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Ep. 246: How this expat travels the world as an English Language Teacher with Nicole Brewer

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In this episode, I speak with Nicole who is an English Language teacher, travel blogger, author, and freelance writer. 

She has traveled to over 40 countries and lived abroad in South Africa, Germany, South Korea, and presently in Oman. 

She has a zest for the expat lifestyle and has a goal of inspiring others to travel and live abroad. 

Listen on to find out how Nicole has been able to live a freedom lifestyle by teaching English abroad.

Listen Below:

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Transcription:

Debbie:

Hey everyone, thank you so much for being here. I am super excited to be speaking with my guest today. I’m here with Nicole.

Hey Nicole, how are you?

Nicole:

I’m good, Debbie. Thank you. How about you?

Debbie:

I am wonderful especially since I’m talking to you today and you have a really interesting story. So can you tell us more about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Nicole:

Okay. Well as you said, my name is Nicole Brewer. I am originally from Detroit, Michigan. As an undergrad, I was communications major and I initially used to work in market research for a few years before. I was actually laid off from my job and during that time period, I decided to consider teaching English abroad. This was back during the recession.

It was really difficult trying to find a job back in the state. So I applied for some opportunities and had a job offer in South Korea. And initially, I told myself I would go abroad for one year until the economy gets better. And here we are over a decade later and I’m still out of the US teaching English abroad, traveling the world, doing freelance writing.

So I taught in South Korea for three years, and now I’m currently in Oman for eight years. So that’s me.

Debbie:

Wow.

It’s so funny how life takes you on all of these little twists and turns, right? You never knew what it would do to you until you really have no option. And I think it’s kind of interesting how your life might have been completely different if you didn’t get laid off and you’d still be at your job, which is so interesting.

You wouldn’t be where you are right now. You wouldn’t have seen all the places that you’ve seen.

Nicole:

Exactly.

I tell people all the time, I’m like, “Actually losing my job was one of the best things that could have happened to me ’cause I never probably would’ve chosen this life path, this lifestyle, if that hadn’t happened. So it was really a blessing in disguise, ironically enough.

Yeah. I’m grateful.

Debbie:

So what made you decide to teach English abroad? Because there could have been a lot of things, right? You could have done a similar job that you had, you could have maybe moved to a different state. There were so many possibilities, but what made you end up abroad and teaching English?

Nicole:

Yeah, that’s a good question.

Actually, a couple of years prior to that, I had actually traveled to Japan with one of my really good girlfriends, Erica. At that time I had three girlfriends who were teaching in Japan at the same time. So having that experience, traveling to East Asia, was always kinda locked in the back of my mind.

Like, “Oh, that’s really cool experience to have.” So when the opportunity presented itself, and like I said, the economy was really difficult trying to find something thing to my liking, I was living in Chicago at the time, so I was like, “Oh, why not? I’ll go abroad.” It was really just the randomness in my life that I decided to move to South Korea, but they did help influence my decision though.

Debbie:

I love that.

And it’s great to see other people who are doing it successfully, especially if it’s people in your own circle, because you can take a look at other people online who are doing it, and then you’re like, “Yeah, they can do it, but I don’t know if I can.” But when it’s someone who’s closer to you that you know, then you’re like, “Okay, if they’re capable of doing that, then I can do it too.” That’s nice.

Nicole:

Yes. Absolutely agree.

And it really did help influence my decision. They were so helpful ’cause I was actually considering. I had an opportunity, an offer in Japan and in one in South Korea and I was trying to decide between the two. So they actually had friends who had taught in South Korea and I reached out and spoke with them and decided that that was the better angle, better fit for me.

Debbie:

So what was it like teaching in South Korea? Because now we have all of this south Korean culture, pop culture coming up and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m obsessed with K drama.” And I have friends who are completely obsessed with that. I have a friend who was actually learning Korean so she can understand the dialogue in like Korean dramas.

Nicole:

It’s crazy you said that ’cause even here in Oman. So when my students are like, “Oh, I love Korean.” Like, they actually are really interested in Korean culture too. And I’m like, “How did that happen?” Those are the times we’re living in.

