Living in Shanghai, Erin and her husband Ryan are the masterminds behind DownBubble.com. The pair are both Australian but grew up in multicultural homes. Erin’s family moved from New Zealand when she was three and Ryan’s family moved from Northern Ireland after a couple of years in Zimbabwe when he was 12. What brought these two together was a mutual love for beer and travel, and a posting at an international school in China (where they’re both working) is what prompted them to get married!
I chatted with Erin of this dynamic duo to hear a bit about how both Ryan and her juggle full-time careers and travel to see how they do it! Here’s what she had to say…
Tell me a bit about what you do for a living.
We are both teachers, Ryan a secondary IT teacher and myself, a primary (elementary) teacher. Teaching as a career varies of course around the world. Typically though we work between 8am-4pm daily and have the option of full-time, part-time, or supply teaching roles. Ryan currently works full-time and I work supply, which means getting out of bed and dolled up every morning at 5.30 to await the call to go to work. If the call doesn’t come I stay in my pyjamas with a full face of makeup and work on the blog instead!
Do you have a certain amount of vacation days per year with your job?
Although teaching varies around the world, one thing that is fairly consistent (and makes teaching a very attractive prospect) is the amount of vacation days! Typically if students have a holiday, so do the teachers. In Australia we would have around 12 weeks annually and now in Shanghai, China its around 13 weeks.
How often do you try and travel within a year?
We try to travel most of our holiday breaks, so around 12 weeks per year if we have the funds. This year we also took the first six months off for an extended honeymoon as I had just finished my postgraduate studies and Ryan had long-service leave. These leaves I believe is fairly unique to Australia and New Zealand. It consists of him accruing three months of paid leave (in addition to his usual annual leave) for having worked ten years for the Australian public school system. Pretty sweet deal! We met a lot of people during these travels who were pretty jealous once they heard how we had been able to afford this very extended trip in our early thirties!
Do you ever feel limited to how often you can travel because of your job?
As per my answers to the above questions, I would have to say no of course! We are very lucky in our chosen career field to enjoy plenty of opportunity to travel. In fact there is often opportunity within our jobs to travel too, particularly for Ryan as a secondary teacher as often secondary school camps these days involve interstate if not overseas travel! Back in my day it was just a three hour bus ride to a mosquito-ridden bush campsite for a few days!
Do you find it hard to unplug from work while traveling?
As long as we are not travelling for work, then no we don’t. We’ve found our groove travelling together and share an ethos of taking time to actually experience the place we are in. This means putting the cameras and phones down from time to time as a place viewed solely through a lens is never going to allow you the full experience. We did experiment with video-blogging and live updating social media channels such as Instagram Live and Snapchat for a while and found that this definitely made travel into work. We now try to post simply written blogs with photography a week or so after the fact.
Why is it important to you to have a career but also incorporate travel into your life?
Why work at all, aside from the money it earns you? Well because hopefully it can be rewarding! Teaching is definitely a super rewarding career; it keeps you learning new things, ensures you stay mentally sharp and of course allows you the amazing opportunity to see people make progress towards their goals from the help, inspiration and instruction you’ve given them!
However as rewarding as a career is, it’s my firm belief that you still need to take time off and decompress. For me travel is the ultimate decompression tool to reinvigorate my passion for all the dull realities of life (chores, exercise plans, the general 9-5 routine). They say a haircut is as good as holiday, but really it’s just a second best: nothing is better at de-stressing than discovering new places, people and ways of life to once again put your own life’s positive and negative aspects back into perspective. Live life fully and be thankful for it all!
What inspired you to start a travel blog?
All of the credit would have to go to our darling dorky parents. Both sides pushed us mercilessly into starting a blog having noted how much travel we’d done plus our interests in writing (me) and web-design/photography (Ryan). I think they also had romanticized notions of how travel blogging is the next big dotcom investment strategy that will yield easy money. We knew of course that the field is already very saturated with so many who do it so well and have been doing it for decades already! So we do it for the love and as a hobby that may one day spin off into a little online apparel business!
If you had a piece of advice for someone that is trying to maintain a career & also see the world what would it be?
If you have the opportunity try taking your career abroad for a year or more. Ie can you take your career abroad as an expat and live in a new region? There are over 1 million expats in Shanghai and they are not just teachers but come from all kinds of fields including real estate, recruitment, fitness, hospitality and more! We’ve noticed that by shifting our region we have increased our ability to see the world by making different places more accessible both by journey time and funds. That is: there are always going to be places that are cheaper and easier to get to from your hometown, so once you’ve exhausted this list switch your hometown location up to see the world in the most efficient and budget friendly manner!