Saturday, 28 December 2013

Claire's top apps for travelling

So now that I've finally got a tablet (thanks Mum!) I'm deep in thought planning which apps to download for whilst we are away.

Here are my top 6 - because I couldn't keep it to 5.

1. Skype
Not only is Skype going to be critical for late night/early morning chats with the family, but so far all of our TEFL job interviews have taken place on Skype. We can only hope we can do the same when we are applying for jobs back in the UK!

2. Air BnB
Since starting a budget plan for our travels, Air BnB has stood out as a quick and easy way of finding cheap accommodation in even the most unlikely of places.

3. Skyscanner
Whilst we would like to do as much travelling as we can overland, there will be times when we will need to fly, and Skyscanner is the best way of finding the cheapest flights.

4. Instagram
It's finally my turn to take an amazing trip, and I plan on sharing some envy inducing 'grams!

5. First Aid by British Red Cross
My practical and cautious side tells me this app, which even works offline, will be a very important app to have in my repertoire.

6. Kindle
Even though I am a self-certified paper preacher, books are unfortunately bulky, so I'll only be bringing a few choice paper books with me, and will rely on the Kindle app for all other reading aside from what I can pick up whilst on the road!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

We have a heading!

After months of training, early morning interviews, and a little negotiating, we finally know where we are starting our adventure...

The Mekong Delta, Vietnam!

Yes, as of March 2014 - 10 weeks time - we will be living an working in the south of this beautiful country in either Can Tho or Vinh Long. 

We've been planning our travels for a long time now, so its exciting to finally have a start point and date, and even better one that's not even very far away. 

Let the countdown begin!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

I'm a teacher!

A little over 4 months after I started my TEFL course*, I've qualified. I am a teacher.

At least that's what I got to put on the sign up form on the job site I just signed up for. How exciting!

The course was a wonderful experience, and I can't wait to find a job and start planning the next steps of our adventure.

My CV is written, I've got all my certificates and a list of jobs to apply for. Lets get going!

To celebrate, here is the picture I snapped Mark when my certificate came through...

*My TEFL course was 140 Hours long and provided by i-to-i TEFL. Find out more about the TEFL course I did on the i-to-i website.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The realist adjusts the sails

A few weeks ago, I finished the last of my online TEFL course. I've got all my certificates for  the core content, and grammar, plus specialist modules in teaching young learners, business English, large classes and one to one lessons.

I haven't been this excited about a qualification since I claimed my degree exactly 3 years ago. This is truly the catalyst that will put all my dreams of living abroad into action.

With only the weekend classes of the course left, we will soon be able to start applying for jobs and planning our wish list of places to see whilst we are travelling.

What's more, the idea is catching on! All around us our family and friends are talking about 'making the most of the time we have together' and the coming events we are going miss.

Each time this brings a tear to me eye and a pang of guilt to my heart, but as soon as I'm back in my office on a Monday morning I remember why this change is so important.

Our families and friends will still be here when we get back and if anything we are seeing more of everyone and making a bigger effort because pretty soon, we will be gone.

So hears to changing the sails, and being the change I want to be. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting a little bigger every day!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Children are the future... teach them well.

Its been a few weeks since I last posted, but it hasn't been for nothing.

I've been working hard on my TEFL course and now have 2 certificates under my belt. I have officially passed the 20 hr Grammar and 10 hr Teaching Young Learners modules.

I suppose technically I have finished the 60hr TEFL module, as I only have the final quiz on finding work to complete, but I have real (ok, pdf) certificates of the other modules now. Proof that the hard work is paying off and we are getting somewhere.

Now, all I have left is Business English, Large Classes and One to One, and only 17 days to do it. Oh and the weekend course on 2nd and 3rd November (my birthday weekend!).

Guess I'll have to bring doughnuts. Speak to you in 17 days!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

God save the Queen

I'm very nervous as I sit sipping (OK, gulping) a Smokin Aces Lynchburg Lemonade, and hit refresh on my email.

I always knew this part of the course would be a challenge, but the extra hour I have to wait to get my result is killing me.

How does Mark do it? He had his result in less than 20 minutes and we pressed submit at the same time!

This part is so important; it's the last major test in the core material of our TEFL course. We need to prepare a full lesson plan and describe a cultural awareness activity.

The reality of the exercise is a quiet and studious night in on Friday to draft our lesson on hobbies, followed by refinements and YouTube scouring on Saturday.

We look at everything from Love Actually to Monty Python to find the perfect clip to represent English culture, but it's a search for James Bond that brings up a truly brilliant clip from the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

It had it all; traditions, Union Jack's, pets, sharp suits, formality and even a dash of English eccentricity in the form of the Queen parachuting into the games.

Rule Britannia!

I passed.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Do we have a heading?

The top 5 places I would happily start my travels in.

  1. Italy

    The food, the wine, the language. It's hard to think of a downside to starting my travels in Italy. I first fell in love with this country on a whirlwind trip to Rome in 2010 when I got engaged to my now husband. Ever since then I haven't been able to get Italy out of my head, and have since returned to Rome and been on a whistle-stop tour of Tuscany (Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa all in one day!) whilst staying at a vineyard in the Chianti region. Heck, we've already decided than no matter what we will spend every last penny we have in Italy before we board our final flight home.

