How did I end up teaching English in Korea? This is a question many people have asked me for the past 2 years. Up until last week I didn’t have an answer for them other than “I needed money and wanted to check out Asia”, that is, until I heard the phrase “Teacher Tourism”. From what I can gather, Teacher Tourism is exactly what it sounds like, becoming an ESL teacher in order to live and explore a new country. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing, although it wasn’t always like that.
I never thought I would actually ever go abroad. In the United States, aka my homeland, it’s very uncommon to meet anyone that has left the USA (excluding family vacations to Cancun or the Bahamas). I didn’t even know a single person who owned a passport! Of course I had met people who studied abroad and even one girl who had already been to 11 countries with her family, but I never felt like I would ever be able to do that.
I won’t lie and say that it was easy to get started. Any college student can tell you the struggles we face financially in the USA. And unlike some of my friends, who had parents support them, I didn’t. With the very little money I had saved, I asked a friend of mine from marching band if she wanted to Couchsurf Europe with me. She was a bit hesitant, but definitely a free spirit like me so we made it happen. If you don’t know anything about Couchsurfing, then it may sound very dangerous. You are staying in the houses of people you’ve never met based off of their web profile. My friend and I didn’t have the luxury of staying in Hostels as we were both broke, and it ended up being a roller coaster of amazing and extremely terrifying.
After my big backpacking trip I found myself looking for ways to live abroad. I went to every office possible at my University (University of South Florida Go Bulls) but was met with dead ends. When I was about to give up I found myself in a tattoo shop. Weird, right? I got a world map tattoo’d on my thigh and told myself that every continent I traveled to would have a flower. I used this as motivation to visit every continent and told myself that when I reached my goal I would settle down. That’s when I decided to quit my job, sell my motorcycle, my car, anything I could and left the country!
By now the big question I’m always asked is when I’ll return to settle down in the great USA. The answer “never” is never satisfying enough. I’m constantly met with:”Why would you want to leave this great country?” or “People are dying to get into this country and you are stupid for wanting to leave”, but this doesn’t faze me. Don’t get me wrong, I am very aware of my privilege as an American, and I know I was lucky to be born where I was with the education I had, but that does not mean that there aren’t many things wrong with my country.
I haven’t even visited in a year and a half because I feel like a completely foreign entity. There is nothing worst than going back home and being a stranger in your own country. The idea of integrating myself back into American society seems daunting after having been to so many places. Talking about the Kardashians and the features on a new iPhone seem trivial compared to the adventures I had had. I find myself starting every conversation with “When I was in Peru” or “When I lived in Korea” and this is something none of my friends can to relate to. The worst thing is trying to tell your friends that say “Man I wish I could do that!” that”You can here’s how” and they look at you as though you just punched them in the stomach. I’ve learned not to tell anyone the truth and opt for telling them what they want to hear. In most cases they already have this idea of their life and how it’s supposed to play out. They don’t want to hear that there is a different way of doing it.
It’s so easy to stay home surrounded by everything familiar and to fall into a schedule.
That brings me back to now. I love my job as a teacher and I love my kids. I’m not sure I’ll always be a “Teacher Tourist”, but for now it’s the path I’ve chosen. I’m thankful for my experiences, good and bad, and I can’t wait to make more memories and share it with you all. There will definitely be bumps in the road, but I wouldn’t change my life for anything.