Welcome to a new series here at The Fly Away Life called Weekend Wanderers! Once or twice a month, I will feature an interview with a traveler who is doing something unique or exciting in their adventures across the globe. Have an exciting adventure you’d like to share? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I’m super excited to share today’s Weekend Wanderers interview with you! I first came across Erin’s Instagram account while searching for inspiration for my trip to Thailand. She has been documenting her daily life as an English teacher in Thailand for almost a year now. I was drawn in by her photos of Thailand but stuck around for her witty captions and honest portrayal of expat life.
Hope you enjoy her interview and definitely suggest checking out her Instagram account!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your life back home. What inspired you to move to Thailand and teach English?
My name is Erin, and I’m just your average 22 year old American who decided to drop everything and move abroad to teach. I’ve been living on my own in Thailand for about 10 months now. I grew up in a suburban area of Massachusetts and studied secondary English Education in college. I’ve known since I was in first grade that I wanted to be a teacher, but it wasn’t until senior year of college that I really thought about teaching abroad. When it came time to graduate college, I began to question everything in my life. Was I doing the things I was doing in my life for myself or for the expectations that had been laid out for me?
Asking myself that question changed everything. It was a huge point of realization that I wasn’t living my life to fulfill my own desires. I was simply following the path that others paved for me. With my new mindset of living life for myself, I decided I wanted to combine my passions for teaching and traveling/experiencing new cultures. A few Google searches and I was in contact with a program for teaching in Thailand. A few months later, I was on a plane, and now months later, here I am!
What’s your favorite part of living and teaching English abroad? Are there any challenges?
There are so many amazing things about living and teaching abroad. Firstly, I love living a life that constantly challenges me. It was really hard to drop everything at home and move here. Now that I’ve done it, I not only love it, but I feel like I can do anything.
One of the hardest things is living almost entirely independently. Sometimes it can get lonely, especially with the language barrier, and homesickness sets in every now and then. As long as you create a solid support system for yourself, it always ends up being okay. This experience has certainly made me a stronger, more confident person.
One of the best things about living abroad is meeting like-minded people. People who share the love of experiencing new cultures, have senses of adventure, and aren’t afraid to try something new. I’ve met so many amazing people while in Thailand who I know will be lifelong friends.
What’s your favorite memory from your time abroad so far?
I’ve had so many amazing memories in Thailand; it’s hard to narrow it down to one! A favorite memory of mine was sports day. Thais take their sports days very seriously. It’s basically a big field day. As the only foreign female teacher, they were excited to involve me in the activities. I was made to dress up in traditional Thai dress and lead the parade throughout the town. I was not really excited to walk miles in high heels and full makeup, but that’s what they wanted, so I obliged.
I had to wake up at 3:30 am to begin hair and makeup. It was a wild transformation. I felt like I was on one of those crazy makeover shows. The parade was hot, but it was actually super fun. When we finally made it back to the school, my feet were bleeding from the heels, but everyone was still so excited to see “teachaaa” all dressed up. Something about that day was so special. The other teachers (Thai and foreign) spent the afternoon singing karaoke and watching the sporting events. It was a very memorable day.
Do you have any advice for someone who might want to teach English in a Southeast Asian country?
To anyone who wants to teach English in SE Asia, I would say to do it, and do it with an open mind! Southeast Asia is so entirely different from any native-English speaking country. There will be challenges and adjustments to be made. But if you’re flexible and willing to adapt and learn a new culture, you’ll absolutely love it.
Before you choose to move abroad, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. I’ve found that many people come to SE Asia to teach because they want to travel and party. While those things are totally possible and I encourage both, at the end of the day, your job needs to be a priority. I’ve met a number of people who came here for the wrong reasons and ended up leaving early.
My last piece of advice would be to really push yourself to make the most of your time abroad. When you have free time, do something with it. Get out there and explore, travel, meet new people and try new things. Reminding yourself that your days in SE Asia are numbered will help you to make the most of your experience.
Lets talk about your Instagram for a minute. What made you decide to share your travels on Instagram like a daily diary? Do you ever find it hard to keep up with documenting your life every day?
One of my friends started a similar Instagram to document her 22nd year, so that’s where I got the idea.
One of the big reasons to share these pictures is that my family can keep up with me easily. With an 11-hour time difference, it isn’t easy to talk to all my friends and family all the time. I speak with them as often as I can, but this makes it so that everyone can see what I’m doing. I have a blog as well, but it’s easier to maintain and keep up with the IG.
Another reason is so that I can look back on this Instagram in the future and remember everything. I didn’t put lengthy captions at first, but then decided that they were worth the time to type, so I can really remember every single notable thing. I’ve had so many amazing memories, now I’ll be able to show this to my kids and grandkids. Plus I’ll never forget!
It definitely can be hard to keep up with. When I first started the Instagram, I was a bit disillusioned; thinking that every day would be a really cool shot of me on a beach, or climbing a mountain, etc. All the travel blogs I’ve followed looked so exciting, filled with stuff worth seeing. But my IG is full of less interesting things like food I eat, my apartment, etc. If every day were super exciting, it would be easier to keep up with, but the truth is, I’m just living a normal life here. Not every day is a super fun adventure, and I’ve learned that that’s okay.
Part of the reason I’ve enjoyed following you Instagram is that you’re very open and honest in your captions every day. You really lay it all out there. Do you ever feel weird knowing your insta-diary is available for everyone to see?
I pretty much share everything, and yes, sometimes it’s weird, especially because many of my followers are just acquaintances. They’re people I know, but people that I would never share this much about my life with.
My friends sometimes make fun of me for my honesty, but I don’t want to over-glamorize things, lie, or leave out any key details. I want this to be an honest reflection of my every day life.
One of the weirdest parts is discussing dating on it. I was seeing a guy for a bit and write about him here and there. He doesn’t know about the Instagram, and I’m not sure how he would react to the things I said about him. I never over shared our relationship, but he’s been a big part of my life here, so I’m trying to make sure that he’s included in my reflections. Our on and off relationship has driven my friends insane and they get mad at me whenever they see that I’m back with him. Oops! Overall, though, my family and friends appreciate the honesty, and it’s actually made me closer to many of my friends and family members!
What’s the next adventure for you? Are you planning on staying in Thailand once your school term is over?
I have no idea what’s next for me. When I first came to Thailand, my plan was to stay only six months, but here I am on month nine. I’ll be in Chiang Mai for quite a bit of time (my contract isn’t up until March 2017), and as of right now, my plan is to return home. A year and a half away from friends and family is a long time. I’ll probably go home and move to Boston, then work on my masters. However, I’m back to questioning if that’s what I want or what my family wants. Part of me wants to stay in Chiang Mai another year. I really love it here. No matter what I choose, I know that this year won’t be my last one working abroad!