Teach Abroad

I Met My Partner While Teaching English Abroad and Now We Travel the World Together

Read on to find out how teaching abroad and travel can facilitate lasting friendships and relationships with people across the globe!

It was 2018 when I graduated from university with a degree but zero clue on how to apply it in the real world. Despite studying English literature, I was working a tedious job in retail taking the brunt of the customer’s mighty complaints. I was simply biding my time in my small hometown in Wales until something popped up and, lo and behold, I came across TEFL.

Travel the world, gain experience, and earn a salary. No more would I have to hear “the customer is always right.” Surely this was too good to be true?

But no, it delivered exactly as promised. Teaching English is much more than a job, it’s an opportunity to form special relationships, embrace new cultures, and develop a wealth of social skills.

You’re exactly as you are, but in an entirely new environment, and you’ve got to start again from scratch. Whether this means making friends, familiarizing yourself with the city, starting a new job, learning a language, among more. While it was a daunting task, I didn’t want to suffer from a shrinking comfort zone and “small town syndrome”. In my mind, it was “sink or swim”.

I went from a socially awkward hermit who had never left his continent to an independent self-assured traveler with insatiable wanderlust, and this is also how I met the love of my life.

Read more: The Top 10 Countries for Teaching English Abroad

Time for big decisions

Initially, I was struggling to decide between teaching in Vietnam and Thailand. At the time, both presented similar scenes for me: idyllic Southeast Asian countries with fantastic gastronomy. However, this is simply because I was ignorant of the nuances of both cultures. Due to its more convenient timing, I joined the teaching program in Vietnam.

At the time, my partner (who then didn’t exist in my mind), deferred from one program to another at a later date due to emergency surgery. I didn’t realize this until a few years later, and without these small, seemingly insignificant events, we may never have met.

Starting a new life teaching English in Vietnam

A couple atop a mountain in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Upon arriving in Vietnam in January 2019, I was bombarded with sensory overload. Hanoi, a cultural capital rife with roadside food stalls, streets of relentless and swarming motorbikes, multi-tonal dialects, and also an entirely new community of teachers, was essentially a new life.

I was placed in the same city and district as a large group of foreign teachers from vastly different backgrounds. One teacher was formerly an oil broker, another a prison guard, whereas others were fresh from university like myself. Very few had teaching experience. We were like a group of renegades escaping the 9-5 life at home by teaching English in Vietnam -- the Land of the Ascending Dragon.

And there she was: my now-partner, then-friend. Although we only spent time together when we were in a large group of friends, each interaction was electric and highly reciprocal. But nothing happened until we were each in our home countries over a year later.

Ultimately, we had different plans. While she sought a copywriting career back in the UK in January 2020, I decided to stay in Vietnam for a longer duration. That was until the inevitable pandemic struck.

Read more: How to Get a Teaching Job in Vietnam

The beginnings of something more

Having been forced to return home in March 2020 due to school closures, it wasn’t until the pandemic that we had actually formed a relationship. After countless Zoom dates with the cheapest red wine we could find (and endless, tedious Zoom quizzes), we finally met up in the UK and were able to form a relationship.

The long and arduous time battling COVID restrictions throughout 2020 and 2021 while being in a borderline virtual relationship only incited our wanderlust more, and we ventured to Thailand to teach in English and live together for the first time at the end of 2021. Not only did we go as a couple, we went with a big group of friends who we met teaching in Vietnam previously.

While some couples have concerns about sharing a living space with their partner for the first time, sharing a modest Thai studio apartment for teachers with my partner quickly strengthened our relationship following a long absence due to the pandemic.

Read more: How Much Can You Earn Teaching English in Thailand?

Building a life in Thailand and beyond

Teaching in Thailand with my partner felt like a new lease on life, and it was vastly different from my experience in Vietnam. Not only was I much more adept at living in a foreign country, but living and working abroad as a couple allowed me to share every travel moment with someone special.

Following a semester teaching English in Thailand, we decided to put our creative minds to use. While I wanted to become a copywriter myself, I had nothing interesting to write about until I started traveling the world. We began writing blogs about our life abroad for various companies, living in new locations across Southeast Asia for a few months at a time.

After around 6 months of traveling steadily through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Australia - where I met my partner’s Australian side of the family - we were fully embodying life as digital nomads, taking our work with us everywhere.

Working the same job in the same space allowed us to coordinate effectively (and also constructively criticize each other’s work) and once the laptop was closed we sauntered through the beaches and bountiful rice paddies, and wandered the streets, whether in a booming metropolis or tranquil rural towns.

Although we’re both introverts, we met amazing characters along the way, including other foreign teachers and travelers, local business owners, Buddhist monks, and other colorful members of the international and local community. Four years later, many of our friends still teach English in Vietnam and Thailand, whom we still frequently visit.

Realizing how much TEFL changed our lives, we became program coordinators for the same TEFL company, facilitating travel for aspiring teachers from the UK, the US, Australia, and many more places heading to teach English in Asia. Due to the immense influence TEFL had on our lives, it felt rewarding to guide aspiring English teachers through the same process we went through.

When we went home to the UK at the end of September 2022 to visit our parents and siblings, we simply took a day off to travel, got over the jet lag and continued working as if we weren’t halfway across the world the day before, before planning our next adventure abroad.

Read more: Top 10 Most Affordable Countries with Digital Nomad Visas


Traveling the world together one country at a time

A couple at a husky cafe in Thailand

What was essentially solo traveling became something much more meaningful and impactful in my life. At the age of 21, I didn’t exactly expect to find a partner who would accompany me on my travels for years to come, however, spending these memories at new locations with this person made my traveling much more meaningful.

I never thought that my time in Vietnam would be as influential as it was. We both thought it would be a short-term hiatus, however, 4 years later, we are back in the capital Hanoi - our cupid - teaching English and also remote working as writers and program coordinators. While you may have a 5-year plan, TEFL and traveling, in general, will certainly test your vision.

In the coming years, we both have aspirations of helping aspiring teachers have the same experience as we did, teaching abroad and integrating ourselves into new cultures across the world. We made countless friends, some of whom are back in the UK, others who are in Asia, and some who are continuing to pave their way across the globe.

Whether you prefer group or solo traveling, you will inevitably meet plenty of interesting characters abroad, some of whom will stick around in your life far longer than you had initially expected.

Meet that special someone teaching English abroad: