We interview Matt Mitzel from Makin Moves with Matt on what it’s like to backpack and travel the world and teach English abroad. Matt has been to 42 countries and has worked in a few of those teaching English to locals. This career choice is ideal for Americans looking to live semi-permanently in another country and explore the nearby cities and countries while they work. Matt shares the details on what it’s like to work teaching English abroad, tips for backpacking and the benefits of the long travel lifestyle.
Backpacking & Teaching English Abroad – Episode Transcript
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Travel Squad Podcast. Today we have a very special guest joining us, Matt Mitzel.
In this episode, we talk with Matt about how he got into teaching English Abroad, what to look for in teaching contracts and how he spends his time traveling and Backpacking while he’s on breaks or in between contracts.
3 (1m 3s):
I found it so fascinating to hear about his way of life, especially as we went into addressing the language barrier of teaching English in another country and, and surprising it’s not much of a barrier at all. You don’t actually need to know the native language to teach English in a country like Korea. I thought, I thought that was so interesting. Matt had so many cool and interesting things to share about his way of life and teaching in Abroad in all of the different places that he has done it in so far. He has a really, really inspiring story to tell, and it’s a really interesting episode for anyone that might be considering this type of travel and teaching Abroad career and life choice.
1 (1m 44s):
And with that, let’s welcome Matt to the Travel Squad Podcast.
3 (1m 47s):
Matt, we are so excited to have you on the podcast today. I’m so excited to learn about your teaching in other countries and all of the countries that you’ve been Backpacking through. But before we dive into that, I wanna go way back to what is your first travel memory that really sticks out in your mind?
0 (2m 6s):
Yeah, so first off, thank you all for having me on the show. I really, you know, appreciate it. It should. Let’s have a, let’s have a good talk and yeah, so back to your questions. So I’ve done a lot of travel growing up. You know, I’m from, I’m from Maryland, so we would go every summer to the outer banks of North Carolina. So, you know, that was kind of, you know, just a continuous Mary. But the one that really stuck with me, I guess would be when I was in eighth grade and I went to China with my father. So he had a business trip there. And so he took me and my grandmother. So we went for two weeks. And you know, that was my first like real outta the country kind of experience. And you know, I guess my first culture shock, if you will, in terms of travel.
0 (2m 49s):
And so, you know, being, you know, I think it’s a young age, you know, eighth grade, you know, just going eating food. That wasn’t what I knew as Chinese food in the US so it was like, you know, real China. So like, it was just, you know, things like that. Just being, being accustomed to, to new things and you know, taking that memory, you know, moving forward kind of thing. And just have things open my mind to the world, different cultures, different languages, especially the food. So that, that trip really, you know, spearheaded me towards my, my love for travel, if you will.
2 (3m 18s):
I love that. We’ve all been to China. We went on a group trip together and we had an absolutely amazing time there. And so, yeah, if you haven’t been outta the US before, it is kind of a culture shock. Yeah. And so really great that you loved it so much in eighth grade that you’re like, I wanna continue your tr journey. Exactly. So how was it that you decided you wanted to start teaching English Abroad?
0 (3m 41s):
Yeah, so we’ll go back a little. So when I was a junior in college, my mom really pushed me to studying Abroad and you know, she studied Abroad in, in Spain and she just pushed, pushed it on me, pushed on me. And I, I just, I think I got caught up in, you know, being a college student, like, oh mom, no, I’m gonna miss out on the nights going out, you know, in college and stuff like that. Just a very stupid approach. And, but so then I, I just, I kind of said like, okay, I, I’ll do my own trip. So I did a Backpacking trip my junior year, a solo trip in, in Europe. And again, the China was a big experience, but this is my first like, you know, my travel experience kind of thing. So I really, I I, I fell in love with it, you know, two, I think it was three weeks of traveling in Europe my first time, you know, doing a lot of these things by myself.
0 (4m 25s):
And so I loved it so much. You know, the following year I went with my, my roommates, we did another Euro trip and you know, as it came time to graduate, my mom had suggested like, oh, maybe, you know, you could look into teaching English Abroad, you know, I have a friend that son that does it and you know, if you have this passion for travel and you don’t really know what it is that you want to do, ’cause you know, I didn’t study teaching, I studied at marketing, public relations. So I was like, oh yeah, I mean, I really do want to, to live Abroad and, you know, experience, you know, this, this kind of thing. So yeah, I got certified to teach English as a foreign language. I guess the fall after I graduated college, this would be 2017.
0 (5m 6s):
And yeah, so then I, I found a job teaching in Spain and then I was off. And then, you know, in the time until now, I, I I’ve lived and taught in Spain for close to two years in two different regions, Barcelona, and then the Northwest and Galicia. Then I was off to South Korea in Bussan. And then, yeah, just finished a year here in Istanbul. My mom really shout out my mom, you know, she really pushed me to, to do this kind of thing and you know, I haven’t looked back since and, you know, I’m not sure where it will take me next. But yeah, so she, she really started me up with it.
1 (5m 39s):
Well, I think a lot of people these days have thought about that, right? Because it’s one of the top things that you see is like teaching English Abroad as a way to really make money and travel at the same time. You kind of hit upon it and said that you had to take your classes or credentialing. But if somebody was to want to take the approach that you’re doing now, what and where do they go to get that credentialing to do it? And on top of that, whatever country you’re teaching in, do the, your students already have a base English knowledge or do you need to know any of the language of the country in which you’re teaching to kind of help with that language barrier as you’re
0 (6m 14s):
Teaching? Of course. So, so to answer your first question, so there are many different ways to get, you know, certified the TEFL certificate. There are a ton of different, well, programs and schools kind of thing. So you can actually go on Groupon, you can get certified for $30, which I mean, I don’t know if I’d really recommend that. But I went through an online company based in Chicago called the International TEFL Academy. And so while it was pricier compared to to other ones, they have a really good network with the alumni, you know, ’cause there’s people all over the world. It is a really big company, if you will. And the advisors as well. They have their advisors, you know, to be an advisor, you have had to have lived and taught in another country kind of thing.
