About

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Hello fellow adventurers!

I assume you’re here for adventure stuff. Are you looking for tips? Advice? Reviews? Stories? Entertainment? Well, I can safely say that you’ve come to the right place.

What is Two Tents Down all about?

At ease, friends! Two Tents Down is a lighthearted camping and travel blog, carefully written and well-researched, with tips, advice, and exciting adventure tales.

Anyone should feel welcome to peruse my Two Tents Down blog, but a beginner or intermediate camper or traveler might find it most useful. Take a look at Two Tents Down’s first entry, if you’d like to know more about the blog.

The Proof is in the Puddin’

To get better acquainted with this blog, you are welcome to read one of the entries below. This is a short list of posts that readers have really enjoyed:

  My Vision

Well I do have a lot of them, but my “Two Tents Down” goal is to share advice and stories about camping and traveling that will educate, inspire, and enable people to spend their precious time exploring!

Here is one of my inspirational adventure moments, and the story that goes with it:  

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Who the heck am I, and why should you trust me?

Well, let me introduce myself. I’m Lauren. I am a Wisconsinite, and I LOVE cheese! Wait, that’s to be expected. Okay, I really do DSCN0923love cheese! Actually, I love food in general, as well as the outdoors. I hike, bike, camp, and travel as much as I can.  

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a journalism degree in 2012, I chased love to England. There, I resided for seven months, hiking and camping, and visiting several cities including Manchester, Liverpool, and Edinburgh, Scotland. 

On a whim, my wife and I moved to Taiyuan, China to teach English. We lived there for a year, getting to know the culture, learning Mandarin, eating authentic Chinese food, and exploring places like Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing.

In 2014, we returned to America to reunite with my family and plan the next trip. We currently reside in Milwaukee, hiking and camping as much as possible on the budget of an assistant teacher and a food service worker! Read about what I’ve been up to since I’ve been home in my article called “Traveling on my Mind”. 

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During the time in between adventures, I dream through reading and writing. I am proud to say, I created and run the Two Tents Down blog. It is a constantly evolving project — open to ideas, and subject to change. Each entry is based on my adventure successes… and of course my failures! What’s more: all articles include the perspectives of fellow adventurers.

Social Media-ness

I like to interact with readers and other explorers on social media. Through these platforms, I share my latest blog posts, photos, stories, and my favorite articles written by fellow adventurers.

Add, follow, like, and peruse to your heart’s content:

Facebook  

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest    

Bloglovin’  

Email

Professional bios and profiles

I’m not just a blogger! I’m a freelance journalist. Connect with me, professionally:

Professional Website 

LinkedIn  

Google+   

Safe travels and happy camping!

Lauren

P.S. If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

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Traveling on my Mind

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I’ve been thinking a lot about traveling, lately. Creating a blog and 47 (I exaggerate) social media accounts about camping and traveling will have that effect.

Sometimes I can’t believe I’m back home. After all the time I spent away from home, after all the belongings I hate to part with, and after all that I’ve experienced, I can’t believe that I’m back home, in the same place I was before. I’m residing in the same house, working the same type of job, doing the same things in my free time, and living in the same city I lived in for the seven years before I left to travel.

These things didn’t change. My house didn’t change. Milwaukee didn’t change. But, I changed. After coming back home, I realized that I’m different. I don’t quite fit the life I was living before I left.

I don’t think I’m the only person to realize this. I have fewer people in my life now. Upon my return, I realized that many of my friends moved on while I was away. That’s one of the downfalls of travel. Friends’ lives keep moving and building in one place, while your life grows in a different way.

My point is here, somewhere.

I’ve been back home for 16 months now. In that time, I:

Newbie #2

Newbie #2

  • Reconnected with family and friends
  • Made my travel partner my permanent partner in life (Yay! We got married!).
  • Traveled to Virginia Beach for my cousin’s wedding (Congrats, Cuz!).
  • Attended two other beautiful Wisconsin weddings.
  • Played three seasons of softball.
  • Joined a soccer team, for the first time!
  • Convinced an old job to hire me back, then convinced a new job to hire me on.
  • Got a promotion!
  • Lived at my mom’s in the suburbs, then moved back to Milwaukee.
  • Said goodbye to two very special family members, and then said hello to three very special, new family members (Newbies, you know your names!).
 Hiking Kettle Moraine
  • Went on many hikes and bike rides.
  • Went camping a few times, and bought an obscene amount of camping gear (Thanks REI, for relentlessly tempting me!).
  • Explored two incredible national parks.
  • Visited two states I had never been to before.
Me, as Professor Trelawney for Halloween

Me, as Professor Trelawney for Halloween

  • Became Professor Trelawney for one glorious night!
  • Devoured 17 books (and counting).
  • Started this blog.
  • Made a solid plan to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2017.
Even after reminiscing on all the adventures of the last 16 months, I can’t help but feel like the monotony of daily life is stifling my wanderlust needs. I got a taste of traveling. I got a taste of a wildness that I had never felt before. Now I’m home, and writing about those experiences.
Though my travels were far from perfect (and even farther from easy), I know that I need to get back out there again, soon. And once my home life is in order, I’ll be planning and saving for future exploration.

