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  • Writer's pictureJess is a Wanderer

Jess is a Wanderer Full-Time Travel

Jess is a Wanderer finished working on June 22nd 2017 and began preparing for the trip of a lifetime. An unknown route to New Zealand followed by an undetermined amount of time in the tiny island down under. Read on to find out why...


There are many questions which leave us to ask 'why'. Why is the grass green? Why is the sky blue? Why do we never appreciate what we have until it's gone? And so on and on and on... Unfortunately, I'm not able to answer these questions but there are some questions that I have been asked recently which I feel I should answer. So, here goes!

Holidays are great for teachers, why not keep working?

I began my teaching career in September 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. I took up a position in a British school with Year 3 (second grade) students. I graduated from uni (in Wales) only three months prior to packing up my life and moving to Egypt. I intended to stay for two years (as per my contract) before moving on to another British school somewhere else in the world. Somewhere else where the living was cheap, the pay was good and the sun was shining. However, that didn't quite happen. Six years on, I was still in Cairo and still at the same school. The only thing that had changed was I now taught older kids - Year 6 (fifth grade).

It wasn't Egypt that I wanted to leave. Yes, Egypt is amazing, I mean... there is so much to see and do there. You honestly can't imagine how every weekend could be filled if you wanted it to be without trying particularly hard at all. The history, the culture, the backstreets, the tourist spots, the beaches, the desert... it just goes on and on. And I did use my many days off, weekends and holidays to see so may things (and with Egypt being an Islamic country, that was a looooot of time off!)

So, with all those holidays, why have I left teaching? For me, I enjoy being in the classroom with the students. I enjoy going off on a tangent and allowing the kids to direct conversation and lead their own learning. It might sound like a teacher's cliché of an approach to education but allowing the students to take charge of what they want to know makes the whole process more enjoyable for everyone involved. I was fortunate to be in a position where I could choose what topics the kids learnt about so I chose things that I could 'bring alive' for the kids. We looked at explorers like Colombus and Scott. I showed photos of me in Antarctica and used my experiences as stimuli for their learning. I would go to a place, take photos and bring that back to the classroom. I was learning. The kids were learning. It was a fantastic thing! We learnt about street art and went off around the local area in search of graffiti and then used a wall in the playground to spray paint our own designs. I tried (as much as possible) to make the lessons I taught fun and memorable. Whether I succeeded or not is definitely up for debate. I'm sure there were some students who just thought I was positively mad and had absolutely no idea what was going on but nodded and smiled at the right times!!

However, as much as I tried to incorporate this approach into daily life and all lessons, there are of course, with teaching anywhere in the world, the outside pressures. The exam results, the parental expectations, the kids who are not able to achieve as they should without specialist assistance (that I wasn't able to give), the extra requirements from management, the paperwork, the plans... all of these things take away from teaching and over time, it's made the whole teaching experience less enjoyable for me. No matter the number of holidays (and in Cairo, I was working only 180 days a year) towards the end, I just felt like there must be something 'more' out there. I didn't want my holidays to end. I wanted to be continually travelling and not have to go back to the big pile of papers awaiting me. Yes, it's been a difficult decision and no, I didn't really want to leave the kids but for my own 'life satisfaction' it was the right time to move on. And of course, if I could open some sort of 'travelling school' where the children travel around the world learning about ancient civilisations and modern-day cultures with me, then hey, I'd be totally game!

Why two years?

Back when I was eighteen, I knew I wanted to travel the world so to begin my adventures, I applied for a two-year working holiday visa for Australia. This type of visa is available for 18-30 year olds and offers the opportunity to travel around, whilst working for a limited amount of time, and does not come with any 'catches' or requirements. Anyone from Australia, NZ, Singapore, UK, Canada, America, South Korea and Ireland can apply for a working holiday visa in the respective countries for up to two years.

It was quite late in 2016 when I had the (quite horrifying) realisation that I was turning 30 in 2017, I decided that I should use up another opportunity for a two-year visa somewhere. New Zealand was my first choice destination. I had to apply for the visa before I turned 30 and now that milestone has been reached, I'm still eligible to use the visa for the next two years. Therefore, I'm making the most of the opportunity and taking the full amount of time for my adventure.

How will you fund yourself?

Many expats who go abroad to find work (particularly in a place where living is cheap) are able to squirrel away thousands of pounds which is later used for investment or retirement purposes. Unfortunately, I did not use my time in Egypt for such purposes. Instead, all my pennies were used to fund countless adventures over the years. Every holiday, every long weekend and every spare moment was filled with travelling. Staycations, Artic adventures or journeys through Asia, I went everywhere. I couldn't help myself. I'd decided to spend a week chilling in my apartment and then find myself writing through mid-west America on a bus. I'd make public declarations that I was 'definitely staying put in the next mid-term break' and before I knew it, be driving through the Canadian Rockies...

However, the first six months of 2017, things started to feel a little more real so I was able to force myself to save some money which I hope will support me for the first six months. After that, I'll be in New Zealand picking up some casual work in order to fund myself. I'll also be living on the barest of shoestring threads, doing a lot of hiking, camping and outdoors-y free activities.

I'll also look for fruit picking or volunteering jobs which provide food and accommodation.

Why don't you buy a house instead?

This is definitely a cliché answer but life is short and the world is big. Also, I'm a really impatient person so once I decide I'm doing something, I'm doing it now! The thought of waiting six months to buy a house when I can hop on a plane and begin an adventure tomorrow has no comparison. Also, my catchphrase 'I'll never have enough money to do it, so I'll just do it anyway' doesn't really fit with buying a house as you actually need money!! Therefore, I think it's best I stick to travel because there's always a way to make things work.

What's next?

This is the exciting part!! On September 1st, I'll be heading off on a whirlwind three month adventure to New Zealand. The route will involve four weeks in Eastern Europe before flying over the Middle East to India. After that it'll be a whistle-stop tour of Eastern and Southern Asia before a quick layover in Sydney and then on to NZ. After that, I'm not sure what's going to happen. There will be some mountain climbing, some bungee-jumping, some fruit picking and a whole lot of fun!

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