0 (6m 56s):
So they really know their things. You know, there, there’s, you know, specific people you speak to about Asia specific, ones about Europe, south America kind of thing. So to answer your question, you know, you just have to Google it, you know, find what, what’s in your price range for, for a tough certificate, mine was all online. It was about a 12 week course. And so a lot of the jobs you need at least 120 hours, you know, for the package. And so I top that you had to do 20 hours of practicum, so it was 16 hours of you could do observation, volunteering, teaching, and then the last four or really just the teaching. So I kind of did like 16 hours of, you know, volunteering observation, then leading some classes back in, back in Washington DC where I was living at the time.
0 (7m 38s):
So first thing you do is, you know, get, get that certification. And then there are just many different job boards to find, you know, these positions there. The one that we use has a Dave’s e s l cafe. I guess this man Dave was just trying to create a job board. It’s not the most visually or user friendly terms. Well it, it is user friendly, but the way it looks is not, it looks like a MySpace kind of website, but you know, it has the jobs. And so your next questions to answer, so the positions that I’ve done have all been in English. There is no teaching, you know, in that other language kind of thing. You actually, it’s in Turkey. You’re not supposed to speak any of, I don’t, not necessarily, I didn’t come in knowing any Turkish, but I was partnered with a Turkish teacher.
0 (8m 22s):
They are not allowed to say any Turkish. And it’s kind of like putting on an act where the kids don’t actually know that she can speak Turkish kind of thing. So in Spain, you know, I studied Spanish, but you know, again, it’s all English, all English. And I guess what you’re saying is yes, it is difficult, you know, it can be, you know, especially, you know, teaching and there is that language barrier. But, but also I’ve, I’ve taught with younger kids and at that point it’s like they’re learning just one language anyways. You know what I mean? It’s not like their native language is so high, it’s, you know, a kid, you know, it’s a sponge. They’re just learning it the same way if it was their native language, you know? No, I think, you know, from my experience in the jobs, I don’t think you would really find any jobs that would really want you to speak their language.
0 (9m 4s):
Of course, maybe that might set you apart in certain regions of the world. But you know, in a Korea, no, it doesn’t matter. You, you don’t have to know anything about Korea, the China, I mean, it’s not like you’re doing anything in that language. Of course it might help you when you live there, but the teaching aspect, no, I mean, I don’t see where you would really need it per se. Have
3 (9m 23s):
You picked up some of the languages in the places that you’ve
0 (9m 25s):
Been living? Yeah, so Korean, I was able to ’cause it’s character, well, not characters, it’s symbols, but it is not like Chinese where it’s characters or the Japanese, it’s, it’s 20, maybe 30 some sounds. So it is a phone language. So I was able to read by the end of it. I didn’t know what I was saying, but I was able to, you know, sound out what it is that’s being written. The Turkish, you know, I wish I was better than, than I, than I am. It’s just, I, I think you become lazy when everything’s in English and it’s just like, that’s no excuse. I’m not, you know, embarrassed that, that my Turkish is as low as it is. But, and then Spanish, you know, my Spanish really improved, not from being in the classroom, but just having lived there. And you know, I did a host family when I first went to Spain, so I was, they didn’t speak any English, so I was really, you know, cool, cool experience.
0 (10m 10s):
But yeah, the Turkish and Koreans should be higher than what, you know, being in there for a year. So I apologize to myself. Well
2 (10m 16s):
Those are three really different countries that you’ve taught in. And I selfishly wanna know which one was your favorite to teach in and why?
0 (10m 24s):
If we talk about like the classroom setting as opposed to living, I think probably, okay, so being in Spain, I was a language assistant. So the, the program that I went through, you’re more, not necessarily, I mean you, you I guess you are a teacher, but you’re not leading, you don’t have your own class kind of thing. It’s more, you know, this teacher has this class and then when you, you go to their class, you do something fun or you know, to supplement what they’re learning. So it wasn’t necessarily giving so many lessons. You know, I did stuff about talking about, you know, American culture and you know, fun stuff like that. But the Korea, what really was, you know, the teaching aspect. But the Koreans I was with kids’ age were three, which I think a little side note about Korea, when a kid comes out of the womb, they’re one years old, so they’re not, you know, one day old.
0 (11m 9s):
So when I signed up and everyone turns a year older on January 1st, so a kid could be two days old in Korean, they could be two years old. So when I signed up, I kind of got mixed up with the ages. So I showed up thinking I had like, you know, five year olds, but in reality it was like three and four. And so that was, it’s like, oh, okay, I guess, I guess y’all do this here. I didn’t know. But you know, it was a little difficult at that point, you know, just being the lowest level of, not even just English, but speaking kind of thing. So I think if you asked me the classroom setting, I think, I think Turkey would be my favorite. You know, the kids’ level is quite, you know, high and I was able to have more in-depth conversations and I think it was more rewarding with the, the curriculum or teaching in Turkey versus the other two.
0 (11m 55s):
’cause you know, Spain, as I said, it was an assistant kind of position. It really wasn’t a teaching like what I am now kind of thing. So yeah. But in terms of living, I think, I mean, Barcelona is my favorite city in, in the whole world. I know, know, y’all are just gone, but I, I love it. So, you know, that that was my favorite all in all living experience.
1 (12m 15s):
Well, you’ve mentioned a few countries already thus far. Are those the only ones that you’ve lived and taught in or are there a few others that
0 (12m 23s):
You haven’t mentioned quite yet? So those are the ones that I have taught in and, and lived in all the other countries that I’ve been, have been through, through travel or some along those lines. But I have taught online through a Chinese company and that was, that was all Chinese kids. So I did that, both that, but I was in the US at that time and you know, it was another cool experience where, you know, again, working with kids maybe five up until 13 and just, you know, seeing the different levels, you know, all these countries that I’ve worked with, it’s just, it’s cool to see how, you know, some are letting Spain’s a more relaxed educational system versus, you know, the Korean is pretty cutthroat and Turkey too really, but you know, it’s just, yeah, those are the countries that I, I have lived in.
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2 (16m 27s):
And so when you are looking for positions, what are you looking for in a teaching contract and how long do the contracts usually last?
