I'm 26 and cannot shake this itch to travel
January 28, 2014 11:54 AM   Subscribe

For about 5 years I have had an itch to move somewhere completely new and try my hand at something completely new in a different culture. Should I?

I actually have quite a good setup right now. I am good at what I do and am moving up the career ladder at a company I have been at for 3 years. The problem is that I am finding myself increasingly bored and unsatisfied. For 5 years or so I have chocked this up to me being young and in my twenties and have thought that it will pass. Well, it hasn't, it has actually gotten more extreme.

I have an itch to drop everything and move overseas for a while. Or, to simply travel for a year. I have been checking into what it would take to teach English overseas and it seems like a lot of people have done that. I don't want to have another 5 more years go by and realize that I have moved up the career ladder, but am still quite unsatisfied. I'm young, nothing to lose, I feel like now is the time to do crazy things like this.

Has anybody done something like this? How easy is it to become an English teacher overseas? Any advice would help. Thanks.
posted by *lostatsea* to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you really want to do it, do it now. It's a lot easier to quit your job and find another one than it will be in a few years to quit your spouse and children. I never moved away for years or anything but even just going off by yourself for a few weeks or a few months teaches you a lot about life and yourself and you can't do it very easily once you have family obligations.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:58 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're about to get a gabillion people in here saying "yes you absolutely should do this".

I'm going to offer a tangential suggestion - to not restrict yourself to teaching English. Instead - does the company you work for have any kind of presence in another country? If so - would it be worth talking to your boss and seeing if there's a way you could be transferred there?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:58 AM on January 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

I did something like this and my answer here kind of goes into it. My conclusion is that now that it's all worked out well I'm very happy I did it, but for a period of time when it seemed like things weren't going to work out it I was regretful. This reaction suprised me because I've always taken the attitude that the wisdom of a decision should be measured based on the quality of the decision at the time it was made, not how it worked out in hindsight.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:59 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, you should do it. Aspects of it are going to suck and be uncomfortable and difficult, but you should do it. I do not think you will regret it. The itch is not going to go away.

My only suggestion would be to seek out other opportunities besides teaching english. Some folks I've known have had great experiences doing english teaching, others not so much. It can be really hit or miss. I mean, if you want to teach english, do that. Otherwise, yeah, you might want to see what other work options you might have.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:03 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

@EmpressCallipygos I think that is part of the problem. I am not sure if I want to do what I am doing for the rest of my life. My job is in marketing, and I feel like I am not doing much of value. Working for clients, creating something, then moving on to the next project. It feels like an endless cycle and part of my itch is to try something completely different somewhere else.

Although, that may open up another problem. If I end up finding out that I really do miss what I was doing, it will be hard to get back in the swing.
posted by *lostatsea* at 12:08 PM on January 28, 2014

Now now now DO IT NOW! With the possible exception of "committing murder", it is almost ALWAYS better to regret the things you did than the things you DIDN'T do. Do it now.

Right now, you're like a little tugboat: you're light and free and can go anywhere you please. As time goes by, you'll get more and more things that weigh you down and "anchor" you (a tougher career, a house, a relationship, kids, etc.) - those are all GOOD things that give life meaning, but they DO make it much, much more difficult to just up 'n steer your ship in an interesting new direction.

Yeah, you may miss what you were doing. But if you woke up in mid-life and realized, "Oh, CRAP, I forgot to do all those things I dreamed about!"... well, that'll feel a lot worse, dude.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:13 PM on January 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you feel like your skills are in demand and your network is good, and especially if you have some money saved up, then by all means get on the road. Look at Bootsnall.com, they are a resource for indie travelers, especially on round-the-world adventures of months.

Try a six month trip! See if it's for you! It's not so long that your network will forget you or your skills will get stale, and it will pack a LOT of adventure. And it's never going to be a better time than now.

Have fun! Gah I'm jealous.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:15 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you considered the Peace Corps?
posted by Etrigan at 12:20 PM on January 28, 2014

Etrigan beat me to it while I was typing. As someone who celebrated his 26th birthday while an overseas English teacher... Check out the Peace Corps.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:21 PM on January 28, 2014

I did this - I taught English in Japan (they require a college degree, but no TESOL). I worked for ECC, which I highly recommend. I'm super glad I did it and it changed my life.

