How Teaching in Taiwan Prepared Me for Long-Term Travel

One year ago, I quit ESL teaching in Taiwan. Now I’m on an indefinite travel adventure in Central America.

When I left Taiwan, I knew that I wanted to travel more but I still didn’t know how I was going to achieve that. Instead of sitting down and crafting out a long-term plan in time for our return to unemployment, Luke and I booked a flight to Vietnam and blew some of our hard earned savings. After all, we’d saved them for travelling.

By this time, I’d started keeping track of our expenses. Vietnam is a cheap place to travel, but when I looked at our Vietnam travel budget, I realised that the £6000 (that’s $9600) we’d each saved from teaching in Taiwan wasn’t going to go that far. We had to rethink the way we travelled.

Teaching in Taiwan to Hue, Vietnam - Charlie on Travel

Achieving a Sustainable Travel Lifestyle

After a year living in Taiwan, we had decidedly become ‘slow travellers.’ We were only able to travel in little pockets of time – weekends, Chinese New Year, unpaid holiday time – which meant it took us a whole year to travel a country that others might breeze through in a few weeks. We once hosted a Couchsurfer who scootered around the whole island in 6 days (that’s a bit crazy!)

When we went to Vietnam, we travelled the whole country in 3 weeks. It was way too short a time and meant we had to skip a few places, take more sleeper buses than I would ever like to and, inevitably, we were rushed to pack all the things we wanted to do into our day. Not only is this kind of travel expensive, but it’s not the kind of travel that Luke and I enjoy.

While we were in Taiwan, I started reading A Cruising Couple. I found their travel blog originally because they were also teaching English in Taiwan. After they left, which was about 6 months after Luke and I had arrived, I continued following their adventures – house sitting in Costa Rica. Ahhh, you say. Though at the time long-term travel and house sitting still hadn’t occurred to me as a future plan for Luke and I.

Thanks to our Taiwan savings and our generous families who had missed us enough while we were teaching in Taiwan to let us live at home again without a job, we were able to change our lives. I set about researching ways to achieve long-term travel, including house sitting.

One day I told Luke that he and I were going to become house sitters. “Sure,” he said, “What do I have to do?” We set about making a profile on a house sitting website, set up our own little house sitting website, and posted ads on Craigslist pages. We still had some savings, so we agreed that we would take the first good house sitting opportunity we were offered, anywhere in the world, and try to make it work. That’s how we ended up in Costa Rica (thanks, Jess!)

Charlie on Travel - house sit in Puriscal oh

How I Changed My Job to Travel the World

Ever read a blog post titled How I Quit My Job to Travel the World? Well, for me and Luke, even with our little stash of savings, quitting our jobs and just travelling the world was unrealistic. Sure, we could have spent it all and travelled how we liked in Asia for 6 months, or we could have super budgeted and lasted the year with some house sitting gigs. But then what? Then we’d have been back to square one and looking to return to ESL teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Taiwan and will always love Taiwan. I met some incredible people who changed my life and worked with children who amazed me every day, but I didn’t want to return to ESL teaching.

Why? That’s another story, but in short, teaching was stressful, life as an expat was challenging and being in one place restricted our travel time a lot.

Not only did we need to rethink the way we travelled, we needed to rethink the way we worked. That’s when I started building my travel blog – but you’ll know of course, that travel blogging isn’t going to make you enough (if any) money to travel the world. Nonetheless, it was my first step to becoming a long-term traveller and a writer.

Yes, I became a freelance writer. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but that’s what everyone tells you not to do, right? I signed up to oDesk and began working for less than minimum wage. I got the references I needed and was lucky to land an awesome job which I still have now (thanks, Tim!) I was now able to work from anywhere in the world.

Teaching English in Taiwan - Charlie on Travel - Candy

A Year on from Teaching in Taiwan

One year after leaving my teaching job in Taiwan, I’m travelling, I’m blogging and I’m writing. Now more than ever, I realise how none of this would have been possible without that year I spent in Taiwan. Not only would Luke and I not have had the funds to takes risks and start building our long-term travel dreams, but we might never have discovered our love of slow travel or house sitting.

