TeachingTraveling.com: Welcome to Tom, Teacher-Traveler and web master of Top Backpacking Destinations! Tom, tell us about your background.
Tom: I’m from Leeds, England and taught English in Honduras for 12 months in 2003/2004.
I worked in a local school in a small village called Punta Gorda on the island of Roatan. I worked with one other teacher from the UK for the charity, Project Trust, which sends two teachers to Honduras every year.
This was my first experience of travel, and at the end of my time there, I had well and truly caught the travel bug. I have traveled as much as possible ever since.
In the summer of 2007, I flew from the UK to America and coached football (soccer) in California for 7 weeks. This involved weekly football camps in different places across the state, teaching kids from 4 to 18 how to improve their football skills.
Now I am back in Leeds working in digital marketing, saving up for my next extended trip abroad, squeezing in as many shorter breaks as I can in the meantime! I’ve also set up my own travel blog which details all the different travel destinations I’ve visited so far.
TT: Excellent! Tell us more about your other travel adventures.
T: I traveled through the Americas for 7 months in 2008, starting in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and flying home to Leeds from San Francisco, USA. It was an amazing trip and I was lucky enough to see amazing icons such as Machu Picchu in Peru, Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
I also got the chance to have once in a lifetime experiences like sailing from Panama to Colombia over 5 days (stopping off at desert islands in the San Blas), hiking on glaciers in Patagonia and a 3 day trip through Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni.
It was an amazing trip, and one that I’d love to replicate across other continents in the world.
TT: Phenomenal! How did you find this travel opportunity?
T: I researched the trip myself with the help of guidebooks, great travel blogs, and friends who had visited previously. I like the freedom of not having a plan and waking up each day and deciding where to go depending on how you feel.
TT: It sounds like that strategy of travel planning worked really well for you. How did you find the money to fund this travel?
T: For the trip around South America, I just earned money through hard work in lots of jobs in various offices at home before I left!
However, when I taught in Honduras, I did a lot of fundraising events as well as receiving grants from various charities. These were from either local businesses and charities, or relevant charities which I had researched. When I told them about what I was doing, they were all very generous, which I was really grateful for!
TT: That is a great tip for aspiring Teacher-Travelers who don’t yet have the money to go: reach out to charities and grants, and fundraise! So, Tom, tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
T: When I was in Honduras, I went on a boat trip looking for Whale Sharks which are only found in a few places around the world. Having spoken to the locals, they weren’t very hopeful of us finding them… but we went out in search of them anyway.
We were really lucky and heard the location of one on the boat’s radio and went out in chase. We tracked him down, and then got the call from the captain to put our snorkels on! When I launched myself over the side of the boat, I landed on the beast’s tail! Its size was absolutely breathtaking, and everyone on the boat swam with it as long as possible as it swam deeper and deeper into the big blue. It was one of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve ever had, and it’s hard to convey the enormity of it in words!
TT: Love it! How have your travels impacted you in your career?
T: Travel has certainly impacted my career. It has exposed me to a huge variety of people and personalities and given me an adaptability which I have used everywhere I’ve worked. My experience working in the local village school in Honduras showed me how to do a lot with very few resources, and that it’s not all about having expensive tools and equipment, as long as you can bring enthusiasm and passion in what you do.
TT: Wonderful. How have your travels impacted you as a person?
T: In a similar way to how it has impacted my career. I believe I am much more patient with people and have a more diverse group of friends because of my experiences abroad and the curiosity it has instilled in me. I’m also much more appreciative of the people and belongings I have around me after seeing people in much less fortunate positions. It’s also encouraged me to give anything a go and to never shy away from potential opportunities.
TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
T: Always be passionate. No matter what obstacle stands in front of you, if you approach it with passion and enthusiasm, you will be able to overcome it. It’s also important to give everything a go. Don’t be afraid of failure; it’s worse if you regret not giving something a go.
You can read about the places I’ve been so far on my website, Top Backpacking Destinations, or follow me on Twitter for my favourite travel stories from across the web!
TT: Thanks so much, Tom! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Tom?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English from Boston who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs AroundTheWorld L.com Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational art. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!