It was amazing. Like, it’s so funny ’cause like now looking at like BTS being huge and Squid Game, Blue, Netflix out the park and I was just like, “Yeah, that’s Korea for you.” Like, it brought back so many memories. I had so much fun watching Squid Game. So, like, reading Korean.

So yeah, I mean it was quite the experience like living there and like really being immersed in like Kpop culture, ’cause like I’m a hip hop fan and I was just like, “Oh, this is like Korean hip hop.” So, now seeing hip hop popular all over the world, I was like, “Wow, it’s amazing.”

Debbie:

It’s pretty incredible what’s happening. Somebody mentioned to me, I think it was one of my cousins, it’s like the Korean pop culture is like the equivalent of the British invasion. Like, it’s so incredible all of this different art that’s coming from that small country.

And it’s pretty incredible. They’re very innovative and they’re so creative and I think that’s why there’s a huge shift with everything. They’re pretty much taking over the world, which is nice.

Nicole:

Yeah. It really is.

It was comforting ’cause it was like, “oh I know,” like you said, I experienced that a decade ago now to see it so popular all over the world, I’m like, “Yeah. I’m not surprised actually.”

Debbie:

It’s like everyone is just catching up.

Nicole:

Yeah. That part. Exactly.

Debbie:

So let’s talk about your shift from taking your entire life and moving to a whole new country, a culture that I’m pretty sure, well, I don’t know, I’m not pretty sure, that you’re probably not familiar with, right? And changing all of that and shifting everything and preparing for it, did you do anything to prepare yourself for this pretty incredible change in your life?

Nicole:

Well, yeah, definitely.

I’m grateful for, like I said, I had some girlfriends who had that experience so I had them as a shoulder and an ear to ask questions about getting ready to move abroad. But also I really use social media to my advantage as well, different travel communities and groups. Like being African American woman, like there was a group on Facebook, Brothers and Sisters in South Korea, and I had found them and I was asking questions.

“What about hair care?” And different. That’s important, right? Like, where does everyone go to the salon? So just having like social media, having that community of people who were already there was very helpful.

But yeah, I didn’t have the easiest transition because like I said, since I was in the middle of trying to find a job, I was unemployed. So, I wasn’t necessarily prepared to uproot my life. I used to have a condo in Chicago. So when I left, it was a whole process of trying to find someone to rent my place and coming back a year later and selling items. So definitely looking back on it, if I had the time, I would’ve planned my transition better, but it all worked out.

Debbie:

Yeah.

Well, and this is the thing, right? There are certain people that make this decision and they quit their job. They leave and they had time to plan for it. Maybe even a few months or years to have savings and all of this stuff. But when you’re laid off or you’re fired from a job, it wasn’t really your choice. You’re not given that choice. So it’s a completely different ballgame.

And I think that in some way too, and we mentioned this in the beginning, the universe kind of takes over sometimes and it leads you to where you need to be. And it gives you all of these different obstacles especially right now with what’s happening in the world, there are just so many obstacles.

And I think that a person’s character you can really see with how they handle certain things, right? And you either go with it and you make different choices and you find something new or you kind of just become depressed and that takes over your entire life. So it’s really incredible to see somebody like you, Nicole, who was forced into this situation. And now you have this whole incredible lifestyle for yourself, before the pandemic.

Like you mentioned before the interview, you traveled so much, and then you’re living in this country that’s so much more relaxed for you. So how does it feel? Like, did you ever think you would be in this situation, like, this life that you have? Was this even in your realm of reality?

Nicole:

Yeah. No, it was not.

It’s funny you say that ’cause I think about it all the time. Like, I was always intrigued with travel and going to other countries in the future. Even as a preteen, I remember my first time going across the country by myself to visit my sister. She was living in California and I’m from Detroit.

So I was always just like, “Oh, this is interesting,” I was interested in travel, but I never thought in a million years that I would be living on the other side of the globe for my family, for the extended period of time that I have been. But like I said, it’s really been a blessing in disguise.

And one thing I do say about being an expat and living in a different culture and different country, you do really need to have that mentality of just going with the flow. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone and I realized just how relaxed I could be living, especially now being in the middle east, just like the Inshallah culture here is very low-key and laid back.

And, before, being a big city girl from Detroit living in Chicago, I never thought I would live in a small town in the middle east like where I am now.

