Complete Irresponsibility vs. Complete Living

I got a crazy idea yesterday. An idea I didn’t think would have again…

I want to live abroad.

The realization came as I began to plan out my life over the next few years. In my day dream I saw apartments filled with fluffy couches and pretty curtains, I saw a new car, I saw a job where I worked regular 8-5 hours, and I saw weekends with friends. I saw Texas.

And while all of this sounds perfectly fine, it’s just that. Fine. It’s not exciting, or amazing, or a can’t-fall-asleep-because-my-life-is-so-awesome feeling. It’s just fine.

I don’t want to settle for “fine”. I want my life to be all those other adjectives, but not “fine”.

When I graduated from college I participated in a program where I taught English in France for seven months. I was terrified and wasn’t quite set on the idea, but I went, I did it, and I loved every second. I loved living in a different culture. I loved being able to practice my French. I loved being able to travel across Europe on school holidays. Of course there were times when I was homesick and lonely, but overall, the experience was amazing.

I want to have a similar experience, one where I’m exploring the world and learning about cultures, people, and places, before I’m too set in my ways. I want to experience this before I have a job, before I have a boyfriend or husband, and before I have children. I’m afraid if I wait too long, I won’t want to leave my life here for something unknown across the world. I’m afraid that if I don’t go now, I’ll miss my chance and will never go.

So yesterday I began researching programs to teach English abroad. I could go to China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Brazil… there are endless choices.

Most of the programs offer benefits including free airfare, housing, health insurance, and paid vacation. Who wouldn’t want to go with incentives like that?

My mom thinks I’m being irresponsible. She says I should wait to hear about my job offer. She says I should work for a year to pay off some of my loans. But I don’t want to do that. Like I said, I’m afraid that if I don’t go now, I’ll never go. Once I have a job, I’ll be too comfortable with a steady income to want to give it up. Now seems like the perfect time. I don’t have a job. I don’t have a car. I don’t have a boyfriend. I wouldn’t be giving anything up.

But if I don’t go I’ll be giving up on an adventure. I’ll be giving up on life experiences.

I know I seem so undecided about everything on my blog right now. Honestly, that’s how I feel. One day I want to be a substitute teacher living at home with my mom. The next I want to move to Korea for a year. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I had gotten a job offer right out of grad school. I would have been working for 3 months now. My life wouldn’t be filled with so much indecision, but I also wouldn’t be considering this amazing opportunity to travel and see the world. Nothing is set in stone yet. I’m still researching programs online. I’m still talking to friends who teaching abroad. I’m still trying to convince you to go with me. I’m still brainstorming. But really, this might happen!

And while it may a bit irresponsible to get up and try something like this out of the blue, I also think this is what they call living.

What do you call living?


56 responses to “Complete Irresponsibility vs. Complete Living

  1. Oh wow, miss!! This sounds like an incredible chance, I always wanted to do something like this, but Mister & the puppies mean it’s something that’s not going to happen.

    I’d love to live vicariously through you, for the record. =)

    Keep us up to date on this!!

  2. This sounds fantastic and its an idea I’ve been kicking around in my head too. Would love to hear which organizations you are looking into . My problem is deciphering the reputable ones from the not so reputable ones. Maybe we could talk soon? I would love to go to France and teach. What a fun opportunity you had!

  3. as an adventure seeker at heart, I say go for it, there’s no time like the present! With nothing to tie you down, you’re free to do WHATEVER! and that’s awesome!

  4. I’ve lived abroad twice and while I loved it both times, it was enough for me. Senegal really sealed the deal–it was the logical follow-up to my year in France and it was SUCH a different experience from anything I’d ever done before. I’m sure going abroad again would be a really meaningful experience for you.

    But, you know, I don’t think that it has to be quite so “now or never.” Yes, if you don’t do it now then later you may have to contend with the logistics of another person as well. But there’s no reason why you couldn’t live abroad when you were married or dating. And doing it with another person would be an awesome experience too. You could even do it when you had kids, and it would be really good for the kids and help them broaden their perspective, too.

    I guess what I’m saying is yeah, we’re in our 20s, seize the day, that’s true, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to seize the day or do fun adventurous things later in life, even if we are more “settled” by then.