Hmm... work is kinda boring. That's why they pay you! (And hey, I really like my job, but it's not as fun as my hobbies - which are so fun I pay to do them.)

I'm on my phone, but won't be later. Memail me if you have questions.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:25 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

@Etrigan @Emporer SnooKloze I have not considered the Peace Corps. Checking into this now.
posted by *lostatsea* at 12:26 PM on January 28, 2014

You might also want to look at project management, and work on marketing-oriented large projects in other countries. Look to the large consulting firms like Deloitte, PWC, IBM and others for opportunities.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:27 PM on January 28, 2014

I lived overseas for a significant period of time in my twenties. I think learning a language and living in a different culture are very enriching experiences, especially in the way they help you better understand your own culture, perspectives, assumptions, etc. However, career-wise it can sometimes be a significant trade-off because if you get off the track here it's hard to get back on when you return. So I think the advice of others that you not just teach English is something you should seriously think about. If you can find a job in marketing (or something related) that keeps you learning and growing in a career track, then you would get both personal and career benefits. Keep in mind how important it is to have a strong core of functional skills as you grow your career. So having overseas experience, knowing a culture, and speaking a language are good add-ons to your resume but you absolutely must have core functional expertise in order for those things to be of benefit to your career growth trajectory. There's nothing wrong with teaching English, but it won't be a career-optimizing thing to do if your focus is marketing, or business in general.
posted by Dansaman at 12:35 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Carpe Diem.

I am 42. Three times in my life, I packed up on short notice and moved to a far away place. Stayed in Spain for almost 2 years, stayed in Ireland for almost 3 years, and stayed in Alaska for almost a year.

Each time I did it, it worked out differently. I never found a reason to stay in those places forever, but I could have. But, one thing for sure, I do NOT regret any of those times. Six of the best years of my life. I know in my heart I would regret it to this day if I had not gone to Spain that first time.

Coming home is the easy part. Trust me, you can always come home. And the effect on any career at home, especially if you have a strong network, is nothing massive. People tend to respect the strength of character needed to go. There might be a few bumps getting settled back in, but you can always settle back in at home. (Actually, the scary thing getting home is, how much nothing has changed, while you have changed so much).

Go. Or live with regret the rest of your life.
posted by Flood at 12:38 PM on January 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm currently living abroad, finishing the last semester of my master's degree. It's been wonderful. And much, much cheaper than a degree in the US would have been. I also considered teaching English at various points but I had done it as a volunteer at home enough to know that I just wasn't that interested in it. So I did the Peace Corps a couple of years ago, then went back to the US to work and then got the itch to go travel again and applied for the program I am currently in. I would definitely recommend looking into schools abroad if you are at all interested in studying. It might be able to help you keep building your credentials and travel at the same time. Good luck, in any case!
posted by thesnowyslaps at 12:49 PM on January 28, 2014

Go travel for a month, 3 months or 6 months. Maybe you'll be able to come back to your job after that. Or you continue to travel for longer, or decide to stay in one place on the other side of the pond. Who know? Just give it a go. Now you know that this itch will not go away unless you do something about it.

If you want to teach English, please teach the kids to chalk things up, they shouldn't chock or choke. :-)
posted by travelwithcats at 1:10 PM on January 28, 2014

Depends: do you have expectations about what starting over will be like, or are you ready for anything? If the latter, sure, go. If the former, perhaps do something to check your (possibly unrealistic) expectations first.
posted by davejay at 1:14 PM on January 28, 2014

@travelwithcats :) touché
posted by *lostatsea* at 1:18 PM on January 28, 2014

Do it. I'm about the same age as you, and have been working abroad in Southeast Asia for years and intend to keep doing it. You will not regret it, and your career may take you places you never imagined. You are very lucky to have the option!

Seconding those who note that there are many more possibilities than English teaching. I worked/work as a journalist and photographer, for example. There's a need for a lot of skills, and I know many people who began as English teachers and eventually found themselves doing something quite different.

Be brave, get out there!

Feel free to private message me, BTW. Happy to help.
posted by cheberet at 1:39 PM on January 28, 2014

I worked in Japan for a year when I was 26. I didn't teach English, though.