0 (16m 34s):
The, the ones that I have seen online have all been a year. Everything has been at least a year. I think it’s kind of rare to find something, maybe six months, but I have seen a few Chinese positions that are two years. So when you ask what I look for, definitely I look for one year, my whole thing is one year in a new place at a new time and you know, I couldn’t do two years ’cause I just, I don’t, that is a long commitment for me. Maybe commitment issues, I don’t know. But it’s, its more like I, I mean you don’t want to break a contract and that doesn’t, you know, I mean you could say it’s about any position really, you know, you could go two months in and you don’t like it, but, but you know, if you, two years is I think a long time for me kind of thing. So I definitely look at that. I look at city I, in my first contract in Spain, I was in a small town in, in the northwest and great time.
0 (17m 18s):
I had a, you know, it was an amazing experience, but it was just such a small town where, you know, I wasn’t able to do as much travel as as I wanted to. You know, of course I really got to experience the town and the tight knit community, but I feel like it, I was early twenties that that’s more, I, I need to be in a city. So I like to pick a city somewhere that, you know, I think is easily accessible to other, you know, like an airport kind of thing. So like I stumble like, you know, looking here, I know I had been here before, but seeing like, oh my gosh, Turkish airways flies all these different places. So I definitely, that’s a huge part of the criteria, just finding somewhere that, you know, you can go to all different other places. And the age, I guess I’ve been pretty flexible because I have worked, you know, from kids three until graduation.
0 (17m 60s):
So I think now moving forward, depending on how long I continue with this, definitely older kids because I think the younger kids, great experience, but just a lot of the, the little things that you wouldn’t necessarily deal with the older kids. But yeah, definitely it has to be a one year position for me. That’s, that’s a huge draw. And yeah, just, and maybe even new countries, you know, I’m pretty flexible ’cause my, my, my life’s goal is to visit every country in the world. So it’s not like, you know, because you have this position in the country, I’ve never been, I don’t care, I’ve never been to Korea, you know, I’m very open. And then in terms of pay, some parts of the world pay higher than others. So in Asia, China, Korea, Japan, a little, that Taiwan that, that’s where the money is compared to, you know, Europe or South America.
0 (18m 43s):
Where if you’re not an international school teacher, which you would have to have your undergrad in education, which I don’t then pay is, is lower. So, you know, it’s just juggling that kind of thing. You know, having been in Spain, the, the pay was low. I mean you being a teaching assistant, the visa you’re on, you’re only working up to 20 hours a week. But you know where I am now, I wouldn’t go back to do that as much as I loved Spain. So it’s just trying to find the next higher paying position I guess. Yeah.
2 (19m 10s):
And when you say one year contract, do you mean one school year or do you mean an actual calendar year? What is the year based off of? Yes,
0 (19m 17s):
So Spain being one year would be a one the school year. So it’d be like September to to May. But Korea was a year round calendar. So what was it, you had two weeks I think in December and then a week in July or something. So that is a full year. So September to September. And then Turkey was, was similar to Spain, I guess a western education calendar where it’s not year round. So it is a one academic year, but I know China being the two years, no it’s two years Taiwan, two years, Korea, one year, the the full ’cause they are year round schools. And
1 (19m 52s):
I know you mentioned how you kind of got into the teaching English Abroad. And I know I had touched upon too, how, you know, this is one of the things you see lots of people really interested in this these days. Who would you say the profession that you’re in right now is really catered to? Like who in their youth or even later on in life would really benefit from something like this to recommend it for
0 (20m 14s):
Yeah, I mean I, I think everyone really, because I think everyone should have that experience of, you know, maybe you studied Abroad or something, you know, it really widens your, you know, horizons. You know, you, you are going to these countries and you’re living there. You’re not, you’re not a tourist, you’re not a visitor. And I think it, I mean it benefits really everyone. I mean I’ve met people that have come from all different backgrounds in terms of what they studied and you know, not many people with education and you know, just the skills that you pick up and you learn, not to be cliche, but you learn a lot about yourself and you to pick up skills that, you know, I think that you wouldn’t necessarily get if you’re just not doing it. You know, being able to work through adulting if you will, but in another language, in another culture. And, you know, trying to, you know, be be patient and understanding how the world works around the world kind of thing.
0 (21m 0s):
And I just, I, I think, you know, I mean I met people again who have, who’ve taught Abroad and they’re doing, you know, x, y, and Z but engineering this and that. So it’s just, it’s skills that, it’s just life skills really. I mean it’s, it’s just a different, different rodeo. It, you know, and then again, teachers, you know, if, if you want to, of course I met people that are teachers, you know, of course would benefit them to teach in another country. ’cause then they would pick up new skills ’cause you’re doing everything to kids that don’t speak your language kind of thing. But guys, I think it is, I it is for everyone, you know, I don’t know, I, some my big regret in college is not studying Abroad and it’s, you know, gaining that world perspective and yeah, I think opens opens your eyes really. Yeah.
2 (21m 39s):
And you had mentioned a little bit about the compensation and how like, you know, teacher’s assistant a little bit less and you’re kinda looking for that next step, but like for generally for people that aren’t in this niche, what’s the kind of compensation range in US dollars when you’re looking for a position?
0 (21m 55s):
Yes, so in, in Korea, well because the inflation, the, the Korean wine has, has lost its value. But between like 2000, and I don’t say 2,500, I think is, is a good range in US dollars for a Korea. I know China is upwards of, you know, can be like 3000 and more. But in Europe, from what I’ve seen, and Spain, well Spain, the program I went through up international, again, being a language assistant, you’re gonna be making between, I dunno, 700 to 900 euros. So what’s that like? I don’t know, just a little add a little more dollars. But again, you’re going on a student visa so you know, you’re only working like 20 hours a week and you’re supposed to be studying the other time.
0 (22m 36s):
But you know, all the job boards, you know, that I’ve seen all in Europe, it is that lower pay than compared to in Asia where the, the market is, is is higher. And it’s also a little more difficult to go to Europe unless you’re a European or EU citizen. So a lot of the jobs, I mean, they’re not gonna sponsor you with a visa kind of thing. So it is a little harder to crack in there unless you go through a Spain, which has these setup programs in France, there’s one as well with the same kind of pay, but there you actually have to place into it by your French level. So, and, and even even South America too, I’ve seen on some job boards, you know, Columbia and Brazil, it’s up to 500, $600 a month. Again, a Asia is where, where the money is if, if you’re not an international school teacher kind of thing.