Debbie:

That’s so funny. And speaking of that, right? When most people hear the middle east, there’s a lot of fear that goes into it because obviously what we see in media, what’s going on there in certain parts of it.

And it’s so funny that you mentioned this, Nicole, because several years ago, I forget what year, I think it was like 2012, and they had like the revolution in Egypt and my husband and I were there at that time in Egypt, like just after this all happened.

And we were literally sitting down on the train. I think we were in Cairo, I forgot where we were. And it was a US media and they were saying how horrible it was and this and that. And we were literally sitting where they said it was really bad.

And we looked at each other, we were like, “What are they talking about? We’re literally here where they’re saying all of this stuff is happening and it’s so quiet. And everyone is so nice. And like, we’ve never met so many people who are so welcoming, welcomed us into their home. This is not how it is.”

So I know we talked a little bit about your experience in the middle east and how it’s completely different from your perspective before you came there. So what is it like? ‘Cause you’ve been there for eight years, you’ve been in the middle east for eight years. So tell us the reality of it. And obviously, I’m not saying there are not dangerous parts of it, but from your perspective, what is it like?

Nicole:

Yeah. That’s a very good question.

Like you said, on the outside, looking in before coming, many people said things that make you so fearful of the region, but I’m really grateful because I’m located in Oman, which a lot of people think it’s like in the UAE. They’re like, “Oman is near Dubai.” I’m like, “Well, technically it is near Dubai, but Oman is like the little brother of the UAE. We’re right next door to the Emirates.” And that’s why I like to describe it.

Here, it’s so peaceful. Like, Omanis are the sweetest, humblest, people that I’ve probably ever met in life, very helpful. I feel very safe. And that’s not just feeling, I am very safe here. Like you don’t hear news of like any big, big tragedies or things that aren’t used to being from Detroit, being from the States It’s total like night and day, mirror experience being here is very safe.

A beautiful country and Omanis are humble and very helpful. And I’m just grateful. Like, it’s a very peaceful place to be. And it’s the total opposite of what people think when they hear the middle east.

Debbie:

Yeah.

And that’s the thing, right?

The middle east is very vast and there are different countries, there are different cultures and it’s not just where the war areas are. There’s a lot more to it than what we see on media. And that’s the thing, that usually when you look at the news and media, it’s always about the bad stuff, and it’s very rare for them to highlight things that are actually really good. Even in places that are devastated.

So it’s so nice to hear someone like you, Nicole, and to hear this from you saying, “I feel safe and I live in the middle east.” So that’s nice. I love hearing that

Nicole:

Yeah.

I’m grateful that I’m able to share it with people. It’s one of the things I love about being a travel blogger and freelance writer. I mean right now, Oman, I feel like it’s a hot period. Like, I’ve had a couple of different commission articles recently. I’ve had different people reach out to me, BBC travel, and through the years since living here.

So it’s been a great time to be here as a blogger. But right now I do feel like it’s becoming more on people’s radar. So I’m grateful to be here during this time. I’m like, “Oh yeah, I’m a little ambassador to the States living in Oman, being able to educate people about this region.” That’s how I feel.

Debbie:

Yeah.

‘Cause you’ve literally been living there for almost a decade. And honestly, I think it’s a country that most people probably would not have heard of. And it’s really nice to have it in your perspective as a black female traveling in that area.

And it’s a different perspective that I think a lot of people are interested in and there’s a lot of women like you who wanna do the same thing, but they wanna feel assured and comfortable first. So seeing you, you’re kind of like the pioneer, so it’s nice.

Nicole:

thank you.

No, but that really is like, it has been one of my goals, like being a travel blogger and a writer in this region. Like, I’m just grateful that, I am able to share my story. Like you said, my perspective is unique and I’m just grateful that people actually want to hear it. So yeah, it’s a good life.

Debbie:

Love that. That is amazing.

So for you, what do you think have been some of the biggest obstacles that you have encountered so far throughout this whole process?

Nicole:

That’s a really good question.

I think for me, like, I’m a very like laid back, go with the flow type of person. So when I think about my years, almost my decade of being abroad, I realize I remember so many good experiences that I always struggle with that question ’cause I’m like, “It’s been relatively easy.”

