By Land, Sea or Air: Who Doesn’t Love An Adventure?

Updated: Jul 15, 2019

Affording Travel on a Teacher’s Salary!

(Psst... before reading, be sure to check out the episode with Kim Young!)

Since the dawn of time, people have sought new adventures and yearned for foreign shores.

They travel opens doors to excite the mind, but it is the unknown, and at times risky and expensive.

On the other hand, teaching is a solid but underpaid profession. I found Kim Young when I was looking for cool travel tips for teachers.

Kjeragbolten Hike in Stavanger, Norway

What happens when a teacher loves her job but has a passion for travel? Will ever the twain meet? That depends on how she goes about affording travel on a teacher’s salary!

How did you get into the teaching profession?

My mom was a teacher and I saw all the hard work she put into it. I think being the oldest daughter, I wanted to be different than my mom. I didn't want to be a teacher.

During college, I was at a turning point. I was thinking about how I could use my degree in an actual employment field. I was also in a situation where I would be graduating in three years instead of four. I wanted to be able to stay at college for four years. I didn't want to have to go off into the real world. I made the decision to stay an additional year and get my teaching certificate. Right after graduation, I was able to get a history teaching position. I thought I'd only do it for five years.

I found out that there was a way to combine my love of travel with teaching. I slowly realized that teaching was actually the perfect profession for me. I don't feel like I'm working. Teaching is a way that I can share my love of learning with other people. I can work with youth every day, but it's also a way I can stay fresh, continue to travel and learn about the world.

I went from being a reluctant teacher to a lifelong teacher.

Currently, I’m a high school World History teacher in a suburban area of Massachusetts. And I've been doing it for about 15 years.

You do specific travel, and it meshes with the education component. It's your hobby, it's your everything, right? You’ve come up with a creative for affording travel on a teacher’s salary. Please share that with us.

When I was first starting out as a teacher, one of the things that made me nervous was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to travel, because it can be expensive. Teaching is not something where you can have a lot of extra money. I didn't think there were opportunities for teachers to travel.

Early in my career, I had a teacher come up to me and ask “What are you doing this summer? Do you want to go to China?” I didn't think there was an opportunity for someone like me to go to China.

Exploring the Permafrost Tunnel outside of Fairbanks, Alaska (PolarTREC)

This conversation was with a teacher who was able to hook me up with a local professional development organization called Primary Source.

They're an organization that supports the teaching of global history and world history. They provide all sorts of resources for teachers. About 10 or 15 years ago, they were doing a large number of grant-funded opportunities for teachers to travel.

That was my inroad, I got to spend two weeks with a group of teachers traveling China's Silk Road. It really expanded my global perspective. There are organizations that want to encourage teachers to travel because the impact will be so great when the teacher is in the classroom.

There are organizations like the Transatlantic Outreach Program, which takes over 100 teachers to Germany every summer. It's an active learning experience. You're going to lectures, and you're going to different sites. These organizations make affording travel on a teacher’s salary very doable.

Do you travel to teach? Or do you travel to bring it back?

I find that I need a break from teaching in the summer. The best part for me about traveling is bringing it back. I get to relive all of those travel memories in a purposeful way.

Collecting soil samples above the Arctic Circle (PolarTREC)

As an example, when I was in Peru, I collected a bunch of primary sources that I'd seen from an online activity so I could recreate and can mommy bundles. My students unwrapped and dissected this fake archaeological dig.

I have a lot of fun creating new innovative things. I've also been playing out, I've gotten really into kind of escape room style lesson plans fine, and still have to like solve puzzles and go through different artifacts and unlock things to like break out of something or like the zombie apocalypse is coming. But you need to use all these historical artifacts to unlock this thing to save yourselves.

Almost everything I do when I'm traveling is either formally or informally influencing my teaching. That’s why affording travel on a teacher’s salary is definitely worth the effort. It brings excitement to the classroom!

What are the different ways that you've actually traveled? You've mentioned group and individual. What's your preference? And what ways have you traveled?

I think another thing for people to know is that there are all different levels of travel. The size of groups, independent travel, different levels of commitment.

Kayaking in the Svalbard Archipelago (Grosvenor Teacher Fellow)

My favorite is kind of hybrid, going with an educational group of 15 teachers. You spend two weeks in a country traveling around. I really like to stay overstay and then travel on my own. I like to go and do some sort of group travel experience where I get oriented to the country. Then I stay over and have hiking adventures. I like the less traveled places that are a little off the beaten path. Avoiding tourist traps is a good tip for affording travel on a teacher’s salary.

How far out you plan these things? Or are you extremely flexible?

I've got kind of short and long term plans and a lot of flexibility. I never put all my eggs in one basket. Sometimes I can apply to up to 10 programs and only get one acceptance. I very rarely get acceptances. I much more frequently get rejections! Overall, being flexible is essential to affording travel on a teacher’s salary.

Let's kind of segue into the funding of this. You receive grants for some of the travel. Do you end up spending out of pocket? How are you affording travel on teacher’s salary?

It varies program to program. Normally, the program will fund the travel over to the country, and then the initial program costs. If I choose to stay, then I'll have to fund my own lodging, food and adventure fees. Since I've had no expenses for the previous two weeks I'm able to take my weekly budget for food, housing, and adventure, and use that to fund the additional weeks of traveling on my own.

Doosan Bears Baseball Game in Seoul, Korea

I'm able to travel affordably, especially when I'm on my own. If I do an Airbnb, I normally stay in someone's guest room. It helps me meet local people, but it also keeps costs down. I moved away from staying in hostels after a bad experience in Cambodia with bedbugs. But that is an option when considering how you will go about affording travel on a teacher’s salary.

Can you touch on safety? Are there any opportunities in the US for people that are a little concerned about leaving the US?

I do my research. I know where I'm going and I have an idea of what's going on in that place politically.

The number one tip always know when elections are happening, and do not travel to a place during election time. That's when there's more political unrest, and there are the political rallies.

The second tip is when I'm adventuring, or wandering in places, I never go down the same road or same area. I don’t want to look like I'm lost.

I also never wear a fanny pack. I make sure I'm not wearing typical travel things, that would send up red flags for people. I'm always wearing something that looks locally appropriate. I'm never carrying bags that make it look as if I'm a traveler or an outsider.

Kim, where all have you traveled? What were your top three favorite destinations?

I have spent time in West Africa, East Africa, South Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America, and a lot of those places I've spent, you know, over a week, traveling on my own.

Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

I have a favorite place within each location. For the most part, my favorite places are typically hikes or places where you accidentally end up. One of my favorite places is Svalbard, Norway.

I absolutely loved Cusco and Peru. Most recently, I also have to say Cambodia and Guam.

(Haven't listened to How to Travel the World for Free as a Teacher yet? No better time than now to hear the details of Kim Young's adventures!)

PS- We've got a freebie for you! Click the image below to get the best tips and resources on how to Travel for Free as a Teacher.

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