This is the first of my series, Those that Inspire. My first inspiration is Mike, a High School teacher from Toronto. He has decided to take the 2009/2010 school year off to travel! You can read his full story on his blog, It is a great site, with posts about his previous trips through Canada, Tokyo, and NYC. His photos and posts make you feel like you are along for the ride!(The photo posted is one of Mikes, I liked it because I thought it was symbolic of “getting off the fast track”) I am truly looking forward to following along on his next adventures.

I had the pleasure of interviewing him, hopefully he will inspire a few of you to take that road less traveled!

FP: How long have you been teaching and what do you teach? What inspired you to teach?

Mike: I’ve been teaching for the past three years, in the traditional sense. I’ve been working with youth for many more years than that though: after having 11 seven year old campers run in 11 different directions, teaching high school is a breeze. My actual inspiration came from two English teachers I had in my final years of high school. Without them, who can say where I’d be now?

FP: Where are you from originally?

Mike: I was born and raised in the suburbs of Toronto, and have never strayed very far from there. I lived away for University, and even now have only gone as far as moving to Downtown Toronto. But what can I say? It’s a great city, in a great country. What need is there to move anywhere else?

FP: What is your itinerary for your year of travel?

Mike: For the year long travel, so many things have changed as I’ve created, updated, and reupdated spreadsheets. A few things have remained consistent though: September – November will be spent taking the train through Europe, February will be spent (with any luck) in Antarctica, and April will see me back in Japan as the cherry blossoms bloom.

Tentatively I’m looking to see Africa in December, south America in January, China and south east Asia in March, Australia and New Zealand, in May, and then spend June in India (yes, it will be very very hot), and everywhere else I still feel I need to get to.

I’m sure problems will come up, and a lot of things will be thrown out of whack – but without a doubt, Europe for the first three months.

FP: What do you expect to bring back from this experience that you can incorporate into your classroom?

Mike:The main thing I want to bring back to the classroom is the experience. It’s one thing to tell your students, “you can do anything,” but it’s another thing when they say that they want to travel the world, and you can actually sit down with them stating: you know what? That is possible, and here is how to do it.

Life experiences and anecdotal stories educated me more than any other type of lesson when I was in high school, and it’s my hope that this will help them too.

I’ve already found myself drawing on my New York experiences as I teach my grade 10’s the book The Contender. And when I talk about Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, I can pinpoint it, not only on a map but within my own memories as well.

Not only that – but teaching in such a multicultural environment, like Toronto, having experienced small fractions of my students homes, and cultures, there will be an invaluable understanding forged from my travels.

FP: Are your students excited for you?
It’s hard to say if they’re excited for me, or excited to talk about it, thus getting me off track, and delaying the teaching of A Midsummer Night’s Dream one more day. But no, they are. Some students will come up to me after class to talk about travel, or to hear some of the stories that have gone on over the years.

One student actually created a play for an assignment, he managed to track some of my writing down over the internet, and incorporated my time in Tokyo into his production.

FP: Do you plan on traveling off the beaten trail and really seeing how other cultures live or are you interested in seeing all the great museums and historical sites?

Mike:I like to travel off the beaten path, as much as possible. But I also like to stay safe. As I’ve often said, in my own city most of it is completely safe. There are just a few streets you stay away from. However, when you’re in a foreign country, or even an unfamiliar city, how can you be sure what those unsafe streets are?

I’ve been trying to make connections with people who live overseas who would be willing to show me around, and allow me to experience the “true country.” But even still, those connections are few and far between right now. If anyone willing to do so could contact me, I’d much appreciate it. In some cases I’ve added countries to my list of ones I’m visiting specifically because there’s someone there to show me around. Better a real look at one place, than a tourists perspective of something pulled from a travel magazine.

That being said, one shouldn’t avoid the historical sites either. Yes they’re touristy, but they’re historical for a reason. The number of people I’ve heard avoid the Great Wall of China just because “everyone is seeing it” is ridiculous. I definitely plan to make my way to it when I’m in China.

FP: What is your main goal for this year?
Mike: My main goal? Step foot on every continent. If I do that, I can come closer to saying I’ve seen the world. I don’t think it’s ever possible to really do that, but I will be closer and that’s all one can ever hope for.

