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An Irish Teacher on How Travel is the Ultimate Gift to Find Yourself

Which places can heal you?
Which places can heal you?

Teaching Traveling: How can European teachers find jobs in the U.S. or other countries? How does travel help heal a person after heartbreak?

To answer these questions, please welcome Irish teacher and travel blogger, Ciara McNally! Ciara, tell us about yourself.

Ciara: I’m 35 and from Cork, Ireland. I have been teaching for 10 years, but travel writing at My Suitcase Diaries for two years!

As a teenager, my family was all about the multi-destination holidays during the summer break. We used to get the ferry to France, and from there visit a few European countries in one fell swoop. I think that is when I was bitten by the travel bug.

My teaching career led me to move to Italy and North Carolina, and now I’m back in Ireland (land of the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, and the Burren), but I think somewhere in the back of my mind is the simmering desire to head off somewhere else new!

Ciara, smiling brightly.
Ciara, smiling brightly.

TT: Nice! Tell us more about your travels. 

I started my travel blog as a cathartic release to an emotional breakup, and found solace in traveling for myself, to places I wanted to see. I saw travel as the best teacher gift to myself.

I brought myself to sunny cities, sandy beaches and exciting landscapes, all in an effort to heal my soul. I moved to Italy for three years and learned how to speak Italian (and Romano!), and make authentic and delicious cantucci and sugo from scratch.

This past summer I hiked up a volcano in the dark to summit it at dawn. I watched the world above the clouds in Bali, and loved every minute of where my #adventurebod took me.

MY absolute favorite travel discovery this year was solo travel. I learned to enjoy my own company, and eat by myself, as well as fill my time and meet new people.

Sunset in a new city...
Sunset in a new city…

TT: Beautifully put. Even though I’m a mother and wife, solo travel is still also my love! So, how do you find your travel opportunities?

C: I use Instagram (feel free to follow me there!) and websites such as Skyscanner for inspiration. I travel during peak times on school holidays, so I am always looking out for deals and sales on fares so that I can make the most of  my hard earned breaks.

I follow a few travel bloggers on Facebook too and their recent trips provide ideas and itineraries.

Life can be a carousel...
Life can be a carousel…

TT: Nice! I just followed you on Instagram, myself, so I’ll be getting ideas from you, too. Now, how do you find the money to fund your travels?

I save a portion of my wage each month and use that to fund my bigger travels during the summer and easter holidays. I also write for a teaching magazine so the money earned from that goes straight back into airfares and adventures!

Ciara looking out at the sun and clouds.
Ciara looking out at the sun and clouds.

TT: Really smart! Side jobs and automatic savings are key to paying for travel. Now, tell us one moment from your travels that particularly stood out. 

C: I think a powerful moment from my travels was realizing that choosing a travel buddy deserves as much consideration as the planning of a trip itself. Travel in a small group means a lot of time with the same people, so honesty, respect and patience are crucial.

Solo travel certainly has its merits, but I now Iove sharing the world with others, and choose my travel buddies wisely or speak up for myself sooner to spare anxiety later. I learned I need to speak up for myself if I feel something is not going smoothly.

As travelers, we need to address issues between friends the moment they happen and not let things pass. Friendships are important, but so are the experiences we work hard to pay for. Use communication and planning to make the most out of traveling with people.

A dramatic airplane window view.
A dramatic airplane window view.

TT: Very wise. Now, how have your travels impacted you as a teacher, in your career, and as a person?

C: I feel as if I know myself better. I am more self assured than I was. Travel has taught be to be resourceful, resilient, confident and prepared. I use that in my job, however subconsciously, and try to encourage others to do what challenges them.

Whatever asks you to address your fears without putting you in danger can only be a positive learning experience, whether it be presenting a project about basketball to your classmates, trying out for a musical part, or reading aloud in front of someone else, we all have fears and moments of anxiety.

It has taken me years to reach this stage of getting to know myself so if I can help the children I teach to get to know themselves better from a younger age. I like to think I can help give them a head start in this journey of self-discovery!

Are castles in your future?
Are castles in your future?

TT: Beautiful. What advice do you have for other teachers dreaming of travel?

C: I used a website called VIF (now called Participate) to inform me about teaching abroad in the U.S. The purpose of this program is for teachers to share cultures from around the world with American school children.

I applied for the program and worked for a year in a North Carolina public school. I learned a lot about life in the U.S. and about how different education systems in other countries can be.

I do think it is a great program for those who are eager to share their language, culture and personality with their students in another country, but go in with your eyes open. Teaching abroad is immersion in another country and not to be taken lightly.  

What kind of travel is YOUR cup of tea?
What kind of travel is YOUR cup of tea?

I also taught in Italy, and prior to that, I researched the directory of international schools in big cities. I made a list of the schools principals and emails so I could personally contact each school and inquire about positions for the school year.

There are websites with job offers for international schools in all countries, but sometimes the direct, personal approach makes you stand out a bit more.

Using education forums and Facebook groups to speak to teachers and travelers already in the job you are thinking of applying for helps to give you an insight into their daily life. Ask them the hard questions, and the ones you cannot ask a principal.

Where will YOUR wheels take you?
Where will YOUR wheels take you?

I have made lifelong friends with some of the people (teachers!) I have met along the “Road to Me.” I am fortunate to have had the opportunities to teach in North Carolina and Italy, and consider them a home of sorts.

Be prepared to leave your heart with particular places and people, because in our jobs, you cannot help but give and be open. It is a wonderful trait and can drain you!

TT: Thanks so much, Ciara! Readers, what comments or questions do you have?

Travel to Find Yourself: One Teacher's Story
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Note: To learn why I made the choice of travelling or traveling in my editing, click to read that linguistics explanation. 


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Ciara Mc

Sunday 4th of February 2018

Thanks so much for sharing my story, Lillie. I hope it shows your readers how travel not only broadens the mind but soothes the soul!

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