I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time – years actually. Finally, here in the airport with time to kill and waiting for my flight “home” to Canada, I have the time and motivation.

Teaching English as a “profession” and living in multiple foreign countries has so many advantages. We hear about them and read about them all the time. The cultural differences, sites of interest, the exotic local appeal, new experiences and stimulations. However, there is a dark side to this “adventure”, the dark side of being away from home and loved ones.

Career EFL teachers are in a constant state of divorce from their own family and friends. We feel guilty for being away as our parents get old (at least I do), for missing family gatherings, from being estranged from “our self”. We feel like a leaf adrift on a big lake. This is the downside of being a long distance teacher.

It isn’t talked about much but remains there behind the scenes as we go about our lives in foreign countries.

I’m leaving Korea today, in a few hours. Been here for 5 years and truly, all things being equal, I’d stay here the rest of my life, if not for my family. Lots of negatives to life in Korea but that’s par for any course. I had a great job, lots of freedom to develop as I wanted professionally, was / am well respected. Why not stay? Well, finally I had to do the right thing and “be home”. My parents are still healthy and well but I owe it to them to spend time in their later years, to be there. I’m not saying that is a call everyone need nor should make. But it is my own call. Still, my point remains. Us EFL itinerant teachers traveling the world have to deal with this kind of personal backdrop. The pay can never compensate for this.

You don’t read too many bloggers writing about this “thing” we all feel. This estrangement and displacement we feel. I’ve felt it and on this afternoon, pushed by the divided emotions of departure, declare it. It is a lot easier with technology, the internet, skype etc…. but still it doesn’t dent this iron strong feeling.

I guess that is life, bittersweet. There is sadness and happiness in all experiences. The sadness of leaving and the happiness of arriving. It is for us teachers to manage it all, the best we can. Let us struggle towards paradise, each in our own way, as “long distance teachers”.

photo courtesy Allan1952 on flickr.com