I’ve been on this trip for a long time now. And here I am, a well-educated, well-traveled, middle-aged, Southern, half-Mexican gal still trying to figure out the work/job/career that truly fulfills me and meets most of my wants. Note that I didn’t say “needs.” No, I said, “wants.” Because just like in a romantic relationship, never settle for just getting your basic needs met. Has he got all of his teeth? Check. Does he have a car that has a legally-obtained license plate? Check. Does he know that he shouldn’t wear flip flops in public outside of designated beach areas? Check. Come on, gang, sure, those are my basic needs. But my wants are much more demanding than good teeth, a working car, and not showing your hairy toes in public. But, dang, what specifically are those wants??
I say, get those needs met while also getting what you want. In love. And in work. And in where you choose to live. I know, I know. Not everyone gets the luxury of making such choices. But this blog isn’t about solving all of society’s ills. It’s about my journey. Period.
This blog is about making a career change.
This blog is about taking dramatic new steps in the middle age of life – a time when most people think they are resigned to only doing what they have always done.
This blog is about finding your dream location and figuring out how to actually move and live there. Or at least visit long term.
This blog is about exploring working online vs. in person.
This blog is about teaching English as a Second Language as a career.
This blog is about having fun with American English, especially Southern dialects, slang, and idioms.
And enjoying life along the way.
So you want to be a bartender in an open-air beach bar on a tropical island in Indonesia
I am endlessly pondering where to live – always asking myself if I should settle down in one place or live the exhilarating life of a digital nomad. What town or city or village would make me happy? Heck, I’m happy now in this fairly big, bustling Southern city. But I am restless – wracked with yearning to see more of the world. I have no interest in this city anymore. Not really. Been here too long. No, I know in my heart, at some point, I need to move on. This place ain’t my final resting ground. Though, we do have some mighty fine restaurants.
Not too long ago, here in this very city, I chucked away a six-figure corporate job to become an English language teacher in a public school. I must confess, when I got my first paycheck as a full-time teacher, I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach.
“My God,” I cried aloud, clutching the wilted little check printed with the specific dollar amount assigned to my new -found, self-imposed penury. “WHAT HAVE I DONE? I’ve made a terrible mistake. Maybe the cubicle life wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be.”
I then thought, “Good Lawd have mercy, if I want to be a public school teacher in the South, I’m going to have to get married just to have someone to split the bills with.”
A terrible reason to get married, I know. But the only reason I could see for ever wanting to be married – to have someone in my home who can help pay half the light bill so I can go scuba diving in the Caribbean whenever I feel like it. Although a public school educator’s pay is, well, not great, I know that I made the right move. I am certain beyond a doubt I made a career change which has finally put me in the right ball park of my calling. When you find one of your true callings (for I believe we all have many), if the salary is really low, you do your darndest to figure out how to make that money work. Even though this is the toughest, most stressful job I have ever had, I look forward to going into work every day. Studies show that the majority of Americans do not like their job, so, I have hit the jackpot when it comes to figuring both my mission and what I love to do.
Never say to a teacher: “But you’re not it in it for the money”
I will say this, I hate it when I hear people make this statement about low-paying jobs in the public and human service fields: “You don’t do it for the money.”
As a single woman with no one else adding cash to my bank account but me, I am, indeed, working not only for the mission, but also for the money. I want to pay the bills, while at the same time save money, build my retirement fund, and travel and enjoy all that life has to offer. I want to enjoy sip espresso at a cafe in Milan and eat a tostada de atún with aguacate and kimchi at the famous restaurant Pujol in Mexico City. I dream of scuba diving off of a remote island in Indonesia and lounging off the deck of an overwater bungalow in Bali. But because I chose to be a school teacher, I must accept that I give up all of these experiences. Right? Wrong. It ain’t all just about the mission. I’m not Mother Theresa or Gandhi. Traveling and tasting are two of the the main reasons I work. Again, I work to attain my wants (Jason Momoa), not just my needs (some guy with all of his teeth).
