An Englishman in Split
We talked to Michael Freer, a 31-year old Englishman who now lives in Croatia. Micheal travelled through 35 countries while working, volunteering or just relaxing, so we wanted to find out what motivated him to travel, how he chose his destinations and what advice he has for young people looking to go on an adventure like him.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Michael, 31 and originally from the UK but now I live in Croatia. I run my own company and also work part time for an NGO called CEDRA Split. I teach English and entrepreneurship, as well as promote and create social enterprise locally and internationally.
What motivated you to go abroad?
I love to learn new languages, try new food, meet different people and just get out there. At the same time I also like to get to know a place, and the only way to do this is by spending a longer period time there, so I live a semi-nomadic life, travelling when I can but living longer in other places.
How did you start your journey?
As part of my university degree (Spanish and Business Studies) I had to spend a year abroad as part of the Leonardo programme which was like Erasmus but for people who wanted to work abroad. This thrust me out of the UK and into a new world, which changed the way I wanted to live my life.
How did you pick your destinations?
There hasn’t really been any specific formula, just places I fancied going to, or had heard good things about or had read about. Croatia is in fact the country I put most thought into, due to its geographical location, climate, environment and underdeveloped NGO and social enterprise sectors.
Which country surprised you the most?
No matter how much you read, watch or hear beforehand, India will surprise everyone. I think after you’ve been all around India then you can travel anywhere with no issues. It’s a huge country, so much diversity, and has so many great things about it – the food, the people, the climate, the tradition… the list goes on. But then remember there are over a billion people living there, and many of those in poverty, then you’ll understand why you get a daily smack of reality.
What was the most difficult thing about working/traveling abroad?
There was always a slight feeling that I shouldn’t be doing it, that I should have been looking for a ‘real job’ or ‘settling down’. However if that’s not your nature or personality, then you’ve got to go with what makes you happy, and ignore what other people say. There are times you’ll miss your family, friends, some food from back home or maybe a feeling, but that will, for the majority, will always be there for you, so take comfort in that.
How did you end up in Split?
Split was basically the culmination of wanting to be back in Europe for a period of time, after spending a couple of years in and around Asia. I know what field I enjoy working in now, and I know what keeps me sane, so with those in mind I chose Split. However I’ve done many things that taught me what I didn’t like before I reached this point, and they were all valuable learning experiences!
What was the most interesting job/project you worked on?
Funnily enough, in my professional career it’s actually been a volunteering project that was most interesting. I spent 6 months volunteering 2, 3 or 4 times a week in a drug and alcohol residential rehabilitation centre. I would always do the night shift, when the residents would have finished their daily routine and be unwinding. I got to meet a variety of people, with different stories and backgrounds. Some young, old, highly educated, uneducated, from minority groups, mainstream groups, single, married, rich, poor, marginalised, local and foreign. It taught me that we never know what is round the corner, no matter how stable we think things are, and that’s why we should make the most of each day as it comes.
What advice would you give young people who want to travel as much as you?
Look into what you do, speak to people how have done it, use the resources available, save the money and go. Even if it’s only for a month or two, try it. If you want to try closer to home at first, then there are opportunities through Erasmus such as EVS, so that could be a good first step. Finally, I am happy to offer any tips or advice to anyone looking to live a life of adventure!
Big thanks to Michael for the interview!