Retire and Volunteer Abroad – $1300 a month

I’ve been thinking about how to travel around, check places out, and see where I feel at home. And still stay on my $1300 a month Social Security, and maybe save a bit of change. The solution was so obvious I am embarrassed to have just remembered it. I say remembered because I have been here before, only differently.

My last teaching position was close to volunteering. I made enough to get by, but the hours were long, the work was very hard, and the pleasures immeasurable. Teaching in Bangladesh, at a women’s university that recruited students from all over Asia, rewarded me fully for my efforts. I took the job because I wanted to use my skills for those who couldn’t afford to pay for them. I had been teaching at private universities across Asia to students who could afford the tuition, and often didn’t care much about what I had to offer. But I knew I couldn’t afford at that point to volunteer, and Asian University for Women was a good compromise – a minimum sort of wage and students who soaked up education with great appreciation.

Photo: Joanne Bretzer

Photo: Joanne Bretzer

I took the job there knowing that I was taking a huge cut in wages and that it would be a very tough experience. Both were true. The political turmoil in the country makes it dangerous and unpredictable. I taught courses I hadn’t taught before, and had to try to stay prepared a week, or a day, ahead of my students. Electricity is a luxury interrupted many times a day, and the temperatures and humidity made teaching a sweaty circumstance. It was what is kindly referred to as a “hardship post”.

Photo Joanne Bretzer

Photo Joanne Bretzer

Poverty is a grinding experience. I know people who don’t travel to some countries because the poverty is too painful. I can understand that. Kindhearted people want to help. We don’t want to know that we are impotent to solve the world’s problems. When you get to know people who are abjectly poor, hang out with them, they are then people, not the world’s problems, not objects of pity. Not seeing suffering doesn’t make it go away. It is there, and seeing it in all of its glory and humanity can have a salutary effect.

Photo Joanne Bretzer My rickshaw driver/bodyguard/friend and his family. They sent me food on holidays, had me to dinners and took care of me when I was ill.

Photo Joanne Bretzer
My rickshaw driver/bodyguard/friend and his family. They sent me food on holidays, had me to dinners and took care of me when I was ill.

So, now I have the “minimum wage” of my Social Security. I have many years of teaching experience, with students for whom English was not a first language, and for some to say it was a second language would be a serious overstatement. I have lived in very challenging environments, mostly enjoyably. I do have something to offer. I suspect most of us do, after all, we are seniors with tons of life experience. Why not do some volunteering as I travel through Latin America?

I’ll be researching this now and will be posting more.

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