2 (23m 21s):
And do they help you at all with finding housing or is that something that you do on your own?
0 (23m 26s):
In Spain, they did, which is a little difficult finding accommodation in another country. They, you know, they, they steered you towards, you know, the, the resources. It’s funny, in Spain there’s an app called Body, which is the same, how do I say it? Same like structure is Tinder, so it’s a swiping left and right. So you, it’s the the person who’s renting the apartment versus the person who, who owns it kind of thing. So, you know, I, I look, I see, oh, I like this apartment, I’ll swipe right. And if they like my profile, like, okay, I’m a smoker, I’m not, then they swipe right then, you know, the dialogue is open. So it’s a funny concept in Korea, you are provided with housing and if you don’t take their housing, they can give you, you know, a stipend kind of thing.
0 (24m 13s):
And they’ll pay for a big thing in Korea is a, a key deposit, so that they’ll, they’ll cover that. But that’s pretty standard in Korea, you wouldn’t go and not have housing and then, but in Turkey it it is, it is provided we live in a, in a building that is the school owns, from what I’ve seen, you know, in the rest of the places it, it’s not, well China provides, Japan provides, I think Taiwan, yeah, Asia provides, but everywhere else I think they might steer you towards something. But it wouldn’t, it’d be rare to find, you know, a position in Italy that will for one hire you because you’re not a European citizen, then give you housing. But they might, you know what I mean? So they’ll steer you towards resources.
1 (24m 49s):
Well I think the potential for finding housing just coming in as a foreigner and like you said, it’s not as a tourist, you’re living there. Right. That’s probably one of the biggest hurdles and it seems like for the most part to a degree taken care of. Right. So what are some of the other challenges then that you’ve faced while living Abroad? Because I can imagine there’s plenty of them, language barrier, et cetera, but what are some of the unsuspecting challenges? Yes,
0 (25m 14s):
So specifically from my experience, Turkey, the big challenge has been, well the visa. So, you know, we were kind of told that we would be given a, a working visa kind of thing, but because of the current, you know, the Ukraine war and the, the proximity of Syria with refugees coming in, like Turkey stopped handing out these visas kind of thing. So that’s been so many hoops trying to get this, this visa kind of thing. Which I guess depending on the country, you know, it might be harder than others, but, but you know, as a more general thing, you know, I think just meeting friends kind of thing. So, you know, being in Spain or Korea, you are kind of just, you might have people in your program, you know. But when I was in Spain, my first contract, it was this small town weren’t a lot, I mean I could speak Spanish, but it’s not like there were a lot of people my age actually.
0 (26m 1s):
So it was, you know, finding a friend group, you know, living, you know, with a host family, you know, I’m spending time with them, but you’re not gonna have my time. You know, find some the boys, if you will, or whoever. And you know, it’s, it’s a little tough and you know, it can be a little harrowing ’cause you know, it’s one thing to move to a city back home, you know, you’re a big or small fish in a big pond, but here you are in like a big ocean ’cause it’s not your language, all that kind of thing. So, you know, making friends and you know, again, learning about myself as in how can I find friends thing, another hurdle, I guess phone, phone situation. Finding, you know, shopping between like phone plans and, you know, stuff. I think it was in, it was in Korea. I wasn’t able to get a phone plan until I had some permit or something.
0 (26m 44s):
So specific to Korea, I was kind of, you know, not allowed to go like sign up for a gym, like sign up for these things where it’s like, well I can’t until I get this, this ID card. So, you know, like little things like that where, you know, it’s, it’s different again, as, as a, as a traveler, as a someone who’s living there versus a tourist. I mean, I can’t get a tourist package like, you know, it’s think things like that. And then, you know, just, just again navigating, you know, in being in Spain again with the Spanish, but Turkey, I mean it’s in the Latin alphabet, you know, coming to Korea, I didn’t, I didn’t research anything so I lived, you know, in Busan, the second biggest city in Korea. But where I was located, there was no English. And it was, you know, you get a lot of stares ’cause you’re, you’re just so foreign and they haven’t seen many foreigners.
0 (27m 26s):
But just being able to like, you know, get at least, you know, if I don’t speak German Italian at least I can try to read something with the Latin alphabet. But there it’s like, oh, oh my, you know, going to China kind of thing where it’s just so whoa. But you know, it’s different having gone to China where it’s like, okay, well I’m with a tour group versus here I am by myself. Like, you know, trying to figure out buses, trying to figure out signs, like I don’t know kind of thing. And you know, specifically in Korea, Google Maps isn’t good there. They have their own map for, you know, the writing system. So like, just trying to find out where I’m going with these Google maps where again, it’s not catered for Korean. So just, you know, things like that, you know, just the, the admin things. But you know, I love that, you know, it’s the adventure of being in a, in a new place and I try not to get too caught up with, oh my God, why isn’t this going in my favor?
0 (28m 12s):
It’s more well signed up for this and this is, it’s fun to me. You know,
3 (28m 16s):
You mentioned it, it’s a little bit hard to make friends. I totally feel that after moving to a new city a year ago. And you said one of your first trips was a solo trip. Have you been doing a lot of solo?
0 (28m 26s):
Yeah, so I’m, I dunno if y’all have seen so far, but I’m a big talk. So, you know, the the solo travel thing is, is something that, you know, when I am doing the solo traveling, ’cause I’ve done many, many, many trips solo, it’s, it’s where I find myself most happy I guess in terms of the travel experience, you know, I love traveling with the friends kind of thing. But it’s something where, you know, I can do what it is that I want and the, the schedule that I want kind of thing. And so, you know, with that, I’m big with hostels, you know, I stayed in hostels in the beginning and I’ll, I still will always advocate for them. I just, I love going and meeting like-minded people where, you know, it’s just so easy. You know, all, all you do is say hello and where are you from? And then, you know, the conversation goes all here and you know, here I am having a drink with a swed and the next day going with a Serbian here.
