By Nicole Brewer
Greetings GTs! Sorry for the delay as graduate school, the internship, etc have been keeping me super busy here in Cape Town. I’ve managed to get the details from your current GT of the month Taiwanda Bason, who is currently on break before her return back to China this fall! She is a fantastic woman, friend and even one of the admin for the iluv2globetrot travel community. Check out her interview below and find out why she is this month’s Globe-Trotter of the month. Enjoy!
Can you tell the I Luv 2 Globe Trot community a little about yourself (where are you from, what do you do, where are you currently based, hobbies etc).
Born and raised on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama, the birthplace of Mardi Gras tucked in the Bible Belt, I guess you can say I’m a Southern girl. I’m an educator and writer with a strong desire to travel and experience more of the world I’m in while using the blessings I have been given to make a difference in the lives of others in a way that’s meaningful to them. Since 2009, I’ve been blessed to travel to several countries via teaching English as a foreign language with the most recent being China. I love God, spicy food, good movies, writing, experiencing new cultures and creating new things.
How many countries have you traveled to?
Let’s see. I count 12. I’ve been to South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Peru, China, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Chile and Hong Kong. Now, technically, I’ve been to Germany, Japan and Bahrain, as well, although just in their airports. They count, too, right? I mean you are inside the country. Well, if you don’t include airports, then my count goes down to nine.
What is your dream destination and why? (think bucket list destinations).
Actually, my dream is to touchdown on all seven continents at least once. Well, originally, it just included six because I left out Antarctica. However, when I found out they have tours that go there, although I do not like being extremely cold, I decided to include it. So, I’m just thinking I need to make sure to find some high-tech gear to keep me warm. Why all seven continents? I want to experience more of the world, to see what life and things are like beyond the world I’ve known for most of my life.
What made you decide to first live an expat lifestyle?
My dream to travel the world goes all the way back to when I was about to graduate from high school. It was then that I said I wanted to do it. Years later in university, I remember the city’s police chief came to speak in one of my psychology courses. He had traveled and urged us all to travel abroad as he felt it would bring a greater appreciation for our own country. A stint in grad school, work and a couple more years, my dream began to find its way into my thoughts.
Since I was teaching in the states, I began looking into teaching programs affording the opportunity to travel abroad in some way, as well as briefly looking at a few ads for English teaching jobs I’d seen online. I didn’t think it would be possible, especially the exchange programs being that the area of education (dealing with kids with behavioral, emotional, psychological, intelligence and sometimes physical difficulties) I worked in was a high-needs area for teachers which my program in the states was usually reluctant to let go of teachers because it was difficult to get them, especially those already familiar with that area. So, I kind of let the idea pass for a while.
However, later, I made the decision to leave my program while continuing my graduate studies. It was during that time that two classmates brought up the idea of teaching English abroad. So, their reintroduction to the notion of what I had delved my thoughts into years earlier is what reignited me to pursue my dream to travel the world. I was no longer bound by my job, almost finished my grad studies and ready to go. After my first trip abroad, I can’t imagine myself not traveling.
What has the transition been like for you being back home for a bit from China?
I was so ready for a break and ready to come home because it felt like I had been gone so long and felt spent after my assignment there. I’ve gotten some warm welcomes and talked to some people while just taking care of routine business that I would if I were here throughout the year who think my travels and work abroad are so very interesting. So, it’s been nice to answer their questions of curiosity and share some of what I’ve learned through my travels and experience in the TEFL arena.
However, I have yet to adjust to the time difference. My body is still on China’s time, while day and night back here in the states isn’t making any compensation for me. Therefore, as I left China pretty exhausted, getting some good uninterrupted rest has been a challenge because I don’t want to miss out on my days (and have a few things I’m tending to) while I’m here yet my body is saying, “Hey, hey! Listen. Keep in mind there is a 13 hour time difference. Take it easy.” Other than that, I’m pretty much used to visiting home periodically when I’ve been away for a long length of time, and things are pretty much the same to me.
Where was your most recent travel destination you trotted to?
That would be Hong Kong which I visited during a brief break from school when I was in China.
Which, if any, foreign languages do you speak?
I know some basic Spanish and a couple words from a few other languages like Mandarin, Hangul, Arabic and Amharic.
What do you have planned for yourself next? (any projects you’d like to promote, etc). Do you foresee yourself continuing the expat lifestyle for long?
To my surprise, I’ve decided to return to China for a second run. It’s a surprise because this would be the first time I’ve ever chosen to stay a consecutive year in any of the countries I’ve worked in abroad, not even Korea which to date is my favorite country to have lived and worked in abroad. I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead as I believe things are going to be very, very different for me from here on out. Whether I’ll be an expat for the long term, I can’t say, but I definitely have no plans to stop traveling anytime soon.
I’m planning to revamp a couple of past projects, as well as get the ball rolling on a couple of new projects before this year’s end, hopefully. One I’m looking forward to revamping is Classroom Chit Chat (www.classroomchitchat.wordpress.com), a project I started with my students when I was teaching in Peru that uses the blogging platform and media as a way for students and others to share about issues important to them while allowing second language learners opportunities to practice their English skills. For anyone interested in following me as I share my experiences and more, you’re welcome to check out my blog, Butterfly Jewel (www.butterflyjewel.wordpress.com) and my Facebook page, Pursuing Dreams and Experiencing the World (www.facebook.com/pursuingdreamsexperiencingtheworld).
What are some words of wisdom you would like to give to future inspiring globe-trotters and expats?
I would say to have an open mind and dream. Don’t let your own fears neither anyone else’s fears keep you from going after your dreams. Don’t be afraid to try, and if you make some mistakes or have any setbacks, know you can move forward. Whether you choose to stick to your own backyard or venture into someone else’s backyard out there in the world, know that we (all people) have more in common than we think, even in the midst of our differences that make us uniquely us, and we all have something to offer to the world and receive from it. We do so with every choice we make, and with each day we live to see, we have a new opportunity. So, choose with that in mind, and join me and countless others across the globe as we pursue our dreams and experience the world!