To put it simply, more adventures are calling!

Dear Readers,
Do you feel the pangs of unfulfilled travel? Have you grown tired of the day-to-day grind? What do you do to ease the wanderlust, while you’re doing the home life thing, and waiting for the next big trip?
Feel free to leave a comment, send me an email (twotentsdown@yahoo.com), or contact me through social media (twotentsdown on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

If you need me,

I’m just Two Tents Down!

 

10 Terrific Tips for Teaching English Abroad

 

The opportunities are endless for people who want to live abroad and teach English. There are a number of continents, each with at least a handful of countries that will gladly accept you as an English teacher, if you are only willing to get out there and do it.
Foreigners of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of education are accepted, depending on the requirements within each country, city, and school. There are even opportunities for non-native English speakers, again depending on each school’s requirements.
If you decide to travel to a different country to teach English, there are some things you should do to prepare yourself for this awesome adventure.

 

1. Get your passport/passport pictures.

This is a top priority! You can’t go anywhere without your passport, and leaving it until the last minute is a dangerous thing to do, when you don’t know exactly how long it will take to get one.

First, you’ll need to fill out the form DS-11 online (make sure you use a .gov website) or in person at your local passport office. Important: Do not sign your [DS-11] form until you are at the passport office, standing in front of the person who is collecting the paperwork from you.

  • Passport pictures: You’ll need at least one. This is no simple task. They must be recent pictures (within 6 months), great quality, and the perfect size. Unless you’re a professional, it’s probably best you leave it to the professionals. Walgreens, Walmart, FedEx, UPS, or the 1-Hour Photo Lab at Costco are all places where you could get your passport photos taken. For more information, read “Where to Get a Passport Photo Taken“.
  • Necessary forms of ID: Proof of citizenship (like a previous U.S. passport or a birth certificate) and proof of identity (like a social security card, military i.d., or a naturalization certificate). Without those, you’ll need two forms of secondary identification, which include things like a credit card or a library card. My advice is to have as many forms of identification as possible, in case one form is denied.
  • The cost to get a passport: The fee is around $130 (not including the price of photos).
  • Time it takes to get to your mailbox: normal processing time is 4-5 weeks (or 2-3 weeks, if you pay for a speedy delivery)
  • How long is it valid?: 10 years

If you’re still confused about how to get your passport, read “U.S. Passport Applications and Renewals”.

2. Pick a country, then pick a city.

This is a big decision. You have to settle on a place you’re willing to live in for 6 months to a year, or more.

Consider these things:

  • The culture: What are you interested in? What are you comfortable with? Make sure to do your research.
  • The proximity to your interests: Do you like to surf? You’ll probably want to live near the ocean. Do you like to rock climb? Then living in the mountains would be helpful.
Beach view in Xiamen, China
  • Technological capabilities: For example, China has internet, but limitations on surfing the web. Read “Top 10 Internet-Censored Countries” for more information. Many of the countries on the list don’t have access to many of the social media sites (or blogging sites) you might consider a high priority to have access to. Countries with slow internet speeds might also be something you want to be aware of.
  • Personal qualifications: Your most important qualification is that you speak English as your first language (though it’s not always a deal-breaker if English is not your first language). Many countries require a college degree, a TEFL or a TESOL certificate, or in some cases even a degree in English or Teaching.
  • Job Opportunities: Some countries have more job opportunities than others. Some pay more, and some pay less. Some countries require you to interview in person (which means you’ll need to already be there before they will hire you). All of these things will be important when you are making your final decision.
JimmyESL has an article called “The Best Places to Teach English Abroad in 2015“, complete with information on current average wages and job availability in 10 different countries.

3. Save your money.

You can make some good money teaching English abroad, but you’ll have to have some money saved up before you leave.
Here are some of the things you’ll need to save money for:
  • Your plane ticket: Flight prices are constantly fluctuating, but you should expect to pay at least $1000, if you’re traveling to Asia from the United States, and about the same to fly to South America or Europe.
  • “Settling in” money: It costs more than you think to move into a new apartment in a whole new place. Consider what you have in your own place back home, then think of what you can do without. Most things you’ll need to buy when you move into your new apartment (Examples: Pots, pans, garbage can, laundry basket, broom, cleaning supplies).
My first apartment in Taiyuan, China
  • “Before the first paycheck” money: Waiting for the first paycheck at any job can be hard, but waiting for your first paycheck from your new job, in a new country, in a new city, in a new apartment, can seem like it’s taking forever. Plan to have money for a month to a month and a half of food and entertainment.
Here is a good breakdown of the start up costs for teaching English abroad.

