I've heard it told that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.
The journey begins with a pressure in the gut. An impulse to go. To be somewhere new. It's a tug at the thread that stitches the innermost depths of the soul to the outermost bounds of the cosmos. An existential antsiness, housed perhaps in some yet undiscovered viscera, a vestige of when we were still but starstuff.
That restlessness has plagued me most of my life. But this next adventure isn't just about being somewhere geographically new. It's no accident that the word venture can refer to either a business enterprise or a journey, and this venture is both.
I began teaching English straight out of college. Like so many others, a free one-way ticket enticed me to Korea to teach middle-schoolers at a cram school. Since then I've worked at academic intensive programs in Boston, a kindergarten in Taipei, an online Japanese program, and a nonprofit south of Boston.
In the for-profit schools, it often seems that the bottom line is at odds with good pedagogy. The nonprofit sector is perpetually underfunded, with waitlists for free classes all over the place.
There are times when it seems the whole field needs to be razed and rebuilt. But I've never been the revolutionary type. Most times, I've simply thought, I can do this better.
This—Ginseng—is my attempt to do this better. I want to make the best English school money can buy, but I want it to be available even to those who can't afford to pay. Since that's going to take a whole lot of time and money and energy, I'm quitting my job, packing my life up into a backpack, and heading to Asia, where I'll be backpacking and bootstrapping this new venture.
There was a time when the life of the entrepreneur seemed too precarious and stressful an existence for my taste. But I guess I've changed some, and the world has changed even more. So much so that we've got words like travelpreneur and digital nomad and the very notion of a career seems passé. Working from a cafe in Brunei one week, a bungalow in Koh Samui the next: I think I can handle some precarity.
So this is how the venture begins. The best way I've found to scratch that deep gut itch is with the cardstock corner of a one-way ticket. Washington Reagan to Pudong Shanghai via Toronto Pearson International.