I love reading so many of the travel blogs out there. I get incredibly envious of the 20-something year old backpackers that are living footloose and fancy free, backpacking their way around the world, not having a set itinerary or any limit on their time. I wish I had been courageous enough in my twenties to do the same thing.
In the beginning…
When I was 18 I went back to England (I was born there and moved to Australia when I was eight years old) between high school and university and stayed with friends of the family for two months. I had an absolute ball and knew this was not the last time I would venture out into the big wide world by myself.
I went off to uni. to study to become a teacher, something I had always wanted to be. I survived university on money from my parents and a government scholarship so it didn’t even enter my head to travel overseas during those 4 years. As part of the scholarship I was required to then teach where the government told me to for three years. So off I went out into country NSW and taught. Even though I now earned a decent living and had plenty of holidays I preferred to visit friends and family in my breaks and spend my money on clothes and shoes, especially as there was nowhere to spend my money where I was living.
After teaching for six years in the country I managed to get a transfer back to the big smoke (which was always my goal) where of course the cost of living was higher. I chose to live in beach suburbs, which I thought I deserved after living in a very small country town in the middle of nowhere, which of course meant more money was spent on day to day living.
After being at an amazing school for six years I started getting itchy feet. By this stage I was in my mid-thirties and most of my friends were married with kids and a mortgage. I was single and stuck in a bit of a rut, with a pretty average social life and felt a need for change. I decided to satisfy the yearning to travel that had been there since I returned from England all those years ago as opposed to being a grown-up and saving a deposit to buy my own house.
I started putting a plan into action. I shopped less, took on more private tutoring after school hours, got a flat mate and later moved into a shared house. I initially thought I would take a year off and go backpacking around the world, a late bloomer I know, until a colleague showed me an article one day about teaching overseas. This was the answer!
How I ended up in Hamburg, Germany
I ended up registering with a very small international school recruitment agency. All I knew when I went to the information day was that I wanted to live in Europe and use it as a base to travel from. I was not concerned about going to countries in South-East Asia or the Middle-East where you could earn enough money in two years to have a substantial deposit to buy a house in Sydney.
I didn’t care where in Europe I went, I just wanted to live in Europe. I had done very little research on the good schools, the schools that offered the best packages or the best areas to live in. I didn’t even consider the language factor. The long and short of it is that I ended up being offered a job at an international school in Hamburg in the north of Germany.
I had a two year contract with the possibility of it becoming permanent when the two years were completed. In the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t going back to Australia after those two years, however I think my mum and dad and some of my friends thought I would be back once I got it out of my system.
My mum has said to me on more than one occasion how brave she thinks I am for making the move, for selling a large majority of my possessions, leaving friends and family and a great job to move to a country where English is not the first language (and me not being able to speak German). At the time I didn’t think anything about it, I just did it. I was so excited at the prospect of living in Europe!
It wasn’t until two years after moving to Germany that I looked back and realised how naive I had been. I had no idea what was in store for me, I didn’t even really know where Hamburg was and what it was all about. I didn’t think twice about the fact that I didn’t speak German or that there would any cultural differences. Besides, my German/Australian friend said everyone learnt English at school so I’d be fine, see my post on learning languages. And it’s a westernised country so how different would it be to Australia anyway?
How misguided I was. I remember how scared I was to even catch public transport on my own during those first few days. Thankfully I had one amazing colleague who lived near me and offered to catch the bus and train to work with me on the first day, like a kid on their first day at a new school.
During that first week of orientation I was jet-lagged and overwhelmed with culture shock, however there was not one moment where I wanted to run back to the comfort of home. Luckily there was a small wonderful group of people who started at the same time as me, whom I will always be incredibly grateful to for being my substitute family. We were all around the same age in similar stages of our lives and single. Some were more experienced at teaching overseas, in particular at international schools, so were a wealth of information and others were like me, leaving their comfort zone for the first time.
We helped each other struggle through German bureaucracy, where to find certain items in shops and the best places to eat and drink. The transition was not without its ups and downs but to this day, seven years on, I have never regretted taking that leap of faith.