0 (29m 13s):
Like, just like those kinds of experiences I live for. And you know, it’s easy for me to, to make friends and to, to talk and get along with people. ’cause that’s just, you know, that’s my personality. But you know, I have met people with the flip side, you know, Abroad where, you know, being maybe not like me where, where it is even harder to meet friends because it is more that timid personality and you know, everyone has their own personality kind of thing. So, but for me specifically, it’s not a problem. And you know, the solo, solo travel is, I mean, just so fun to me. ’cause it’s like, who am I gonna meet tonight? What am I gonna do tomorrow? You know? Yeah, I try. It’s, that’s my, that’s my mentality.
1 (29m 47s):
Well I know you mentioned one of the first places when you were in Spain, it was in a small little town, you weren’t close to an airport. And you know, when Brittany and I talked sometimes, like if we were to move somewhere, like proximity to an airport is important. So I guess like while you’re actually working and have your contracts and now that you’re in Istanbul easy access to an airport, how often are you doing those travelings? ’cause I know you have a history too. I mean, you mentioned the hostels, but you have a history of doing a lot of solo Backpacking or, and things of that nature. So are you able to do
0 (30m 20s):
That? Yeah, so in, in Galicia in the small town in Spain, no, I, I, I went somewhere, I went to the Canary Islands on the Easter break, but it, it just didn’t make sense to travel a place on the weekend. ’cause it’s like this small bus that takes you to this, this town a switch. And it’s like, okay, well I’m not, not traveling, but that’s fine, you know, I’ll explore the local area. But in Barcelona, I mean, having been to Europe, I mean, you know, that the, the flights are just so much cheaper than they are back home. So it was more, okay. And Barcelona flies so many places. So what was it? I’m going on Google flights and okay, got 20 bucks, so what are we gonna do at 20 bucks? Oh, okay. I’m flying to Milan for 13 euros. So just, you know, being open to that.
0 (31m 2s):
So Barcelona, I did a lot of, a lot of travel and a big thing with me, I love sports and you know, I play lacrosse and I, I found a team in Barcelona. So then went to a, a tournament in Prague. And then from there I went to different countries, you know, again, solo kind of thing. And then just using, because Barcelona, I lived not too far from, well, I mean anywhere in Barcelona to get the airport’s not, not hard. So weekend trips were, you know, easy. And then even Barcelona with the, the buses, they, they go so many places. I was taking buses to the south of France like every other weekend at one point. And you know what, it is easy, but in Turkey, because the say of the economy, the prices of flights are not as low as what they were.
0 (31m 42s):
’cause Turkish Airlines flies everywhere. And Pegasus Airlines as their, you know, budget airline and they fly a lot of places, but the prices and sometimes with the times we haven’t been able to do as much travel Abroad as I guess we would’ve thought. But you know, for the breaks we did go, you know, elsewhere in Europe, we went to to Egypt for the one break. We just got back today from Na, Napoli, Greece and the Budapest. So that was just a little, little time. But you know, we, we’ve done a lot of traveling in Turkey that we’ve been here because turkey’s a huge country. But in terms of flying, I mean you get anywhere in the country within two hours. So, you know, we’ve done a lot of travel into, because I’m here with my, my girlfriend actually. So we’ve done a lot of travel within Turkey on the weekends.
0 (32m 23s):
And again, there’s two airports here too. Massive airports that not too far from us. So, you know, you are able to do the Friday to Sunday kind of trips. So, you know, and, and in Korea was not able to do a ton of travel on internationally. Actually I didn’t go anywhere internationally because at the time with, you know, COVID, so if you left Korea you would’ve to quarantine for two weeks coming back. And I, I did the two week quarantine going to that country and I will never do that again. But unable to travel in Korea, but more, some, you know, weekend trips, again in increments, a small smaller country. But definitely Barcelona was where I was able to do my most international travel because of, again, its proximity and the prices, but yet I, I try to do, you know, at least one trip every month, you know, in the places that I’ve been, if not more,
2 (33m 12s):
I’m really loving our conversation so far. I mean you’ve done so much and you’ve only been doing this for, for a few years and I just can tell like you probably have so much more planned as well, which is really cool. But when you are done with like a teaching year, is that when you mostly do your backpack, your longer Backpacking trip?
0 (33m 29s):
Yeah. So tracks yes. To answer your question, after, after Barcelona, I did do well, okay, so I was in the midst of a, a trip. I was trying to do a trip around the world going west or actually east, sorry, east from Barcelona and then come back to, to Maryland kind of thing. And it was supposed to be a five month trip and I made it two and a half months in and I made it to Thailand when Covid really hit the fan. So that, you know, that was when I, I had to, you know, cut my losses and like, okay, we gotta go home, you know, we, we don’t know what’s going on. But after Korea, yes I did a month Backpacking in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. So I did there, was that what you were saying? So the contract’s over before we go home, figure out our next step or even around my next step, let’s, let’s make some Moves, you know, let’s, you know, being cooped up in Korea for a year, it was like, okay, where are we going?
0 (34m 20s):
And, and that, that’s what brought me to those three countries. And again, I’m very big into going to places off the, the beaten path. I prefer, you know, eastern Europe to Western, you know, I think it’s more, well less, less Taurus and more raw and gritty. So, you know, the, the George Armenian Azerbaijan was the perfect solo trip, but those two were, were all solo and yeah, had a, had a ball.
2 (34m 42s):
I love places kind of off the beaten path too. So where would you say is like your favorite place in a country that is more unsuspecting, that most people are like, oh, I’ve never even heard of it or I’ve never even thought of going.
0 (34m 53s):
Yeah, so, so me, I come from a small town so telling like friends and stuff, like even countries that I think are well known, they, they have no idea what that is kind of thing. So, you know, but like my favorite, I guess off to be in pa, I mean it would be this region not to lump Georgia, Romania as Rajan together. ’cause they’re so different. So mutualize, they our language, culture, whatever. But I guess I think Georgia, you know, I’ve only met a handful of people that have ever been to Georgia in Zer. Rajan even less, I don’t think I know like one other person I’ve ever met has been Rajan. But Georgia is just so beautiful and you know, tourists, there were tourists there, but it’s not the like the droves of crowds that you’d see in a Paris or a Rome. And it’s just again, off the beaten path.
