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Saturday 19/08/2017

Meet teflhub's first ambassador

We would like to introduce you to Lucy, teflhub’s first ambassador, who will be hitting the road in October and travelling around the world armed with camera and pen to help you choose your next TEFL destination.  Find out why she applied for the job and where the next year will take her.  Read on…

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to travel. There is something about being immersed in a different language and landscape, and surrounded by food, music and sounds that were previously undiscovered to me… a different culture of people. There is something about being on a bus, driving through mountains that seem as though they couldn’t possibly be real, that surely I am daydreaming, I must be. There is something about being thousands of miles away from anything familiar. There is something liberating about fitting everything you really need in life into a backpack. It strips you of everything unnecessary that us humans are constantly plying ourselves with – both physically and mentally. It allows us to finally take a breath and look up from the gadgets, fashions, notifications and trivial things we spend our lives working to pay for. There is something about travelling that makes me come to the same realisation every time I do it: that as long as I can do this for the rest of my life I will never need anything else.

After deciding that I wanted to go into teaching English as a foreign language I have travelled more and more. I was always aware that becoming an ESL teacher meant I was open to more opportunities overseas, but I never realised just how lucky I was - the places I could potentially teach and the places I could go to if I wanted to are endless. The world really is my oyster. The travel ambassador role was not something that subtly crept into my life. Once I had read the description of the role my mind had been set alight. The passionate fire in my heart started to burn again. I felt that it was going to change my life, whether I got the job or not. Simply by knowing that there are jobs out there, that allow you to indulge your passion for teaching, whilst simultaneously travelling to the most beautiful places in the world, and all the while WRITING about it, was something that excited me more than anything ever has. Without sounding cliché, I felt it had been written for me. And I just know how much I am going to learn. The application process alone has taught me so much. I have never wanted anything more in my life, (and I can say that knowing full well it is true), and the hard work I put in to my application and video once I was shortlisted couldn’t be referred to as ‘work’ as it was so enjoyable. The hardest part has been, and still is, believing and knowing I can do it. Like every other human I have an innate self-doubt that can be at times unshakeable, and although it does not outwardly affect my everyday life, sometimes (like when I get offered the job of my dreams!) I panic.

After a week of basking in the joy of being successful and also attempting to counter any self-doubt, I am completely thrilled and rearing to get going. I will leave on Monday 2nd October and will be travelling for 9 months. Altogether I will be travelling to 3 continents and spending 3 months in each place – South America, Europe and Asia. At the beginning of this year I travelled solo around Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. As a place that has warmed my heart and left me hungry for so much more, I am thrilled to be starting my trip in South America. After Christmas I will then go on to Europe, and after Easter, to Asia. Understandably I have so many ideas and places I would love to visit, but for the moment I have decided to go to Chile, Peru and Mexico on the first stint of my trip. In Europe, Spain and Italy are the biggest ‘hotspots’ for ESL teachers, and as well as also being beautiful countries and a perfect transition for an expat ESL teacher, Spain is also a place I have once called home, so I am excited to inform teachers about this dynamic and colourful country. As the last leg of my trip, Asia, is the biggest continent in the world there is an abundance of choice as to where I choose to go. Vietnam and Bali are strong contenders on my list, however who knows what I might feel in 6 months’ time? Life is an open book, and after a few months experience and learning even more about what makes a place ideal for an ESL teacher I will be able to make a firmer decision.

As teflhub’s travel ambassador my role is to inform TEFL teachers what it is like to work, live, socialise, travel, shop, spend - you name it, I’ll cover it! - in the chosen countries. As someone who has travelled myself and spends a lot of time with other teachers and travellers, I consider myself someone who has a good idea of what teachers would like to know before they set off to another country. Our ever developing generation is beginning to make the bridge between the ‘traveller’ and the ‘tourist’ increasingly small. With young people travelling more and more, inevitably it is becoming increasingly difficult to find ‘less touristy’ places to visit. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid, and there will be no stopping you getting up at 4am to get in the queue to begin the trek to Machu Picchu with the hundreds of other camera clinging foreigners. However, what I hope to do is look further than the typical attractions and find something that we can appreciate as humans who want to connect in a more personal way. Even if it is just a restaurant that sells the best ceviche in Lima, with wine in plastic cups and has the children making you birds out of your napkins. Some of the best experiences I’ve had travelling have been about the food and the fantastic company of the people working in whatever establishment I found myself in. And you never know, sometimes that’s where you get some of the advice that changes you, and the experience that you will never read from a guidebook. The videos will also include some of my favourite classroom activity ideas that I’ve witnessed in the schools where I’ll be interviewing students and teachers. As of September I will be running the teflhub social media, where I hope to gain a lot of interest in order to encourage as many teachers, or potential teachers as I can. If anybody can sell being a teacher overseas hopefully it’s me!

As I finish writing this article I am listening to my favourite travelling song. I played it over and over on 24 hour long buses, leaving a city, arriving at a new one, on the beach, on my way to teach, walking through various cities eyeing up dozens of different menus toying with whichever one took my fancy, flying, when I was tired, when I was lonely, when I was ill, when it was Christmas day and I missed my family, when I was ecstatically happy and when I was plainly content. To listen to it now without the array of emotions, pace, movement and energy of what travelling brings gives me such a restlessness that’s hard to shake. I’m ready to lose my breath climbing some of the highest mountains in the world and I’m ready to walk the streets of a new place alone. I’m ready to sit for hours and watch a city go about its daily routine. I am ready to become a better writer, teacher, traveller and person from the experiences ahead of me. I’m bursting with gratitude for that fact that I’m lucky enough to experience this wonderful opportunity. So, I want to take this passion and gratitude and write about it. But for now, a world awaits… 

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