When we started The Freedom Travellers back in 2013, we had no idea how many cool people it would bring into our lives. We’re all about being creative when it comes to travelling the world and we’ve recently discovered why those who want to travel, teach!
At the beginning of last year we had a message pop in to our inbox on our Facebook Page from one of our awesome tribe who’d been following our adventures (Side note: we still find this crazy when we get messages from people who say they actually read our blog…so awesome!).
She told us she’d read our post about how we quit our jobs to travel the world and it reminded her of the moment she’d walked through the front door of her beautiful home in Ocean Grove, Victoria, dropped her groceries on the floor and declared “That’s it! I’m done with this life!” and decided it was time to do something different.
The ‘Grocery Drop’ became the moment that everything changed for Joanne and her hubby James…in a really good way!
We got to meet Joanne on our travels in her new home city of Singapore to chat all things travel, life and taking a leap into the unknown. When we heard more about their story, we knew we had to share it with you guys.
We LOVE stories like this, so we hope these guys give you a little life inspo’!
The Grocery Drop
“We were living the Australian dream,” says Jo. “We owned a beautiful beach house in Ocean Grove which we’d built ourselves. James was running a very successful electrical wholesale business and I was working at one of the most prestigious schools in Geelong. We were living the quintessential life of a happily married Aussie couple.”
“One night I was driving home from work and I’d stopped off to pick up the groceries. I got home, walked through the front door from the pouring rain, dropped the groceries on the floor and declared that I was over our life. I was done. It was boring.”
Her husband James was the one to say “Let’s go!” – Jo had the teaching experience she needed to make the move to teach overseas so they started looking for opportunities.
These guys had decided that they weren’t the ‘cookie cutter’ couple. While all of their friends were having babies, they weren’t ready for that so the decision to move overseas was a no brainer. They started the process of looking for the right opportunity. 18 months later, Joanne sent her first application off.
But then, as often happens with these big life decisions, doubts started to creep in.
Overcoming fear and doubt
“I was thinking about our mortgage, our jobs, our families. Pretty much everything that was holding us back. We were both doing so well at work and we had our families and friends nearby. There was a lot to think about,” says Jo.
“Our story really starts when we sadly lost James’ dad. We decided there and then that we wanted to live our lives to the fullest. Life really is too short. We thought it was time we actually live that motto and go!” says Jo.
“I applied for jobs in Singapore and Hong Kong and registered with an international teaching group,” says Jo. “A few weeks later I had three offers to choose from!”
“Initially I decided to take a job in Hong Kong and we told all our friends and our families that we were going. My mum and dad were devastated but very supportive. We were super excited and ready to make the move! Then another offer came through from a school in Singapore that was just too good to turn down.”
“Anyone can pack up and travel if they really want to, but we believe it’s better to be sensible with these decisions. We chose the Singapore option as James was going to be giving up his whole career to do this. We wanted to be ok financially so that decision made sense.”
“Picking up and moving was really scary. That was one of the big things holding me back at the start. When it came to our home I was freaking out. A lot of people thought we should keep it but my parents encouraged us to sell it which was really refreshing.
We sold the house on Christmas Eve and left Australia on the 3rd of January. Our real estate agent felt like Santa calling us up to tell us it had sold at the 11th hour!”
Stepping out of the comfort zone
For the first three months after they arrived in Singapore James didn’t work. Instead he spent his time exploring their new home and discovering cool places.
“I ended up applying for a job at the school as teaching assistant,” says James. “I’d never thought about working with kids before so it was completely different but I love it! I’m working with 5 and 6 year-olds and its so much fun. I also coach AFL football and teach swimming. It’s so enjoyable and I love going to work every day.
There are heaps of husbands and wives who have moved her because of their partners’ jobs and there are lots of guys at school that are TA’s like me and their wives are either teachers or work for banks so I’m not unique. We’re definitely the norm here.”
“I do a bit of everything from art to music to P.E. I was an electrician back in Australia where I was working with tradesmen every day. In that industry, every other word was f*ck. Now I’m working with young kids so it’s totally different as you can imagine, but way more enjoyable. There’s so many jobs for trailing spouses as long as you’re prepared to do something that’s a bit out of your comfort zone.”
“My work colleagues now are mandarin women in their fifties, Muslim women and Filipino women. It’s really opened my eyes up to the world and I’m learning so much about different cultures.”
Work Hard, Play Hard
“We’ve been together since we were 21, so 10 years,” says Jo. “We really feel that this is the time when it’s just about us. We only have to worry about each other. Expat life has amazing highs but it also has its lows sometimes which has made our relationship stronger.
I’m just so happy here, I’ve always been a positive person but I’ve never been happier in myself. I’ve rediscovered the things that I love.”
“In Singapore you work hard and play hard. I’ve never worked so hard in my life. It’s fast paced and high pressure. I’m teaching children from high flying, very wealthy families who have very high expectations and I love it.
The teaching side of things is so enjoyable. I work with a lot of children from non-English speaking backgrounds so I’m taking the opportunity to learn Mandarin. I have so many opportunities for leadership and growth her but I want to keep a balanced life and travel more. That’s why we moved here!”
Work life balance
Life is very different for Jo and James now. They’ve definitely got the work life balance thing down pat which is just so cool! They really are living the dream…
“We have a two or four week holiday every 10 weeks and take a long weekend somewhere every few weeks so we have an extensive amount of travel time. With Singapore being such a multicultural country, we also get a bunch of international holidays,” says James.
“Our outlook on life and our mindset has changed completely since making this move,” says Jo. “We’d always travelled really well before we moved here as my career before teaching was in the travel industry, but nothing like this. Myanmar was amazing and we would never have even considered going there if we hadn’t moved here!
Siargao island in the Philippines was one of the best holidays we’ve ever had. Surfing every morning, yoga on the beach, acai bowls, eating at local restaurants. It was just perfect!”
Take the leap
Their advice for anyone who wants to do what they’ve done? Be brave.
“What do you want out of life? What are you saving for that’s stopping you from going on that adventure? Are the things that are stopping you legit? Nothing can hold you back. As long as you have a sensible foundation you can do anything and it will always work out ok.
If you’re a teacher like I was, just change your Google search from ‘teaching jobs in Melbourne’ to ‘teaching jobs in Hong Kong, Singapore or Shanghai’. We could have done this without me being a teacher though. There are so many opportunities out there. Anyone could do this. Anyone.”
2 years later and they are definitely not looking back. We’ve been totally inspired by what Jo and James have done and it just reinforces what we’ve always known…life is better when you embrace the unknown and go for your dreams!
Have you been inspired by these guys’ story? Are you a teacher who’s moved overseas to teach? Comment below and share your experience with us!