GoAbroad Interview

Stewart Brown - Managing Director

Stewart Brown - Managing Director

Stewart believes that the lessons you learn while travelling abroad and experiencing new and foreign cultures have the power to teach you the fundamental principles of life. He has been fortunate enough to experience many different cultures, in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and he believes these vastly different cultures has shaped who he is today. Through his own experiences, Stewart believes that every lesson you learn in life will shape your personality, and this is why he feels so passionately about encouraging people to embark on international experiences that will change their life for the better. Stewart gladly joined his best friend in founding TravelBud, as a way of providing life-changing experiences that have the power to lay a foundation in young people's lives and give them with the opportunity to discover their true passions.

Your own travel has taken you from Europe to Asia to Africa. How did your knowledge and experience with the world help you shape what TravelBud is today?

I grew up in South Africa, moved to London for a year after completing high school, travelled Europe extensively during the time off I was given occasionally from my job in London, and then returned home to study at university. The different cultures I experienced overseas really opened up my eyes to what is out there in the world, and I truly believe I returned home more mature and experienced, which helped me a great deal at university.

Riding a scooter in the jungle in Koh Lanta, Thailand

Exploring the jungles of Koh Lanta by scooter

I always preached the idea of everyone experiencing some form of work and travel experience abroad, but after returning from Thailand, I knew that teaching English abroad in the vastly unique countries we offer, has twists and turns that will benefit you for the rest of your life. Because I so strongly believe in everyone experiencing a culture completely different to theirs, where they can give back to local communities, TravelBud only offers programs which include these benefits, and will continue to only offer programs which will positively change the life of the participant forever and ensure that they are making a positive impact on the local communities in which they are placed.

Why do you think travel can be “life-changing”?

When travel opens your mind up to new cultures, people, and ways of life, it forces you to adapt and step out of your comfort zone, to try new things, taste new food, and communicate with local people in a foreign land who may not speak the same language as you. All if this happens while you are looking at life from a new perspective and realising your true passions in life, what matters to you most and what your true life goals are; travel then becomes “life-changing”.

Couple in front of a temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Temple hopping in Ayutthaya, Thailand with my second half

How does TravelBud provide not just travel opportunities, but life-changing international experiences?

The programs we offer are anything but your everyday, leisurely vacation package comprised of sightseeing tours and hotel accommodation. Our programs all are focused around the experience of “teaching English abroad”. Our participants are therefore working abroad as foreign English teachers, in countries which benefit greatly from learning the English language, and have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a foreign culture and gain international work experience, while earning a salary which supports them throughout their stay and travel adventures during weekends and school holidays.

All our teachers are provided with the necessary TESOL/TEFL training and cultural orientation to ensure they are as prepared as can be for the adventure that lies ahead of them. They also receive complete support to ensure they are looked after throughout their stay, but are too encouraged to embrace being independent. For young adults especially, I believe this offers them the opportunity to mature and grow as individuals, returning home enlightened and motivated to succeed at life.

In what ways do TravelBud programs foster cultural understanding and cross-cultural exchange?

Cultural orientation is provided to all our teachers before they head off for their placements. This includes lessons on the culture, language, politics, and society of the country they will be living in while teaching English. We also provide cultural excursions, such as visiting a Thai Buddhist temple during our orientation in Hua Hin, Thailand. The cultural orientation is a fundamental part of our program as it teaches all our participants to appreciate and embrace the new country they are in and make the most out the unique opportunity they have.

Our English teachers will be faced with challenges which they will have to overcome, such as culture shock and language barriers, which make the experience all that more rewarding. They will learn about themselves and others, about how different people around the world live, and about how to embrace a foreign culture while remembering one’s own culture.

Friends doing a lantern release

The release of a lantern is meant to be symbolic of saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new. My best friend and co-director, Liam, and I, said farewell and good luck to the new TESOL graduates of October, 2014.

What is the most important thing aspiring TravelBud participants should know about international travel before departure?

International travel is truly incredible. Not everything will run just the way you like, but it’s learning how to go with the flow and letting go of what may have been holding you back in life before that will make your travel experience abroad that much more enjoyable. One thing that’s for certain though, you will without a doubt return home a new and refreshed person full of stories and memories that will stay with you forever, with new friends you’ve met along the way, a new zest for adventure, and a new understanding of the world.

How do you support TravelBud to ensure every participant comes how “changed for the better”?

The TravelBud team remains in contact with our participants throughout their teach abroad adventure. Our partner team on the ground provides 24/7 in-country support to all of our participants to ensure that help is always there if they need it. We also are continuously improving our programs, requesting feedback from our participants to ensure that there are no aspects of our programs that aren’t up to par and making the necessary improvements where need be.

Our team on the ground in each country ensures that thorough background checks have been done on each school to ensure that every participant is placed at a reputable school with a supportive environment. Strong emphasis is made by our TESOL/TEFL instructors on encouraging all our participants to make the most out of their experience, to give back, and inspire their students, while embracing life abroad.

Hiking in Cape Town, South Africa

Home sweet home in Cape Town, South Africa

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Knowing that every participant we send over, be it to Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, or Colombia, has an adventure waiting for them that will change their lives forever, and positively impact the lives of the local students they will teach. Because we are so careful in choosing our programs, we only choose the programs we truly believe in, which have been personally experienced by our team members. Promoting a program, which has such beneficial features to both the participant and the local community, really is rewarding.

As a teenager, did you ever imagine yourself working in the field of international education?

Not at all. As a teenager, I really had no idea what I wanted to be; things like psychology, geography, and travel always interested me, but I had no idea that I’d ever doing what I am doing today. When my best friend, Liam, told me he was starting a company called TravelBud, I knew I had to get involved. And I’ve never looked back