Patrick Springer, St. Louis native, left behind the comfortable world he knew so well for Taipei, Taiwan in 2011 and has been traveling the world ever since. To say that he has both vision and drive is an understatement. He's the type of person that was made to travel: his first time leaving the United States, he moved half way across the planet. He's trekked through Europe, Australia, India and South East Asia, all the while capturing the nuances that make travel worthwhile and documenting them on Instagram, of course. Not only is he a talented photographer, he's one half of CP Travels an up-and-coming travel services organization that brings remarkable and unforgettable trips to novice and expert travelers alike.
Tell us the basics! (Name, age, current location, home town, occupation, etc.)
My name is Patrick. I’m 28 years old. I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas; raised in ST. Louis, Missouri and I currently live in Taipei, Taiwan where I work as an 8th grade literature teacher.
So, you’re from St. Louis, Missouri and before moving to Taipei, Taiwan, you had never left the United States; what happened? That’s a huge leap, what drew you to Taipei specifically? What inspired you to leave everything that you’ve ever known and fly halfway across the world?
The opportunity presented itself so I took it. A good friend of messaged me way back in 2011 on Yahoo Messenger in the wee hours of the night (I was up checking Monster.com listings) and asked how my job hunt was going. For most graduates that year, jobs were scarce, and the opportunities were limited. I let him know that I was still searching and he asked if I wanted to teach out in Taiwan. I said, “Where is Taiwan?” and after a quick explanation I followed up with, “Sure, why the hell not!” and a little over a week later I was here.
I think what really inspired me to pick up and start anew were my siblings. I always try to be a positive role model for them, so with this move I wanted to show them that it was possible to live fearlessly and that we were just as able as anyone else to travel the world despite what other people might say.
Did you have any background in teaching before jumping head first into the TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) world? Would you say that it was an easy transition?
Before starting work here I had no background in teaching aside from a few tutoring sessions but I have a passion for the written and spoken language so I feel that that initial motivation gave me a decent push to succeed.
The transition into my TEFL career was not easy. When I started I had a preconceived notion of what it was going to be like. I assumed that classes would be structured the same as what I was accustomed to and that the children would have a similar learning style as American kids. Wrong. What made my transition easier, however, was that I was willing to adapt to the culture and work with the Taiwanese staff to understand how best to serve my students. From my experience it would seem that often times foreigners enter a school or a community with their idea of how things should be and they aren’t willing to try to understand the society they are now a member of. There are several things here that I don’t necessarily accept, but I work to understand them and why they are as such. Some things are just a part of our cultural differences and that’s ok.
Now that we know what brought you there, what keeps you there? Living abroad isn’t for everyone, so what about daily life in Taipei makes you choose to stay there, year after year?
The travel opportunities, the culture, the food, my students, the life I’ve established, the safety. America isn’t a place that I feel safe returning to. I’ve been able to use these last few years to explore the world, build my brand, discover my self and start a career; all things that would have been tons more difficult back stateside.
When you’re not at school, how do you spend your time? What are your hobbies and interests? Has living abroad helped or hindered your ability to pursue your passions?
When I’m not at school, I’m out shooting photos or writing. Photography and writing are my passions so I always set aside time to work on both. Living abroad has definitely had a strong positive influence on both and has granted me several chances to pursue both extensively. Every new place generates a new story and brand new inspiration.
Although I’m sure it’s difficult to choose just one, what has been your most memorable trip since moving abroad?
That’s surprisingly not as difficult as you’d think. My most memorable trip was my trip to India. I spent a month traveling central India via train: Delhi to Agra to Varanasi to Kolkata. India was an absolutely amazing place- gorgeous in every single way: The Taj Mahal at sunrise, the symmetry of prayer lines at Jama Masjid mosque, the bridges lined in freshly washed white sheets and the food, oh the food!
Despite all of the beauty India has a terribly ugly side and that side challenged me in ways that I’d never imagined. I witnessed a level of poverty that I didn’t think was possible. Americans talk about homelessness and struggling, but until you’ve seen tent cities underneath abandoned highways in the middle of nowhere that stretch to the horizon, you can’t fathom real poverty. I sat in the second largest soccer stadium in the world on stone slabs where seats should have been because they had been ripped out of their foundation and sold elsewhere. The same stadium whose bathroom stalls had long since been locked shut so patrons were forced to use the walls as restrooms.
The memories from this place both comfort and haunt me. It’s a place that I long to revisit while making me constantly question why.
There’s a common misconception that young Americans don’t travel, that young people don’t travel, that men don’t travel and that young people of color do not/cannot/ do not want to travel. You’ve broken all the stereotypes in on go as a twenty-something Black American male living in Taiwan. Imagine you’re in a room with 15 young Black boys from St. Louis, or wherever else, what would you tell them about traveling? How would you ignite that spark in them to get out and see the world?
I’d tell them how it really is. The excitement and fear I get in the pit of my stomach every time just as the wheels lift off. I’d tell them of all the beautiful women and the accents they’re missing out on by staying in STL. But, more than anything, I’d try to emphasize how important it is for them to get out. St. Louis, as with most urban cities, will trap you. It’ll have you thinking that there’s no need to find a way out- that what you know is all that you should know.
“Real talk, fam – do it. Someone is always gonna be like, ‘People from where we’re from don’t do that.’ But the people who tell you that are the ones that haven’t done anything. Think of all the people you know who only know the people they knew in High School. Don’t join that list. There’s too much to see to stay still.”
What are your top three travel faux pas & tips that as a savvy traveler that you’d like to share with our readers who are considering hopping on the next flight to their dream destination?
1) Don’t travel somewhere to do the same thing you do back at home. Now is the time to be adventurous. Get out, explore. Eat the stuff you normally wouldn’t, go to that spot you wouldn’t visit. You didn’t come all this way to do the same thing.
2) Don’t overpack. The more you travel the more you realize that you don’t really need that much.
3) Talk to the locals. Ask them where some of their favorites places are. Talking to the people who live in a place will make your trip much more enjoyable.
What do you say to those who argue that it’s “too expensive to travel”?
You’re doing it wrong. Plan ahead, budget, look into less popular places. You don’t need to stay in a hotel; a hostel is cheaper and you’ll meet more people. Bar crawls are cheaper than the club and are more fun. Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe are some of the most scenic places in the world and you can get there and live comfortably on a shoestring budget. Travel by train. It costs more in the long run to sit still than it will to go somewhere.
You’re also such a talented photographer, where can we find more of your work?
I’m an avid instagrammer so that’s a good start @Proliphic and I place a lot of photos on my site: www.cptravels.com
I live every day by my life motto: “Do what makes you happy.” When you live for the sole purpose of being happy, you lose everything that could potentially hold you back from being great. Thanks for this opportunity. Love ya Danni!
Interview by Danni Roseman. Danni, Community Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native who currently resides in Madrid, Spain. She's a lover of language, words, and travel and has managed to combine all her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flights deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES.