Based in Houston, Texas, Justin Greak is a elementary school science teacher with an itch to travel and explore as much as humanly possible. Although as a teacher he’s blessed with more vacation time than most, working around his wife’s work schedule in the insurance industry is important and sometimes challenging. Keep reading to find out how Justin makes it work so he can have the best of both worlds.
Tell me a bit about what you do for a living.
I am currently an elementary math and science teacher, and have taught both grades four and five. I have been teaching since 2008. At the moment I am actively seeking to teach in an international school for next school year to broaden my worldview, get travel experiences, and immerse myself in a different culture. I think it would be a hugely rewarding, challenging and interesting experience for sure!
Do you have a certain amount of vacation days a year at your job?
Being a teacher, I am lucky to have three months off every summer. This is hugely beneficial for someone who loves to travel as much as I do. In addition to the three months in June, July, and August, I get a week off in the fall, two weeks in winter, a week in spring, and then most American banking holidays. I travel with my wife, Christina, who works in the insurance industry. So even though I get much more vacation time than she does, we have to work on her schedule for the most part. She gets about four weeks of vacation a year, so to maximize trip lengths, we tend to go places over holidays so as to not use as many of her days. For example, if we travel over the Christmas holidays, she is already given Christmas eve, Christmas day, new years eve and new years day off, so there are four days she doesn’t have to use precious vacation days for.
How often do you try and travel within a year?
We generally take about six or seven trips a year, some international and some domestic. We always do two summer trips, somewhere for Christmas, and we always take a short trip in February for Christina’s birthday. This year in addition to those trips, we are traveling to Central America for Thanksgiving week, and went to Belize for our anniversary.
Do you ever feel limited to how often you can travel because of your job?
I definitely don’t feel limited by my job, but it can definitely be tricky trying to work around Christina’s work schedule. We usually sit down at the beginning of the year, pull out a calendar and try and maximize the amount of time we can spend traveling based on how many days off she can take from work. It definitely takes a little bit of work to sort it all out, but the payoff is worth it!
Do you find it hard to unplug from work when traveling?
I really have no problem unplugging when I travel. We always focus on the experience of traveling, and leave all other work concerns behind. As a science teacher, however, I’ll frequently see something out in nature that I’ll take a photo of knowing that I can bring it back to my classroom to use as a learning experience, but that’s about as far as I go when it comes to taking my work on vacation with me.
Why is it important to you to have a career but also incorporate travel into your life?
As much as I would love to travel full-time without having to worry about going back to a job after a quick trip, it just doesn’t work out that way for us. Our jobs are our means of funding our trips. I know a lot of bloggers out there travel full-time by house sitting, or are digital nomads who can work remotely from anywhere, but unfortunately education has not reached a point yet where I can run a virtual classroom and appear before my students via Skype. When that eventually becomes a reality, I might never stop traveling!
What inspired you to start a travel blog?
It was mostly a way for me to document our travels for later reading. I’ll always remember where I’ve been, but I won’t always remember the smaller details. I use the blog to recount stories, anecdotes, adventures – the details I might not remember as vividly years down the road. As time went on, the blog became more about helping others who might be traveling to the same destination: giving advice on what to do when you’re in the area. That’s a huge part of how I plan my travel – by reading others’ blogs about those destinations, and picking and choosing things that look amazing.
If you had a piece of advice for someone that is trying to maintain a career, and also see the world, what would it be?
Don’t be married to your career. Don’t be afraid to take time off, and never let your vacation days go to waste!
You can read about Justin’s adventures on his blog here.