Monday, 02 January 2017 16:14

Arriving ‘the wild way’

This expression is actually loosely translated from my own Austrian dialect. It was used by the then Honorary Consul of Austria in Almaty, Kazakhstan maaany years ago. “Ich bin auch wild daher gekommen, aber sowas…” he said. Meaning ‘I too arrived in a haphazard manner, but this...’

I have recently come to realize that I haven’t travelled a lot, rather I’ve moved a lot – nine months here, six there, two years here, another one and a half there… to a total of ten different countries. And they weren’t conventional moves - I never planned much, no matter how exotic the destination.


Almaty-Tashkent tradeoff via Ulaanbaatar

Take Kazakhstan for example. I had signed up as a volunteer English teacher at a High School in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and after 3 months I took the trans-Mongolian train to Beijing – a period that deserves a separate story.

From there I had planned to move on to Uzbekistan to find a teaching job. However, some online research while still in Beijing showed few signs of any language schools there so I contacted some schools in neighbouring Kazakhstan in Almaty. ‘Same area I figured, I’ll still get to visit Tashkent.’

I received some rather vague offers from several language schools and got on a plane. The missed flight adventure of that trip also merits a separate story.


You can have the broom closet

At a time when the use of the internet was still limited, I managed to book myself into an ‘unofficial‘ room at the Hotel Kazakhstan. Back then, in the 90s, they only had grand ex-Soviet hotels. I had asked for the simplest, cheapest room which turned out to be some sort of vacant staff room with some extra brooms and mops behind the bathroom door, and lots of extra blankets and pillows in the closet - but no dead bodies - so it was fine.

One of the schools in the centre of Almaty did have work available and offered to help me find an apartment. When  no suitable apartment was to be found, I ended up renting their cleaning lady’s living room for 50 dollars a week - it was a bit far from the centre, but again, it was fine.

I eventually did find a place, settled down and stayed for two very successful and enjoyable teaching years. When two of my best friends left the country I decided to move on too.


To Latvia because the flight was cheap

I wanted to stay in the Russian-speaking world and found a cheap flight to Riga, Latvia. Little did I know about the great division between Latvians and Russians, but off I went - this time without even the vaguest job prospects.

I found a centrally located a youth hostel where I had a great big room all to myself during the week until the weekend when it suddenly got busy with attractive, young women coming in at 5 or 6 in the morning just to be woken by a phone call from their ‘boss‘  at 7 or 8. But again, it was fine.

Here too, I eventually found a nice flat and several very nice part-time teaching jobs and ended up staying for almost 2 happy years.


No longer coming to stay  

I came to all these places with the intention to stay; I moved there, usually with a big bag of at least 25 kilos and a busy first few weeks sorting out a new life, setting up a modest household. Now I travel - no intention to stay, no heavy bag.

I have recently discovered the joys of travelling with only small hand luggage but big with plans to explore instead.


The joys of reconnecting with a past life

Because of those 20 years as a ‘gypsy teacher’ I know lots of people around the world and thanks to social media I am back in touch with most of them. I have been able to discover the joys of arriving at a place not only having a place to stay, but usually also a ‘personal guide’ by my side, often even picking me up at the airport.

I’ve explored Budapest, Cairo, Tbilisi and Zurich in this way. Even in Vienna I had friends to ‘take care of me‘. I love travelling to see friends and discover places without having to set up a whole new life. And now I can’t get enough of it. I am constantly browsing budget airline sites to see where I could go next for a long weekend.

And so I am starting 2017 filled with excitement - my first short visit to meet up with old friends and former colleagues in Moscow is already booked and several destinations are registered for electronic travel deal alerts.

No plans to move for now, just explore, with one piece of hand luggage - my new way of (re)discovering the world! 

Photo: Freepik 



Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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