Teaching English Overseas

Teaching English overseas

Is it:

A) Another chapter in my line of stop gaps bridging engineering and a presently unseen fate?
B) A stop gap in traveling, which is obviously the truest passion I have?
C) A new career. The end of the stop gap?

I have no clue.

I am most likely weeks from jumping on an airplane to a new country (surprise, surprise) — but with a different purpose. I have long thought about teaching as a way of surviving in this world. I have enjoyed my VERY limited amount of time teaching or explaining ideas to people and seeing how it betters the person’s understanding. The concept has intrigued me for years.

Why teach overseas and not in the US you may be asking? Many reasons. The heaviest three are: my love of learning about new cultures, the income you can save in specific countries teaching English as a native speaker, and the bureaucracy of teaching in the United States is well documented and a turn-off. I am likely headed to Asia, with South Korea being the most likely destination. Asia has many diverse cultures, which I have experienced so little of thus far. I can learn about a foreign culture, save money, and push myself mentally in a way I never have before with this new challenge.

I have been trying to solve a question I’ve been fighting with for years: I now know what I enjoy filling my days with thanks to travel, but what can I create a career out of in which I would enjoy the activity day in/day out. Many people in the US tend to find a career that maximizes income based on natural ability, and they then attempt to fill their off time doing the activities and enjoying the goods they bought with their wealth. My goal is different. I want my ~40 hours (or the amount of time necessary for a career) filled with something I enjoy consistently and when I leave the workplace, I fill it with more things I enjoy. That’s my ultimate goal: fill every waking hour with something I enjoy. Truly enjoy. The type of enjoyment where you don’t justify your actions based on money. I promise that most people would not be sitting in a concrete building staring at computers for 8+ hours a day if there weren’t a paycheck. Can I find a job where I would consider doing the job for free because I love it that much? That’s what I want eventually. Maybe it’s just a pipe dream, but I’m going to try.

Now, I don’t believe in permanence > meaning if I do end up teaching for the next five plus years, I am not suddenly a “teacher” unable to change careers. I will reevaluate fairly constantly, as I have been doing and figure it out as I go along.

However, I believe I know my ideal lifestyle – which is how you begin looking at what jobs may suit you: hiking in new places wherever I can. The problem with that as a job is: it is seasonal and unless you’re guiding tourists, it cannot be simply hiking; you need to pay attention and tend to many requests and situations.

I met an Austrian doctor on my jaunt in Patagonia who lived, to me, a brilliant life strategy: sign a one or two year contract doing something you love, enjoy your life during that contract, save like crazy, and take a break between new contracts to explore something new. This teaching job for me will be that. A year as a teacher in Asia, saving money, and then fleeing to India(?) and getting lost in what I hear is an incredible, unique and bizarre culture. The food is fantastic, the people are excessively nice or crazy, and the sights vary drastically from the Himalayas to the tropics on the ocean. I need to do some kind of epic hike next year, whether it’s in the Himalayas or on the West Coast of the USA. Following that, another contract? But as everyone knows, I rarely stick to a plan, so we’ll see.


“What do you think of the human race?” asks a friend who has just graduated in sociology.
“I think it’s strange – so alike and yet so different! We are capable of working together, of building the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the cathedrals of Europe and the temples of Peru. We can compose unforgettable music, work in hospitals, create new computer programs.”
“But at some moment all this loses its meaning, and we feel alone, as if we were part of another world, different from the one we have helped to build.”
“At times, when others need our help, we grow desperate because this prevents us from enjoying life. At other times, when nobody needs us, we feel useless.”
“But that’s the way we are. We are complex human beings. Why despair?”
“We are what we think. All that we are comes from our thoughts. Through thought we construct and destroy the world. Thought follows us like a cart follows the pair of oxen. We are what we think. Your imagination can cause you more harm than your worst enemy. But once you control your thoughts, no one can help you as much as they can – not even your father or mother.”