My only suggestion is, if you can afford it, don't work when you travel. For the past ten years I've been planning another vacation to Japan to see all the cool stuff I missed because I had to work.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I moved to Australia (from Canada) at 24, and I'm so glad I did it then. I also worked in marketing; the nice thing about a new city is that you get the chance to reinvent yourself. If you have a bit of money to start with, you can take some time to build a network once you land, and find work through that. I became heavily involved in my local startup community and found work that way.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:36 PM on January 28, 2014

Take a month-long trip and see if you still want to go.

I just got back from an overseas trip of several weeks and it cured my itch to upend my life and move abroad (or at least sated it for now!).
posted by amaire at 3:15 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes. Do It. All the shit people tell you about losing your spot in the career ladder is bullshit. You have your WHOLE LIFE to work the ladder but you are young and generally care free NOW. You never know where this journey will take you. I myself have done it twice. Once when I was 24 and again when I was 30. I've been through 32 countries and after the last one, I found myself living in Spain with the woman of my dreams and i have two kids now. I haven't lost a beat on the career ladder either. There isn't a single person I know back home who doesn't talk about how they wished they had done something similar. Stop debating, don't plan to much, save some cash, buy a backpack and a ticket to somewhere and GO! DO IT NOW!
posted by postergeist at 3:26 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, you should. I did a very similar thing at age 26, lived abroad for 4 years, and it was a great experience. In some ways it was very hard, in other ways it was amazing and fun. Your life won't ever be the same. I have a career (not teaching ESL) that allowed me to do the same kind of work in other countries, which really helped.

If you end up going abroad to teach English, do your homework - there are plenty of operations out there that take advantage of people in your situation, and it can make the whole living-abroad experience super lame.
posted by hootenatty at 4:43 PM on January 28, 2014

Yes! Do it! If you want to talk about ESL in Korea, memail me. If my health wasn't so shitty, I'd be in Korea right now. Reasonable cost of living, free housing, cool country, awesome health care (if that's important to you).

I think public schools are requiring TESOL certification now, but private academies usually don't. I taught in the academies.

Only negative is the pay has been totally stagnant for the last 5 years or so. I took a pay cut when I moved to Daejeon and the school I left didn't renew my contract probably did so because a first year teacher would cost them about 400 bucks a month less than I did.
posted by kathrynm at 5:10 PM on January 28, 2014

You should definitely go for it. I left my home country at 27 to work on another continent. It wasn't easy, but it has been worth it. I agree with others who say that you shouldn't limit yourself to looking for English-teaching jobs. There are places where you can use the work experience that you already have to get a job; even if you don't want to work in marketing forever, you can use a marketing job to get started in a new country.

My main advice is to carefully research the place(s) where you find opportunities, to see if you're interested in them for themselves (not just because "they're foreign"). I've seen quite a few expats pack up and leave after a few months when confronted with the financial, emotional, and cultural difficulties of a new country. If you have real connection to the place—a good job, a partner, a love of the cities or countryside, or just a real love of the culture—it will give you the strength to stay when culture shock sets in.
posted by neushoorn at 12:37 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I joined Peace Corps at 29. One of the best decisions of my life. I ended up staying in the country I was posted to another three years (not with Peace Corps, though some people do extend their service). With a background in marketing, they may try to get you to sign on doing something under the Community Economic Development umbrella rather than English education. Then again, they may not - I suspect it has a lot to do with who your recruiter is, and what positions happen to be available when you get to the interview stage.

At 26 you're in the target age range for JET (though apparently they no longer have any age limit).
posted by solotoro at 8:31 AM on January 29, 2014

Yes, go! I'm you (except I'm 24) and I'm about to do this.
posted by signondiego at 10:05 AM on January 29, 2014

Take a month-long trip and see if you still want to go.

i've done the "somewhere completely new and try my hand at something completely new in a different culture" thing, and that is the best advice. replace "month-long" with however long they'll let you go. maybe you can work a little remotely, and that could convince them to let you go longer?

it's easy to get romantic about that kind of stuff, and taking a trip can help you decide if it's right for you. however, don't stay in the tourist/back-packer areas only, get a real taste of the countries you visit.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:56 PM on January 29, 2014

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