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Hi, my name is Erica and I suffer from a debilitating case of wanderlust.

Last February, I did something I’d always dreamed of doing: quitting my job and flying to Venezuela to teach English as a foreign language…on an unpaid internship.

 

I’ve been quite lucky that my parents would always take my brother and I on vacations every year. We visited many states in the US, Italy, and Greece. Even still, I can’t say that I was always fantasizing about my next exotic destination.

I’m a 22-year-old Canadian who has always preferred to follow the crowd, had trouble stepping out of her comfort zone or doing anything alone, and allowed herself to be satisfied with settling. I’m only now starting to grow out of my childhood shyness, but I still feel socially awkward, and quite often very anxious. So why did I decide to quit my safe 9-5 office job that comes with salary and benefits?!

Well, though travel was not always a huge focus of mine, for a long time there has been a part of me that absolutely did not want to stay in the same place forever. When I was 15 I began looking at college and university programs in the United States.

But then I got complacent. I went to film school in Toronto (a half hour drive from where I live with my family). After one semester, I decided it wasn’t really for me, so I decided to withdraw and take the second semester off. A girl in my program had spent the entire summer prior volunteering with children in Africa. I thought that was incredible, and started looking into how I could do a volunteer program abroad too. I had my heart set on Morocco. I told my mom and a few friends about my plan, and we were all very excited.

But then I didn’t go. Can you guess why?

I got complacent. I got scared. I made excuses: “It’s too expensive”, “It’s really far away”, etc.

I worked part-time during my semester off, and came across the SWAP program. SWAP is an agency that helps 18-30 year old Canadians secure working holiday visas in other countries around the world. This idea excited me beyond belief! I started to like the idea of travelling to a place and living like a local rather than a tourist; seeing the culture from the inside. I very soon had my heart set on living and working in New Zealand for a year right after graduating college, which I started again in September 2013 at the same school for broadcast TV production. (It’s different from film school – I promise!)

About a year and a half into my 2-year program, I decided I didn’t want to work in TV at all! A panic attack and another look at SWAP’s website led me to clicking on their Teach in Thailand and Teach in Vietnam programs. Both programs required a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL/TESOL certificate.

A Bachelor’s degree and a what?

A Google search soon had that straightened out for me. TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) are both teaching credentials that allow you to teach English as a second language. And the best part is that anyone can do it! You don’t need to be a qualified teacher. In some cases you don’t even need a post-secondary degree. And the best part: you’re essentially getting paid to travel! This was what I wanted to do.

A few weeks later, I returned to SWAP’s website yet again and noticed a new program added. A volunteer teach and travel program to India. After some overthinking, I decided to book this two-week trip. It was really affordable, and short-term travel: not a huge commitment.

That was where my travel addiction began. I realized that travel didn’t always have to be expensive luxury vacations. I began searching exciting adventure-filled destinations and soon had racked up 46 countries on my travel bucket list.

I graduated college at the end of April 2015 and the Monday after my last exam was my first day at my first grown up full time job. In June 2015, I took my first solo flight halfway round the world and landed in New Delhi for the start of the most incredible two weeks of my life.

My trip to India taught me a lot of things. Most importantly, it showed me how easy it is to step out of my comfort zone if I just do it. It gave me a feeling that I really became addicted to and I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with two weeks of vacation every year. I just needed to go for it.

And that’s how I ended up quitting my job and moving to South America for two months. My plan was to finish my internship, return home for the summer, and then leave again in the fall on a solo backpacking trip through Southeast Asia.

I returned home for the summer all right. Then I returned to the same job I left in February.

Now, I’m getting ready to do it for real. My boyfriend and I are planning a New Zealand working holiday before setting off on a round the world trip. Stay tuned to Treading Wander to keep updated on our trip!