October 20, 2014 by Paulo Coelho

From time to time I reweigh my life and direction and figure out what I need to do or where I need to be. Should I stop traveling? No. Should I keep moving? I don’t know. What do I want long term? I don’t know. What do I want? To enjoy my life everyday based on my social, mental and physical health. I’ve learned so much about myself and I’m still a mystery to myself as every human is as deep and intricate as a chasm, although I now understand myself much better than the quiet, nearly mute, kid that barely spoke in high school. I know I need to learn constantly to keep happy.

Maybe that’s why travel is so enticing to me. It’s always an unknown. I do not know the town, restaurants, people, sometimes the language, the history, the cultural tics, the backstories, and the overall environment. It keeps my brain on alert all the time. It’s my dopamine fix and it leads to a capricious life. I’m jumping wave to wave, (using a surf methapor — I’ve started surfing again!) and I can’t see that far ahead and I really won’t care about that aspect of my shortsightedness so long as I keep an eye on finances – enough to stay out of debt and enough to keep a minimalist lifestyle I can enjoy. I’m trying to do my best to balance my dopamine fix with what I consider important events. I cannot live my life for other people but I try not to shun them. Too often people are 100% selfish or 100% selfless. I believe based on my experiences and observations that, among many other factors, too much in either direction does not lead to a happy life. Cultivating your life is incredibly important. Randomness does play a part in people lives, but like the quote from Paulo Coelho above says, people have such a powerful tool in their head to make themselves happy or sad. I’m attempting to live a very eccentric life, but I have grown very happy in my ability to live in this moment which is a far cry from the 23 year old that was waiting for his mid/late 40’s for retirement whilst sacrificing the present. I don’t know where I am in life and I’m satisfied with that because I’ve been consistently happy since December 1, 2011 (my first day of freedom from a job with a work-life balance that simply didn’t suit me).

I had a revelation earlier this year staring at the waves of Bondi beach from atop my friends apartment: I love chaos and the unknown. It’s just the way I am.

Última Parada

The title, meaning Final Stop in Portuguese, signifies the end of my giant open ended trip. It has been nearly 1000 days (approximately 960ish) since my last day of American work.

I went to Las Vegas the first day of my freedom, December 1, 2011 and the day after I return from Brazil, my current location, I will be going to Vegas with friends for a bachelor party. After that, my free roaming stops for the time being and I’ll be settling around Denver, earning wages and paying rent.

The current plan is to find a job that suits a lifestyle I want to lead and likewise, a neighborhood suiting a compatible lifestyle in Colorado. I will not be leaving the US before January of 2015, but I am staying indefinitely in Colorado. The international life is still appealing for me, and a life abroad, living, not backpacking, may be in the cards in the future. Who knows?

I said living, not backpacking, which is not indicative of how I view this trip. I feel I LIVED in a series of dozens and dozens of locations for this 2.5+ years. Even if I was in a place for only four nights. The reason is, I have so many friends and helpful strangers that are family in a certain way. It’s a bizarre concept to non backpackers to say that I left the United States alone, but I was nearly never alone in this trip.

My first goodbye overseas was to a Canadian in Quito, Ecuador whom calmed my nervousness of backpacking South America, whom I met approximately 20 minutes after arriving to my first hostel. My last goodbye overseas will soon be to a “family” consisting of chilled out Dutchies, Germans, Swiss, Israelis, Brazilians and an Argentine in Pipa, Brazil. Goodbyes still sucks horribly. I’ve made friends for life in this 2.5+ years, but I’ve also encountered so many helpful people that helped me for a simply a few minutes, pushing me along my way.

The most frustrating saying to me is “there are still good people in this world” and “this news story restores my faith in humanity.” The world is full of genuine and kind people. Fear of strangers cripples people. I can’t even estimate how many friendly people I’ve encountered, whether I asked or insinuated necessity for kindness or assistance or not at all.

For the rest of my life, I will look at myself and specifically the tattoos on me as a reminder to mimic the kindest, most helpful people I’ve met. Whether they’re European, South American, North American, Asian or from the South Pacific.

It’s been a hell of a trip and it changed my life and my mind, but I am now determined to sculpt my life into a shape that is a result of what I’ve learned the first (nearly) 27 years of my life. I will keep building on myself as I enter this new phase.