  5. I think it sounds amazing! Go for it, when will you ever be this free from responsibilities again?

    You can always come home early if it ends up being the wrong fit for you; but if you never go you might really regret it!

  6. Maybe you should apply for a Fulbright?

  7. PS. I would absolutely live abroad again and again and again… πŸ™‚

  8. I’m planning to travel a lot in the next few years – it’d be AMAZING if we planned something that intersected sometime!



  10. I say go for it!! Do what you want for yourself…only yourself because when you find you soulmate & start a family they will come first. It’s your time and opportunity now.

    I have a deaf friend who went to peace corps in Kenya to teach deaf kids there. I think she’s still there now. It’s an amazing experience I’m sure!

  11. I say if you really want to, do it. It’s true that you could live abroad later in life, but once you’re married with a steady job it’s SO much harder. Just make sure you give it a lot of thought first, so you’re sure it’s what you want!

  12. i would like to come with. it makes me completely depressed that i’m not in any position to just be able to do that. it doesn’t help i’m questioning happiness today either. i think you should totally go for it!

  13. Do it, do it do it! Teach abroad, travel enjoy. I wish i had no mortgage to pay so i could do that kind of thing.

  14. Make yourself a list — on one side put all the reasons to do this, and on the other side put all the reasons not to. And then…

    Go. Ultimately your life is the sum total of your decisions, not what others think you should be doing. Yes, you need to wrap up your obligations for student loans. You can still do that from abroad, though it will take longer. At the end of the road you will regret not what you did, but what you didn’t do.

  15. Do it! Texas will always be there waiting if you change your mind.

  16. i just came upon your blog via “freshly pressed” and am really enjoying it. go abroad! i had lived abroad during college and was itching to do it again just before i turned the big 3-0. i quit my job and moved to ireland for six months. waitressed and traveled some more – it was was fabulous! you won’t regret it. good luck!

  17. Do it. I mean, if it’s something you’d really regret NOT doing, go for it. It sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you don’t want to miss out. A

  18. Go. Do it. The sooner the better.

    It’s a lot harder when you have things to manage while you’re gone (your job, your dog, your rent & bills, etc).

  19. You should definitely take advantage of this oppurtunity. Going abroad is the greatest thing that you can do for yourself. I myself have spent a significant amount of time from when I was 12 up till now (18) in India and the experience is worth any amount of money or whatever other currency you want to compare it with.

  20. Wow, good for you! Sometimes, you’ve just gotta jump.

  21. I’m dealing with a similar situation. I’m trying to go on Birthright (aka Israel for FREEE) and then Europe while I’m still free to do those kinds of things. Sigh…

  22. I advise you to leave Texas at once and travel from land to land teaching English and writing about your experiences. If it worked for you once it will do the trick again (and again, and again). Perhaps you’re just stricken with wanderlust–but I say embrace it while it lasts. Good hunting!

  23. Your mom is being practical, but I say…GO! I listened to my mom when I was young about how I should not do this or that because it’s unsafe or whatever. My life is fantastic and I love my life, but I regret the loss of my young adult years when I could have traveled and when I could have had many adventures.

    Luckily, I met a man who loves adventures like I love adventures and so I am living my second life now.

  24. Plus, don’t you get paid to teach abroad?

  25. i just found your blog featured on “freshly pressed” and really enjoyed it. definitely go back abroad! i had lived abroad in college and then was itching to do it again as i was about to turn the big 3-0. i quit my job and moved to ireland for six months. waitressed and traveled some more – best decision ever!

  26. I totally understand what you mean. I want to move so badly out of the state and experience other things. I’m like you too I’m afraid if I don’t do it soon I will never get to. I have a boyfriend and I have been trying to convince him forever now to move and I think it’s finally sinking in. Hopefully we get to move in a year. I’m so excited so hopefully it happens.

    He of course just enlisted in the Navy Reserves so he will get to see more things than just moving to a different state however we are still moving. haha.

  27. I’ll go with you! I’ve definitely had this thought a time or two in the last few months, I say go for it while you can. You only live once!

  28. This post came straight out of the inside of my head and heart. I’m in.

    I think I’ve read your email like ten thousand times today.

