My computer blurts out a tone that tells me I have a Facebook chat message, “Shit!” I mumble – I get mad at myself as I realize that somehow my chat got turned on again unknowingly (damn technology) and now I was going to get sidetracked from writing. When I clicked over prepared to ignore someone or tell them that I wasn’t really available – I was surprised to find out my message was from an old student in India – Suraj. The message read, “i am suraj from hlc u r remember me? namste mam. how r u?”
My Grinch-like heart softened and of course I chatted with him a bit to find out what was happening in his life – married, kids, new job? Six years later and my old students from India still contact me and call me “Mam.” – a term I never really knew if I liked and found endearing, or if I hated and felt old! I knew it was a form of respect in India – and I shed my personal feelings about it and tried to accept being called Mam. Chatting with Suraj brought the memories of teaching and Delhi back and once again I thought – I need to get back to teaching again.
Past Tense – India and Vietnam
Teaching, and specifically volunteering in India, is actually what kept me from going back to my old corporate life. (Let’s take a moment and thank the heavens that I found a way to not go back to my corporate life! Cubes, florescent lights, and me don’t get along.) It was my ticket into this world of travel writing and social media that I have landed in now. During my career break travels I knew right away that I didn’t want to go back to my old corporate life, but I didn’t have any answers on how I could continue traveling and seeing the world without a job/paycheck. Then the holy burning bush spoke to me in India and told me about ESL. (by ‘burning bush’ I mean a woman named Martha smoking a cigarette in a nightclub in Delhi.)
I was a believer! I went back to NYC, got my CELTA certification to teach English and moved to Vietnam where I could make money, teach, and work on building out my writing skills and website. I absolutely loved getting up in front of a classroom to share knowledge and most importantly see people grow and get excited about learning. I taught my students in Vietnam how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – an invaluable skill. However, after about a year of teaching, the website and Meet Plan Go took off and I no longer had time to continue teaching. I sadly said goodbye to grammar and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my white board, and students – but was eager to continue on the road to world famous travel blogger!
Present Tense – Bloghouse Toronto
Four years have gone by since Vietnam and I am reminded just how hard it is to become a world famous travel blogger – yet I keep plodding along mainly because …well…it’s damn fun to see the world. But what if I were to combine blogging and teaching?
Navigate Media Group (a blogging/marketing group I am a part of – check us out as we are pretty darn cool), decided to hold a blogging workshop in Toronto which means I have the chance to step back into my teaching shoes again! One problem though – even though I’ve been blogging for 7 years now – I still feel I’m a novice when it comes to this industry. So I’m a bit unsure of what I can bring to the table, but am excited to hang out with my fellow Navigate members and get into teaching mode again.
Bloghouse is an intense one-on-one 3 day workshop for new travel bloggers. We mentor and teach new bloggers on subjects like niche, SEO, design, social media, workflow, photography, videography, wordpress, pitching, media kits, newsletters, and monetizing their careers. Yes, sadly there is no PB&J making – but we did eat a lot of cheese. Participants apply to attend and we take a small number of people so that they get the benefit of a close relationship with each of us.
We basically work with cool partners like Flipkey and Flight Network to help us throw the event in a great location where we can easily work and live for 3 days and provide a lot of instruction. In Toronto we actually didn’t have a BlogHouse, Flipkey provided a BlogCastle. It was an old monastery on the campus of De La Salle College that still houses monks and office workers during the day – but also provides event, meeting rooms, and housing. It was a bit quirky but that’s just what I like when I travel! That AND women named Martha giving me advice.
I’m covering topics on photography, time management, and the business side of blogging and social media. It is fun for me to get the adrenaline rush again of standing up in front of people and teaching. There’s only one thing missing - no one is calling me Mam! I think this is a good thing – right?
For me the most fun (and intimidating) is doing a photography workshop. When it comes to photography skills and knowledge, I’m stuck somewhere between enthusiast and professional – I guess that means I’m an amateur. So when I was tasked with teaching the new bloggers a photo workshop – I panicked – I don’t know enough about photography to be teaching it. I just do it – I don’t think about it – beautiful pictures are created. Thanks to the amazing Pete Heck for talking me off a castle ledge in a state of panic. He helps me realize that I know more than I think I do. (how long do I have to keep learning this lesson?) Teaching continues to challenge me to look at things differently and test myself.
Future Tense – Hawaii
Yup, that’s right – I will be going to Hawaii to teach in the future! One of the most exciting and unusual projects I have coming up in early 2014 puts me in front of a classroom again – actually, it’s not just a classroom, it’s an entire school. I was chosen to serve as the Iolani School Keables Chair in Honolulu in January.
“The Chair honors the memory of Mr. Harold Keables, a legendary Iolani English teacher. He was named Teacher of the Year by Life Magazine and received honorary doctorates from, among others, Yale University. The focus of Mr. Keables’ life was always his students, and it is with that commitment in mind that the Chair seeks to bring distinguished artists, writers, and teachers to Iolani each year for a two week visit. They work primarily with students, but also with teachers and parents, to broaden horizons and shape minds as Mr. Keables did.”
This could be the highlight of my travel/teaching career so far. I love blogging and traveling – but I have a passion for inspiring people about travel and following their own passions even more. I’ll be doing a number of presentations on travel, writing, photography, social/cultural studies, and career breaks. Much more on my role as the 2014 Keables Chair to come.
As a side note – I wonder if the Iolani students will call me Mam? I’m not so convinced that in America it’s a sign of respect!
Once again, I’m amazed at all of the diverse directions that travel has taken me – and teaching is one that I never would have predicted! The past, present, and future was, is, and will be incredible.
Images from Bloghouse Toronto:
Check out this fabulous group of Travel Bloggers from Blog House – great new people to follow with fresh perspectives that represent all age groups. They are up and coming and each have a cool new perspective on travel. And of course they have some great new photography skills!
Megan Smith – Megan o Travels
Noah Ledermann – Somewhere or Bust
Keryn Means – Walking on Travels
Mara Gorman – Mother of All Trips
Alana Morgan – Paper Planes Blog
Melissa Hogan – Suitcase and Heels
Emma Holliday – An Opportune Moment
Alouise Dittrick – Traveler Ahoy
Kay Rodriguez – The Kay Days
Stephanie Spencer – Nerd At Large
Lindsay Lewis – The Traveluster
Cacinda Maloney – Points and Travel
Thanks to Telecom Square for providing me and others at the Bloghouse internet access via their mobile internet device. Secure & Convenient Mobile Internet. Use your i-phone, smartphone and tablet overseas with no roaming charges.