Cover Photo / Danny Tillotson, our friend and excellent street photographer

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

17 thoughts on “How Teaching in Taiwan Prepared Me for Long-Term Travel

  1. Very inspiring! I want to build a writing career on the road too, hoping it will allow me to keep traveling longer, and I’ve always wanted to work freelance. It’s difficult trying to work out how to go from staff writer to freelancer – and it’s a lot of hard work – so it’s great to read about others who have achieved a freelance writing career, gives me hope! Odesk is my plan for when I quit my job, would you recommend it then?
    Charlie recently posted…I bought flights for my RTW trip!!!!My Profile

    1. Hey Charlie, how’s it going? Good luck with building your writing career. In my opinion, it’s possible thanks to a combination of determination, taking time out to focus on it and a bit of chance. As for oDesk, I would recommend it, however, you really have to shovel through the shit to find the diamonds. There are a lot of terribly paid and sketchy jobs on oDesk, but there are also genuine people willing to pay a fair wage for good work too, it just takes searching time to find them. I had one terrible job and one decent but low paid job before landing my current awesome job.

      1. Thanks for the advice, Charlie :) I will definitely give oDesk a go then. Your point on taking time out to focus on freelance is very true, not having the time to between full time work is one of the main reasons I’ve not gone freelance years ago!

  2. You are truely inspirational and are achieving what a lot of people, both young and old, only dream about. Our ancestors travelled the world in search of new experiences and you are the modern day explorers but with both an eco and social conscience. You make it sound easy, but I know that it takes grit, determination and at times travelling outside of your comfort zone. KEC

    1. Thank you Kim, I really appreciate you’re love and support! Yes, you’re certainly right about the grit and determination too, it’s not always blue skies and sunny days… That said, challenges that are outside of your comfort zone help you to keep active, healthy and to always be learning.

  3. You sound very hard working, determined and well informed. With these qualities, together with your praise and acknowledgement of those around you, long may you continue your wonderful alternative life style of learning and experiencing the world around you and in which you live. You are a credit to society, good example of young people today and a role model to those wanting to follow in your journey. To understand the joys and pleasures of giving and receiving like you do, is to be truly admired. Thank you once again for sharing.

  4. This is awesome and I love the ‘change your job’ perspective. I honestly think the whole ‘quit your job’ philosophy is totally untenable for those of us who aren’t in our late 30s and haven’t been working and saving for years. Best of luck on your indefinite travel schemes :)
    Polly recently posted…Finding MotivationMy Profile

    1. Hey Polly, thanks for reading as always! :) Yes, I really agree, and I also think that when people say ‘anyone can do it’ for the younger of us and for those in less financially able countries, that’s not completely true. To be able to travel you need to find a way that suits you as an individual. Thank you, I hope that it continues to work out!
      Charlie on Travel recently posted…How Teaching in Taiwan Prepared Me for Long-Term TravelMy Profile

  5. Wow, thanks for sharing. I myself taught in Taiwan and feel the exact the same way. Taiwan has taught me so much. I also spent a month in Costa Rica a year later and still have a thirst for long term travelling. I’m working towards it now.

    1. Hi Julie, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. What a coincidence that you both taught in Taiwan and travelled to Costa Rica afterwards! Good luck with your long-term travel dreams! :)

  6. Very inspiring story! I’m moving to Brazil next year for an ESL gig, and am looking forward to slow travelling around South America after the teaching year. You’re so lucky to be location-independent–my ultimate goal. :)
    I admire the way you travel–spending enough time in a place to deeply understand its history and culture.
    Paper Boat Sailor recently posted…A Teacher Learns in JaffnaMy Profile

    1. That sounds awesome! Is it a year long gig? Good luck with location-indieness, it takes time but if you’re determined you’ll get there :)
      And thank you, that means a lot. I really love travelling slowly and wake up thinking how lucky I am every day.

  7. I relate to this so much! My husband and I definitely made the mistake of starting to travel before we were really ready to make it a longterm sustainable option, but we had fun anyway, and now we’re making it work in a different way (partly by basing ourselves in Berlin and travelling from here). I used to do a lot of ESL teaching, and I still do it occasionally, but it’s not my favourite thing either and I do want to start doing more writing. I really need to get off my butt and start getting organised about that!
    Sam recently posted…LoVeg, PragueMy Profile

    1. Glad you had fun anyway! I still think that it would be fun but probably after a little while the stress of not having a sustainable plan would creep in. I do think that often with these things you just have to go for it. I really like the idea of having a base somewhere. We’ve been really lucky in Costa Rica to have a regular house sit (we’re now doing our 5th house sit in the same place) to return to, so that’s been like a home base for us to catch up on work and save a little extra. I’m really in love with the work I do, even though it’s not the most glamorous job, and for me it really makes a difference having reliable work and not needing to search for short-term freelance projects all the time. Hope that you managed to get a good writing gig in the future!

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