    Let’s chat about it all later πŸ™‚

  29. If I hadn’t gotten into grad school (it’s still abroad) I would be teaching English abroad, probably in Korea since it seems to be most profitable. You will have years and years ahead of you working– can you take a year off in 5 or 10 years and go teach abroad again? Probably not. At least- now is the better time. Do it.

  30. You mentioned a loan. Hate to rain on your parade but who is going to pay it while you’re on your adventure? Sounds like your mom might not be thrilled to do it. So who then? πŸ™‚

  31. I think it’s a fantastic idea! You should follow your gut, not the guilt-and-fear-laden “shoulds”.

    You’re in a time of transition and those are always scary and full of indecision and they make people uncomfortable – both you and the people around you. We seem to think that “living” is following the safe path, doing the “right thing”. Screw that, living is doing what our intuition tells us to do… because our intuition will never, ever steer us wrong. Good luck, I hope all the pieces come together!!

  32. You are so fabulous. Honestly, I think whatever you decide will be perfect for you. Traveling abroad is obviously amazing, but I think if you get an awesome job offer, that’s great for you too.

  33. If this is something you’d like to do. Do. It. Now.

    You don’t know if there will be another chance. You’re not tied down so go. Go. GO.

    Have you gone yet?

  34. i totally vote for living abroad! that would be amazing. and i think your reasoning is totally right that you may get too settled with a job here and never want to give that up and leave. good luck! πŸ™‚

  35. I think you should do it. I would totally come If i can. Do it now because if you wont get to do it later then you’re going to regret it. Its going to be over your head. live your dream.

  36. I have been wanting to do something like this for a while. I’m curious about which websites you’re looking at for teaching abroad?

  37. I lived overseas for 3 months and I can guarantee you it changed my perspective on EVERYTHING. It’s such a humbling and rewarding experience. do it!

  38. The chance sounds awesome! But what I’ve done when I was indecisive was pretend that I could do it all, in your case, go abroad and work at home at the same time, and apply for everything. And then, everything will come clear.

    Either way you choose, I promise you that you won’t retret.

  39. Living? I feel most alive when I do something spontaneous. If you’ve thought it over, and it sounds like you’re in the process, give it a go! Good luck with your decision!

    Oh, and I recommend Thailand! Been there twice and it’s an amazing place.

  40. Lauren From Texas

    This sounds awesome, Ashley. Just remember – LIVING means soaking up the moment – not always looking forward to the next thing. This is something I am continually learning – I never take time to enjoy the moment, because I am always thinking, “I can’t wait for (insert next phase of my life).” It’s great to dream big, but never forget the extraordinary in the ordinary. πŸ™‚ xo

  41. Do it. Just go, and skip the “program” – it will suck the life out of what you’re trying to do.

    I bought a degree online, got a job in South Korea. Got caught (by employer), moved to Seoul, and taught privately for a year-and-a-half, and made the best friends of my life.

    Busted again, moved to Indonesia, met the man of my dreams, got married, had a baby, and five years after leaving Canada, I returned with my family.

    *sigh* I don’t mean that you should buy a degree or get busted for teaching illegally, but do find your own way without someone who’s going to hold your hand. Dave’s ESL Cafe is a fantastic job board for searching for your own job. The world is at your fingertips! Have fun.

  42. As someone who has been working for almost five years in corporate America, I highly recommend going and doing whatever it is that you want to do, while you can do it.

    Now that I’m used to my life with a salary, apartment, car, blah blah blah it’s a lot harder to leave it than I thought/hoped it would be.

    Not to say that I regret what I’ve done because it’s all been amazing but I would do a few things differently if I could do it all over again.

    So… go! Live! Travel the world! Blog! Write a book! Do whatever makes your heart sing. I’ve also learned that the future isn’t clear no matter what age we are or what we plan on.

    You have my full support and I’m sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what you decide to do! =)

  43. I am completely agree with you, you should run and chase your dream since you are still young, you should go see the world, you should live abroad and get a lot of adventurous, challenging experience in other countries. Don’t let anybody stop you…

  44. Thank you.

    I say do it.
    What would hurt?
    YOU know you’re not being irresponsible. It doesn’t matter what others think or what you think. It’s ultimately depends on how you FEEL.
    This opinion is coming from someone who finally left the company of 5 years to do… live. It’s not to say that working prohibited me from living, though I guess it’s just about not being able to challenge myself. It’s sorta not a thought but a feeling.