 

But I can’t deny that being abroad, away from my family, especially now that in the height of the pandemic, last summer, I wasn’t able to go to the USA to see my family. And that was the first time in a decade that I wasn’t able to go back to the States.

And I realize how devastating it is as a traveler as well. Like, I had to stay in Oman during the summer for two months and I’m just like, “Never done that before.” So it was not without the struggles, not being able to see my family.

And after two years I made it home this summer. I was able to see my nephews and how fast time keeps going, right? So for me not to be able to see my family in almost two years, that was one of the most difficult times being here during the pandemic.

And like, if I had left Oman and gone to the States, the borders were open, but the airport closed. Like, I would not have been able to get it back into Oman. I’m like, “This is my livelihood. I couldn’t take that chance to go to the States last summer and then be locked out from my home of the past eight years.”

So yeah, that was a struggle.

Debbie:

Yeah.

And also it’s true. And it’s so funny that you talk about that, like seeing your nieces and nephews, and I see them too. Like, I have nieces and nephews that I’m very close with and it’s so funny. That’s how you know you’re aging, you’re like, “I don’t feel like my body, like my mind doesn’t feel like it.”

But then when I see the kids and how fast they’re growing, it’s so intense and it’s kind of scary to know that you miss out on those huge parts of their lives. And it’s a sad thing that we have to deal with all of that. And also, loneliness, right? And not being able to see, like you mentioned, all the people that you love and it’s just different.

So that’s definitely, I think, a big obstacle that a lot of nomadic people or people who moved abroad, like expats have been dealing with even before the pandemic, right? Because loneliness is something that we all go through, especially when you’re in a different country, even though you have friends, it’s not the same when you’re with family.

Nicole:

Absolutely.

You hit the nail on the head. That’s why I said, “This life isn’t for everyone. It’s not particularly easy.” You definitely have to be a very self-sufficient, independent person, but you get lonely. Like you said, that’s just life. But I think about that even when I used to live in Chicago, being away from my family, like it was a shorter plane ride, but I was still in a different state from my family. They had relocated to Atlanta.

And I went through those bouts then, but it was a quicker flight to get down to the south to see my family in Atlanta as opposed to being on the other side of the globe. It’s not particularly easy just to hop on a flight. So yeah, it’s definitely different.

Debbie:

It’s so crazy. It’s so interesting how the world has completely changed and kind of flipped everything upside down so, yeah, it’s so interesting where all of this, like where life takes you.

So what do you think has been the biggest thing that has pushed you to keep going with this lifestyle? Because you’d mentioned it’s not for everybody, how come it worked for you? What do you think allowed you to really continue with this type of lifestyle, even with all the obstacles that maybe you faced or in your travels, loneliness, not being around the people that are your family?

Nicole:

That’s an excellent question.

I tell people my description, when I describe myself, I say I’m an English teacher by day and a travel blogger and freelance writer by night. And I think me having this balance of like, being able to go to Dubai for the weekend and do a hotel review stay, like, honestly, the blog has been a big reason that I’ve been able to feel comfortable and sustain this expat lifestyle as long as I have.

I think if I was only just teaching full time by itself, I don’t know if I would’ve stayed as long as I have, but having this outlet and this passion for travel and writing, that’s definitely been a motivating factor for me to stay out of the country, stay abroad as long as I have.

Debbie:

Yeah.

And I love that you have all of these different things that you’re doing. And I think what keeps you going is that you are able to have that creativity, right? There has to be passion along with other things too that really keep you on your toes in many ways.

Nicole:

Yes, Absolutely.

I think a lot of my friends who are expats who have been doing it for a long time, are similar to me. Some people are podcasters, bloggers, vloggers, or even going to school, getting a master’s degree. Like, I feel like a lot of people are doing multiple things in order to find their passion and to keep going at lifestyle. I realized that.

Debbie:

Yeah, absolutely.

So since you are in Oman, you’ve been there for eight years, almost a decade, which is incredible, what keeps you there? Like what makes this place so special that you have stayed so long?

Nicole:

Yeah, that’s a good question.

Honestly, like I was saying before, I never expected to live in the middle east and especially a small country. Oman, I didn’t even know where it was before, I looked it up.