4. Get your visas.

You do not want to get turned away when you’ve arrived. Having the incorrect visa, or no visa at all will be the easiest way to make that happen.Talk to your future employer about which visas you will need, and which visas they will provide or reimburse you for. Then, do your own research to make sure you have the proper documents that will grant you access to the country you’re headed to.

Here is an article with the visa basics, called “How to Get a Work Visa for Teaching English Abroad“, provided by GoOverseas.

5. Buy a plane ticket.

It may seem like a simple task, but routing your travel can be overwhelming and time consuming. Luckily, it is easy enough to keep track of good deals on airfare, through email notifications from sites like Kayak, Expedia, CheapOair, Priceline, or Orbitz. That way, you don’t have to sit there pouring over flight times and prices. You can just type in your tentative dates and times, sign up for notifications, and wait for the deals to come to you.Mashable has compiled a list of 10 great ticket-buying websites. Each site has a different feature to cater to a veriety of travelers.

Other than signing up for email flight price notifications, Clark Howard has a few simple tips for ticket buyers:

  • Buy your tickets about 8 weeks in advance
  • Fly on a Sunday
  • Use social media sites to find deals

6. Do your research!

Have I mentioned this before? It is so important to know where you are going and what you are getting yourself into. I made the mistake of not doing my research on the city I’d be moving to
and the school I’d be teaching at, before moving to China, based on a friend’s recommendation. There were a lot of things that weren’t as I expected them to be, when I arrived.

Make sure you know about:

  • The city/town you’ll be moving to: Is English spoken commonly, by the local people? What is the environment like? Are there local things you might like to do while you are there?
  • The school where you’ll be teaching English: Is it a reputable school? How do they treat their foreign teachers? It might be worth while to try to contact another foreigner who has worked at the school.

 

Morale-building field trip for staff at the school I worked for in Taiyuan, China
  • The living conditions in the city: Some cities are very Westernized, and some aren’t. The city I lived in had a lot of squat toilets (including the one in my second apartment) I had to get used to very quickly. I also had to boil my water before drinking it, but I could live with that. Every city or town has different living conditions. It might be something to think about before moving.
  • The cultural differences: There are things you may or may not be comfortable with in other parts of the world. Make sure you can get comfortable with the culture you’ll be immersed in, before making your final decision.

7. Study your contract.

Read your contract inside and out before you sign it, discuss it with your employer to make sure you both understand it, then have the school email you a copy right away. This is the piece of paper that both you and your employer agree to abide by for one whole year.

If you or your employer fail to honor your deal, during this time, you both have negotiating rights, based on the contract. I was able to negotiate a paid vacation (something I have never done before) in China, because my employer broke my contract.

 

Vacation time in Hong Kong

Contract items you might want to be aware of:

  • Number of work days/hours per week
  • Sick leave
  • Health insurance
  • Local language lesson availability
  • Western holiday recognition
  • End of contract bonus
  • Paid return flight
  • Paid Vacation

8. Consider getting your TEFL or TESOL certification.

The Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate, or a similar certificate, is a must-have for many schools in many different countries. The English school I worked for (in China) did not require me to have a TEFL certificate, but many other foreigners I talked to were required to have their TEFL certificates.

Certifications for teaching English abroad are available both online and onsite. Monkey Abroad has a great article with comparisons for online and onsite classes. Some things to keep in mind are price, flexibility, and satisfaction. For example, online classes are cheaper (from $250 to $500) but there’s no guarantee you’ll get a job through the website. Onsite [4-week] classes are far more expensive (between $1000 and $2000, not including travel and food expenses), but there is usually a guarantee that you will have a job when you complete the class.Finding the best TEFL Certificate provider for you is a lot to think about, but the International TEFL Academy has broken the process down into 5 tips.

9. Sort out your home life.

There are some things you can put on hold, but there are other things you’ll have to deal with before you leave.

Here is a checklist of things I had to take care of before I left to travel:

  • Graduate college
  • Defer student loans
  • Pay outstanding bills
  • Buy out cell phone contract
  • Leave pets in care of family/friend
  • Toss/sell/store belongings
  • Finish/terminate apartment lease
  • Transfer apartment bills to roommate or future tenant
  • Throw fantastic “going away” party

10. Take the risk!!

Dive in, head first! Anything can happen, and many things will happen, but regretting the experience as a whole is so very unlikely.

Before you know it, you’ll be…

 

seeing things like this,
eating things like this,
and teaching kids like this.

Thank you so much for reading!

Until next time, I’m just Two Tents Down!!

 I’m also TwoTentsDown on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. Come check out my pages!