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Working and Teaching Around the World

climbing Mt. Fuji

Travis, triumphant after climbing Mt. Fuji in Japan! Howdy, Travis Ball! Tell us about yourself.

Travis: I grew up in a small town called Los Angeles, California and, aside from travel, have lived in Southern California all my life.

In 2000, I moved down to San Diego to work for a computer game company. I lasted there for about four years before deciding I didn’t want to work in a cubicle for the rest of my life.

I went back to finish my degree and moved back up to Los Angeles after graduating in 2005. I spent a few years seeking a career that I’d want to pursue, mostly jobs associated with the film industry. After some soul searching, I decided I was happiest when I’m traveling, so why not seek out some of those career options from the road.

students and school manager in Japan

Travis’s students and school manager in Japan.

It took a couple years of planning and saving. I got a second job as a bartender to help pay off my debt, save some money and learn a skill I could work at while on the road.

In May, 2009, I left the states and have been on the road ever since.

Since the trip started I’ve been to Barcelona, Ibiza (where I worked as a photographer for four months), London, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Japan (where I taught English), South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and am currently in Laos. I’m still in travel mode until January when I’ll seek out work with a scuba company in Thailand .

TT: So fabulous! Does any place on this wonderful itinerary stand out so far?

DJ Pete Tong plays at his club in Ibiza, Spain: Wonderland

DJ Pete Tong plays at his club in Ibiza, Spain: Wonderland

T: Wow, I’ve seen and done so much during this trip so far, it’d be hard to pick one experience.

As a whole, I’d have to say my time spent in Japan tops the list so far.

I was in Japan for nearly a year, and the combination of the travel I did before, during, and after my job (as well as the job itself) made for a pretty magical experience.

During that time I:

  • Experienced the Ombashira Festival, which is a spectacle that only takes place once every six years in Japan.
  • Ate the most amazing foods, including okonomiyaki with local friends, kushi katsu in Osaka, ramen in Fukoka and the freshest sushi ever at the Tsukiji Fish Market.
  • The freshest sushi ever, at Tsukji Fish Market, Tokyo.

    The freshest sushi ever, at Tsukji Fish Market, Tokyo.

    Witnessed a Sumo match.

  • Climbed Mt. Fuji.
  • Spent a week during New Years Holidays with a good friend exploring Tokyo.
  • Explored more shirines and temples than I can count.
  • Was humbled at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
  • …and finally, met and made some really good friends.

TT: Love it! How did you find this travel opportunity?

T: I didn’t really “find” this opportunity, but mostly created it. This trip is all about working my way around the world. In 1999, a friend and I went backpacking through Europe for three months. It was a whirlwind of a trip and years afterword, my main regret was not spending enough time in any one place.

This trip is about doing the opposite: choosing certain places I think would be interesting and trying to find work there. In Ibiza I ended up working as a photographer. In Japan, it was teaching English. In Thailand I hope to work with a scuba company after getting my open water diving certificate. After Thailand it’ll be Australia and after that who knows.

TT: How did you find the money to fund this travel?

T: It took two years and a second job to pay off my debt and save the money I thought I’d need to start. I also sold off 95% of my possessions (my memories and film negatives are with family and friends back home).

Part of Angkor Wat temples, Cambodia, used in "Tomb Raider."

Part of Angkor Wat temples, Cambodia, used in “Tomb Raider.”

The strategy is this: Travel a little and let the pot drop to a certain point, then try and find work. Get the pot back up over the line and then travel again. Work in places where the currency is strong, travel where it’s not, and keep the spending down.

My worst case scenario is running out of money, but I have contingencies set up and will just end up back home where I have friends and family waiting.

TT: Great strategy. Now tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.

T: Powerful: Proving to myself that I could climb Mt. Fuji. It was my first mountain and was quite difficult for me, but the accomplishment was well worth it on many levels.

Dragging tree trunks through the streets in Ombashira Festival, Japan.

Dragging tree trunks through the streets in Ombashira Festival, Japan.

Interesting: I recently spent five days exploring the ruins at Angkor Wat and found that truly astounding. The structures and the stories behind their construction and reconstruction are fascinating.

Funny: There’s no place like Tokyo. From dogs dressed up in swimsuits and sunglasses to the Harajuku girls, you’re bound go find something humorous in Tokyo.

TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, in your current career, and as a person?

T: Travel is all about change. The things you experience on a trip like this will change you in ways you never imagined, hopefully all for the better. Japan provided my first opportunity to teach.

While I’m not sure I’ll do that again in the future, it was a mind-blowing experience that I will never forget. I learned a lot about myself and another culture during that time, and I would recommend teaching English abroad to anyone willing to give it a shot.

New friends in Japan!

New friends in Japan!

TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?

T: For others interested in teaching abroad, I’d recommend picking up a book by Susan Griffith called “Teaching English Abroad.”

She has a number of books on working abroad, but they might be difficult to get in the states (it took a couple months to find a copy).

Do research about WHERE you might want to teach, as you’ll be spending a lot of time there and you will want to know what you’re getting yourself into.

younger students in Japan

Travis with some of his younger students in Japan. Sweet!

Lastly, just go for it. You won’t regret it.

TT: Thanks so much, Travis!

Best of luck with your continued travels.

Readers, if you want more of Travis, check out his website, Flashpacker HQ.

An International Educator in Bangladesh, Dubai, Japan, Australia, and U.S.A.
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