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No, I am not! As of summer 2018 I tested at ACTFL’s advanced-mid level of Russian. I can comfortably carry on a conversation and talk about more advanced topics, but I am by no means fluent. After all, that’s why I came to Russia – to advance my language skills and get closer to achieving fluency! Living in a country where your target language is spoken is one of the best things you can do to improve your language skills because it is the definition of full immersion. You absolutely do not need to be fluent in Russian to visit a former Soviet country, however, I would recommend waiting to book your flight until you have a basic understanding of the language so that you’re able to make effective language gains.
So, if you’re thinking about traveling to a post-Soviet country, but you’re hesitant about your language skills, check out my article here for some tips about what you should know language-wise before visiting.
For photography and video, I enjoy using the GoPro 5 Hero and the Fujifilm xt100 with a tripod (solo-travel necessity!). I edit everything on Adobe Lightroom with presets from several photographers.
I dug my heels in for several months before finally giving in and purchasing an Adobe subscription. As a traveler on a budget, I was super reluctant to spend $10/mo on a program that has 100s of free alternatives. I eventually caved because I grew tired of toggling between 5 different apps for all the features I could get in Lightroom. The convenience-factor became too appealing to justify the countless hours I spent trying to replicate the effects.
I am able to travel so much and live abroad by teaching English as a foreign language! I completed my TEFL certification through International TEFL Academy (ITA) / Via Lingua in St. Petersburg, and I found a job here shortly after. A TEFL certificate is a great investment if you’d like to travel frequently or live abroad because it allows you to find teaching jobs in-person and online. The flexibility this grants is perfect for travelers because all you need is a certificate and internet to fund your travels.
Depending on where you’d like to travel/live, a TEFL certificate might not be 100% necessary if you’re a native speaker, but I think it is a worthwhile investment. First of all, you’re definitely more likely to get hired if you have one, but it also prepares you to confidently teach the language. I didn’t realize how poorly I understood the grammatical composition of the English language until I took this class, so I highly recommend. If you’re an English wiz, I’d still recommend taking a TEFL course because it also includes lessons on classroom management, teaching methods, and lesson planning.
Of course I get scared sometimes – and that’s a good thing. Fear is your number one travel asset to ensure your safety and well-being. I have encountered several situations in which I’m glad I trusted my instincts, listened to my fear, and acted accordingly. Always trust your gut, and try your best to not find yourself in situations where fear might arise.
If the idea of traveling alone is too off-putting, there are a variety of ways you can surround yourself with fellow travelers for a safe & social travel experience.
1. Choose to stay in hostels - Because guests share all common areas, you have plenty of opportunity to make conversation with travelers from all around the world. Living with fellow travelers/tourists allows you to share knowledge and learn more about where you are visiting and also learn about other each other's home countries. You can also easily coordinate plans with other people if you're interested in seeing the same tourist attractions/doing similar activities. This is a big plus because you're usually able to save some $$ (shared cab rides, group discounts, etc.) and you're also able to share the experience with another person.
2. Join an Expat page - Research if any FB Expat groups are active in the city you’re traveling to. This gives you a chance to ask any travel questions specific to the area and be in the know about any meet-ups or events happening while you’re there.
3. Book your trip with a tour group - This is often more pricey, but you’re able to travel with a guide for the entirety of your trip, so you’ll never find yourself truly alone while abroad.