  2. Vietnam

    I feel that Vietnam has been somewhat overlooked as a travel destination for a long time, in no small part I'm sure due to the war. That aside this is a beautiful country that is now coming about as the place to be, especially in the TEFL world. I'm intrigued by the french influence in Hanoi and mystified by Ha Long bay and think Vietnam would be a great place to start an exploration of South East Asia.

  3. Indonesia

    Beaches, spirituality and number one on my list of places to visit, Bali. Part of my interest in travelling the world is to satisfy the anthropologist in me and learn more about the spirituality of each place and where better than Indonesia. Whats more, Indonesia to such a vast place. Who wouldn't be happy spending a month or two island hopping Indonesia?

  4. Thailand

    The land of smiles, not to mention a cuisine to die for. I'm pretty sure everyone in my generation was first introduced to the idea of long term travelling by the book or film of the book, The Beach. Leonardo DiCaprio will be there, as well as a secluded beach that you can build a life on. It summarized why I want to go travelling; for something different, something exciting. The adventure of island life has lured me ever since.

  5. Brazil

    Before planning a more long term life upheaval, my husband and I had thought we would use our annual leave each year to take a month long trip somewhere amazing. Brazil was the first place we planned to visit, along with Argentina and Peru. We've since discovered Brazil is a vibrant and multi-cultural country, made of a mixture of nationalities over the years (thanks Michael Palin). It also has the Amazon, the absolute summit of bucket list destinations.
Our plan is to live and teach in one or a few places for up to a year before doing more travelling independent of work.

Things are likely to change though, as money allows and jobs become available, but that all part of the fun. We really don't know at the moment where we will begin. Who knows, after a year we might be ready to come home, or decide never to come back (unlikely, mum), but right now there are no barriers, no deadlines. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirates life for me!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Y-O-U-R means 'your'!

We are one week into our TEFL course and have been working hard to re-learn the grammatical structures which govern the English language. These are rules we apply everyday without realising, but are very difficult to articulate, and differentiate. 

Someone commented that it must be simple to teach a language you already speak. Well, I can assure you that it is not as simple as it sounds. Can you remember the difference between the present simple and the present perfect tense?  Were we even taught that at school? I'm not so sure. I can only compare revising grammar to learning your own language again from scratch, just with a wider range of vocabulary!

This really hit me when it took me 3 attempts to pass an assignment on how to teach a class the use of 'going to' to show future plans. I passed eventually, but this showed me how difficult it is to learn the grammatical structures of a new language, let alone teach it. This will be a challenge, but I'm glad that my frustration with the task was based on not understanding the concept, and not over failing the task. If anything that proves the course and career change means more than a way out, I want to do it well!

I can't wait to get on with the rest of the course, and get some much needed revision done! 

Where's my highlighter! 

Monday, 5 August 2013

The students and me

Language students have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child, each summer we would go pick up one or two students from "Stewart". He was an Englishman who, as far as I could tell, had moved to Spain and now brought Spanish teenagers back for 2 weeks each summer to learn English.

(Stewart used to joke about whisking me and my mother off to live in Spain whilst my parents were divorcing. Looking back, I'm sure he flirted with all the mothers on our lane, but the dream never really left me!)

So one summer evening, I'd wait with my mum at Baiter (back when it was just fields) to see who would be coming to stay with us. The itinerary would be put on the side of the boiler and they would become part of the family.

Each student fascinated me! They came from a different country, looked a bit different, spoke a lot differently and were always way cooler than me! Up to the age of 14 or 15 we had students come to stay with us; Pascale from Basel in Switzerland even stayed more than a year! She wasn't just any regular student, she became family.

One year I had an au pair. Her name was Marta. She was from Barcelona. She had a peace sign belt buckle!!

So this has to be where is all began right? This longing to travel, to be the cool outsider who is exotic and mysterious... well, as exotic as a pasty white British girl can be!

I want to live in a new place, not just pass through, but work, live, be there.

Today I am putting the wheels into motion to stop talking about it and do it.

Today, I start my TEFL training!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Somewhere, beyond the sea...

I feel a little bit at war with myself. I mean, who decides in their first year of marriage to sell everything they own, leave their job and head off to anywhere that will have me to make a new life as an English teacher.

Shouldn't I be moving up the career ladder, buying a house and having a baby (though I’m not sure its possible to do all at once)? All around me, friends are building up their careers, their homes and their families and I am doing the exact opposite.

The reality is, this is the first time in my life that I've even been able to contemplate an idea that’s been growing in me for a long time. First their was uni, then making a home, and an engagement. 3 patient years later, I've for once got no deadlines I’m restricted by, and the moment feels right to try something new.

That said, I find I have to keep reminding myself that it’s the right thing to do. House prices ARE ridiculous and children CAN wait!

What’s most difficult for me, is the knowledge that the move is temporary. My husband and I know that the UK is where we want to be eventually, although ending up happily in Italy or Spain would also be agreeable! At the end of the teaching jobs and the travelling, we will be homeless, without any belongings apart from the ones on our backs and a few boxes at my mums. We will need to start all over again!

I guess you never can know if the decisions we make are right or wrong, we can’t know what the course of our lives would have been and watched it in tandem like in Sliding Doors. What I can be sure of though is that like in Sliding Doors, I am confident the world will get me where I need to be for the right things to happen.

We're going to travel the world, live somewhere different, and do something different. We'll be updating you with the amazing journey and the reasons we are doing it along the way.

So off we go, into the unknown. Weigh the anchor and hold on tight!