Why should my desire to serve others equate to giving away my labor for peanuts and working in a high stress environment that quickly leads to burn out? That’s a true path to exploitation. And to abandoning the mission you care so much about. I believe you can pursue your calling, use your talents to help others, while, at the same time get paid a salary you can be satisfy your wants with. A salary that makes you feel valued and appreciated. Well, I believe there must be a way. Though, dear reader, I ain’t found it yet. I’ll let you know when I do. Ah, yet another search that this blog will be about. Salary and selflessness. Social entrepreneurship.
One thing I have learned in my decades of working in corporate life – NEVER, EVER UNDERVALUE YOURSELF. Because if you do, you are on your path to being undervalued and underappreciated by your employer. And the second you start feeling undervalued and underappreciated in your job, you are on a quick path to unhappiness and, eventually, dark discontent. Then you become that slouching, bitter employee in wrinkled khaki pants who skulks around the office complaining about how crappy the free coffee in the breakroom is and detailing the latest affront to humanity committed by your evil boss. You don’t want to ever be that person.
In my decades of life, love, and work, I know exactly what I have to offer and the knowledge and wisdom I am bringing to the table. I won’t have my passion and caring exploited, whatever career I choose. Whether I carry out that labor in a high-rise glass office building in a bustling city or in a run-down school house on the coast of Puerto Rico, I have to be happy with the balance of purpose, mission, money, benefits, lifestyle, and well-being. That balance is a precarious one. And you have to weigh that balance in each and every work situation. But once I see the balance of those scales tipping out of my favor and not showing any signs of moving back in my direction, well, I get the heck out of Dodge (i.e., tender my resignation) and hop back on the trail to find my happiness and fulfill my mission of service. I enjoy riding the trail. Maybe more than arriving at the actual destination. And I plan to help make the lives of others better while I ride in a desultory fashion down that trail. Be it through teaching or writing or both.
In my last corporate job, I had to move out of that soul-deadening cubicle where I was suffocating under the weight of pointless Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations and endless meetings with self-important middle managers constantly trying to justify their bloated paychecks with meaningless work and more meetings. About the time I chucked off the heavy yoke of corporate drudgery, the pandemic hit. I became a school teacher just as Covid-19 began to ravage the U.S. and our schools switched to virtual learning. It was during this time, I got the opportunity to teach all of my classes online. One thing I figured out from a year of teaching virtually – I am never going back into an office if I can help it. We have, of course, returned to the classroom. And while am a natural born teacher and found one of my true callings, I also realize that trudging into school every day through dense city traffic and being tied to a building, is, well, not ideal. And, I say all of this even though I truly enjoy instructing in person and I believe that it is the best way for younger kids to learn.
Alas, like many workers, over this past year and a half, I really fell in love with online working and having no commute and being able to walk my dog at lunchtime before I cook up a grilled cheese sandwich. Many of us have come to the conclusion, “If you aren’t paying me for my two hours a day commuting to the office, I ain’t making the commute. Not if I can work from home.” And what a glorious revelation and expectation that has been for the working people of the good ole’ U.S. of A.
During the pandemic, working from home, I accidentally discovered that I want a job with true flexibility. If the pay is going to be low, then there’s gotta be other perks to make up for it. Balance, my dears, balance.
I daily ask myself, would I mind going into some building for work every day and maneuvering an inflexible schedule if I was living in a place that made my heart sing? I mean, surely riding a bike to a school house every morning in, say, rural Bali or along a beach in Thailand or a small coastal town in southern Florida or a village in Nigeria or a remote reservation in New Mexico would be infinitely more interesting and rewarding than slogging through rush hour traffic in a non-descript Southern city. Lately, I’ve been asking myself, “Is urban life for me?”
So, what shall I do next? Well, that’s one of the things this blog is for. To work out my next move. And to have fun with the process itself. And to help others who might be struggling with even taking the first step a similar journey. To teach some English. On this journey, I will eat good food and see epic sights and so forth. And find work with a mission that fulfills me and affords me the well-being that I demand. I want to revel in every second of this journey and spin it into pure comedy gold and inspiration. Both for myself and for my readers. Also, I want to tell you where to find good collard greens and coleslaw and fried chicken and pimento cheese.
Here we go, folks. Here we go.