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 to quit my job to teach abroad 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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