Here’s Your Sign (The Backstory)

When was the last time something happened and you simply couldn’t ignore the extraordinary timing? Not like the perfect timing pulling down the closest row in a parking lot and getting a good spot that a car is just pulling out of, but something bigger than that. Something that alters the course of your life. The most recent occurrence for me was June 3rd.

My plan for about 6 months prior to this day was to get the TESL/TEFL/TESOL certificate in order to teach English abroad, with the intention of jetting off to South Korea. A friend from college is now in her second year teaching English there and just raves about her time as an expat. I have been antsy at work and uncertain about any direction in my life, so this seemed like a great fit, an exciting and very welcomed change.

Months prior to this, one of my best friends, Cara, and three other girls (Helena, Shelby and Whitney) from college had decided to quit their nursing jobs in the United States and volunteer in Cusco, Peru. Cara and Shelby had decided to go for 6 months while Helena and Whitney chose to stay for about 2 months.

girls graduation pic – My best friends and I at our college graduation in May 2010. From left to right, Kaycie, myself, Cara and Michelle.

As I was finishing up the last hours of the online portion of my testing to receive my 100 hour certificate to teach English as a second language, a new idea popped into my head – the possibility of going to Cusco with my best friend, Cara,  instead of South Korea. I loved the city of Cusco the first time I was there in April of 2011. Teaching English and living there just sounded incredible.

screen shot of TESOL score

If you are familiar with the ESL job market, you know Asia is the place to be if you want to make any money. As wonderful as that would be, I think basing decisions on money alone is just dumb. For the past 6 months, although I had decided I wanted to teach English in South Korea, I still felt sort of unsettled about it all. When I thought about going to Cusco, everything felt right. The timing and getting to live abroad with one of my best friends made so much sense. Plus, if I do end up teaching in Asia at some point, gaining some teaching experience would be beneficial in negotiating a higher salary.

Here’s the best part, the sign. The day after having this idea of going to Peru instead of South Korea was June 3rd. I got on Twitter, which I only do a few times a week. As any tweeters out there know, your feed is almost constantly moving since tweets are posted in real time. I follow a handful of travel bloggers and lo and behold, one of them retweeted a flight deal specifically for Los Angeles to Lima, Peru from Vayama for $234, including taxes/fees/baggage/etc. To put this in perspective, the first time I went to Peru, I paid just under $1,000 for a round trip flight from Portland to Lima. These killer deals typically have very restrictive travel dates. It was only valid for a flight out of LA on November 2nd. Cara and the rest of the volunteers had to be in Cusco by the 5th of November. This meant landing in Lima on the 3rd and arriving to Cusco by bus on the 4th. Timing could not have been better. Knowing I could easily get myself down to LA for cheap, I jumped on this deal and bought the ticket. I know it was the right decision.

paper with airline cost on it

In 10 days, I will depart on a 9 month adventure to South America with one of my best friends and I simply cannot wait! Although I feel like I have a million things to do before I leave home, I can’t help but be distracted by daydreams of what lies ahead. Here’s my loose plan:

I will live in Cusco and teach English from November through April and then travel around South America from May through July. I am planning to see Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia. My childhood friend, Emily, is meeting me in Colombia in July to wrap up my adventure. Rumors of a few friends as well as my mom coming to visit have been circulating as well.

I refer to this as a loose plan because well, I don’t actually have a job teaching English yet but am hoping to hear back from a school I interviewed with a few weeks ago. To my littlest sister’s astonishment (and probably the rest of my family), I also do not have a place to live. There is always a hostel and I have my eye on a really cute apartment. Despite the uncertainty, I am looking forward to living somewhere different, meeting new people and experiencing a different culture. So, here is to adventure and being aware of your signs.

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