What’s this all about?

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

June, 2016

I see that look in people’s eyes when I tell them what I’m doing.  Sometimes it’s a look that says, “You’re nuts” while others give a look resembling fear and concern for my safety, and there are many (like the UPS guy the other day) who are so excited for me, seemingly more excited than I feel, but quickly say they could never do anything like what I’m doing.  Very rarely do I see the look that says, “I get it.”  That’s okay.  I embrace all of these responses because they remind me to be adventurous, to be cautious, to be brave, to be prepared.  For the last eight months, I have been meeting and reading about people who make what I’m doing look like a completely normal and expected event.  The reactions I get from family, friends and strangers here in the US remind me that it may not be such a normal thing and perhaps merits further explanation.  

Early on, I learned that many around the world refer to this type of trip as a career break, a term I have come to use, though it does not fully capture what it’s really all about.  One of the first pieces of advice I received from others who have done this before was to write down my purpose and goals for this trip.  It did not take me long to come up with the following:

I want to learn about other cultures by stepping outside my comfort zone and living, working and volunteering in diverse places in order to see new perspectives, make meaningful connections with others, and to gain experience that will lead to personal and professional growth.

Eventually, I came up with a list of what this trip is and what it is not.  Writing this down has helped, and will continue to help me decide what I will do throughout the year.  For anyone reading, this is not what I think your year abroad should be, it’s what I want out of my adventure and nothing more.  Also, this list is neither complete nor is it set in stone.   I’m sure I  will change my mind about some of these things.

What this trip is What it isn’t
  • An opportunity to learn about different cultures and gain all the benefits of having done so
  • A chance to spend several weeks or months in a place before moving on
  • Time to set goals for the final “phase” of my teaching career and for retirement
  • An opportunity to work with marginalized people
  • Hard work, discomfort, heat and humidity, dust, pollution – with a fair amount of good food, spirits and air conditioning when needed
  • The challenge to step outside my comfort zone; be flexible in my plans and open to opportunities
  • More time to experience nature and get more exercise
  • Time to read, write and take pictures
  • A chance to enjoy the luxury of making my own schedule every day; a break from the routine
  • A vacation
  • A new city or country every few days
  • A series of tourist traps, cruises, beaches, theme parks
  • A chance to get rich teaching English
  • A chance to save the world
  • Hanging out with Americans and other travelers all the time
  • Nonstop partying
  • A bucket list
  • A journey to find myself

Update: 2018

It has been six months since I returned from my year abroad. I had hoped to continue writing several posts a month on this blog as I continue to reflect on my past travels, current teaching, and future goals. While I haven’t been able to write and photograph as much as I had hoped, I will continue to write and reflect on this blog about teaching, traveling and learning.

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34 comments

  1. Awesome Tim can’t wait to continue reading throughout the year

    1. Glad you’re reading! Thanks for sharing this with Cindy.

  2. Sounds great Tim – I can’t wait to read more… 🙂

    1. So glad you’re reading this, Sharon! Hope you’re all doing well.

  3. I think this opportunity affords you this once in a life time experience to be of the world and to use your many talents in service to many others. Also,your peers and students will learn so much from your adventures.

    1. I hope I don’t disappoint! Thanks for your kind words, Emilia.

  4. Hey Tim. We were thinking of you today and decided to look at your (old) blog only to see this update. Very exciting! Good luck with it all and so looking forward to tracking your adventures.

    1. Hi Jean and Anthony! I was just checking to see if I had sent you my blog address when I saw your comment. You were there when this whole adventure started and have been an inspiration all along. I’ll be following your next adventure as well and maybe our paths will cross in the coming year.

  5. I get it! I’m so excited for you for doing this. What a great adventure and purpose (s). You have given me the chance to broaden my retirement opportunities in the future 😉 Thanks!

    1. I was hoping to hear from you, Gina! Still remember our weekend adventures in Mallorca. You and Julie (comments on other posts) have the same sense of adventure. Can’t wait to hear about your latest trips.

  6. Jose said good luck and he is excited for ur learning experience.

    1. Thanks, Jessie. Tell Jose I was just talking about him yesterday. I have a student here named Jose and was telling him about your Jose. Hope you’re enjoying the summer.

  7. Very insightful. I’m actually totally jealous. I would love to do this one day (kids to college first!).

    1. Yes, priorities do get in the way. I’m sure you can make it happen one day. I’m lucky that I can do it now.

  8. P.S. I’m going to show this post to Miles as he thinks about where he wants to go! It will be very helpful for him.

    1. Please do!

  9. Nicely put Tim,
    Look forward to reading and seeing about this great adventure.
    The girls say hi!

    1. Hello back to everyone. Thanks for checking in.

  10. I love this list. You inspire me to focus on what it is I want to do in life. Thanks for taking us along on your journey my friend.❤️❤️❤️

    1. My pleasure, fellow adventurer!

  11. Tim, what an awesome adventure! Best of luck this summer in your brave endeavors. I will continue to venture through your blogs/website.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! Tell your parents the adventure started when I drove to Montana with them many years ago.

  12. Well Flanagan- you are the best… I get it ! I will read an autographed copy of your first book! Right now I’m on page 415 of my 789 page book, called Saigon by Anthony Grey. Thoughts are in Vietnam and on hip recovery. Keep on writing- see you soon…..⛩VickyAnn

    1. Glad you’re recovering. Hope the book is motivating you to come for a visit in Vietnam. I’ll see you very soon!

  13. Tim,

    I love your list and could not agree with you and “it” more. I hope that it will expand to add other things you did not know were there. Time is the one thing this opportunity offers us, the one luxury we seldom have. One thing I must say, I wish I had more time in Seoul. I already feel that three weeks have gone by and that my time here will be too short. Will now read your other posts!
    Stay well my South East Asia neighbor. Monica

    1. Yes, time is flying by. I wish I had more time to record all the amazing moments here, but there’s just too many.

  14. Hi Tim,
    I finally took some time to look at all your posts. Totally awesome. I look forward to reading future ones. So, so neat and interesting. Love it…

    1. Thanks for reading, Sharon. Hope you’re having a good year!

  15. Hey Mr Flanagan

    1. Kumusta, Charles. I’m going to the Philippines in February, so send me some places to visit!

      1. I did, I write it in a paper and give it to Ms Payne. Have a nice trip.

        1. Thanks, Charles. I will ask her to send it to me.

  16. Awesome post. I should also make a list like this!

    1. I got the idea from some world travelers I met through Couchsurfing. Definitely worth doing.

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