I’d also like to see Easter Island. It’s the one site that I’m not sure if I’ll have the time for, due to how infrequently the planes seem to travel there and back. But I will make a great effort to try and get out there. You know, it’s funny: why I started planning this trip, I had all the places I really wanted to see… most of them have been cut now. This trip isn’t “all the places in the world I have really desired to visit” as much as it is a foundation upon which all those future expeditions will be based.

FP: Are you going solo?

Mike: I often travel solo. It makes life – easier. Sure, there are days that you miss people, but you run into crowds of different folks in hostels. On the road fast friends are made, and kept until they steal your pack – but hey, when you’re on the road you have to expect that to happen now and then too: My tip? Get good travel insurance.

FP: I think you said you’d keep your blog up, will you video any of your journey?

Mike: I will be keeping my blog up. The whole point of my blog is to replace “mass emails” to friends and family that I used to send out. But since I first started it, I’ve been trying to grow it and have it reach a broader audience.

Aside from teaching, the only job I would have rather had was Photo Journalist. Keeping my site running puts me pretty close to that passion as well.

FP: Will you work in any of the countries you visit? Teach English maybe?
Mike: I have no desire to work this coming year. I have been nickel and diming my way through the past three years to save for this. One year is so short, and I already feel the pressure to fit in all that I want to do into those twelve short months. Having to work along the way would only hold me back further.

That being said, I’ve never ruled out teaching in another country. But I wouldn’t want to teach conversational English – I’d need to have a more substantial curriculum.

FP: What is your advice for anyone who wants to take a leap of faith, like you are and follow their passion in life?
Mike: Advice the First: Just do it. There are always reasons not to do something; find your reason to do it.

Advice the Second: Be prepared to do it on your own. Are you in a relationship? Do you have friends and family? It would be great if they could come with you – but it they can’t don’t let them hold you back. There are a number of people I’ll be leaving behind, but they understand; twelve months down the pipes they’ll either still be there or they wont, that’s there choice. This is yours.

Advice the Third: Understand finances. If you have ten thousand dollars, don’t try to spend six months in Europe. You can’t. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t spend one month there, and then six more in south east Asia.

Advice the Fourth, the final Advice: Go to a travel clinic and get all your jabs before you leave. malaria, yellow fever, and other such things are not the type of souvenirs you want to bring home with you!

A big Thank You to Mike! Happy Trails: )



  1. Free Flying Mom... @ 2009-04-10 13:31

    A trip of a lifetime! Congrats on having the courage to follow your dream, Mike! You sound like a great teacher, lucky students!

  2. Postcards and Coasters @ 2009-04-10 18:28

    A year of traveling around the world… that’s amazing!

    I look forward to following your blog. Imagine all of the great experiences you’ll be able to share with your students when you return.

  3. Solo Road Trip @ 2009-04-14 19:46

    I’ve been following Mike for quite sometime. We discovered each other’s sites about the same time (can’t recall how that came about). I’m so glad to see this interview! His decision to travel the world for one year is so very inspirational. It IS possible to get off the train so to speak and I believe he’s singlehandedly convinced many that his endeavor is possible for them as well. It’s wonderful to get to travel along with Mike before, during and after he returns. Thank you for interviewing him! P.S. it’s nice to find your site as well. I’m a new follower!

  4. previously.bitten @ 2009-04-14 20:32

    Once more, thanks for the interview – it forced me to write about some things that I doubt I would have otherwise.

    Also – to the commenting, it’s always possible to get off the proverbial treadmill and head out on a journey of your own.

    one year, half a year, one month – it doesn’t matter. Just get “out there” even if it’s in your own backyard.

  5. The Flying Pinto @ 2009-04-15 04:55

    Solo RT, Thank You!I will check out your site. I just fell in love with Mike’s site and I get so excited when I see people stepping off the conventional path! I already enjoy his adventures can’t wait for more: )

    Mike, You’re awesome and you’re welcome: )

  6. Beachbillies @ 2009-04-16 18:41

    Very inspiring – I’m planning on retiring in 6 years but will be traveling in an RV instead of an airplane! …Sara, can you post about me then or are you just sticking to air travel? 😉
    I have a feeling that Mike’s adventures will be a little smoother, but I’m still very much looking forward to it nevertheless!