Year in Review – 2017
December 2017 marks not only the end 0f 2017 for us, but also a full year of this blog. We’ve been blogging for years, starting out when we first left the UK for Thailand back in November 2006 as Rat on the Road. In 2017, we decided to go self-hosted because of the freedom it gave us in the organisation of the website. We’ve been able to build up a collection of posts and interviews aimed at people thinking about teaching abroad; something we felt was important, the more people we met who had had bad experiences when starting out. Along with this, we continued to tell the same stories about our travels and life abroad that people seemed to enjoy before.
Happy 1st Birthday to our blog
So our little blog is one year old. Oh hasn’t it grown…..it’s started talking and can stand up by itself now……
Actually, it has grown. In the last year we have got:
Over 650 Facebook Followers
Over 6500 Twitter Followers
Over 1600 Pinterest Followers
And quite a few email subscribers.
If you are one of those:
Hi. Thanks for following us.
Or if you are just dropping by:
Hello and welcome to you too.
In the past 12 months, we’ve had 14,000 users on our site. Now we have about 2,500 users a month and climbing. That’s around 90 a day. My current target is 100 users a day, so not far off…..
What interests me is that despite not being any kind of expert in SEO, we get most of our hits from Google searches – over 70% according to Google Analytics.
Our Popular Posts
It’s interesting to look at what you have been reading. Here are our top three posts:
We wrote this one while we were teaching in Thailand because there wasn’t much information online about teaching in Ukraine. Having worked for two years in Odessa for London School of English, we wanted to popularise the country for English teachers. Little did we know that less than six months later we would be back working in Ukraine again, this time in Kyiv.
This post is generally on the front page of a Google search on teaching English in Ukraine and so far it’s had nearly 2,500 reads. Hopefully, it’s been useful to some people.
Back in October 2016, while we were living and teaching in Bangkok, we travelled around Thailand with Kate’s parents. In Chiang Mai, we took an excellent cooking course at Galangal Cooking Studio, but got a bit overwhelmed with choosing which to do. Chiang Mai is a bit of a centre for Thai cooking courses and there are so many, offering a range of different types of course. I wrote the post as a summary to help people decide what to choose, as it was what I was looking for but couldn’t find.
It seems others are looking for it too, because that post has had over 2000 hits so far since we published it in March.
Number 3 is another post from our jaunt around Thailand with Kate’s parents. Khao Sok was our second wildlife trekking experience in Thailand, after Khao Yai. While there were no elephants or gibbons this time, we still had a great jungle experience, including a night safari. The post we wrote about how to visit Khao Sok has had about 1700 visits so far.
Teaching English Abroad
The vision for this blog was for it to have two sides: teaching and travelling. That’s perhaps now split into three, adding living abroad, as we also talk about life as expats.
On the teaching side, we wanted it to be a resource for people thinking of teaching English abroad, with advice and experience from real teachers, really teaching English abroad. We wanted it to be honest – not just the highs, but the lows, the stories of scams and problems and everything else in between. It was also very important for it to be as independent as possible. There is a plethora of websites about teaching English, but most of them are linked to TEFL course providers and/or recruiters. Some use real stories from teachers, but others just have generic lists of the type of job and requirements.
To date, we have ten posts with advice about teaching English, including advice from us on teaching English in Bangkok, guest posts on teaching English in Colombia and South Africa, and a collaboration of stories from people teaching in China. There are several in the queue to be published, including teaching English in Taiwan and finding short-term teaching jobs. Expect those in 2018.
As well as this, we have 13 New Teacher Tales interviews, where people teaching English abroad talk about how they started out, and give advice to newbies. There’s a variety of teachers of many nationalities, both native and non-native. Some of the stories are really funny too – rooves blowing off houses, inappropriate students and bad use of Google translate.
Our year has ended amazingly here, after we were included in the English Teaching Professional magazine’s list of ELT blogs to follow in 2018. They described us as ‘A must-read if you’re aiming to teach English abroad’ which we are very proud of. There are some great established blogs on the list, many that we’ve followed for years, so it is fantastic that we have been included.
If you are an English teacher and want to write us a post – either a guide to teaching where you are, a New Teacher Tales interview or to be part of a collaboration on a specific country (Vietnam and Spain are on the cards), let us know.