I’m not done traveling. But my backpack is hanging up for the time being and I do not think I will take a pure backpacking trip this long ever again. So if I met you on this trip to:

New Zealand
or England

It’s been a blast and hopefully I’ll see you again.

Out of Asia

I am killing time in Doha, Qatar at the moment, yet again realizing I know just about nothing in this world as I see a new language, hear a new language, see new customs, and try to begin comprehension of how the people of Qatar live, but I’m only on a layover so I don’t have much time to see it. I’m on my way to London in an hour to see friends and experience the Motherland.

Asia was a brilliant learning experience for me. I didn’t have too much time to experience and soak in the lives of people as much as South America, but I mostly learned more about myself as well as some minor things about each country. This post is just a quick overview.

I loved Vietnam, although I was only there for four nights, staying with a teacher friend and only Saigon. I’d like to go back, especially to Saigon.

Cambodia left a bad taste in my mouth and it is very hard to articulate why. I have nothing against the scenery, ancient history, or it’s people. I have nothing against its more modern history although it’s a monstrosity for those familiar with it. Cambodia left a bad taste in my mouth for a few reasons I’ll mention only briefly. I felt like a walking wallet as I couldn’t walk down the street without being hassled multiple times. I saw many Westerners exploiting the financial disparity with drugs, slovenliness, and sex tourism. I saw far too many kids trying to pry money out of Western hands at the expense of schooling. This is only my experience. I wish nothing but a happy future for all Cambodians, but I did not enjoy my time there, simply because of an overwhelming juxtaposition. Just to clarify, I don’t like a systemic problem I saw there, nothing against the people.

In Thailand I also felt like a walking wallet, but I also had a different feeling in Thailand I can’t put into words. I was hassled less and I won’t try to articulate other reasons because I can’t do it properly yet. I was also more willing to be a tourist and a kid for Thai New Year and my first Full Moon Party on Ko Phangan.

Personally, Malaysia was heaps better in my eyes because of a: less touristy setting, a bizarre mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay cultures, an amazing hostel group in Penang, my first couchsurfing experience (amazing host + friends + sites + Malay cultural education) in the least touristy town I’ve ever been in, incredible foods, easier communication in English (due to prior English rule) and more open to discussion from the locals. I’d really like to go back for Borneo + more of the mainland.

Nepal was incredible and I want to go back soon. It’s the landscapes and the people there. From what I saw, the people live with open arms and are light hearted in general. The food is good and spicy too. The scale of the mountains is completely convoluted. It’s not considered a mountain until 6000m (19800 ft). Meaning my hill summit of 5145m wasn’t a mountain.

When I get back to the US, I will definitely do a blog about Nepal and Malaysia with pictures. Possibly for other parts of the trip.

First Impressions – Vietnam

I’m about 48 hours into my trip to Asia with my first destination being Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam. There are a few things that stick out to me.

It’s huge. Nearly eight million people in HCMC.

I have not seen any animosity to present day Americans or Westerners. Surely the “American War” as the locals call it, is a great travesty that scarred the nation, but there doesn’t seem to be the hate that many Americans fear when you say you’re going to Vietnam. I am staying with an American friend here and she hasn’t had any issues with this either. The only common crime is petty theft, but if you’re smart and protective, it’s a non issue.

The food is incredible. There is typical Western here, but Vietnamese food is very good. It’s mostly noodles, rice, meats, and French breads, but the spices set it apart from Western counterparts. The most common dish is Pho (seen below, pronounced F-uh). This meal with the lime tea was $4USD. A beer is between $1-$2USD typically.


This city is much more first world than most people would think. I really do not feel as though I’m in a “third world” country. There are many young backpackers and old travelers everywhere in the center.

The traffic is mesmerizing to watch. So far watching the bikes and cars buzz around in chaos has been one of my favorite things about Vietnam. Street signs are nearly non existent but everyone drives slowly and with awareness, barely passing 40/50 km/hr (25/30 mph). It’s not uncommon for two bikes/cars etc to look like someone is about to be T-boned, except they stop or change course. And when there is a light, it not uncommon for a group of 50 bikers to pack in on the right lane and zoom off on a green light. Crossing a busy street can be an interesting chore.