0 (35m 33s):
And you know, it’s kind of hard to find information online about where to go and especially in English and you know, I just, I love that where it’s like, wow, I’m the only person I know that okay, I knew someone else had been to Georgia, a roommate, but it’s more like wow, like I’m just, you know, doing something and I can tell the next person isn’t like going to Spain where, okay, everyone’s been to city Granada, this and that. It’s like, okay, well I’m gonna somewhere where it’s like kind of hard to find information. Like I feel like I’m pioneering it amongst my travel friends kind of thing. And yeah, so Georgia I think would be my answer to your question.
2 (36m 5s):
I’ve heard really good things about Georgia. It’s definitely on my list. I haven’t been there before, but a lot of the times when you mention Georgia, people are like, oh, the state. And I’m like, no, no, no Atlanta,
0 (36m 14s):
2 (36m 16s):
Well I really wanna dive like into the Backpacking portion. And you did a month walk, Backpacking trip. You kind of mentioned where you went, but how long were you there for?
0 (36m 26s):
So this trip to Georgia, I made Asja was a little over a week in each country. So I started in Georgia and then I went to Armenia, which all three countries border each other. But for those of you who who don’t know Armenian, Rajan hate each other. They just had a war, what, two years ago or, it’s a very, very turbulent area. So I mean I, I had known this, but my plan was to go Georgia, Armenia, Rajan like crossed from Armenia to Rajan, but that, that border is, is blocked off. And so I had to go back to Georgia to go to Azerbaijan. So I guess Georgia would’ve been maybe eight days versus the other ones would’ve been seven. Yeah, probably seven. But because I had to go back to Georgia to go to Azerbaijan and that was, yeah, a month of just Backpacking bouncing between hostels and you know, different cities within each country and well, Georgia and our, and Armenian, the language is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in terms of like the script and you know, as Rajan is k kind of similar, the, the language to Turkish.
0 (37m 21s):
But yeah, just each one, it’s just a part of the world that is just so different than everywhere else. I mean it’s like Europe but Asia, but Europe but still Asia and like just, it, it’s, it’s at a crossroads between, you know, literally both continents come together and Georgia would’ve been at probably eight days or seven and seven I think.
2 (37m 38s):
So interesting. ’cause I haven’t done a lot of Backpacking, so, but it’s something I would be interested in. We have stayed in a hostel, but it was only for a few days. What would you say three of your must-haves on a Backpacking trip?
0 (37m 51s):
Okay, so three must-haves. Well for one, you know, I think having that charger that is have a charger that has the different prongs to all the different parts of the world kind of thing. And two I, well I think having a currency converter on your phone because time in timeout again, I, I mess up on that every time. So I think that that’s a good one. An offline one. And then maps me is the map that I use that it’s, you know, ’cause I usually get, get sim cards for every country I go to. But you know, if God forbid I go somewhere and you know, when I landed in Georgia, I landed at what 2:00 AM so it’s like there were no stores open to get a sim card. So maps me, you download the country or the region that you’re going to on wifi and then it’s, it’s a great map that you can use, you know, afterwards because you know, beforehand I’d go places that, oh I can’t get a sim card or something.
0 (38m 43s):
So I’m like, you know, a chicken without a head. Those are the three big things I would say maybe that’s travel in general, maybe not so much the Backpacking, but yeah. And then the Backpacking bag I think is good there. There’s some really good, was it o Osprey? Osprey that that’s the bag I have. So it’s, you know, built for Backpacking that, you know, it’s not your typical backpack. It’s got like, you know, the, the root, all these different hidden pockets kind of thing. ’cause you know, when you’re Backpacking you know you’re gonna travel with, you know, all different things and you know, just, I think these backpacks are built for that. And it’s a good thing too if you need to sleep somewhere. It might be comfortable as a pillow. It’s nice and nice and chunky. Is that, so I definitely recommend opr.
2 (39m 18s):
Do you find that you just shove everything in and kind of just like layer it in as you need it? Or do you use like some type of system like packing cubes to keep yourself organized within your back?
0 (39m 27s):
So I’ve, I’ve been like rolling them up like, like style, like all my clothes because I think that’s the best way from what I’ve seen to stack and ’cause it’s a pain, you know, when you’re Backpacking like, ’cause you’re not necessarily taking all the clothes out so you take one thing out, but then, oh God, now I gotta get something tomorrow at, at the bottom. So I probably should have a better organizational structured than what I actually do. But I find the best way to maximize the space is to like, like a hot dog style.
3 (39m 53s):
You have done a lot of trips like this before. What advice would you give to someone that’s never been Backpacking before but really wants to take that kind of
0 (40m 3s):
Yeah, I think just, just do it really. I think that’s the big advice. You know, you always have reservations to do anything I think in life. And I think Backpacking is a way, again, I keep coming back to like finding yourself, but it, it’s something where, you know, it’s just you against the world kind of thing. And so just, you know, don’t, there will be people that say don’t do it. Oh you’re gonna this place, oh aren’t you scared this will happen? But don’t, don’t listen to that. Like being back home. Dangerous things could happen. Like just again, just go with it. You know? I think Backpacking of course, I don’t think there’s a age maximum to go Backpacking. No, but especially if you’re younger and you have less responsibilities, like do a Backpacking trip because you know, I think it’s harder depending where you are in your life or what job is that you have, but the Backpacking is just a different way of travel and you know, I think hostels come with the Backpacking but, but you know, you can still, you know, if you need your alone time, you can, I mean a hotel is always there.
0 (40m 56s):
A private room is always there. Like, you know, you have freedom but it’s just a way to, it’s an alternative trip. You know, it’s not, not an all inclusive no, it’s an, it’s an adventure. You know, it’s a big world out there and just put all your stuff in your bag and go see it. And I think don’t get too caught up with the horror stories that come with travel for one or Backpacking or I don’t know. It just, I don’t think just do it, you know? ’cause there’ll be a million reasons to not do something. Always you hit the
1 (41m 22s):
Nail on the head. I mean we tell our listeners that all the time to like, don’t fall for the preconceived notions of like danger. Yes, some countries and places and anywhere, yes, there’s danger but it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth going to and being vigilant about what it is that you’re actually doing. Right. So I I really respect that thought process and mentality. ’cause a lot of people don’t have it and it keeps that, you know, hindrance there for them to be able to go. But you talked about just going, but I, which I totally agree with, but when you’re doing your trips, okay, you picked your countries, do you have a rough outline of a plan or when you’re there, are you kind of like really wingy?
