This acedemic year I told myself I would like to utilize my school holidays and weekends to travel to new places. I’m so pleased I’ve been able to make this possible. I’ve done some of it by myself and some of it with Ernestas, some of the places we flew to and some we took the campervan. Prior to this year I’ve done a little traveling, but not the amount of exploring I have managed this year!
I am trying to choose a lifestyle that maximises my autonomy and freedom and not the material things that I could have. I am also using my school holidays to allow me to utilize these freedoms and without sounding too cheesy, make my dreams become realities.
Obviously at the same time I still want to be able to live and work comfortably in London, but I am maximising my time and making my money stretch so that I can explore all of the places I would like to.
At the end of each school term and on a few weekends, I’ve had my bag packed and ready to go straight from school. This has meant I have been able to explore some amazing places this year:
Summer holiday 2018- 4 weeks: New York, Washington DC, Orlando, Miami, Cancun, Cuba
Summer holiday 2018- 2 weeks: Campervan around the UK, Scotland, Wales, Peak District
1 week October half term: Campervan around Ireland and Northern Ireland
2 weekends in November: Short breaks in Milan and Toulouse
2 weeks Christmas holiday December: Campervan around Germany
2 weekends January and February: Barcelona and Madrid
1 week February half term: Campervan around Belgium and the Netherlands
2 weeks Easter holiday April: Seattle, Midwest America and Vancouver
May bank holiday: Campervan Devon and Cornwall
1 week May half term: The Baltics, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia
1 weekend June: Isle of Wight
This summer we both plan to take the campervan around Eastern Europe for the first 3 weeks and then fly over to South East Asia and Australia for the last 3 weeks. I cannot wait! Although it will be the longest time we will have spent together traveling and 6 weeks is a long time! We might have to work in some independent travel along the way!
I traveled to Seattle and Vancouver for 2 weeks in April, whilst I was there I was reflecting on what makes me happy about traveling. I realised I loved the feeling of disconnecting from everyday life. Although I very much enjoy my job, being a teacher can be stressful. The Teacher Wellbeing Index surveyed teachers on wellbeing and mental health in oct 2018 and found that a third of teacher surveyed had experienced a mental health issue in the last year, a third worked more than 51 hours a week – around 14 hours more per week than the national average, 67% of teachers are stressed at work and 74% say switching off from work is the major factor to a negative work-life balance.
Most people, who are not in the teacher profession, to some extent hold an understanding of how much people working in educational settings do for our generation of learners. I’ve especially heard this from parents, most people I’ve come across hold that personal empathy and understanding of being around young adults and little people relating that experience to ‘OMG how do you do this with a large amount of them’.
Although I think the majority of people I speak to don’t always know how much work teachers and people working in educational settings do outside of school. These are efforts like, staying after school for training or continuing professional development, resourcing and setting up activities, marking books ready for feedback, planning, report writing, preparing for parents evenings and running after school clubs. That’s right school for teachers does not finish at 3:30. An average report for me takes 3-4 hrs per child, with a class of 30 pupils, those out of school working hrs start adding up.
I’m lucky, I am working in a school where work load is relatively manageable and I feel well supported with this, but unfortunately for many professionals this is not the case. I say educational professional because it is not only teachers alone. I was a nursery nurse for 4 years before becoming a teacher and I spent hrs of my weekends writing up observations and reports on children. This can feel even more frustrating as nursery nurses are not on the same pay scale as teachers but are often undertaking the same out of hr work that teachers are do.
This year I said to myself I will explore new places and disconnect from work, utilizing my school holidays that all teachers earn during the school year. I find it really hard to switch off when I stay in London for a school holiday. I know this is not just me, colleagues of mine will say. ‘ oh I stayed in London so I went into school on Tuesday and Thursday’. It’s so tempting to just pop into school when you have time off, to have a feeling of being more prepared going back into the school term. I used to go into school and prepare the classroom, maybe rearrange a particular learning area in the room. I’ve stopped doing this now and I really do believe that the children in my class are no worse off because of this.
In fact, I think to some extent the children are given better learning opportuinities from me not going into school. This is because it means when we all come back they are then involved in developing the areas of the classroom that need changing, they get to come up with their own ideas for learning and work as a team to put this together. I also feel like I am a better teacher for exploring so many places around the world. I know for Ernestas, teacher development whilst traveling goes even further. As we explore new places we come across science museums, art museums and national parks. We not only develop our subject knowledge, which can only be a positive for our young people, but for Ernie he often then plans school visits around places he’s been to. He teaches 14-18 yr olds and has managed to plan school visits to Geneva, Marseille and UK based Duke of Edinburgh visits. None of this would have been possible without this passion for traveling and having the skills and confidence to logistically plan for these visits, which come from yrs of travel planning.
Through traveling I feel like I’ve had the time to relax and reflect, think and develop my ideas about education and then feel positive and energised ready to come back into school and develop myself professionally. If I’ve had a half term holiday spent writing reports or going into school to set up the environment then the first week back I am most definitely not feeling energised or ready to be there.
I understand that traveling is not for everyone. The idea of a holiday can actually be quite stressful for some. Even the thought of planning the holiday and making sure you have packed all of your things, printed your itinerary off and having to navigate in a new place, can put people off traveling altogether. Prefering to have a chilled week off at home or choosing a holiday package that do much of the planning for you. My cousin recently said to me ‘ my idea of a relaxing holiday away is an all inclusive, round the pool with a box of biscuits.’ I’m not sure why she prefers biscuits over a cold icecream, but I get what she is saying!
For me, any opportunity to take myself away and explore a new place is great. Whether that be a week relaxing at home, that all inclusive you like to retreat to, or exploring a new place, you do you, but make sure you do! Do take the time to chill, it’s important for our mental health.
So for me I explore, to disconnect, to reflect, to re-energise and to find out more about the world. I’m loving utilizing my school holidays this year and making my dreams become a reality :).