person, and this transferred into my teaching.
Taking time off from teaching made me more able to go back to the classroom and have the patience necessary with my students, which I think made me a better teacher.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
S: Traveling has either intensified or subdued my neuroses, depending on who you ask, and possibly the day of the week. Patience, as I already mentioned, has been something I’ve gained, but I’m still working on it.
Travelling now with my long term partner, Zab, who I’ve been with for eight years but never lived with (or travelled with for more than about 3 weeks), has been trying at times. With him I still need to learn a lot of patience, as we have quite different rhythms. But we’ll get there, I’m sure!
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
S: If you are a native speaker of English (or even if you aren’t, but speak fluently), finding a job teaching English as a foreign language is a great way to get started travelling, and it’s relatively easy, as English teachers are in such high demand.
If you are legally able to work in the UK, I would recommend the company English in Action, who I worked with mostly in Austria (but also other parts of Europe), as they pay well, offer very flexible contracts, and cover travel and accommodation expenses. Working with them also allowed me to do a lot of independent travel between contracts around Europe, which was great!
TT: Thanks so much, Sam! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Sam?