By Mary Charie / 19/07/2017

Travelling As A TEFL Teacher – Story Of A Traveller

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Photo Credit: Shelly Ortiz

It seems like a lot of people who are planning to travel long-term are securing a TEFL certificate. TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, I personally see this certificate useful if you are heading for an adventure whilst aiming to educate other people from anywhere in the world. I have my own TEFL certificate which gave me not only job in Vietnam but also a way to build a better relationship with the locals.

On this series of a story of a traveller, I interviewed Shelly, an American who found herself loving the life in South America teaching English whilst travelling the continent.

What’s your name, your age and where are you from?

Shelly Ortiz, 27, New York City

Have long have you been travelling for?

6 months consistently, on and off for 7 years

How long will you be travelling?

Another 2 months; then again in 2018

Travelling As A TEFL Teacher - Story Of A Traveller (3)

Photo Credit: Shelly Ortiz

What made you decided to go travelling?

This time around, I decided that I wanted to live abroad, and not just do the usual one or two-week vacation. However, I knew I would need a way to make money to maintain, and therefore I enrolled in a TEFL Program through Maximo Nivel. It was a life-changing experience. Having worked in education before, I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did about teaching, overall. But I did, and I was able to utilise those skills in a real classroom setting abroad. So many opportunities are now available to me with that one certificate.

What do you love most about travelling?

I love flying. It’s literally one of my favorite things to be on an airplane. I think it’s the fact that it’s totally unnatural for us to be so high in the sky, and with it comes the excitement and anticipation of seeing a part of the world that I might otherwise never have the opportunity to see. Different people, social habits, music, dance, food! I’m such a creep in the sense that I am SO interested in observing other people and their culture.

In your opinion, what is the worst part of travelling?

I love flying, but I HATE packing! And lugging around with all my stuff. I don’t mind getting lost in any city, but when I’m walking around Granada, Nicaragua with a dead battery, a heavy backpack, and the sun beaming down on me while I aimlessly look for my hostel, it can get pretty frustrating. However, those are the moments you learn from.

Have you ever felt it’s time to stop travelling and put down some roots?

Absolutely. That’s what this last trip was about. I’m not opposed to staying around longer if I feel comfortable and happy where I’ve landed. Itineraries are guides, they aren’t written in stone. It isn’t important to me to see every corner of the world just to say I have. It’s more about the experience and the memories I create in any particular place. I can just as easily pick it up if I don’t feel comfortable or happy. That’s the beauty.

What makes your travelling style unique? Or your story unique?

If I need money, I’m going to stop travelling and make money. I’ve read that lots of travelers get around with very little, but having money makes me feel secure. I leave with a certain amount, but I have a terrible sense of budgeting. When it comes to accommodations, I can handle the most basic. But I love excursions, adventures, and food, and that’s where I tend to spend more. It’s sweet that I can now find a job almost anywhere teaching English.

Also, I brought my dog with me to Costa Rica when I did the TEFL program. I sneak her on the buses between towns, but I have to leave her with a friend when I travel to another country. She gets so excited when I open her travel bag. I guess she’s just as adventurous as I am.

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Photo Credit: Shelly Ortiz

If you have a message to someone who hasn’t travelled yet, what would it be?

If you haven’t traveled, and have no desire to travel, then cool. But if you are itching to see something new, experience a different part of the world, fear is the only thing holding you back. There’s so much information nowadays online, and so many people who successfully travel, there’s no reason not to. Just book the first place you’d love to go, only for a week. Once it’s booked, there’s no turning back. You’ll realize how easy it is after that.

What is your message to someone who would love to travel but full of doubts?

Whatever your doubts, someone has already proven why it needn’t be a concern. Don’t think, just do.

What is your main goal of travelling?

Connecting with the people and the natural environment. I’m looking for somewhere that calls me home. Being from a large city makes it hard to connect to the land we belong to. Therefore, I’ll always love my city, but spiritually, it’ll eat you up. I want to find the piece of the world that embraces my soul.

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Photo Credit: Shelly Ortiz

Do you have any tips for your co-travellers or people who are about to travel?

If you’re traveling extensively, pack for every climate. Know that the products you love from home may not be available where you visit. Have a backup debit card, and make copies of your documents. Don’t feel the need to stick to your travel plans hardcore, things change constantly. When you get frustrated just remember it’s better than working in an office under management who will easily replace you. To the world, you’re irreplaceable.

Your favourite travel story:

I went to Miami when I was 22 with the intention of meeting up with my cousins who had already booked their flights and accommodations. It was the first time I’d be traveling solo, pretty much. I flew alone and booked my own hotel room. My cousins’ hotel was located about 15 minutes from me, so I hung around the pool alone, but of course, while traveling, you always meet new people. Some guys whose hotel room was poolside started telling me about the days just before my arrival. I had just missed Carnival. It was obviously chaos with hilarious pictures to prove it. They left me with a half gallon of spiced rum, and the rest of their ginger ale. They gave me the number to a needed connection in the area. I thanked them as they left for the airport.

Not much later, I met an Argentinian woman who was traveling the area for a month. She spoke no English, so I was her main translator, even though I spoke intermediate Spanish at best. She was a lawyer in her 40’s, full MILF status. We decided to go out together that night. P.Diddy had sponsored Ciroc golf carts which acted as taxis through South Beach. We jumped on and ended up at Mangos. We ate dinner on the patio, and I spotted my cousins who had finished dinner but weren’t interested in partying that night. Dude, we were in Miami. I and the MILF got into the club after dinner, drank, danced, and watched the performances. Then a man approached us.

He introduced himself, and we spoke for a while before he invited us to a strip club on the other side of town. He pointed to a group of girls who were also going with him. I translated the offer to my new friend. Her face looked sceptical, but she was going to do whatever I decided. So, I decided yes. We packed into a limo while drinks flowed. We got to know the other girls who were also really sweet. 45 minutes later, we arrived at the first and only strip club I’d ever been to. That night was spontaneous, adventurous, and a hell of a good time.

This trip was the catapult for all of the solo trips I had taken thereafter. I made my own decisions, I didn’t negotiate or compromise any plans, and I had a great time with a bunch of complete strangers. This is what I love about traveling solo, and this is why I continue to do it. I’ve learned that there are more good people than there are bad and that most everyone wants to have a good time. I learned to trust my intuition and to say yes to new experiences. When you emit good intentions, you attract good intentions. Had I been too afraid to do any of those things, I wouldn’t have had this memory I’ll always cherish as a key to my travel freedom.

Do you want to travel as a TEFL teacher too? Drop me a line, I’ll help you step by step!


Travelling As A TEFL Teacher - Story Of A Traveller

About the author

Mary Charie

She's the person behind this blog. Torn between her itchy feet and writing, Mary found herself soaking up in the world of travel blogging. She travels on her own terms and tries to build her own world whilst pushing herself into every corner of life, breaking limit beyond her capabilities.

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