0 (42m 2s):
I don’t, I don’t really do any planning really. I do the, the essential do I need a visa? Yeah, that’s about it. Because I’m the kind of person that every single day is where I’ll find out where I’m going to be staying that night because I’ve had, you know, experiences where I’ve maybe booked a place for four days. Well what if I don’t like that city? What if there’s not enough to do for the four days? What if I don’t like the people at the hostel like I do one day at a time, which can be hit or miss because you know, I wake up, okay, now it’s the whole back to what am I doing today Kind I thing. But, but I like that. And my mom was the big advocate for not planning too much because before I went on my bi solo Backpacking trip at a junior in college, I thought I was gonna plan everything out for two weeks. And she said, you know, ’cause she’s done her fair share of Backpacking having lived Abroad, you never know who you will meet.
0 (42m 46s):
You never know what will happen. So I think keep your plan, you know, loose and flexible because again, stuff happens or you, you don’t like a certain place and or or you do give into a preconceived notion. You, you, I don’t know, just, just keep, keep things open. So, so no, to answer your question, I, I don’t, but which has bit me a few times, you know, like especially going to Georgia, you know, I show up, I don’t even know where I’m staying and I get there at two in the morning, which stupid, I don’t look up how the best way to get the city is, which I would’ve looked up, which in Georgia big issue is they have like a taxi masa. Well, if I did a simple Google search, I would’ve known that where I, I got, you know, scammed and I was short some money because I didn’t, didn’t do that.
0 (43m 28s):
So there is pros and cons to my, my travel ways. But I, I think again, I will never plan. I won’t, I think it’s just what I need to do is look up certain aspects of going to certain places. Even in this trip with my girlfriend, we, we went to, we took a bus from Istanbul to Tesi and in Greece. And every single day it was like, okay, where are we gonna stay? Kind of thing. Which was good and bad, you know, because like I didn’t, I didn’t wanna go, you know, we go to this place, what if, what if we don’t like it? What if, what if it’s not whatever. Like, let’s not be locked in for two days. Which, which we did do. We bought, we did somewhere for two days. This place was like not, it was like heinous, like the, the conditions of this, this booking.
0 (44m 8s):
So we, we, we backed out, you know, we were able to get our money back. But I don’t know, I mean that could happen with anywhere ’cause we booked two days. It doesn’t, yeah, whatever. Yeah, I just, I I I do keep a loose plan because again, I, I made some great memories and kept it flexible with people that I met in the hostel. Like, I, I did a, a kayaking trip in Croatia and met these two guys again, I didn’t have any plans onward. And they said, oh, we have a car, car, we’re gonna drive to Bosnia tomorrow. Do you wanna come? And I said, okay, yeah, sure, whatever. So then here I am going to Bosnia, which wouldn’t have happened if, you know, my plan was more rigid. Like, no, no, no, I’m not gonna Bosnia ’cause I’m doing this. It’s because I like that. You know, as I’ve said, just met so many people that, you know, I’ve invited me to do things or I invited them to do things based on the vibes and you know, just memories that I really created because it’s going in with an open, non-planned mindset.
0 (44m 57s):
2 (44m 57s):
It’s so intriguing to me. ’cause that is totally not my travel style, but I can see like the excitement behind it, which is really cool. And by the way, shout out to your mom because your mom sounds amazing.
0 (45m 8s):
2 (45m 10s):
But back to a first time traveler, if they were doing a Backpacking trip for the first time, what would you say the good length of time for them to do as like the first Backpacking trip? One week, two weeks, a month?
0 (45m 24s):
I more, well I, I think do, do a year or something. But no, I think a realistic thing. I think two weeks because a week is like, to me like you’re going to a country, I mean, anyways, you’re a tourist, you go for a week, but two weeks I think is a good time for you to really feel, do you like this? Do you like this whole moving between place or doing what it is they do for two weeks? Like one week I think to me is too short. I think two weeks, especially if you go to country, you can see a bit in two weeks depending on where you go. And I think the more time that you are outta your comfort zone, the more time that you know, you can become acclimated. Or really, this is not for me. Because even if you hate after two days, okay, then I think you need to figure out what, what, what is, what the, how can you change, how can you dictate the, the direction of this trip kind of thing.
0 (46m 12s):
I, I think two weeks is maybe a week and a half, we’ll say. It could be the minimum, but I think a week is, is is too short. And yeah, I just, I I, you will find what it is that you like about travel. If you’re just by yourself doing this Backpacking thing, you’re not going with friends or you’re not going with your parents where everything is outlined. I think it’s a good way and a good length to, to really throw yourself to the fire.
2 (46m 34s):
And do you budget while you backpack or do you have like a certain cost per day or amount that you wanna spend on a trip? Or how do you figure that out?
0 (46m 41s):
So in my, my Backpacking trips, the solo ones, not necessarily cost per day, but I’m a frugal person anyways, where I usually only do two meals a day. I don’t even really eat breakfast anyways, but I try not to fall victim to the big tourist traps kind of thing. And you know, ’cause I try to save money that way. And hostels, I will usually pick the, one of the cheaper ones. Again, if the reviews are, you know, three outta 10, I’m not gonna do it. But, you know, just, i, I do keep depending on where you are in the world, like, you know, if you can get away with 20, less than $20 for an accommodation, then yeah, I’m going to do that. But then, you know, just, and then looking at, you know, I don’t take taxis ’cause scams or just, you know, just little, little things like, I mean, I walk, walk everywhere.
0 (47m 23s):
Even I’m also not like directionally challenged. So like I, instead of getting onto a bus in a new country or metro, I’m just gonna walk and I’ll walk up to an hour and a half because one saves money, but maybe it doesn’t save much. But two, like, I dunno if it’s me, it’s a way to see more, but not necessarily a number. Like even in my, the five month trip, it was just more a mental note. Like, okay, if I spend this $15 on this dinner, I’ll probably hate myself for it, you know what I mean? So like really keeping costs low, but I’m a big two meal per day and going to markets, getting, instead of going to restaurants, going to markets, getting stuff like that.
