A huge part of travel for me is the people I meet and the friends I make in the places I get to experience. Some of, well most of my best friends are people I have met while living overseas & the number one thing we have in common is that we get it. Get what? This whole travel life. The coming & going frequently, the moving towns often & regularly. The fact that we will rarely live in the same place for long. And the feeling of saying goodbye/reuniting with each other. So when I meet people who share this same passion I immediately want to know more about them and where their adventures have taken them
I genuinely can't remember when I started following July's WanderWoman, but it feels like forever ago (in the best way possible). Sara from IAMNOTTHEWORD is a fellow Canadian currently living her days out in Vietnam with her partner where they are both teachers. She's been all around the World & back again calling Australia, The Yukon, Marshall Islands & Niger (just to name a few) home in the last few years and while living in Vietnam has been exploring all there is to see in Asia. I've aways been drawn to Sara's honesty, wether on her blog, in her captions or stories, she doesn't hold back, and in this day and age where theres very little transparency on the internet it is a breath of fresh air. So to find out what I love most about following Sara's adventures through social media and why she is this month's WaderWomanWednesday keep on reading!
Alright girl, tell all these wanderers about yourself…
I always find this the most daunting part. How does one truly describe themselves? I guess I will go through the usual bits of knowledge most ask about. I am a teacher, living and teaching abroad on and off for the last 10 years. Originally from just outside of Toronto in Canada, I have lived in Australia (for university), Thailand, the Marshall Islands, Niger and now Vietnam. I also moved from Toronto to the Yukon about 5 years ago now, by packing my car up and driving across the country and lived there for about a year. For some reason most places I have lived have only managed to be about a year at a time. Living in Vietnam now has been my longest stint in one place overseas, and I have been here almost 2 years with plans to stay for another school year after this one ends.
What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?
This one is hard for me because I am such an open book. I literally post everything about myself and my interests for the world to see. The good, the bad and the ugly. If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, or read my captions, you can gather so much about me. I love books. I hate working out, but do it to be healthy. I hate multi-level marketing and the ways in which they prey on women’s insecurity. I hate the weight loss industry. I love females who support females. And supporting local and handmade businesses. But literally all that can be found if you just observe my social media. I literally can’t think of a thing that would be surprising to anyone.
Did you always want to travel/what made you start?
My story doesn’t involve wanting to travel since I was born, or anything like that. I never really thought that much about traveling until I was in university in Canada and realized that I could go to Australia for teacher’s college instead of staying in Canada. So I did. After a year in Australia, I got home and to be honest, the reason I start traveling, but more so living abroad, is because there were no teaching jobs in Canada. I spent two years trying after getting back from Australia and took a leap and got a short contract in Thailand as my first teaching job. But I came back after it, for love—my boyfriend lived in Canada and I didn’t want to be away from him. I don’t regret that, but once that relationship ended and I still didn’t have a teaching job, I figured there was no point sticking around. Many people fall into teaching because of traveling, I fell into traveling because of teaching. I didn’t want to stick around without teaching, so I pursued my passion for teaching by leaving home.
How do you decide where to travel to?
I get my ideas from an array of things. Sometimes it’s the modern way; some Instagram inspiration from a friend who has gone somewhere. So I start looking into places I see from social media. But honestly, I usually move somewhere new every year. Right now I live in Vietnam, and so I have researched places around me. I don’t always go straight to blog posts or social media, I usually look at a map first and look for major cities and places just outside them. For Vietnam, I knew the usual places people go like Ha Long Bay, but I try to find places on the map that people aren’t flocking to. I then start my search for articles, blog posts, social media, or anything I can read for more information. I am also quick to jump on Airbnb or booking.com to find if they have any unique accommodations there. I have actually been known to book really cool accommodations in random places in the world just cause the Airbnb was different. I stayed in Kolasin, Montenegro because there were mushroom shaped houses to stay in. We were the only tourists in town—apparently they get more local tourism in the winter for skiing. Basically, I try to find little places here and there that no one really goes, if I can. I still love a good popular spot too though. Often I try to google where the wildlife can be seen around me, as that’s my favourite thing to photograph. But those trips tend to get expensive when it’s orangutans (which I have seen) or tigers (haven’t yet). So not all trips will revolve around wildlife unfortunately. Oh and viral videos on social media lead me to go see an abandoned waterpark in Hue (Vietnam) and the golden hands bridge just outside of Danang (Vietnam) our last trip.
What is your travel style?
Depends where we are going. I travel with my partner, so we rarely stay in hostels. We have stayed in maybe one together, but it was all private rooms, so it was different. I am definitely not a luxury traveler but not budget either. Our last trip we stayed in 3 different accommodations, and the first was a lovely homestay for $25USD a night (for 4 nights), but the next place was almost $100USD a night (for two nights) all because I wanted to stay up at the park in Ba Na Hills to see the golden hands bridge. I try to balance it out. My partner and I don’t spend money on much else other than travel. We don’t drink, smoke, or have any of those kinds of vices. That leaves us with a good chunk to travel how we want to. It also depends on the destination. Our next big trip is Japan and I had to be a little more frugal with my spending as it is so expensive there.
