Want to travel the world but lack of funds is stopping you? Are you dreaming of sun-downers by the beach while looking out of your office window KNOWING there must be options out there? We spoke to two nomadic online teachers about how they make it work while teaching on the road. From technology to props to choosing locations, we have you covered so you can make off this Summer and live the remote-working, world-exploring dream.
Carla, 27, Instagram: @sky_the_van
Carla and her boyfriend from the UK have been traveling in their van, named Sky, for 10 months after leaving behind the conventional 9-5 a year ago. Having become fed up of living and working in jobs they didn’t love merely to pay a mortgage (with not enough left to build savings), they began looking at other options.
From here, they discovered the van-life; there was a large community of people already living out of custom-made vans and they quickly realized it would afford them the opportunity to pursue their dreams of an alternative way of living, and chance to see the world. Carla took her in-classroom TEFL, they sold their house, had a van converted to their needs, and off they drove into the horizon.
They began by traveling through the UK (their home country), making their way down to Dover and catching the ferry over to Europe. First up was France, then the Netherlands, then they traveled for the next 6 months through Germany, Switzerland, Andorra, Spain, Portugal and then back to the UK (where they are currently staying for a short while for some respite and to see family). The plan from here-on is to spend 6 weeks in Scotland, before making their way to Scandinavia.
This way of living, she says, is for the long term; there is absolutely no way they could go back to living a conventional lifestyle after so long with such freedom.
Apart from the purchase of the van, Carla has funded this trip entirely through online teaching. After taking her in-classroom TEFL, she stumbled across an online ESL Facebook group and quickly realized it would be invaluable in terms of funding life on the road. She tried a few companies, and after a couple of false starts and bad experiences, landed a job with Whales English where she has been since February this year.
The biggest obstacle for her, like most other nomadic online teachers, has been internet signal. Traveling around Europe - as opposed to Asia or South America, say - is that she is able to get signal most places. This took some trial and error however; her first efforts were with a MiFi system, which is a portable broadband device that provides wireless internet access for a number of devices. Carla quickly realized however that merely hotspotting the data from her phone did a better job than this device, and that is what she has been doing ever since. She is careful to test out the area’s signal before settling in to teach, and she credits Vodafone for its strong coverage throughout Europe. She adds that there are other ways and means, including antennas and similar, but these can be quite costly and in her experience not particularly necessary.
Making sure your technology is up to scratch is important too; ensure that you have a laptop with at least 4GB RAM (8GB preferable) and that it’s able to run either the platform your school uses (Zoom, Skype, or their own) and the material. Buying a laptop with at least an i3 Core Processor or higher will ensure that this is possible, and save a lot of hassle in the long run. In terms of backgrounds and props, Carla has a material play mat that she bought inexpensively and affixes using double-sided sellotape, and having the van as a relatively stable base allows her to have a backpack full of props and toys that she uses in her regular classes.
Money management has been relatively easy, even in Europe. Life on the road is not expensive; their van is diesel powered which is relatively cheap, they make van-cooked food, and even in Winter, turning the heating on in the van only costs around €10 a month. The biggest outlay, of course, was the cost of the vehicle but that pales in comparison to the cost of living in the UK. They are able to save, she says, which is something that was never possible for her and her boyfriend while owning a house and paying the bills while living in England. Her salary at Whales English working 15 hours a week (plus her boyfriend’s work for Cambly, and a few private clients) more than covers her expenses, with no need for additional income.
The main advice she gives to prospective online teachers who dream of traveling the World is - just go for it. She has never looked back from this way of living and encourages would-be teacher travelers to at least explore the options and ways you can make it work. It does take a little forethought and a little sacrifice in terms of where you can go (you cannot be off-grid for too long, for instance) but this is one of the best ways of making money while traveling, and it is certainly worth the effort to research and plan the ways of making it possible.
Leah and her boyfriend (from the US) have been traveling around the world for around a year, and have been online teaching for approximately half of that. They’ve traveled to Italy, Thailand, Bali, and Israel, and are currently in the UK finishing up their trip by seeing some friends in London before they head back to the US to settle back into life and work there.
Leah says she’s had a mix of experiences as a teacher traveler, but in the main, it’s been a positive experience as it’s given her and her partner the freedom to travel for longer and to more locations than they would have been able to otherwise.
Leah says that one of her biggest challenges has been not being able to establish a proper teaching environment; it’s very difficult to have a visually impressive background and an array of props and aids when you’re moving from place to place and need to keep what you carry to a minimum. She has made some simple pictures to place behind her for a set-up which is appealing to young students but is easy enough to transport and display. To make up for the lack of props, Leah ensures that her lessons are filled with lots of movement, interesting videos, GIFs, and pictures to supplement the material and keep her students engaged and her lessons interactive. Making good use of TPR for the younger children goes a long way too in helping make up for a lack of 3D props and elaborate surroundings.
Like Carla, Leah has to prepare and research the internet connection before she settles in a place to stay. As she mainly stays in Airbnb rentals, contacting the owner of the prospective property is necessary to ensure they have a good signal. Leah does not rely on this entirely however; she makes sure that there are the facilities for a wired connection and carries an ethernet cable with her to connect this way if the wireless connection fails. Hotspotting from her phone has saved her a few times in sticky situations, but this is not something she relies on as the hotspotting situation is not as stable in Asia, where she has spent the majority of her time.
Making sure that you make a well-planned budget is important when planning your trip apparently; having this will give a bit of structure in terms of your spending and hopefully ensure that you don’t run out of money en-route. Luckily, Leah and her boyfriend have been able to fund the majority of their travels through online teaching, although Leah takes on some extra work designing summary pages for online courses. Having something else (no matter how small) can give you a little security if something happens with your existing online teaching company.
Her main piece of advice for prospective teacher travelers is to choose inexpensive places such as South-East Asian countries to explore; this will help with money management and ensure that your wages are stretched further, allowing you to travel for longer stretches of time. One of the main advantages of traveling through these countries is that you can live a fairly nice lifestyle even when on a budget; eating out is just as cheap, if not cheaper, than eating at home, which is a great way to explore the country - through its food!
So in summary; do your research, find the best teaching company which fits your needs, ensure you have your equipment, resources, and internet connection organized, and then go and explore the world safe in the knowledge that you have a reliable and enjoyable source of income to keep your trip going for as long as your wanderlust lasts. Happy traveling!
Interested in teaching online this Summer? Check out all of our current vacancies here.