The Griffin has long stood as an emblem of the Philadelphia Museum of Art where we met as coworkers in 2014 and promptly became best friends and fell in love.
In 2016 we decided to temporarily pause our careers in the nonprofit arts sector to pursue a shared dream of living abroad for a year in order to gain the world-view of a different culture, have more time together, and be stretched in new ways.
After extensive research toward areas of the world where there is accessible employment opportunities for native English speakers, low-cost living, a safe environment, a mix of vibrant cities and beautiful nature, all set within a radically different culture, we discovered our match in Southeast Asia in the country of Vietnam.
We set forth in June, 2016 and spent our first month visiting the areas of Hanoi, Bai Xep, Saigon, the Mekong Delta, Hue, Hoi An, and Da Nang in order to determine where we would most enjoy settling into for the year ahead.
Following our exploratory travels, we spent five weeks in Hanoi where Mark completed a hardcore, month-long Cambridge University CELTA training program at Language Link and became certified to teach English as a second language, not only here in Vietnam, but throughout the world.
In August of 2016 we made our official move to Da Nang, a city nestled between the ocean and mountains in the Central region of Vietnam. Da Nang’s beautiful environs, friendly and welcoming community, fabulous seafood, lower population density, and proximity to hiking, snorkeling, and cultural destinations sang out to us as the place we wanted to call home here in Vietnam.
That same month, we very unexpectedly had to return home to the Philadelphia area after Mark experienced a medical emergency that led to the discovery of a large brain tumor in his left frontal lobe. While it was the most tumultuous five months of our lives, there was a wonderful outcome: A successful surgery at Jefferson University Hospital followed by radiation treatment eradicated the cancerous tumor. In mid-December of 2016 Mark’s doctors pronounced him healthy with an optimistic prognosis for the tumor to stay at bay, and green-lighted him to return to living abroad. We wasted no time in making our plans to return to Da Nang and the extraordinary people we’d met there.
We returned to Da Nang in February, 2017. Although we’d previously thought our time abroad would be brief, it quickly became clear that living in a new culture and exploring Vietnam’s neighboring countries was expanding our minds and hearts in ways we weren’t yet willing to give up, and so we removed the idea of a predetermined end-date. During our 2.5 years in Da Nang, Mark served as the Academic Manager of Student Experience at Fisher’s SuperKids English Center and Robin provided marketing services for two Da Nang-based digital agencies: Seadev and Code Engine Studio along with volunteering for local charities. We adored living in this stunningly beautiful part of the world, filled with equally beautiful-hearted people. We even had our wedding in Da Nang (following a comically crazy marriage certification process in Bangkok Thailand).
In the spring of 2019, to honor our commitment to continually seek new experiences for personal and professional growth, we made the (quite heart-wrenching) decision to leave Vietnam in order to once again intentionally disrupt our comfort zones. This time we sought a location that would be very different from both America and Vietnam.
We’re now living in the marvelous city of Istanbul, Turkey where Mark is pursuing his DELTA certification and working as an English as a second language teacher for students in grades 4-7 at the Özel Karagözyan Ermeni İöo, a wonderful Armenian primary school in the Şişli district. Robin is taking Turkish language classes and continuing to freelance for Seadev while exploring volunteer and work opportunities here in Istanbul.
We invite you to follow our awe, amused confusion, and lessons learned as we summit the challenge of living as foreigners by following our blog and photos here on our travel website, along with our Instagram and YouTube pages (linked in the above navigation menu).
Thank you for traveling and learning with us on our adventures!
Robin & Mark
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