Favourite experience teaching abroad?
I am going to be cheesy here, but I can’t help it. I moved to the Marshall Islands from the Yukon (cold snowy mountains to hot isolated islands), to teach at the ‘international school’ there. Within the first week I met my current partner, who was also a teacher there, and had been for two years already. Now two more countries and four years later we are still together. Hard to top that, but as far as actual teaching experiences I have so many amazing experiences and worked with some really great students. Every time a student comes to me during their study halls, breaks or before/after school to talk and ask advice, those are my favourite experiences because the relationships built with my students are everything to me.
Top 3 bucket list places you’d love to visit?
Hmmmm right now, let’s see. Bhutan, but we already booked to go there in October and I am so excited for that. Only going for a week but it’s going to be amazing. But two other places I am dying to go are Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. Both because of the wildlife there. Wildlife is my favourite reason to visit a place and I try to go on at least one trip a year specifically to see certain wildlife.
You recently changed the name of your blog & social handles, what motivated you to change it after so long?
One motivation was that the word solivagant was used previously because I created my blog and Instagram when I left home after a break up and moved to the Yukon. It means solitary adventurer. But I am no longer solitary, as I explained earlier. And I can’t see that ever changing. It seemed like the word no longer fit. I changed it to ‘I Am Not The Word’ because it made me realize that so often we sit and try to describe ourselves with words but they can be so limiting. Often hard to use a word or two in a username to sum up who we are. I feel like I never quite fit the terms often used to describe me, like ‘travel blogger’ or ‘sustainable’. No one truly fits these terms, so I came up with my new name to say just that. I am not the words used to describe me, I am just me.
What is something you wish you could share with your pre-travel life self?
See all the animals! But only in the ethical ways. There are so many people out there to exploit animals. Don’t fall for their traps. It’s amazing that you can see them up close and personal, but not all animals actually want to be up close and personal with you. They are often beaten into submission, drugged or chained. Learn more. Speak up more. Ask questions.
Best & worst travel moment?
I’ll start with the worst. Though I have two tied for worst. The first was in Hawaii. My partner and I rented a jeep for our few days in Oahu. And on our second last day, we stopped at a beach on the side of the road to go for a swim. When we got out of the water, my partner realized he had our car keys in the pocket of his swim trunks and they fell out in the water. We called the rental company. After an hour of waiting they realized they have no spare key for the car, so they had to come tow the jeep and bring us a new one. Another hour of waiting and it finally came. Along with a bill for $1000US+ (that actually came through email after we returned the new jeep the next day and were waiting for our flight).
The second worst moment was in Slovenia, also with a rental car. We were on our way to return our car to the rental shop (in a different town than we had picked it up) and google maps took us around in a weird circle and we ended up in these little old town roads that started to get smaller and smaller. Eventually I couldn’t move the car, and tried to make a turn and scratched the car up. I eventually got out, walked to the rental company and had the guy working there come get the car. The car was majorly banged up, and apparently some man was mad at us for scratching the concrete in front of his house and called the cops on us. The cops were lovely and didn’t charge us or anything. And the rental company we only had partial insurance so we paid a few hundred for the damages.
Best travel moment is a tough one. I think they all involve animals though. Seeing lemurs for the first time in the rainforest while staying in a little bungalow there was incredible. Falling asleep to hyenas laughing at night in the Masai Mara was unreal, as was seeing the Big 5 while on safari there. Or when I saw an orangutan for the first time, we were walking through the rainforest in Borneo and came across two males on the ground fighting. Any time I think of best travel moments, it’s always animal encounters that come to mind.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to pursue a career in teaching abroad?
Before you do it, think about why you are doing it. If you are going to teach children just because you want a job abroad and want to travel, but aren’t that interested in the teaching aspect. Spare those children. Students deserve a teacher who wants to teach. Plus believe me, you need the patience and passion to be able to put up with all that teachers do. And I know some people will saying teaching English is different than my job teaching at international schools, but it’s not. You are still teaching children, who deserve to actually learn something from their teachers. If you aren’t going to put in the effort, find something else you can do while living abroad. If you are in it for the right reasons, it can be the most rewarding job.
Famous Last words for all the wanderers out there...
Be whoever it is you want to be. Don’t limit yourself to the labels you or others give you. You can be whoever and whatever you choose. You can also change what that is. Nothing is concrete. Nothing is forever. We are all continuously growing, learning and changing. Don’t try to fit yourself into a box.
To find out where in the World Sara is off to next or find out more about her journey teaching abroad be sure to check out all her links below!