    That’s why I say, thank you and do it. you have nothing to lose but so much to gain.

    Good luck!

  45. I just wanted to share my experiences, as someone slightly older. I studied abroad during undergrad, did my first master’s course abroad, taught at university abroad. In fact, in the last ten years that I’ve known my husband, two have been spent in Slovakia (he’s Slovak) and the last two have been spent in London.

    My point is, even if you have a “grown up” life with responsibilities, it doesn’t tie you to one place. Because of the EU, my husband (and myself as an extension) can take a job almost anywhere in Europe, or we can go back to the States, or Canada, where ever really. Yes, we have a kid, we pay bills, we still own a house in the States, it’s a bit of a pain to have to buy a new car everywhere, but really, it’s worth it.

    P.S. if you really want to earn lots of money for a few years in an exotic place as a teacher, consider Dubai.

  46. Go for it; When life seems so indecisive- go for the adventure, you will never regret that. Soon enough you will want to settle in one place, do your thing. But for now – go with the flow. There are never clear answers to what we should do, we have to learn to trust ourselves and our choices. Check my blog for some incentive and good luck!

  47. WATCH OUT – it’s a trap. I moved abroad (Norway) after my B.A. and got stuck. Managed to talk my spouse into moving to the States (Texas) – but she couldn’t stand the heat, and went home. Silly me – I followed her and the kids back to Europe. Now I’ve got a mortgage, a cat and two kids who couldn’t imagine moving to the states. But hey – I’ve learned to adjust to another culture and speak another language. But I’ll always miss Texas. Maybe when I get old enough for Medicare … .

  48. In the last 5 yrs I hve lived in 2 countries and am hoping to move to another next year-GO FOR IT!

    Granted I didn’t hve loans holding me back bt a friend of mine had bt she moved wit me and every month has sent money back to pay it off!

    There is no point living life wondering ‘what if’ and thts wot will happen if you dn’t go!its your life and am sure u r responsible enough to make sure you pay off your loans!

  49. You’re completely right, now is the time. If this is something that means that much to you, go for it, because you may never get another opportunity.

  50. I obsessed for a long time over the chances that I didn’t take. A handsome (oh, SO handsome) Canadian wanted me to run away with him to Europe. I WANTED to… it sounded like an adventure, but I was scared and didn’t go. No hablo francais.

    I don’t regret that now. Maybe I settled for what was safe for awhile, but even what you THINK is the safe zone can become exciting. I think I have a great life and I never left St. Louis. Anywhere you live, you’re going to eventually have an everyday life. You’ll have a job and a routine and friends and a culture to absorb. And living abroad would really amp those up – but eventually that will all become routine as well.

    All this blabber is not meant to say DON’T do it. I’m sloppy with my words this morning. I really mean that if you want to try another place – don’t be scared of losing the safe zone because it WILL come, wherever you choose to go. πŸ™‚

  51. Go! Go now! Pack your bags and go. I wish I’d done things like that when I was your age. Now I’m 42, with three kids, a husband and a mortgage. I don’t regret not traveling, I don’t wish I had a different life, but I do wish I’d taken a few more chances. Airplanes fly both directions across the Atlantic. Home isn’t any further away than a plane ticket.

  52. two years ago i lived in london teaching 4 and 5 year olds at an elementary school. it was amazing! and traveling in europe is so cheap and easy too! there are some agencies you can go through and you can actually defer your loans until you come back. i can not begin to explain to you how much you will grow and learn about yourself. plus, you have your whole life to work. seriously, go!

  53. Just go for it!
    I really think this idea does not come just out of the blue. What if you won’t live it?
    What if you’d always be thinking about it with a feeling of regret?

    Blessings to you!
    Astrid from Germany

  54. I totally think you should do it. You are right – you have nothing holding you back. If you wait a year, then your life could be completely different, making it hard or impossible to live abroad.

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