My friend has a scooter and it’s incredibly fun to ride. No, I haven’t driven it, mom haha.

Like many Asian languages, it is tone based. Two words may sound identical to the Western ear, but a slight inflection on a sound can change the word completely. The characters are from the Roman alphabet, so there is not a character barrier, just spoken barriers.

The American/Vietnam/SE Asian War is severely underrepresented in American schools. I knew little to nothing before my big trip and visiting the (obviously biased, but still factual) museums and historical monuments is gut wrenching and eye opening. Today, Vietnam is still communist but has an element of strong capitalism.

I love chaotic and foreign countries. I feel in my element in these places. Australia was great for so many reasons, but the ease of life and controlled nature of things made life easy and almost adventure-less (obviously there is still adventure and difficulties, but in different ways). I truly believe I will never fully retire my backpack. Surely, I may settle more, but it’s too damn fun.

I can easily see myself coming back to Vietnam for a much longer adventure.

I’m heading off to Cambodia in a few days. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things and I’m eager to spend a month there.

Best/Worst of Travel

They’re one in the same.

The Best:
The good, the screwballs, the adventure nuts, the party animals, the intellectual inspirations, and just plain interesting people you meet. Yes, as odd as it may sound to people that haven’t traveled, the people stick in your mind far more than the beauty of the earth. Don’t get me wrong, the earth is magnificent, but I find the highest points of my trip to be centered around the people surrounding me. The beginning backpacker goes for the new sights and the break in culture, but gets sucked in to the people.

The Worst:
Saying goodbye and acknowledging your close friend is now indefinitely, but not necessarily permanently, out of your life is shit. Thankfully, Facebook is a quasi suitable link to them. It’s nowhere near the quality of being face to face, but conversations can still take place and future plans are no longer improbable with Facebook.

I’ve left enough places, said goodbye to enough friends, and let the concept of leaving them by hopping on a bus/plane twist in my mind so much that I’ve realized you can only be grateful for the privilege of knowing them. If you dwell too much on what could have been if this or that was different is maddening.

Every sight, every sound, every conversation, every person you ever meet leaves an imprint in your mind. Some imprints are deeper than others. Some shape your thoughts and behaviors. Some will make you laugh years later, with no instigation other than mental wandering.

The fact that I know so many incredible people across the globe is both wondrous and obnoxious. I crave more time with those back home and those everywhere else. They’re all unique, and I don’t have enough time with any of them. My thirst for more time with them will never be quenched. Even when I am in the same city, time restraints of jobs, lifestyles and commitments always truncates the time I want around them. I’ve met far too many people that tap deep into my mind in the best ways, but time is always too short for my liking.

When I get to Asia, I’m sure they’ll be a few more blokes and ladies that will stick in my mind that will make me not want to leave, but time is always the biggest bitch.

The reason for this post is that it has just smacked me the face yet again now that I’m leaving all of my Australian and foreign transplant friends in Sydney, possibly for good. Of course, consistently jumping on an airplane never helps this poignant discussion I’ve been having in my head for over two years now.

The most perplexing concept I’ve considered over and over again on this trip is time and I’ve finally grabbed a handle on it:
Laugh and learn from the past
Live solely in the present
Make sure your short and long term future isn’t in jeopardy

So long as I live in the present, I can’t madden myself too much. Next stop is Asia.

Return to Backpacking

After settling in Sydney for roughly 8 months of the past year, it’s time for the next adventure. A combination of weddings at home and the World Cup are pulling me closer to home this summer/fall. Rather than stay in Australia working until the first wedding, I’ve decided to return to backpacking briefly as it likely be my last extended backpacking until 2015. This post is more or less just an itinerary update.

If you’re reading this, feel free to reach out to me if our plans intersect. Also, if any of you foreigners are coming to the US while I’m there, let me know and I may try to meet up with you. I am planning on shipping a bunch of my stuff home and doing the backpacking very lightly.

