It’s been quite some time since I’ve updated my blog. I’ve been reorganizing my life and at the time it didn’t feel like anything blog-worthy was going on, but sometimes it’s good to just write things out. So here it goes.
I packed up my belongings and said goodbye to my students, my friends, and my cozy life in Korea. I spent a long time debating the idea since I enjoyed the security of my life there. I was financially stable. I had a solid income with a low cost of living. I had insurance. I had a private studio apartment within walking distance to my job. In many ways I had a very good life, but I continued to feel anxious and burnt out. I felt like I had money but no time to travel, explore, and enjoy it. I’m not a person who likes to be rushed, so planning weekend trips to international destinations didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to have more adventure at my fingertips. After all, a big draw of teaching English abroad is the new experiences and travel opportunities that can be had so easily. Is a 47 hour work week with 10 vacation days throughout the year truly an adventure? I think I began to feel something similar to “island fever” despite South Korea being a peninsula. But since North Korea is off limits, SK might as well have been a little homogeneous island. Korea had grown on me, and I developed a great love for the food, nightlife, style, music, and skincare, but I was ready for something new and different.
At this point, I felt like I would need a break from teaching. I was tired of helicopter parents, a business-before-education mentality, and micromanaging. I wanted to go somewhere where I could still earn good money, but not teach and not be home. So I got a Working Holiday Visa and moved to Sydney with the promise off high pay and a plethora of jobs for backpackers.
I was in awe on my first day in Sydney. The skies were so vividly blue. My skin was warmed by the strong sun. I had a lovely homemade Italian meal with my friend and his family. Life was fresh and wonderful. I found a bartending job pretty quickly after applying to a few on Seek, Gumtree, and Indeed. I got a lot of hours, the work was simple, and my co-workers were from all over the world. I was very happy. Unfortunately within my first weeks of late night shifts, I began to feel unsafe going home. I had a few drunk girls try to fight me on the bus, and I later saw them run off the bus and chase another girl for punching one of them in the face while on that same bus. I had drunk men pester me while waiting at the bus stop to go home, asking me to join them for a drink or asking me to invite them to my place. In that same area, I had a girl pull my backpack and try to intimidate me, and later she tried to empty her ashes from her pipe on my head. There were just too many sketch people around while I tried to make my way home at 2-3 am. A taxi/Uber ride home from the CBD (Central Business District) to the Inner West where I lived was too pricey to consider every night. The trains were not active past midnight to where I needed to go. The bus was my only affordable option and it clearly wasn’t giving me a good impression. Late nights were an important part of my employment, so I decided to leave the job without having another one lined up, and that proved to be a huge mistake.
I began another job hunt within a shorter radius of where I lived to keep my commute to a minimum. I got hired at two other places, both involving bartending, but as a casual worker I was never promised a set amount of hours. One week I had just worked one 4-hour shift. I couldn’t believe that I had secured two jobs and was still struggling. I began to panic a bit, and I lost a lot of confidence in myself. I questioned my life choices and whether I was even employable. Clearly, I was stressed.
It took a while to get back on the right track, and I decided to stray away from bartending in this job hunt. I applied to jobs as a receptionist, cashier, retail employee, and call center staff. I’m currently on a probationary period at a call center job that provides me with consistent hours, and I juggle the other two jobs I’ve had since January along with it. I’ve made some progress to get back onto a stable path, but that period of under-employment made a big dent in my savings.
At this point, I think it would have been smarter to take my savings and move to a country with a lower cost of living than Seoul to make my money stretch. I could have taken a month off to relax and gather my senses and then get back into teaching rather than run to the next destination in search of high earnings. Basically, I realized I ran to Sydney to make money because I felt irresponsible leaving a stable job in Korea, and I justified my move by thinking I would make similar earnings. I allowed a lot of external pressures to influence my feelings and my choices. As much as I tell myself that I made a bad choice, good friends of mine remind me that I had a plan, I took a risk, and even if it didn’t pan out as planned, I learned from it and I can build on it. I’m sensing some new changes coming soon, once again, and though I don’t feel entirely ready for them, my time in Sydney has taught me that money shouldn’t be my main focus, and that even if I find myself in a less-than-picture-perfect situation, I can still have the drive to find a way to make it work. The question is whether I should use that effort here or in a destination that I can more easily afford, especially as an English teacher. We’ll see what happens next.