Last month I packed a bag and bought a one-way ticket to Laos. I’ve lived abroad before and had various types of jobs but my biggest source of income has always been teaching English; this time may be different. A new plan is forming.
My only trip abroad in 2015 was to a familiar place; Ecuador. I went for two weeks to visit friends. All those jobs abroad that have helped pay for those trips have never involved freelance journalism but I thought I’d try to sell some stories while there. It was extremely successful in that regard; I sold three stories that paid more than double all my expenses, plus got a byline in The Guardian and was invited (and sometimes paid) to talk about the articles on national radio shows. Ecuador was exceptional because it is the nation I’m most intimate with. It would be harder to do anywhere else…but perhaps still possible.
I am ever curious about the world and see travel as a sort of classroom. Since I’ve landed in Laos there is one particular thing that I’ve become especially interested in. It’s the reason I’ve spent twenty-two hours of buses over winding mountain roads and settled in Phonsavan, a small town near the Vietnam border. I want to be close to this story and realize that any understanding beyond the superficial will take time. I will learn about it for my own purposes and desires, but maybe, just maybe, I can share it.
It’s a fantasy to travel to new places, identify what I think is important and interesting, then live alongside it long enough to understand and be able to write it down in an engaging way then sell those words and have the whole thing fund itself. It’s a fantasy, and perhaps beyond my capabilities, but I think I’d like to try.