I Always Knew I Wanted To Live In Asia | Travel/Volunteer Guest Post Series: by Abby Stewart

I can’t believe it is actually here but I am off volunteering and teaching kids in Kilimanjaro-Tanzania for the month! Don’t fret! I haven’t forgotten about you, readers! I have a lineup of some very talented and wonderful bloggers who will guest post for me while I am gone.  The guest post series topic is on travel experiences OR adventures in volunteering locally or abroad to go with the theme of my volunteering & traveling adventures in Africa. I’ll be back before you know it with plenty of stories of my own, I’m sure! Enjoy!


 My first guest post is from a fellow blogger whom I am lucky enough to have met IRL while she was in Chicago for the 20sb Summit last year. Abby Stewart is currently teaching in South Korea, just self-published her novela Menthol Kisses (which I am dying to read on my long flight!), and blogs at A Geek Tragedy. I LOVE this post about following travel dreams and learning about yourself.  Easy for me to say, I am doing just that right now as I am in Tanzania volunteering!


I think junior high was the first time I ‘officially’ announced my desire to live in Asia. At the time my preferred destination was Japan. When my grandparents asked what they should tell my extended family to get me for Christmas, I replied: “Oh, anything to do with Japan.”

I received a VHS travel documentary about Hawaii. I’ve considered the obvious explanation, they are both islands. And the more nuanced one, perhaps the older generation, filled with World War II memories, was providing me with a subtle hint.

At any rate, I was not dissuaded. In high school I didn’t move toward this goal in any real way. I spent much of my time on Internet forums and pinning up anime pictures next to the dragon figurines around my desk (whatever — I was super cool). However, in college I took the first step toward making my dream a tangible reality.

Walking across the university courtyard I noticed a single booth set up with a banner that read JET. I knew immediately what that banner was for, The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. I walked past the booth twice, maybe three times, before finally approaching the booth’s solitary inhabitant and requesting an information packet. The guy seemed almost elated to speak with me, and I got the sense that he hadn’t spoken to many people that day. I, on the other hand, was quiet and reserved in my questioning. I didn’t want to seem over eager, after all.

I kept the JET packet sitting above my computer until I graduated. When I graduated, I moved the packet with me to my new apartment and my new job. It became a dusty, manila receptacle for my hopes and dreams.

Eventually, I figured I would never act on the packet — and it had to be out of date by that point anyway — so I tossed it. I felt nothing more than a soft flicker of guilt as I trashed the college artifact. But I had a lot going for me then — I had a job, a car, health insurance, a seemingly stable relationship, all the trappings of a successful “adult” life.

And then suddenly, I didn’t have any of that anymore.

After I lost my job, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt purposeless. Then, I realized what I should have been doing all along. I started doing Internet research and decided that I was finally going to move to Asia for a year to teach ESL. At first, I began researching jobs in China, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand — I don’t quite remember how I settled on South Korea, but I’m glad I did. Then Jared (my boyfriend) told me he wanted to go with me, and so here we are!

We recently passed our six month mark in South Korea, and I’ve learned so much about myself. I am definitely not the same unemployed sad sack that I was last year. I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China, learned phrases in a previously incomprehensible language, successfully navigated public transportation (which doesn’t exist in Texas), and immersed myself in a culture I knew little to nothing about. Every day I teach (mostly) enthusiastic students how to read, write, and speak in English. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time here! And I am so thankful that I finally gave my dreams a chance.

My advice? If you’re thinking about traveling, teaching, volunteering, do it now. Do it while you’re young and impulsive and willing to take more risk. There’s nothing to regret, except never trying.

Bio: Abby is an indie author, blogger at a geek tragedy, and ESL teacher, living with her boyfriend, in Seoul, South Korea.


Life in New York: Observations of a Newbie

This post is brought to you by the 20SB Blog-Swap.  June and I swapped blogs today. You can find her over on The VayaBlog.  My own post on Explorer Perspective: Tips and Personal Experience about Studying Abroad in Florence, Italy is featured on her site today.  Please read June’s post and say hello!




So I’m spending the humid, mucky month of August launching my startup here in New York City. So far, in four days, I’ve been running around the city producing a video, having meetings up the wazoo, going to parties, prepping for a press release, and attempting to catch up with friends. And in those days I’ve turned into one of those stereotypical New York people – always running to meetings, getting very little sleep, and pushing through people to get through. The only people who seem to actually be late to meetings and social obligations are people who are not originally from New York. And that person is usually me.

There’s something about the energy of a place that makes you take on the characteristics of other people who live there. You’re always trying a little harder to make it – the next train, the next green light, in life. During bottomless mimosa brunch on a rainy Sunday morning, my friend said that “everyone in this city is skinny because you walk everywhere and can’t afford to eat that much. Plus there are models everywhere – skinny women that make you feel like a cow when all they have for lunch is a tiny cup of soup.”

I’m kind of intrigued by what it’s like to live here full-time, if only it weren’t so damned humid. I miss the San Francisco weather – fog, wind, briskness, and all. Even though New York City is one of the most diverse in the world, it is incredibly insular as well. There are so many ethnic neighborhoods that are packed with people from the same place – Polish, Eastern European Jews, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Chinese, West African, and so forth. I guess most cities are kind of like this, but it’s especially pronounced here.