Travelling the world
Since the main purpose of me moving overseas was to see as much of the world as possible, initially Europe was my main goal, I was out of there and on my first flight the first holiday we had. That week long trip to Italy was the beginning of my addiction to travel. I clearly remember sitting on the roof of the Duomo di Milan (cathedral) on my first day basking in the sun and thinking how surreal it was.
I quickly became known as being the one who never stays home during holiday time. I think in seven years of teaching overseas I have stayed home for an entire holiday twice, given the number of holidays I get as a teacher, that is a small portion of time spent at home! Travel quickly became my hobby, see my post on why travelling is my hobby, and one of my passions (the other still being shoes 🙂 ). The more I travelled the more I wanted to capture the moments to show my friends and family back home, hence my love of photography grew. A passion I am still working on developing and improving.
During my first few years in Germany I managed to see a lot of Europe. What amazes me so much about Europe is that you can hop on a plane for one or two hours and be in a completely different country, with completely different food, traditions, history and culture. Something that is so different to Australia.
As much as I love Europe, and there are still plenty of European destinations on my bucket list, I started becoming more adventurous in my travel destinations. The more I travelled, often solo in the beginning, the more my confidence grew and the more courageous I became. I started wanting to visit places that were even more different than what I was used to and so started my exploration of not just Europe but the world. My friends and family very quickly realised that I was not going back home after two years.
The move to Munich
I was craving adventure so much and was getting itchy feet again that after four years in Hamburg I decided go to another job fair. The plan was to look for jobs in South-East Asia and Africa. I wasn’t desperate to leave Hamburg so was only going to interview with schools that I felt were the right fit for me. So off I went to London to the meat market that is called an international school job fair.
I had interviews with schools from various places throughout Africa and South-East Asia and a few European schools and then came the invite to interview with a school in Munich. A far cry from my initial plans of moving outside of Europe for a completely different adventure. The short story is that I ended up tossing up between an adventurous move to somewhere exotic or a professional move to Munich, working with some innovative and creative people. After having lunch with some friends and talking non-stop about the Munich offer one of my friends very quickly pointed out that it seemed like I had already made up my mind. The rest is history.
After three years in Munich, in a job that I continue to love, and my travel adventures continuing (forty plus countries visited) I now know it was the right decision, however the “adventure” job is still waiting for me somewhere in the future.
Anyway, lucky I came to Munich so that I could meet my travel and photography partner in crime, David. Hence, the beginning of a new era of travelling with a partner. Travelling solo is certainly fun and gives you a sense of freedom and almost forces you to meet new people but travelling with that special someone allows you to share experiences and memories forever. Luckily we are both on the same wavelength when it comes to itineraries and things to see and do and spending time photographing places, however we always leave the option open to do our own thing if we want.
How we manage to travel
I have heard countless times throughout my career about teachers having too many holidays. All I’m going to say about that is I am very grateful for all of the holidays I get and that it was my choice to become a teacher but not because of the holidays. I work damn hard during school time and even during the holidays. Every job has its perks and holidays is the one perk of teaching.
David of course has what I call a normal job, in that he has the same amount of holidays as the majority of the population in Europe, luckily in Germany 6 weeks is the standard holiday allowance. We still manage to travel together most of the time since David has the perk of accruing overtime hours in his job, especially if he has to travel for work. There are always ways around finding time and money to travel. Whether that means taking on extra work or cutting back on certain luxuries that you indulge in on a regular basis (for me it’s shopping).
No matter how old you are or what point you are at in your life you can still enjoy this amazing planet of ours. Even though I am not in my twenties backpacking around South-East Asia for months at a time, I still love to put on the backpack and explore those lesser known places. Even though I may have given up on staying in hostels and sharing a dorm with nine other strangers I still love to meet other travellers and the locals. Sure, sometimes I enjoy a little more of a luxurious trip but then I compensate in other areas of the holiday or ensure the next trip has a lower budget.
Basically, if you have a desire to travel or are thinking about getting out of your comfort zone, long-term or just for your next holiday, just do it and don’t make excuses, there is always a way! I promise you you will not regret it.
Let us know if you have made a big change in your life to follow your dream. Have you moved overseas to travel and never looked back or are you thinking about that big move? Leave a comment above and let us know!
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