No, truthfully, to stay here as long as I have, but it just draws me in. It’s something special about the culture here, the people. I made a friend recently who works for the US Embassy and she said the same thing, she’s like, “I couldn’t wait to get here. One of my friends, he was looking up places, he wants to retire here and stay.”

And it just sucks you in because of the culture and the people, and it’s just so relaxing. And yeah, as a traveler, you have a little bit of everything: you have mountains, you have the ocean, you have so many different avenues to just enjoy life. I think that’s one thing they think they got it right here.

Like, you work hard, you play hard, but here, it’s just a sense of freedom that I feel, ironically. People are like, “The middle east freedom?” But yes, I’m like, “The culture here is just so laid back and it’s the people, it’s the culture. It’s just everything.” Location, being in the middle of the world. That’s another thing for travel bloggers.

It’s been a great location. I’ve been able to explore more of Africa and I can get to Europe easily. So the location actually plays a part too with me being a traveler.

Debbie:

I love that.

So listeners, Oman, it’s the next big thing and you have Nicole here to show you the way, so make sure you check her out because she has a lot of information there.

But I love that and I also love that you mentioned freedom. And I think for people who do tend to stick to this lifestyle or the people who have left their nine to five, their desk job, the one thing that I’ve seen that everyone has in common is that word freedom.

Freedom to do what you love, freedom to do the things that you wanna do that you weren’t able to do before. So that is pretty incredible that you feel that way in this country that you’re staying in. And that’s why Nicole has been there for almost a decade now. So now it’s understandable why.

Nicole:

Yes. Absolutely.

Debbie:

So Nicole, let’s look forward to about 30 to 40 years from now, and you’re looking back at your life, what legacy would you like to leave and what do you wanna be remembered for?

Nicole:

Oh, that’s an excellent question. 30 to 40, 40 years. Well, we’ll still be here.

I would definitely like to leave a legacy of inspiring other people, especially other people who look like me, little black girls. I would love to look back and like, feel that I have inspired people to consider the expat lifestyle to teach English abroad, to just open their horizons, definitely be aware of opportunities that are presented to you.

Looking back on it, like I said, I never in a million years had thought I would be living abroad for over a decade. And I think when people will look at my story and be like, “Wow, she really did that.” And I really wanted to just really be an inspiration to future generations to consider being an expat, traveling the world, going out of alone, it’s okay. I want to just be an inspiration at the end of the day.

Debbie:

I love that.

And I think that’s what really inspires a lot of people is you actually taking the action going forward with it, even through the fears and uncertainty that you had which is super inspiring, Nicole, because, like I mentioned before, it either makes you or breaks you. And for you to take something that is negative and turn it into this incredible opportunity for yourself is really inspiring.

And that really makes you someone to look up to for sure. So I love that.

Nicole:

Thank you.

Debbie:

That’s amazing.

So now, Nicole, if our listeners wanna know more about you or can they find you?

Nicole:

Oh, well actually, I have the travel blog it’s called I Luv 2 Globe Trot. So on the blog, I write about my experiences living in the middle east and traveling throughout the region.

And also, you can follow me with the same name on Facebook and Twitter, and IG. And I also have a travel community by the same name on Facebook. We have over 2000 members there or so. We share sometimes travel deals, I share all my experience being in Oman, and there’s a lot of expats in the community too. So we ping off each other different ideas and opportunities in there.

So yeah, that’s where they can find me.

Debbie:

Love it.

And I love that it’s super easy to find you, the same name everywhere, makes it super easy for us. So make sure you check that site out. We’re also gonna be adding that into our show notes just to make it a little easier for yourself.

Well, thank you so much, Nicole, for being here with us really appreciate you. You inspire us to definitely go off to more off the beaten path that we made places we may not even heard of. And look what happens.

Nicole:

There you go.

Debbie:

From Chicago to Oman, who knew, right?

Life definitely takes you to unexpected places. And sometimes it’s in the middle of this beautiful country that you may not even have heard of before you got there.

Nicole:

Absolutely that. Go figure.

Debbie:

Love it. Thank you again, Nicole. We really appreciate you.

Nicole:

Thank you so much.

Listen to Nicole’s extended interview where she shares how to get started teaching English as a second language abroad.

What you’ll find:

In this episode, Nicole will equip you with all the knowledge you need to get started teaching English as a second language abroad.


Follow Nicole:


Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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