Those hatches on the sidewalk are fucking scary. Every time I walk past one, I look at the ominous steep stairwells that just go straight down and shudder. Sometimes there’s a little bar that attempts to prevent you from falling into it, but most of the time it’s just left open. It baffles me; this must be a safety code violation of some sort – maybe one that Giuliani missed when he was cleaning up the city. I don’t want to imagine what it’s like to fall into one of those things. The massive amounts of steam coming out of manholes also freaks me out.

Also, there are so many beautiful, tall, well-dressed people, that it must suck to be the ugly here. There also aren’t as many people here as I previously remembered, and it’s actually a pretty quiet place. In general, the places I’ve been in Brooklyn are also nicer and cleaner than in downtown Manhattan, unless you’re in the West Village or something. The thing I love most about NYC, though, is that people actually get things done and there’s tons of pressure to perform. Love that.

On a Different Sort of Soul Mate

Hi guys! By the time you read this, I’ll be on The Oasis, one of the largest cruise ships, drinking fruity drinks with umbrellas, hopefully getting color on my pale body and listening to some Bob Marley. Today’s guest post is from one of my dearest friends Terra of Terra-bear.com.  Be sure to check out her blog if you haven’t already (I featured one of her posts in my last Wonders of the Web Wednesday, so you should have already checked her out!) because not only is she entertaining and insightful, she is a fabulous writer and friend.    

Greetings blog readers! I’m Terra from terra-bear.com and Caryn asked me to guest post while she gallivants around the ocean on one of the world’s largest cruise ships and I’m absolutely honored to do so.

I met Caryn in Vegas. It was four days of action-packed, bloggers in sin city adventure and I can say firmly, several months after the fact, that the experience changed my life. I came away from the trip a certified fan of the Caryn Club and was determined to stay in touch with her until the next time we could see each other in person.  There was something about her, something that I knew, in my little heart of hearts, was special and after each subsequent conservation we had, I became more and more convinced that her and I might just be long-lost twins of some strange sort.

On the flight back from Vegas to Virginia, I started thinking about love and friendship and about how sometimes the sparks that start a friendship can look a whole lot like the sparks that start romances in story books and fairy tales. Soul mates of the romantical sort get all of the attention, sure, but is the friend stuff really so different? What about those times when you sit down with someone, share some parts of yourself and realize that person, sitting next to you, is exactly what you need or that their story looks an awful like your story and that the major parts of your life story have galloped along on much the same trajectory as your own? What about when you meet someone and the more you find out about them, the more you discover who they are, at their core, the more you realize that YES, EXACTLY, and that you need this person in your life come hell or high water because they feed and nourish and illuminate your soul and make you laugh so hard you snort wine?

Growing up, I felt the push to find and ensnare Prince Charming, to find a Ken to match my Barbie and to find my one true love, my soul mate, the man of my dreams. I’m pretty sure I’ve found him, and, with Caryn’s recent engagement, it seems she’s found hers as well, but I’m not convinced the soul mate train should stop there. What about all the other people who change and enrich our lives? Why can’t we call them soul mates as well?

When I sit down and think about it, there are whole piles of people who have impacted my life, people who have bumped into my Universe and forced it to shift course, to move; people who have broadened my horizons and who have shown me parts of myself I would never have been able to reach on my own. Some were boyfriends and lovers, sure, but a lot where friends. Some were teachers and professors, others family members. A few were even strangers.

So I’m done limiting myself to soul mates of the romantic sort. I’m subscribing to the idea that a soul mate is anyone who alters our life’s course and who enriches the lives we are currently living. Sometimes they stay in our lives for years, decades, maybe even whole lifetimes, and other times they pop in and out, just long enough to leave a mark and to push us further toward being ourselves. Sometimes we meet these people and we know, right way, that they’re exactly who we need in our lives right now, and other times it takes longer. Sometimes it takes trials and tribulations to discover that they, these soul mates of ours, are actually soul mates. Sometimes it takes looking up and realizing that they’re the only one standing next to us as we weather the roughest parts of our life.

The more I live, the more I think nothing is left to chance. We bump into people for a reason, our lives merge for a reason and we instantly have attractions, be they of the naughty nature or not, for a reason.

Life is full of soul mates just waiting for a spark to ignite and an adventure to begin.

Thanks Terra for gracing us with your guest post today!   I completely agree, people do not come into our lives by chance and while some friendships need time to develop, other happen instantly.  You my friend, came into my life, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, when I needed you most.   As I have said before, I am beyond thankful our paths crossed in Vegas and for making my life brighter. 

Give Yoga A Chance!

>Hi there.  Today I’m over at Cait’s blog: Fit, Fierce and Fabulous sharing some tidbits about Yoga in hopes to dispel any Yoga-phobia thoughts and doubts. Be sure to go check out, “Give Yoga A Chance”.   If you aren’t familiar with her blog, she is always cheery, shares a lot of photos, and her fashion thoughts, so be sure to head on over.

Cait, thank you for hosting me and letting me share my post with your wonderful readers. 🙂

P.S. Yes, my title was inspired by John Lennon…. J