What is your role at international TEFL Academy?
I am a Student Advisor for the Student Affairs Department.
What's Your Story?
I was born and raised on Chicago’s South side. My first time out of the US, I studied abroad in Venezuela for a semester. Bam! Life changed! Travel bug burrowed deep into my skin. Knew I had to do it more! So after undergrad, I bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires and spent 5 months wandering South America including volunteering with disadvantaged youth in Cuzco, Peru.
Came back to the U.S. and hopped on a bicycle for 1,000 miles in the Pacific Northwest. Returned home with big love for Chicago, and I wanted to give back to it. So, I joined the Americorps program called City Year and spent 2 years working on literacy and community service projects in a Chicago Public School. Then, I scooped a Master’s in Literature where I wrote my 40 page Master’s thesis on the greatest travel poem ever written, Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”.
From there, it was time for the big adventure. The dream I had been scheming since that first trip to Venezuela. I said I was going traveling for at least 2 years, if not 3, 4, or 5. A true vagabond experience. And find all the secrets of life and good stuff like that. And so, in May 2012, I flew out to Alaska to start exploring as well as stack some funds. I worked as a commercial salmon fisherman for 3 months. From there, a solid 10 month romp through the USA West Coast via plane, car, bus, train, bicycle, hitch-hike, and walking with lots of camping including a month of solo in the backcountry of Sequoia National Park.
I then dipped down to Mexico to volunteer on a farm for a while followed by a summer traveling around North Dakota pouring concrete and building grain bins, sleeping in a semi. With the funds renewed, I soared into Colombia to teach English including 7 months at coal mine in the Northeastern desert. Did some hitch hiking and volunteering in Panama, Costa Rica, and closed out the trip with a couple weeks of hammock living on the side of a volcano on Isla Ometepe in Nicaragua.
Back home to Chicago for about half a year, then convinced the love of my life to quit her job and go to Mexico. So we hopped a bus from Chicago to Mexico City (49 hrs) and spent 3 months wandering central and southern Mexico. We even did a couple weeks living with a Guatemalan family in the mountains volunteering at an animal shelter.
And then ... and then…. I was ready. To come HOME! To the city I love most! Chicago. Since then, I have worked as a beer tour guide, bike delivery dude, a Literature Professor for City Colleges, and I’m even in the process of starting a bicycle non-for-profit. Oh yeah, and I just found the job of my dreams here at ITA!
Name some of your favorite literature & media:
Books: Walt Whitman’s poetry (esp. poem “Song of the Open Road”), Walden, Not Another Roadside Attraction.
Websites: OutOurFrontDoor.org, facebook, chainlink.org, greatlakes.org, adventurecycling.org.
Films: The Departed, Life is Beautiful, scary movies (The Taking of Deborah Logan, yikes!), The Lion King, Stop Making Sense.
Music: rock, pop folk, most things that have fiddle, alternative (especially in Spanish), Vallenato de Colombia, hip hop (especially Chicago-centric).
TV: I don’t own one but when I’m around one, its usually for Chicago sports.
What is your favorite international cuisine?
I love Mexican food (especially from Puebla and Oaxaca).
Best Travel Story?
I had a Colombian roommate for much of my time in Colombia. I was about to spend my first ever Christmas away from home, so he invited me to join his family in a small mountain village for the holiday. I did and was welcomed with the oh so common Colombian warmth and hospitality.
This town had a huge Christmas celebration going in the main plaza. Live music, dancing, beer, and some other cool traditions that involved lighting things on fire. One weird thing though was this group of 9 or 10 young Colombian men dressed in full-body monster costumes roaming around the festivities. They were casually visiting people and making lots of trips to the beer tent.
Eventually, they came up to me and my friend and escorted us over to the beer tent. We were cool with it until we realized that the tradition is that if a monster catches you, you have to buy a case a beer for them! I couldn’t believe it! But I wasn’t going to mess with tradition, so we each bought the herd of monsters a case of beer, not super happy about it, but eventually laughing it off.
However, a few hours later, I noticed some of the monsters pointing in our direction and starting to approach us. I thought there was no way they would try to make us pay twice, but I didn’t want to wait around to find out. So as they got close, I took off running, and they gave chase! So now I am running through this plaza with 100s of people around partying and dancing, and I am being chased by monsters! We ran around the plaza a few times, and eventually I just darted straight to the house I was staying at and hid inside. I waited about 15 minutes, catching my breath and literally hiding from monsters!
Finally, I reemerged and timidly walked back to the fest where the monsters had taken their masks off and greeted me with laughs and offered me a beer.
Why do you like working at International TEFL Academy?
The people are incredible. So many awesome travelers in our ranks. Also, I love the encouragement to keep exploring the world while working here. Finally, I love that my job involves helping usher people to their next adventure teaching abroad.