Flying without a Plan

January 5, 2014

…not much of one, anyway. Many readers have perused my blog and have probably come to the conclusion I’m a bit of a hippie, or at least a freer spirit. This is true only when you compare my lifestyle with those of pencil pushers; by any vagabond’s standard, I might as well be wearing a suit and tie every day (hey, sometimes I do). What I mean by this is my travel is very structured: I go into a country with a plan or a job and once I’m established, I choose to have adventures in which anything can happen.

I taught English in Japan. I volunteered in Thailand. I worked at a Buddhist monastery in New Zealand.

Were these incredible travel experiences? Absolutely.

But I wouldn’t call them spontaneous. I did my research, applied for the positions, and knew there would be something waiting for me when I landed. It’s very rare I go in and hope to come across something by chance. I haven’t done a whirlwind tour of Europe by rail, nor seriously hitchhiked across the US. Even my latest excursion to Peru was centered around a teaching assignment; in that case, sickness and poor conditions forced my return.

I blogged about feeling adrift when I quit my traveling recruiter position with Reach Out Volunteers. There I was, sitting in Charlotte International Airport, all my belongings at my feet and only the Internet as my guide. I chose to visit a friend in Florida before essentially crapping out on the challenge and settling for Peru.

But now, I’m truly in the thick of it. I’m writing this about a quarter into a 12-hour flight to Seoul. In the dead of winter. With no plans other than to see some friends I left behind in 2011 and to perhaps line up a temporary teaching position. South Korea is rife with English teaching opportunities for those willing to sign a year’s contract, but I discovered that winter camps were available (at rather high pay) to native speakers willing to put in the hours and get a C4 visa, for assignments not exceeding ninety days.

There are disadvantages to this, naturally. Flights are rarely covered for such short contracts. Accommodation isn’t always provided. Many schools won’t even provide the paperwork to get your visa unless you’re teaching for more than a month. However, the salary is exceptional, and most schools are scrambling to find enough native speakers to cover camps; many refuse to work during the holiday session, to escape somewhere warmer… desk warming just doesn’t cut it.

That’s what awaits me. Nothing. No focus. No position. Just a return ticket at the end of March in the hopes a job is waiting for me in San Francisco. I hope so, because I’ll have used my credit card quite a bit.

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