Teaching and Tripping
Danielle Koffler is a California native and member of the global community of travelers, Tripping. She recently spent a year teaching English in South Korea and is currently traveling the world. In this interview she shares her passion for cultural exchange and for seeing the world.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Danielle Koffler and I'm from Pacific Palisades, California. My first English teaching experience started in the fall after I graduated from the University of Colorado. I was very lucky to find a job in Thailand with the help of a classmate and Idealist.org. After finishing my contract, I backpacked solo around Asia for four months. After another job abroad, my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to teach in South Korea, so we wound up there a few months later!
What inspired you to move to South Korea and become an English teacher?
I’m incredibly passionate about travel in Asia and teaching English is a great way to experience a country. Kids can teach you so much about their culture without even trying. Not to mention that they are really curious in nature, making for fun cultural exchange. I knew I wanted to be somewhere in Asia because I’m very enchanted by the cultures in that part of the world. I chose South Korea because some friends of mine had taught there and loved it.
When you were living in South Korea, what was one of your most memorable cultural experiences?
It’s hard to pick one because every day at school was a cultural experience in itself. I learned so much from my students. Outside of school though, my favorite cultural experience would have to be the time we signed up with our Korean rock climbing gym to attend a climbing festival. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, but we certainly didn’t foresee David (my boyfriend) climbing in the competition. No more than ten folks from our gym were climbing and about twenty of us cheered them on in the rain with big yellow inflatable sticks. When we came back to the gym, we all ate wheat noodles in a black bean sauce. It was really great to feel like part of a community in Korea.
Where did you travel after the end of your teaching term in South Korea?
First we spent a month in Nepal, where we went on a jungle safari, hiked in the Annapurna region, and attended a traditional wedding in a remote village in Ghorka. Nepal was about as picturesque as possible; we were blessed with blue skies for all eight days of our trek.
After Nepal, we crossed into India by land. We visited Rishikesh, McLeod Ganj, Delhi, and Agra. David talked me into visiting Agra, and I’m so glad he did. The Taj Mahal was great, but I have to say I loved the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah (the Baby Taj) much more. It’s a must-see!
We flew to Thailand on New Year’s Eve and spent a month and a half eating the most fantastic food. We spent a week in Laos, where the sheer beauty of the land and the kindness of the locals blew us away. From there we made our way through Thailand and into Malaysia. We spent ten days swimming in the stunning turquoise waters off the east coast and then made friends with some locals in Kuala Lumpur.
We ended our travels with a week in Singapore, where we felt like we were transported into the future with the innovative infrastructure and technology. We are such lucky people to have been able to visit so many wonderful places and meet interesting people along the way. It’s inspiring to see how beautiful and exciting the world is.
Were you able to connect with any Trippers during those travels? How did it enrich your journey?
We were able to connect with a Tripper named Tika in Nepal. He invited us to join him and his family on a trip to his wife’s village to see her brother’s marriage ceremony. It was one of those surreal experiences where you can’t believe you’re actually doing what you’re doing. We watched a traditional wedding, ate tons of Nepali food, hung out with the villagers, and danced. Boy, did we dance!
You can follow Danielle on her adventures via her blog, Wake Up and Dance. You can also connect with her via her Tripping profile and the Wandering Educators Network. She loves to share travel tips, especially tips on where to find the best local food in various cities in Asia and California.
All photos courtesy and copyright Danielle Koffler