March 13/14 – Flying to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to meet an American friend I met in Chile
Continue to explore South East Asia in Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia.
April 28 – Fly to Kathmandu Nepal for a 19 day trek in the Himalayas. I will be staying in tea huts in remote villages for the trek. For those of you interested, here is the trek I’m doing:

Langtang circuit trek 19 days
Day 01 Drive to Syabru Bensi (1450m/4,757ft)
Day 02 Syabru Bensi trek to Lama Hotel (2480m/8136ft)
Day 03 Lama Hotel trek to Langtang (3540m/11614ft)
Day 04 Langtang trek to Kyanjin Gompa (3900m/12795ft)
Day 05 Acclimatization and explore day. During this day you can hike up to Kyanjin Ri or Tseku Ri for superb Himalayan scenery of Langtang Lirung 7245m/23770ft, Ganesh Himal 7406m/24298ft, Naya khanga 5846m/19180ft, Dorje Lakpa 6988m/22927ft, Gaurishanker 7145m/23442ft, Gangchenpo 6387m/20955ft, Yala peak 5500m/18045 or hike to Langtang Lirung base camp.
Day 06: Extra day at Kyanjin Gompa you can trek up to kyanjin Ri in the morning and afternoon trek to Langshisa Kharka and back to Kyanjin Ri. ( when you walk to Langshisa kharka you will get lot closer to Glacier and closer to mountain)
Day 07:Kyanjin Gompa trek to Lama Hotel (2480m/8136ft)
Day 08:Lama Hotel trek to Thulo Syabru (2200m/7218ft)
Day 09: Syabru village to Singh Gompa (3584m/11759ft)
Day 10: Sing Gompa to Gosainkund Lake (4381m/14373ft) explore the Gosainkunda lake.
Day 11: Climb up to Surya peak(5145m/16880ft) and back to Gosiankunda.
Day 12: Early morning climb up to view point above Gosiankunda then cross the Gosiankunda pass to Phedi (3780m/12402ft)
Day 13:Phedi to Tharepati(3690m/12106ft)
Day 14: Tharepati to Kutumsang(2470m/8104ft)
Day 15 Kutumsang to Chisopani(2165m/7103ft)
Day 16 Trek Jhule(1600m/5249ft)
Day 17: Trek to Nagarkot (1900m/6234ft) best place to see Himalaya sunset and sunrise.
Day 18: Trek to Chagunarayan and drive to Bhaktapur.
Day 19: Bhaktapur sightseeing tour and drive back to Kathmandu.

That will easily be the highest I’ve ever been. It will also be the longest trek I’ve done. I am going to acclimate as much as I can in Kathmandu and hopefully I am in good enough shape heading into the trek. I am not overly concerned, I will have a guide and they cater to Westerns coming in looking for these treks. I am looking forward to being near the roof of the world and exploring SE Asia which I have heard much about in the past two years.

May 22nd – a stop in England after Nepal for almost a fortnight to see the history, museums and many friends I met over the course my travels.

I arrive home on June 3rd for some down time before a wedding and then I am considering going to Colombia or maybe even Brazil for the World Cup. Brazil is hosting the tournament and has the #9 ranked team in the world. I would likely hop around to see a combination of US games, friends, and of course the beauty of the coast. Brazil is going to be very expensive and jam packed though, so for that reason, I am considering lodging myself in Cartagena, Colombia to watch the US attempt to fight their way out of a tough group. Colombia also has incredibly friendly locals and will be much cheaper than Brazil at this time. They also have the #5 team in the world according to FIFA Rankings, so hopefully they have a deep run to keep the spirit of the country soaring. After the Cup finishes, I may go up to a national park with majestic beaches, but it’s only in the planning phase now.

Following the World Cup, I head back home for more weddings and will likely rent a flat and get a job somewhere, but that will be addressed when the time comes.

So, I’d like to reiterate, if your travel plans take you anywhere near me, send me a note and we’ll meet up.

Hopefully I have the time and availability in Asia to do updates of my travels. I feel like I will see them with virgin/excited eyes since I have lived a nearly conventional life in a very similar-to-the-US society for all of the past year. It sounds snobbish, but when you’re on the road all of the time, the luster diminishes. For me, Asia will be eye opening again. New culture, new experiences, and a freshness to eagerly put the backpack on again.