User Menu

Cruising the world teaching English on Peace Boat

Lisa Wynne volunteers on a Japanese NGO cruise ship promoting cultural exchange

Lisa Wynne: ‘There is always something interesting, inspiring, or stimulating happening.’

Each week, we ask an Irish person with an interesting job abroad to tell us about what they do. This week we meet Lisa Wynne from Killiney in Co Dublin, who is teaching English while circumnavigating the globe on a Japanese NGO cruise ship.

Where are you now?

I’m on a cruise ship called the Ocean Dream, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. I’m part of a volunteer team of 10 English and Spanish teachers. The ship’s cruises are run by a Japanese NGO called Peace Boat (peaceboat.org/english). One of their main activities is conducting round-the-world cruises to promote international exchange and cross-cultural and environmental education. We are currently circumnavigating the globe, having started from Yokohama in Japan in August. The language school is just a small part of the activities on board.

On this trip, we are visiting 23 ports in 19 countries, from Yangon in Myanmar to Crete, Bordeaux, Edinburgh, Hawaii and Havana in Cuba. 

Peace Boat is a 'floating peace village of community, learning, and action'. Public spaces on the ship have been adapted to serve as lecture halls, classrooms, offices, workshop rooms and rehearsal areas. Other spaces are used for art exhibitions, sports clubs, dance practice, presentations or campaign planning for peace activism. Peace Boat funds its activities through paying passengers. Source: peaceboat.org

When did you leave Ireland, and what prompted you to make the move?

I moved to Japan in 2014. I had secured an English teaching job through the JET Programme, an English assistant placement run through the Japanese Embassy in Dublin. I wanted to get a taste for life in Japan, and try to acquire the language. I was recruited to a small city called Yamagata, the capital of Yamagata Prefecture in north-eastern Japan.


My initial foray into English teaching in Japan was something of a sidestep from my career in fashion design and starting my own label L WYNNE. But my three years teaching English in senior high schools in Yamagata gave me a love for it, and enabled me to apply for this great opportunity with Peace Boat.

What does your job involve, on a day-to-day basis?

On the days at sea, I am teaching classes to small groups and individual students, as well as putting on other events such as an Irish culture night, pub quizzes, or giving a talk about sustainable fashion. My primary role is teaching, but the volunteer teams of teachers and interpreters also serve to “internationalise” the ship. Most participants (paying passengers) are Japanese, but we also have Chinese, Singaporean, South Korean, and Malaysian participants.

‘The language school is just a small part of the activities on board.’

Are there any particular challenges?

The lack of routine is quite tough, and quite literally anything can come up in the course of a day so we have had to be very flexible, spontaneous, and creative. It’s an exciting working environment, but it can burn you out sometimes too.

What is life on the Peace Boat like?

I’m with Peace Boat on a volunteer basis, so I am just contracted for this 95th voyage, which is about 105 days long. It’s a really exciting and nurturing environment, with the guest educators and the cultural exchange happening on board, there is always something interesting, inspiring, or stimulating happening. It’s pretty hectic. I prioritise my own class workload and planning first, then check the schedule and see what additional lectures, events, or workshops I might be able to attend on any given day.

Of all the places you have visited on the trip so far, where has been your favourite?

Although its almost the closest to home, I was really looking forward to visiting Iceland. It’s been a dream destination of mine for a while now, but I was also looking forward to the potential of seeing the Northern Lights from the ship. As we sailed from Scotland toward Iceland, we encountered some rough seas and poor weather, but on one night we were lucky enough to see the incredible sight of the aurora. I also really enjoyed Cuba, where I took a classic-car taxi tour of Havana and heard a lot about the city from the driver.

Lisa Wynne (centre back) with the Peace Boat language team.

Is there anything you miss about living and working in Ireland?

I miss Ireland a lot, but I fell out of love with fashion and I found it hard to see where I fit in the industry. I’ve established a great outdoors lifestyle in Japan, which I love. I don’t like being away from my parents and family, and I miss simple foods like the breads and cheeses you can’t get here.

Do you plan to return to Ireland?

I don’t intend to stay away from Ireland, but I haven’t quite got it all planned out yet. I took the teaching position with Peace Boat for the opportunity to travel around the world, but I don’t have a job to return to in Japan as my last contract ended before the voyage. It is fun and exciting, but I am nervous about being “between jobs”, and very much between countries.

If you work in an interesting job overseas and would like to share your experience, email abroad@iristimes.com with a little information about you and what you do.