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A dud of an idea, or a new early retirement adventure?

Two things on my early retirement targets list for this year were:

  1. Imagine a new adventure for Sally and me, and

  2. Volunteer for something

Seven months through the year, I've made zero progress on the first item and actually removed the second one from my targets list - a blot on my mid-year report card.

A challenge is that Sally and I have mostly different interests, something that wasn't so noticeable when we were busy working and raising a family, but which has become more apparent now we're retired. While it can be healthy to have different interests, it does make trying to imagine a new adventure together more difficult.

Early retirement volunteering
Could we help make a difference here?

So, I'm kind of stuck with this new adventure thing, and the best I can muster is a rehash of an idea that I had before - volunteer teaching abroad. While I thought it was genius, it's an idea that Sally shot down last time I suggested it, although I'm not entirely sure why because I think it has some things going for it.

The idea: Volunteer teaching for a period of ±3 months in somewhere like Africa or Asia.


  1. We would be doing some good. Particularly Sally, as a qualified teacher, has the ability and training to deliver real value to any school.

  2. It's outside of our comfort zones, and I think it's healthy to be tested (Sally probably doesn't see this as a pro and doesn't understand why I want to push at the barriers of my comfort zone).

  3. We would get to see a new place, most likely a different way of life, and meet new people.

  4. It would be an adventure and we'd create new memories.

  5. My early retirement and my travel dreams meant Sally took a break from her teaching career, and specifically the job she enjoyed and felt valued in. Although she planned to return to teaching, she hasn't done so, and volunteer teaching may be a way of testing whether or not she wants teaching to be part of her future.


  1. I love the flexibility of my current life and am a little nervous of committing to the 9-5 type routine of this type of volunteering (even if it is just for a limited period). I do realise how flaky that makes me sound!

  2. The environmental impact of taking a flight to Africa or Asia.

Other things to think about include:

  1. An internet search for "volunteer teaching abroad" generates a plethora of results. Having looked at several websites, almost all require a payment to volunteer. I don't have a problem paying to cover accommodation, food and other genuine costs, but I do wonder whether some have a profit motivation that's perhaps ahead of the motivation to help the children. Hopefully I'm wrong about this though.

  2. As a qualified teacher (and an exceptional one at that), I think it's important to find an opportunity where Sally's skills can be properly used so she can add maximum value. I have read of some volunteer experiences where qualified volunteers haven't been used effectively.

As I mentioned earlier, Sally rejected the volunteer teaching idea when I suggested it a year or two back, so I asked her what are the things that make her wary of it? She says that:

  1. Teaching changes constantly so she feels she will be out of date with the latest methods and that there will be younger, more dynamic teachers out there who can do a better job.

  2. She has difficulty with the idea of paying to volunteer.

While I don't know the teaching profession as Sally does, I can't imagine that she would have difficulty in catching up with current teaching trends if that were required, or that there are many (if any) more dynamic teachers than her. In fact, it is more likely that the volunteer positions are in places that don't apply the latest techniques. In either case, I've no doubt that Sally would be a huge asset to any school in the volunteer programme. The real question is how effective I would be.

I prefer to look at it with the mindset of, if we did it, we would probably have a wonderful, truly memorable and perhaps even a life altering experience. But even if we were to try it and find we didn't like it, what's the worst case?

  1. There's an end date. Assuming we committed to 12 weeks, if we find that we don't like it, then that's not too long to put up with it.

  2. During those 12 weeks, we'll have done some good.

  3. If we discover this type of experience isn't for us, at least we'll have found that out, we'll have learned something about ourselves. I believe it's better to take that risk, find out by trying rather than playing it safe.

I don't know if we'll do it. In some ways, it doesn't matter too much to me if we don't as it's not a long term ambition, just something I thought might be of interest to both Sally and me, even if for partly different reasons. On the other hand, it could be a shame to not do something where we (particularly Sally) can use our time and experience to help those who don't have the advantages that we take for granted.


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What an interesting idea. I'd love to hear more about it if you decide to do this!

Replying to

I'll definitely write about it if we go ahead. Sally hasn't torpedoed the idea yet, so it's still a possibility, although quite some way off - if we do it, it's probably a next year rather than this year thing.


Jul 30, 2023

I’ve been talking to my son about doing something like this. He speaks French quite well and there are opportunities in French speaking Africa where you can have an added benefit of French immersion and where your English is useful for the schools. I think it’s a great idea!!

Replying to

Hi Andrew, I did wonder about French speaking countries, but was conscious that I'm trying to navigate a rather narrow path of trying to come up with something that Sally won't run a mile from. Safe to say she's on the conservative/stay in her comfort zone/why do something new or different side of the tracks and I felt that introducing a French language angle might be a step (or several) too far. Having chatted with her over dinner, it would indeed have been leaps and bounds too far for her.


Please please don't do volunteer teaching if it's with kids, it's so damaging for them. Teaching assistant or dogsbody in the school fine but not teaching the kids directly. The impact on the kids is so overwhelmingly damaging to them both short and long term. Imagine you are a child and every few weeks your teacher changes, you have people coming in and out of your life constantly, there's no continuity. There are so many other ways to help.

Replying to

Are you sure about that. If a class size is very large, perhaps 40-50+ pupils to one teacher, then they can't be getting the attention they need for effective learning. While someone like me might be able to assist in a limited capacity as a general helper, Sally, as a qualified and experienced teacher could provide effective additional teaching resource to the school. Also, remember we're talking ±3 months.


I've signed up for a month in Tanzania, at a school through IVHQ. Like you I was surprised at the cost, but when you compare it with the price of a holiday it's a good deal. Doing a longer placement would mean the carbon footprint is less over time. As to the 9 - 5, the hours are a lot shorter, about 4 hours per day. I am trying out this one and will then decide whether to do more. 🤠

Replying to

IVHQ is a terrible organisation, they don't care about the volunteers or the programmes, only the money you pay. Sorry but that's the harsh truth.


Hi david. How about teaching English abroad, like Tefl courses? I think you even get paid overseas to do this. National careers has more info:,Level%205%20TEFL%20Diploma

Replying to

You can certainly get paid for teaching English as a foreign language, but I like the idea of the volunteering. Also, with Sally being a qualified teacher, I think she can offer something broader than that. I think she might me warming to the idea, but that might mean just not quite as cold as she was before!

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