For many, the idea of giving up a great job with a stable income, a home and a comfortable lifestyle to roam the world and live out of a backpack seems crazy. But for us, the “American Dream” just wasn’t cutting it. Sure we had good jobs and nice lives in Atlanta, but for what? Being travelers at heart, we would count down until our next adventure overseas…only to dread returning. Not because we hated our jobs (although, they weren’t our ultimate dream jobs) but because we wanted to keep it going. There are so many places to explore, and we just didn’t want to waste time coming back home to work for a few months before jetting off again. So one day while in Cambodia, we decided that we didn’t want it to end.
It’s Not Things That Matter…It’s Experiences
When we returned from Cambodia, we looked around our house at all the “things” we had acquired, and realized that wasn’t what made us happy in life. It was our time abroad, making memories together and exploring – that’s what we needed in our lives (and each other, of course). Together we started doing research, saving up money, and making a plan. We gave ourselves a little over a year to prepare…then we sold it all and set out on the road and into the unknown.
The Opportunity to Teach English in China
I still remember the day we left Atlanta vividly. We had an estate sale, and reduced our belongings from a 3 story townhouse down to a few Tupperware bins and a backpack. The bins were stored with family, and we drove out of town with our backpacks for a cross-country trip. After exploring the States and Hawaii for a little over a month, we ended up where most backpackers do…Thailand.
We had been to Thailand before, but this time it was different. Technically, we were homeless and unemployed! While we were running our blog, at the time it was fairly new and we weren’t earning any real income from it. Instead, we bounced around Thailand exploring, pondering…and loving every moment of our new-found freedom.
After a while of watching the bank account balance go down rather than up, we figured it was time to consider making some money on the road. In fact, this was always the plan. We had done a lot of research prior to our trip and knew that teaching English abroad was one of the best ways to earn income as a traveler. Josh had always wanted to be a teacher, and with a background in Business, I was quite interested to get some international experience and engage with business leaders abroad by teaching to English to adults as well.
Through our research, we had concluded that China was the place we wanted to go. The market for native-English speaking teachers in China is enormous, and growing by the day. We knew that there were plenty of opportunities for teaching jobs in China, and that China offered some of the best compensation for foreign English teachers.
Making China Our Temporary Home
The speed at which it all happened is still pretty shocking. Once we decided to find a job teaching English in China, we began doing some online research for positions. We found a number of openings, contacted some schools, and connected with some recruiters. In less than a couple weeks, we found ourselves signing a contract and boarding a plane to Guangzhou, China!
It was a little nerve-wracking when we stepped off the plane on that cold December night in Guangzhou. Of course, we had heard of scams and all that — but we had a good feeling about the group of people we were working with. Sure enough, they were waiting to pick us up when we arrived…with a big smile on their faces!
Over the course of the next week, the same lovely group of people helped us get our new apartment and settle in. They helped us get our bank account set up, SIM cards for our cell phones, showed us how to get metro cards and use the public transportation. They even took us around town and showed us the supermarket and some of their favorite restaurants.
Immediately, we felt like we had family in Guangzhou. And our jobs were awesome! Right away, we felt at home in China — even though it was such a foreign place. From our neighborhood coffee shop, with the owner “MoMo” who would greet us each day, to “Chicken Guy” who ran a small restaurant just down the road from our apartment (he didn’t speak a word of English but was SO excited every time we came in – and always remembered what we liked to eat). It wasn’t long before we knew that we could really enjoy ourselves in our little Chinese neighborhood!
Risks Can Make Life Worth Living
It’s true what they say, you don’t regret the things you do…but rather, the things you don’t do. Many times in life we are hesitant to take risks, to do things that scare us or don’t seem like the “normal” thing to do. However, we’ve come to realize that those are the risks that you should take!
Teaching English in China has been one of the coolest experiences of our entire lives. We had the chance to immerse ourselves in an ancient culture, much more so than we ever could have done on a vacation. We made lifelong friends who treated us like family and taught us so many fascinating things about China.
We also have enjoyed the chance to get to know our students — both adults and little kids. This cultural exchange has been invaluable. Plus, we had the satisfaction of knowing that we were able to help them with their goals of learning and practicing their English, which can help them in their future.
It’s been pretty amazing. Not only have we had this great work and cultural experience, but we’ve been able to travel all over China. It’s a massive country. And a vacation for just a week or two just isn’t going to cut it for anyone. As if that wasn’t enough, we were able to save a significant amount of money – more than enough to travel for quite some time.
In the end, it’s hard to believe that we could have chickened-out and not taken this risk. Because our lives will be forever changed because of it. And as travelers, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Liz and Josh have been living and traveling around Asia since 2014. Currently they split their time between the USA and China, working on their travel blog and assisting those who are interested in following in their footsteps via Career China.