How Derek traveled to 14 countries…

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Meet Derek, A travel guru from Canada:


Born and raised in Canada, Derek lived in Brazil and South Korea and travelled to 11 more countries in the last decade. As a highly-driven, ‘Type A’ personality, he had a very busy schedule in his early years of university. But, an unpleasant and unexpected life event changed his path and his perspective on life. He decided to live every moment of his life in depth, and left for South Korea. He stayed in South Korea for 5 years. This was manageable by teaching English as an ESL instructor. Consequently, he explored more countries in South East Asia, became a Scuba diver and later an adventurer into South America.

Scuba Air Bubbles

Derek: “I was born and raised in Canada. Lived in South Korea for 5 years, and traveled to 11 more countries in the last decade. One of those travel experiences turned into a longer term stay in Brazil. I initially went to Brazil only for the World Cup in 2014. When you visit most countries, the number one thing you wish you could do is speak the native language. In Brazil, however, you quickly realize that knowing how to dance is more important than speaking the language. Brazilians wear their heart on their sleeve which makes it easy to connect with them almost instantly. “

Confucius says “you have two lives, one when you are born and the other is when you realize you have only one.” When did your second life begin, and what changed in you since then?

Derek: “Besides family, most people that meet me today wouldn’t be able to recognize ‘the old me’ from a decade ago. When I entered University, I was a highly-driven, ‘Type A’ personality. I had a very busy schedule and never stopped to smell the roses.

A few weeks after my 20th birthday, I got a phone call that every son dreads. I found out my mother passed away suddenly without any prior health conditions and my outlook on life changed completely. As much as I tried to continue on being who I was, I couldn’t help but face the reality that someone who was a big part of my life was now gone.

There were guilty feelings. And, ultimately I challenged myself to live life at a slower pace. I decided not take for granted those who mattered to me. I began to open up more to friends and chose to be vulnerable at times when I never would have before. I saw firsthand how short this life can be and it scared me.

Up to that point, I hadn’t lived abroad and I was eager to travel. My friend was living in South Korea and he convinced me to come out there and teach English for a year once I graduated from University in 2009.

One year turned into almost five years as I was able to create a large social circle in Busan, South Korea. I enjoyed this foreign culture that was very different to what I knew in Canada. As I traveled more and was exposed to a wider variety of people, my personality changed to a laid-back ‘Type B’ personality.

I’ve found that living abroad changed me. It reminds me of scuba diving. First time that I dove down into the ocean and realized this whole new world underwater that I never had the chance to appreciate. Moving abroad to Korea was like taking the plunge that first dive. It opened my eyes to another side of the world and changed me as a result. It impacted me to be comfortable in my own skin. “

Click here, to read more about traveling the world by teaching English.

Travel Tribe: Tell us about people that you met traveling?

” Let me tell you the story of a lovely Brazilian man, when I was traveling around for the world cup. I owe it to him, to have to participated in a ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative after the trip. 

After traveling a week in Brazil during the World Cup 2014, my good friend Jay and I were out of Brazilian reals and needed to find an ATM urgently. Asking around, we found one and tried to withdraw cash from the nearest ATM. But, the words that came up on the screen are the last words any traveler wants to see: ‘ Insufficient Funds.

We didn’t have the problem in the bigger cities of Rio and Sao Paulo prior to this. There was no reason for it not to work in this city. We thought the ATM is not working and looked for another. A long ATM line later, the same problem occurred with the second machine. Now we were worried.’

Thailand - Similan Islands

A random Brazilian man spotted us walking around aimlessly and asked if we needed help. He spoke very limited English, but it was enough for him to understand our dilemma. He was on a work break, but he offered to bring us to find another ATM. Surprisingly, we had to walk around for the two hours to find an ATM that was withdrawing any money. When we finally found one, I gave a shout of joy amidst a crowded area and got some strange looks. The Brazilian man was pleased and we offered to take him out for lunch or at least buy him a few drinks for all his help. He insisted he was fine and was happy to help us as tourists new to Brazil. We tried to slip some money into his hand but he wouldn’t accept it.

He offered to take us to pick up our laundry at the nearby laundromat, and went on his way. After he left, my friend and I realized we had been so worried and frustrated that we forgot to ask him his name.

Here was a complete stranger that took two hours out of his day to show these tourists where an ATM was. He didn’t want anything in return and put up with our agitated mood the entire time. His hospitality and welcoming attitude in walking with us for such a long time to help us with our problem made me think about the lengths I have gone for strangers in the past and I was ashamed. If this man with no name could go to such great lengths to help a foreign traveler, surely I could be more open to help those around me when the opportunity arose. Jay and I both participated in a ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative after our trip and we both owed it to this Brazilian stranger.”

Laos - Vang Viang


Travel Tribe: Derek, what do you think is the difference between a traveler and a tourist?

Derek: “A tourist is a planner. A traveler is laid back, and let life happen and enjoys it.

"If you are still planning what activities to do weeks before your trip, I dare you to ignore that urge and instead see where the trip takes you."
  • #tourist: When I was younger and first began traveling, the majority of my days were planned beforehand and I had a tighter schedule to stick to in order to maximize the amount of activities I could do. I’d try to visit as many cities as possible and jam-pack my itinerary each day. Most of these trips were highly entertaining, but also exhausting and a blur when looking back. I missed out on many opportunities that presented themselves in the middle of these trips because I had pre-booked boat rides or flights to catch.


  • #traveler: When I went backpacking through SE Asia at the end of 2011, the only two things I booked was my initial flight from Korea to Kuala Lumpur and my departure flight two months later.  Not always easy. It involved some last minute planning. But, I felt free to go with the flow and see where the adventure took me.

If I met an Australian teacher who invited me to a private boat party the next night, I could join him instead of saying I had a flight to catch.

If I fell in love with a new island and wanted to stay an extra three nights with the girlfriend, I didn’t have to worry about cancelling an existing speed boat reservation and accommodations in another city for the next three nights. 

Another added benefit is you tend to stay in one place for a longer time period which allows you to get well acquainted with the locals and discover those hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve the tastiest bowl of steaming Tom Yum Gai soup you’ve ever tried.”

Click here, to join the travel tribe for the chance to fund your future travels.


Follow Derek’s adventures on:

Click here to connect with Derek on Facebook.

Click here to connect with Derek on Couchsurfing.

Click here to connect with Derek on Linkedin. 


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