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World Travel Through Volunteering After Retirement as a Teacher

Marilyn by the bust of Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes and Pulitzer prize winner.
Marilyn by the bust of Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes and Pulitzer prize winner.

Teaching Traveling: Every so often I do a second interview with particularly inspiring Teacher-Travelers, and Marilyn Cook (interviewed the first time here) merits this!

Welcome back, Marilyn! Tell us your teaching and traveling background.

Marilyn: My teaching career started in Nome, Alaska, in 196l, just out of college. A friend and I shared a house and taught in Nome’s schools. We had so much fun ordering canned food from Seattle before the Bering Sea froze over, berry picking, loving a dog team ride in an open space of white nothingness. There were the “honey buckets”(a commode in a big can) picked up weekly, the dog races in Nome, many dinner invites from locals. I remember the first snow on October 1. It stayed.

Remarkable ruins of Side, Turkey.
Remarkable ruins of Side, Turkey.

TT: So cool. Tell us how your travels evolved after this.

Marilyn: After that I raised a family and mostly my travels were more recent. Since my profile in July 2012 that discusses some of these, I have returned to Turkey a second year, homeschooling on the Mediterranean with awesome people and epic scenery. While there I went with an expat friend to Cornwall in England. We did the Plymouth steps from which the Mayflower pilgrims embarked in 1620, and the fishing villages. We loved eating at Jamaica Inn, run by wreckers of ships, murderers and pirates back in the day, featured in Daphne du Maurier’s novel. In Bristol, I stood in the pulpit where John Wesley preached. In Wales I visited Evan Robert’s church (a huge sweeping revival from 1904-05).

TT: Wow! What words of advice to you have for teachers dreaming of travel?

Marilyn: I have relied heavily on volunteer work to save money. A friend and I did a trip to Norway, Prague, and Italy in 2014. We volunteered at the Grimerud YWAM base north of Oslo for two weeks, mostly working in the kitchen. On the weekend we did the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour to Bergen and after that, I did the Kon-tiki museum in Oslo and saw the raft! I had been captivated by the book. On the train, I met a lady whose teacher was the son of Thor Heyerdahl. I love it.

Then we really liked Prague — so much history and beautiful architecture. I enjoyed our boat trip on the Vtalva River. After that, we did Venice, Florence, and Rome.

At the Victor Immanuel Monument in Rome, Italy.
At the Victor Immanuel Monument in Rome, Italy.

TT: Awesome. Besides volunteer work, do you have other tips to save money?

Marilyn: Yes, on past trips, we used Educator’s Bed and Breakfast for lodging: $40.00 a night for two. You stay in teachers’ homes.

TT: Nice! Any other tips you would like to share that others might like to know?

At Plymouth, England with a statue of Sir Francis Drake of Spanish Armada fame.
At Plymouth, England with a statue of Sir Francis Drake of Spanish Armada fame.

Marilyn: My most recent trip came about when someone sent me the website, There are hosts all over the world who want volunteer help. I found John Grisewood’s Ballyneety Language Summer School near Limerick, Ireland. I taught English to Spanish and Italian students who want to practice their English conversation skills.

This school is on a farm and is wild and wonderful. After morning classes, they do sports, go carts, ping pong, pool, horseback rides, visit a cattle farm, plant a garden, climb a Norman tower, enjoy the Irish setter and peacock, baby chicks, ducks, rabbits, feeding the pigs, disco night, Irish music night, and karaoke.

On the weekends, we went by bus to Cobh, the last port of call for the Titanic and many immigrants, the Cliffs of Moher, Galway. A highlight for me was the Frank McCourt museum in Limerick. I am a big fan of Frank’s. Another amazing adventure with lasting memories.

TT: Thanks so much, Marilyn! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this inspiring Teacher-Traveler?

Marilyn with her tour guide in Prague.
Marilyn with her tour guide in Prague.


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Norma Terrigno

Wednesday 10th of August 2022

Wow...this stuff sounds too good to be true. Retired ESL teacher with an art license as well. Fluent in Spanish too.

Lillie Marshall

Thursday 11th of August 2022

Wonderful! I'm sure there are lots of possibilities out there that would be a great fit for you. Best of luck!


Wednesday 30th of March 2016

Marilyn Cook is an inspiration! Great interview!

Silvana Kenney

Friday 18th of March 2016

That is a great article Marilyn We shared a room in St Victor La Coste, south of France in 2006 volunteering, and I consider that one of my greatest adventures. So proud of you. Come to Italy with me this summer. Let's get a another adventurous soul to go with and will take you on tour in Tuscany and the Ligurian Coast

Joanne Philpot

Thursday 17th of March 2016

Marilyn, you are such an inspiration, a true adventurer! How the Lord has blessed you, and I know you are a blessing to all whom you meet.

Marilyn Cook

Saturday 26th of March 2016

Joanne! What fun to hear from you. I trust you are getting more rest in retirement.

Annette Hand

Wednesday 16th of March 2016

Marilyn, I admire you so much for your teaching, traveling and your active lifestyle! Have fun. Annette

Marilyn Cook

Thursday 17th of March 2016

Thanks, Annette. I think of every one of these trips as divine appointments. I met some wonderful people. One couple I know are pouring their life into helping the refugees and people disenfranchised by the chaos in the Middle East. They are true servants. I got their newsletter today.

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