0 (48m 3s):
I know people, which I’ve never done, you know, will cook in the house. I’ve never, never done that. I, I can’t set myself doing that. Be like someone will critique my cooking or something. But yeah, so definitely two meals a day and just, and, and museums. Like, I, I don’t appreciate them as much. Like I’ll do history museums, but art museums I won’t do that. So unless, you know the big ones in Madrid, I, I forget the, the name, but I, I did that kind of thing. But yeah, so it’s not a number, it’s more just okay, what’s the most frugal way of doing something. Well
2 (48m 30s):
You’ve given this a lot of info on Backpacking and teaching Abroad and it’s been a really great conversation. So we are gonna start wrapping it up, but I do have a few final questions. You mentioned that your girlfriend is there with you. Does she also teach Abroad?
0 (48m 45s):
Yes. So we met in Korea. She had dmd me actually on a job, not job board, our TEFL academy. I posted like, okay, I’m here in Korea. And so she was looking at jobs and I guess fancy to me, I guess, yeah, I IBMs you know, she’s in another room. She probably hates me saying that. But yeah, so she, we came, she arrived in Korea six months after me ’cause that’s when her contract started. So then we took this show on the road, we came to Turkey together. So we were at the same school. There were two different campuses, but it did kind of merge. So we, you know, we, we do do the same thing. She was just with a different age group and then moving forward, forward we’ll go together wherever.
2 (49m 29s):
Oh, I love it. That’s great. It’s great that you have someone there with you too because I feel like one of the challenges of living Abroad is feeling like you’re missing or not maintaining the relationships that you have in the states and kind of missing out on milestones at home. Do you have any feelings about that or any thoughts on that?
0 (49m 47s):
That’s a good, good topic. I I should have mentioned this before, when you talk about challenges. Yes, it’s a huge thing because, you know, just especially my age now, people getting married, having children like, I don’t know, just it, it is like unrealistic to go like it someone’s birthday or something like that where you are just so far away that you can’t go there for the weekend. But you know, this could be said, you know, being in the US depending on where you are. But I don’t know, it is something where I do come back and I do feel, you know, FOMO at times where it’s like, oh my God, well I missed out on this. Which, you know, all the friends, they, they understand what it is that had happened where it’s me like I’m not doing my own thing. But, but then the flip side is I wouldn’t trade it. You know, I’d rather have these experiences.
0 (50m 29s):
Like I haven’t, not, not at Goldwood, you know, I haven’t missed any really big events of just my cousin’s graduation, you know, the other, other week. But it, it is tough and you know, I just, you know, I’ve been invited to two, two weddings and it’s like, well where in the world will I be, will I be able to to swing it? And yeah. So as a general thing, yeah, it can be tough. Missing these, these milestones in FOMO is, is is real. But I look past it as in, well I’m out here making Moves wherever I am. Like, okay.
1 (50m 57s):
Well I really think you have a lot of valuable insight just in general that you’ve shared with us here in terms of, you know, a way to travel, make money and work at the same time, and then utilizing your off time to do other things. But I know you have something in store for yourself that you are launching. So why don’t you tell our listeners where they can find your social stuff as well as, you know, your big announcement to share right here?
0 (51m 23s):
Yes. So on Instagram, I have two accounts so that you can find me. I have just my personal one, Matt Mitzel, my name, and then I’m a big, my mantra is making Moves. So on my travel account, Making Moves with Matt. So there I post my travel related things, you know, I have a drone that I’m obsessed with. So I just, you know, post all my, my videos and pictures there. And an announcement, as you said, I have now started a podcast. I’ve been featured on several podcasts. I’m always looking to be on podcasts ’cause I’m a talker, so I figured well let’s host a podcast. This is your, your calling. So yes, I have Making Moves with Matt. The, the Travel podcast and episodes will be on, you know, Spotify or, or Apple Podcasts.
0 (52m 8s):
And these, this is a podcast that again, kind of like what it is now, just talking about trends in travel, anything travel and you know, I want to, as I move forward with it, I would like to talk country specific so you know, okay, has anyone been Albania? What do we do in Albania for, you know, an itinerary? So yeah, thank you for let’s get that out there. But yeah, Making Moves with Matt and that’s the big Instagram. That’s my podcast. Is
2 (52m 33s):
There anything else that you wanna share with our listeners?
0 (52m 36s):
Yeah, I mean, just touch on it a little, but I think just, just do, do just travel, you know, and just go to places that aren’t the, the, the Romes, the Parises. Like just if, if you have any inkling to go somewhere, any drive to see what it is that you see, just, just do it. You know, I think traveling is is such a rewarding experience for, for everyone. You know, the, you’re an ambassador for your own country. You, you are, you know, can see the world for what it is. And it’s, it’s a huge world out there and you know, by, we’ll never see the whole thing. But I think just see as much as it as you can when you can. Then I think, you know, in my travels I’ve seen, you know, we, we are so different, but we are all the same, you know, and I just, I love, you know, seeing that.
0 (53m 20s):
And I would love other people who are listening to, you know, if you have any reservations, just put those reservations aside and go, go see the world. Just, just do it, you know, big world. That’s
3 (53m 32s):
1 (53m 33s):
Well, I definitely love that you’ve left our listeners with some solid advice and even though I take that advice and try to live by that mantra, I’m gonna apply it to myself more further now. And we really appreciate your time today, the conversation. I think it was invaluable and we really appreciate it.
0 (53m 50s):
Well thank you so much for having me on. You know, it was, it was great to, to get to know you guys and you know, talk and yeah, I had a, had a, had a blast.
2 (53m 57s):
Alright, thank you so much. We’ll see you next time.
3 (53m 59s):
Thank you Squatty for tuning into our episode this week. I hope Matt inspired you to start traveling and teaching Abroad yourself. Keep the adventures going with us by following us on all social media at Travel Squad, Podcast, and send us in your questions of the week.
1 (54m 14s):
If you found the information, this episode would be useful. Or if you thought we were just playing funny, please be sure to share it with a friend that would enjoy it too. Please subscribe, rate and review our podcast and tune in every travel Tuesday for new episodes.
2 (54m 28s):
De tuned for next week’s episode. We have some more amazing adventures and tips in store for you. Bye.