So you want to work and travel…
But you probably don’t know where to start. You’ve been scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, jealous of peoples’ beautiful photos from Thailand, India, Germany, Japan, and Brazil and wondering how you can get there. You want to be the one traveling in a foreign land, exploring new places and taking fantastic photos. But how do you get there?
One great way to work and travel abroad is to teach English. Maybe you’ve even already considered this option, but you’re wondering, Where should I start? How does it work? Will I be able to make enough money to live? Do I already need to be in a country before applying for a job there? Before I bought my one-way ticket to Ireland in 2014, I was wondering all those same things. I wasn’t sure at all if I would be successful, but I knew I at least had to try. And now, four and half years later, I can tell you that, not only have I been successful at working and traveling, I have also found a career in teaching English as a foreign language. It’s honestly the best decision I’ve ever made.
So how did I get here? I’ll answer all those questions for you.
Where should I start?
Do your research! Stop scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and start learning about the places you’re interested in. Learn about locations, cultures, political climate, weather, language and job possibilities. Figure out what seems like a good fit for you. Find a place or a few places you might want to explore and learn more about by living there. That’s the first step!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain
How does it work?
If you want to teach English in a foreign country, the first thing you need is a certificate to teach English as a foreign language, otherwise known as a TESOL / TEFL certificate. These stand for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and Teaching English as a Foreign Language, respectively. Both refer to the industry of teaching English to non-native speakers and both prepare new trainers to be successful teachers of foreign learners.
It’s definitely wise to research different courses to find out what’s right for you concerning the location of the course and how the course is structured.
It’s also possible to do an online training course, but they don’t offer hands-on experience, which is really beneficial when starting anything new. Trust me, I speak from experience! I did an online TEFL course, but when I started my first couple freelancing jobs I felt like a chef trying to cook without all the necessary ingredients.
After completing a TEFL course and receiving your certificate, you’re ready to find a job… or three!
The TEFL job market varies drastically and not just from country to country or city to city, but even from school to school. In some places, a trainer can get a contract and a salary straight away, and in others, a trainer must be a freelancer. Both of these options have their perks. Do your research and find out what’s right for you (Don’t forget to find out what kind of visa you’ll need!)
Will I make enough money?
That’s a really good question! If you’re like I was before I made the leap, you don’t have a trust fund and you only have a couple thousand dollars to your name. Booking a one-way ticket and hoping everything will work out is really scary. My heart was beating so fast after I pressed the enter button on my computer and my flight ticket purchase was final.
After a couple of months of traveling, I ended up in Leipzig, Germany. I had already started looking for jobs a few weeks before I went there, and fortunately, I had two job offers within two weeks of moving there. In Germany though, most TEFL trainers are freelancers, which (in Germany) means you have to have a least two job offers to get a visa. Being a freelancer means you can work as much or as little as you want. You set your own hours and decide how much people should pay you for your services. I love being a freelancer because I don’t have to ask anybody for days off when I want to go somewhere. I tell them I won’t be available and then I’m off!
The key to being a successful freelancer is to always keep looking for new possibilities and to say ‘yes’ to everything when you’re first starting out. Take every opportunity that you can in order to increase your level of experience and your teaching skills. Once you have established a client base, you’ll see that it pays off to hustle.
As a freelancer, your monthly income will obviously fluctuate, but as long as your average income is steadily increasing, you’re doing it right.
If you have the opportunity to get a contract, make sure to read all the details so that you know exactly what you’re signing. There are some very attractive offers in Dubai and Qatar, for example, but make sure that’s what you want before you accept.
Do I already need to be in a country before applying for a job there?
I’d say that depends on the job and who’s interviewing you. If the job isn’t going to start for a few months, then chances are good an interview via video chat will suffice. But if the job is starting in a couple weeks, they will probably want to meet you in person.
If you find a job that you just absolutely want, go for it. Send in your resume and cover letter, convince them that you’re the right person for the job, and see what happens. You never know! I was traveling in Austria when I saw a job opening for a teacher in Leipzig. I knew that I wanted to move there soon, so I sent in my application and explained my situation. Luckily, I got a reply the next day, and a week later I had an interview in person in Leipzig. And to top it off, I got the job!
If you find a job you want in Argentina, but you’re in Sri Lanka, just give it a shot. If you’re planning to go to Argentina and stay for a while, send in your resume. Don’t hesitate!
Why should I work and travel? – A bonus question!
If you’re like me and you enjoy traveling, experiencing other cultures, trying new foods and exploring foreign places, you shouldn’t wait to achieve your goal of working while traveling. Personally, I wish I had realized my passion for traveling earlier in life. Living abroad and traveling in my free time is the life I never knew I wanted, and now, always want to have.
I’ve met and become friends with so many different types of people. My students provide me with cultural perspectives I could have never imagined. And overall, I’ve become a more open, and dare I say, better person since living and working abroad. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have found a way of life that suits me. I’m really glad that I decided to step out of my comfort zone and dared to try something out of the ordinary.
So, if you’re thinking about work and travel, go for it!
Sign up for one of our upcoming TESOL courses. Places limited!