Why I Quit My Job to Teach Abroad and Travel

One year ago today I quit my job in telesales with no real plan for the future. I spent the majority of the time in my cubicle wanting to cry, yelling at people on the phone, or browsing BootsnAll forums and looking at pictures of places I wanted to visit.  I was wildly unhappy.  After suffering through nine months I decided, with the support of my fabulous parents, to leave the corporate world.  A year later I’m halfway done with my teaching contract in Seoul and 161 days away from beginning my backpacking trip around Southeast Asia.

What are the biggest reasons I decided to take the plunge and live in a country I’d never been to (nor knew a word of the language) and for a job I was wildly unqualified for?

1.  I’m not going to do something just because society tells me I should.

I sent my resume in for my “real world job” while I was living in Rome as an au pair.  Things were falling apart with my job there and I was deciding between finding another family and taking a job back home.  This wasn’t a position I was interested in, but with a history major and little to no real world experience, I was in no place to be picky.  Plus, I’d been told, sales was totally great experience for anything else you’d possible want to do in the future (right…).  I ended up deciding to “do the responsible thing” and take the position.  I left my comfortable life of cappuccini and pastries at 10 am and living on 50 euro a week for corporate America because I thought this is what I had to do at 23.  Life after college is supposed to be cubicles and happy hours, isn’t it?

Maybe for some people it is, but not for me.  I soon realized that this wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted.  I didn’t want to do sales.  I didn’t want to sit in front of Excel spreadsheets and corporate software for 9 hours a day.  And after nine months I realized that just because this is what my friends are doing, this doesn’t have to be what I do.

2.  I wanted to live outside the USA again.

The second the wheels of my plane touched the runway at O’Hare as I returned from Rome, I wanted to be gone again.  I don’t dislike the United States.  I like free refills, air conditioning, and being able to eavesdrop on conversations with ease.  But I also like figuring things out.  Not understanding what is going on around me at all times.  Wandering around a new city.  There is something satisfying about going to the grocery store and having to look at the pictures of everything to figure out what it is.  Maybe I’m a masochist.  Or maybe it just forces me to slow down.

Whatever it was, after months of driving to suburban shopping malls and eating Chipotle for dinner multiple times a week, I knew I needed a change.  Living in Europe again wasn’t in the cards (damn you, EU and your visa requirements!) and after some research I decided on Korea, a country completely foreign, and thus completely exciting, to me.

4.  The travel bug bit. Hard.

I’d spent the better portion of 2009 jetting off to a new European capital every weekend or taking the train around Italy on one of my many days off.  This made the 2 weeks of vacation I had when I started my job in early 2010 even more shocking.  I wanted the freedom of being able to get away when I wanted to.  And to be able to take a vacation day without worrying about what it would do to my numbers at work or how many emails would be waiting in my inbox when I returned.  This, coupled with the aforementioned incessant browsing of far off destinations, gave me a serious case of wanderlust.

I didn’t have the money at the time to immediately set out on my dream 18 month around the world expedition so I decided to teach English in South Korea.  The money is good enough that I’m able to easily save for an extended trip after my contract, I’m not sitting in a cubicle, and for the 12 months I’m here I am still experiencing a culture enormously different from the one I’m familiar with.

I’m not a wildly successful travel blogger (yet?), but I am a lot happier than I was toiling away at a desk and in a few months will be able to achieve something I’d always wanted but never thought possible, the goal of traveling long term.

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3 Responses to Why I Quit My Job to Teach Abroad and Travel

  1. Yay. Good on you, and well explained.

    I went through something similar same aged 25 except that I had a fantastic job, kind of my goal job, one I’d expected to get to perhaps at 40. So then, what would I do? Give it all up and travel! Best thing I ever did.

    Can’t wait to follow your Asian adventures. Are you planning to come to Australia – you can get a working holiday visa for Australia can’t you?

    • Amanda Slavinsky says:

      I’m glad it’s not only people with seemingly no direction in life (me) who are leaving jobs to travel! And even bigger credit to you for realizing it was something you wanted to do.

      Right now I have no immediate plans to come to Australia as I’m thinking of teaching English in Spain after Asia. BUT…none of my plans after Asia are set in stone, so who knows. I’ve thought about the working holiday visa before so it’s not out of the realm of possibility!

  2. Kelsey says:

    Good choices! South Korea is a good place to start. I wish that I had saved more money during my time there.

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