After graduating from university in the Summer of 2006, I made a decision that would shape the next few years of my life in a way I could never have anticipated. I decided to go abroad to undertake voluntary work teaching English in Mexico.
Growing up I was never big on holidays. I didn’t like flights, particularly those of a long-haul variety, and I didn’t like eating strange food that didn’t taste like it did back home. I didn’t like going out, seeing the sights, trying new things and being a general tourist.
Looking back, I used to find the whole experience overwhelming and was always glad to be back on English soil where everything was familiar, comfortable and, importantly, I could sleep in my own bed.
I remember a family jaunts to Italy, Greece and America and feeling pretty certain I would not be much of a mover when I was all grown up.
Anyway, this is why it was a surprise to me when I felt the urge to get out of the UK and do something completely different. Educated up to my eyeballs with my degree, the last thing I wanted to do was continue studying in any kind of post-graduate capacity, while the idea of going straight into a 9-5 didn’t fill me with joy either.
Many of my friends had their career paths in mind while I felt at a little bit of a loose end. I had no partner, no ties, no responsibilities, no dependants and no job which to some people sounds like an absolute nightmare of a scenario. But not me.
That picture is the epitome of freedom and when I realised this, I got such a rush. So after googling all kinds of phrases with the words “gap year” in them, I did some destination research and decided it was to be Mexico and it was to be a purposeful trip to one place for three solid months.
Had I ever been so far from home before? No, well not alone anyway.
Had I ever taught anyone before? Certainly not another language.
Did I speak even a little bit of Spanish? I did not.
But on January 8th 2007, when I took my first steps out of Guadalajara’s Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International Airport, sweaty, tired, nervous, jet-lagged and hungry, little did I know this would be a state that I would come not only to crave, but actively pursue.
Before I left, I’d had warnings of rabid dogs and malarial mosquitoes but nobody warned about the strange, almost inexplicable, phenomenon that is the travel bug.
That was the day it bit me.