In September 2017, following a rocky couple of months, I decided to do something drastic. After feeling particularly blue one evening, I phoned TEFL Org UK to register my interest in their Vietnam internship and, within a few days, had paid the £500 deposit to join them in January.
My friends were shocked, my family were worried, and I was absolutely terrified – but getting on that plane to Hanoi turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made.
I learnt a lot of lessons during my time in Vietnam, but here are five I valued – and still value – the most.
Nothing’s as scary as taking the first step
Yes, moving abroad is terrifying, no matter what the situation or the destination. However, as is true for all major life changes, nothing’s as scary as taking that first step.
Whether that’s accepting a job in another country or agreeing to move across the globe for someone you’ve fallen in love with, taking that first leap into the unknown is the hardest part.
Once you’ve found the will to put yourself in a situation that scares you, any steps after that are much, much less scary. All you have to do is take it one hour, day or flight at a time and you may just surprise yourself.
Friends can be found wherever you go
For me, the idea of moving somewhere completely new, without my established friendship circle around me, was extremely daunting.
The thought of not being able to knock on my best friend’s door for advice or drunkenly text my uni friends for a 3am catch up seemed terrifying, but the truth is you can find friends in every corner of the world.
Some of the friends I made in Vietnam have remained my nearest and dearest to this day (in fact, I now live with two of them) and I’m confident I’ll never let those relationships go.
But, I’m also confident in the fact that next time I travel, I’ll find my own little slice of home there, too.
You can never say never
This sounds like a huge cliche, and to be perfectly honest, it really is. But cliche aside, there’s no denying that travel changes you.
Experiences you would have said no to before jumping on a plane suddenly don’t seem so big and scary when your whole life has been uprooted.
Before I moved away I had two rules: no boys, no bikes. Within the first week I’d broken both of those, and within the first month I’d already done everything I’d promised my friends and family back home I wouldn’t do.
The point is, as your environment and lifestyle change, so do your views on the world around you. There’s no point in saying you’ll never try a certain food, visit a particular country or fall in love with someone you don’t expect to. You just never know.
I am so much braver than I ever thought I could be
Nowadays, if I ever convince myself I can’t do something, I just remind myself of the time I moved to a completely new country with no friends, no expectations, and no idea how to do the job I’d signed up for.
It seems to be in our nature to continuously put ourselves down and tell ourselves we can’t go for that pay rise, personal best or relationship, but when we break from routine, we realise just how rewarding it can be.
Before I left for Vietnam, I was sure I’d arrive and fall flat on my face. But, within a couple of months, I’d found myself a whole new friendship group (many whom I considered family), had learnt enough Vietnamese to get me from A to B, had succumbed to culture shock – and then let it pass – and had *somehow* taught classes of up to 50 children.
We are all so much braver and more courageous than we think we are – it’s just about finding what drives us.
There’s no timescale for achievement
When I first told people I was moving away, some of my friends and family members were full of questions. Was this a good move for me career-wise? What would I do when I came home with zero job prospects and no money? Wasn’t I happy with what I’d achieved already?
I began to doubt myself a little. Had I really just handed in my notice for a job I loved simply to move across the world? When I came home would I be too old to start another career path?
However, as soon as I arrived I realised I’d been absolutely ridiculous to feel this way. There were people of all ages completing the TEFL internship, and what’s more, it didn’t matter.
In fact, I hope I never stop travelling, whether that’s packing a backpack and roaming around the globe or simply driving to a nearby coastal town for a weekend.
It doesn’t matter if I don’t own a house until I’m 40 or if I never earn as much as my friends – there’s no timescale for achievement.