A word of warning before you read this… I don’t suffer fools gladly. I feel very strongly (having done it myself) that you CAN get out there and change your life if you’re in a rut.
I’ve done it myself and now I have the pleasure of hearing from people all around the world who’ve made the decision and followed it through to a brand new lifestyle, and I’m not just saying this because you’re here, but I can’t remember the last time someone told me that they regretted it and weren’t enjoying life as a TEFL teacher. I really can’t.
Here’s a list of 6 things you won’t experience if you don’t TEFL!
1. Excitement about new things
When you get excited about a new product at the supermarket, a cleaning product in particular, you KNOW it’s time to investigate new ways of getting your kicks. Life shouldn’t revolve around cleaning your house. Routine becomes a ball and chain, you know what you’ll be doing most days, you probably already know what you’re having for dinner next Wednesday because you’ll need to plan to do a food shop, your job doesn’t challenge you… but it pays the bills and you’re scared to leave it in case_____________(insert appropriate concern here) then delete as appropriate, I’m not interested. (Tough love? Some hate it.)
You just can’t spend all your life worrying, you have NO idea what’s around the corner and how you’ll feel when you turn that corner and see whatever is there (OK my metaphor is being milked here, I’m going to put it down and walk away, safe in the knowledge that you get my point).
2. Change of routine
7.30am wake up… 8.15am dreary journey to work… 8.50am it feels like your legs are made of lead as you walk in to your office… another day another dollar. Yet another day of knowing your routine inside out; getting regular pay packets and chatting with the same old folks. Come on, the only way it could be more comfortable is if you wore your slippers to work. Clock out and try something new that challenges you: you know you want to, or you wouldn’t be reading this right now… you hate it when I’m right, don’t you?
Slightly dramatic and maybe an exaggeration here but ah well! Mel Gibson fought for it, now it’s your turn to claim it. Freeeeeeeedom! Freedom from pernickety rules and regulations. It’s your future, grab it with both hands and YOU decide where you want to teach and live, YOU decide which position suits you and YOU decide how long you stay in a particular country for. Aaaaaaaaand relax.
4. Not getting that Friday feeling
We’ve all experienced it at least once, why do we long to escape for two measly days that whizz by faster than a Formula 1 car? When the clock hits home time on a Friday evening, you’re out of there with a cry of ‘abandon ship!’ and the office swivel chairs are left swivelling alone in the breeze for two days. We’re so grateful for the weekend that we’re forgetting what it’s all about: work to live, don’t live to work (be careful not to get that in the wrong order…).
As I write this, I’m picturing someone lying in a hammock while drinking an exotic cocktail and planning lessons. Probably not the reality for all TEFL teachers out there, but at some point in their new careers, they’ll have that moment of pure contentment, no regrets, bliss, happiness and excitement rolled in to one. I know I had my moment of pure contentment as I helped to paint the walls of the toilet block in my school in Uganda; Van Morrison was on a radio somewhere (playing, he wasn’t actually sitting on a radio please note) the sun on my back and a paintbrush in my hand, and what a work of art I made.
6. Not having work fear of a Sunday evening
Plunk. Clang. Gaaaah. That’s the sound of the weekend ending and your stomach lurching as you try to cling on to the weekend like a security blanket. ‘Nooooo it can’t be Monday tomorrow – Friday was only two minutes ago!’. Well, you can’t fight that clock; time and tide waits for no man I’m afraid. It’s up to you if you want to change your life and try something new.
If you’re going to wait for someone to come along and change it for you, it’s possible but it’s probably not going to happen. Too many people need you at home, too many people rely on you, and you’ve got a cat you can’t leave; but I’ll bet that cat would take off if it wanted to (I know mine would, and it would probably take all my ham in the fridge as a snack too). It’s YOUR life and as far as anyone can prove, we only get one life to live. Is this really what you pictured when you thought you’d be doing when you ‘grow up’? (I still don’t feel grown up).
I’ll bet your main responses to this will be:
It’s not as easy as that – You can’t just pack it all up and head off for a new life! Oh really? Make a list of things standing in your way and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is.
I can’t afford it – OK, this one might be genuine for some, but it’s also a shield for others. Make a list of everything you buy and how much you spend on it. You can get the i-to-i Professional TEFL Certificate (120hours) for just £249 – and when you think about it, how quickly have spent £249 on things you don’t need lately? It all adds up quickly. Keep an eye on your finances for a few months and you might just shock yourself (in a good and bad way!) that you spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need. Why not use it wisely and invest in your future?
I’m scared – I was scared too. Very scared. But I was also excited! Excited about the unknown, all the things I could do and I was also smug that I was brave enough to give it a try, and not watch with jealousy as friends updated their Facebook pages with new adventures overseas. It’s also not as if it’s 1979 and the internet doesn’t exist: there’s a wealth of information, photos, reviews, blogs and all sorts to make the unknown known. Plus, don’t forget you can join the Chalkboard social network with over 15,000 other TEFLers in the same position as you – they’re a great help and an invaluable source of advice and anecdotes.
I’ll do it, but not just yet – When then? Next year? The year after? Oh look, it’s been 10 years and I’m still thinking about it and I’m putting down roots in places and it’s looking less likely that I’ll ever get to see the world apart from in my two week holiday allowance with my annual leave. The time is now, dear TEFLers-to-be. Refer to my first point of list-making and repeat until flight is booked to new destination.