What Kate and Kris Did in 2017
2017 has been an interesting year for us, but I suppose most are. We saw in the New Year in Ayutthaya, Thailand, a town famous for its ancient ruins. Not huge fans of New Years’ Eve, we decided to spend it hanging out on Soi Farang, a row of bars aimed at foreigners in Ayutthaya. Surrounded by locals, expats and travellers of all ages and nationalities, we had a great time. As we had four days off work for the holiday, we also spent the time exploring the temples at Ayutthaya and Lopburi and watching the monkey vandals that have overrun the town of Lopburi.
Revisits and Renunions in SE Asia
We returned to Cambodia, probably our most visited country after Thailand in February where Kate presented at the CamTESOL English Language Teachers’ conference in Phnom Penh with our friend Pete from ELT Planning.
We also had a fantastic renunion with our friends Dan and Heather who were travelling around Vietnam and Cambodia before going trekking in Nepal. We hung out in Saigon and showed them our old haunts from our time living there. The possible highlight was the pipe in our Airbnb bathroom bursting and Kris and Dan trying to fix it….
Dan and Heather are pretty epic travellers, having travelling from Cairo to Cape Town in Africa, driven from Canada to Argentina in truck and walked the Appalachian Trail in the USA. You can find out more on their blog: Lightfoot Tracks.
Komodo Dragons and Manta Rays
April in Thailand is Songkran – Thai New Year – which is celebrated with a countrywide water fight. Having experienced it twice before, this year we were keen to keep relatively dry. Instead, we used to holiday from work to fulfill a bucket list dream – seeing wild Komodo dragons. We headed out to Flores in Indonesia where we stayed in Labuan Bajo and took day trips out to both Rinca and Komodo Islands. Seeing the dragons in the wild was amazing. They were a combination of lethargic and a tiny bit sinister, and absolutely huge. Read about our experiences, and quite a lot about their zoology, in Kris’ blog post: Enter the Dragon….and other Komodo dragon cliches.
After Flores, we had a couple of days spare so we took a plane and boat to Nusa Lembongan, off the coast of Bali, for some rest and relaxation as well as some snorkelling. There are manta rays off the coast which you can take trips to snorkel with. Unfortunately, they did not come out to play with us, but we did snorkel with our first adult turtle. Not snorkelling with manta rays in Nusa Lembongan
Myanmar – our last South East Asian country.
After 18 months teaching English in Bangkok, we decided that it was time for a move and began looking for other jobs. Returning to Ukraine wasn’t a consideration at first, but our old company got in touch and made us a good offer.
Before we left South East Asia again, we went to visit our last South East Asian country – the only one we hadn’t yet visited – Myanmar. Over two weeks we explored Yangon, including seeing the Schwedegan Pagoda, doing a great food tour with Yangon Food Tours and meeting up with a friend from Vietnam who now teaches there. Moving on to Inle Lake, we went on a boat tour of the lake, stopping at various local workshops to see how silver jewellery, silk scarves and boats were made. At Inle Lake we also did an excellent Burmese cooking course with Bamboo Delight Cooking School.
The temples at Bagan were next and no less incredible than Angkor Wat, Sukhuthai and Ayutthaya. We ended to trip in Mandalay. Unfortunately, we didn’t find Nellie the Elephant but Kris had a great birthday in a traditional Myanmar beer station.
Interestingly, our trip around Myanmar also included three horse and cart rides. I think that might be more than we’ve ever experienced before.
We’re still in the process of writing blogs about our trip to Myanmar, so expect them sometime in 2018.
At the end of August, after a couple of weeks visiting family in the UK, we moved to Kyiv. Since then, as well as working we’ve been exploring the city, visiting museums, islands, restaurants and bars. We’ve started documenting the amazing metro stations here with our Metro Monday Series, starting with Teatralna, and the stunning Zolota Vorota.
We’ve been writing monthly posts about life here in Kyiv, including places we recomend visiting, eating and drinking:
And so here at the end of the year. It’s nearly 2018 and we are heading to Marrakesh, Morocco for a week’s holiday on New Year’s Eve. Of course, we’ll blog that too, but it might take a while, so keep your eye on our Facebook page for pictures.
Happy New Year to all of you. Have a great 2018.