Teacher Dan McElroy writing for Hello Teacher!

Updated November 12, 2018
By Dan McElroy

Leaving the US to teach in China

Since leaving corporate America behind two years ago, I have been traveling across Europe and Asia in search of happiness and living a more meaningful life.

I used to lie in bed at night and think about my life. I would often ask myself the question, ‘Would I want to read a book about my life?’

The answer was a resounding ‘no’. Although I had a college degree, spent four years in the army (including a year in Iraq), and was working my way up the career ladder in a glass plant in Houston, Texas, something was missing.

In what I now see as a blessing in disguise, I was laid off from the glass plant in 2012.

When I received the news, there were many thoughts going through my head: nervousness, a slightly damaged ego, and money worries.

Then, my thoughts shifted. As I drove my car out of the glass plant parking lot for the last time, the extent to which I truly hated my job came into focus. I had actually escaped the wheel of routine. I recognized the futility of working ridiculous hours and reporting to an authoritarian plant manager.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but hadn’t noticed until I lost my job.

I packed all my belongings (including my 130 pound Italian Mastiff dog, Doug) into my car and headed to my parents’ house in Phoenix, Arizona. After a 16-hour drive, I humbly moved back into their house at the age of 26.

With the weight of my previously debilitating life off my shoulders, I found I was more motivated than ever. In November 2012, I decided to do an online course on teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). In just a few months I had completed 120 hours of study.

Not wanting to overstay my welcome at my parents’ house, I decided to go on a three-month backpacking trip across Europe.

The next few months changed my life. I discovered things about myself and the world that only a traveler could truly understand. By staying in hostels and on strangers’ couches, I learned to trust in my own volition and not shy away from change. And I met a nice Canadian girl in Spain!

I returned to America with a heavy heart that my adventure was over. On the bright side, however, I stayed in touch with the Canadian girl, Jess.

I tried to assimilate back to normal society but it proved to be a lost cause. The highs of traveling had really caught hold of me. As much as I tried to establish a routine and fit back into daily life, I just couldn’t shake the monotony of it all.

I longed to just drop everything and return to the road.

In fact, the more I tried to settle in, the more I thought that I needed to make a permanent change in my life.

I considered the TEFL certificate that I’d recently completed and decided to call a TEFL recruiting company. Before long, I had a Skype interview with a company in China. I didn’t know anything about China!

The company was looking for an enthusiastic individual willing to move to rural China and teach English at a private international school. The job required teaching 24 classes a week, with up to 50 students in each class. I was intrigued despite the fact that I had never taught a day in my life.

Following a one-hour phone interview, I received a job offer in my inbox along with a contract to sign. The job started in China in 6 weeks!


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