How teaching English let me travel the world
The last several years have been good to me. I’ve climbed volcanoes and walked with dragons in Indonesia. I’ve wandered through 1,000 year-old ruins in Cambodia. I’ve slept under the stars on a deserted island in the Philippines, and spent weeks exploring North Thailand via motorbike. Three years ago, I never could have fathomed that these things would happen. I could barely pay my rent, much less afford to spend YEARS traveling abroad. How do I do it? Simple. I travel through teaching ESL.
Adventure more, longer: Travel through teaching ESL
Before leaving America to teach English in China, I had exactly one stamp in my passport. Mexico. I love beaches and margaritas as much as the next guy, don’t get me wrong. But a trip to Mexico from The States doesn’t exactly broaden your travel horizons. When staying at a resort in Cabo or Puerto Vallarta, everyone speaks English. Signs are in English, and, in fact, most of the people you interact with in bars and restaurants are American. In a place like Cabo, it feels as if you’re still in America, but with cheaper beer. Not exactly an authentic travel experience.
I came to China as a globe-trotting neophyte; landing in Shanghai was the first time I had ever even left North America). But in the last year, I’ve been able to do some unbelievable travel through teaching ESL. I’ve had the opportunity to visit six countries and see some incredible places. I’ve had countless unforgettable adventures – it is difficult to recall them all! In the last 18 months, I have had the privilege to spend 30 days or more in 6 different countries. I’ve developed intimate relationships with each country I have visited. Without teaching ESL, these experiences would have never been possible.
People become ESL teachers for any number of reasons. They could want to work with kids, gain teaching experience, see what life is like in other cultures, and the list goes on and on. For me, the biggest motivation for becoming a teacher was the opportunity to travel through teaching ESL. First off, my school in China pays a competitive salary that allows me to live comfortably and save money. While this is something many people struggle with back home, saving money while working in China is easy. Cheap cost of living paired with a housing allowance and flight reimbursement make it possible to travel AND save. On average, I can put away about 70-80% of my monthly salary with minimal spending compromises.
On top of being well compensated, my ESL position gives me more paid time off than most jobs in America. At my job in Colorado, I had ten days of paid vacation every year. I’d use half of those days to fly home to see my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. After that, I would only have five true paid vacation days each year; just enough to go to a music festival, or on one road trip to a National Park. That was it. That was the extent of my leisure time for the year. Essentially, my vacations would consist of a week of playing scrabble with grandma, and a week of not showering and sleeping in a sweaty tent.
As an ESL teacher, I get a summer vacation in August, a week in October for National week, a winter vacation for Spring Festival in January, AND ten days of paid holiday time. Just one of those holidays matched the entire vacation time I would get in a whole year in America.
A benefit of teaching in Asia for intrepid travelers such as myself, is easy and affordable access to dozens of countries. Where in live in China (Fuzhou), is only a short train ride from beautiful, sunny Xiamen, and a quick flight away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. Both cities serve as major international hubs. I have flown from Fuzhou to Bangkok for under $100. Teaching in Fuzhou makes it easy and cost effective for me to get on a flight and be anywhere I’ve ever dreamed of in the South Pacific within a few hours.
The final and most compelling reason to travel through teaching ESL, is an incredibly helpful and knowledgeable expat community. Through this community, I’ve gotten tips on everything from what clubs to go to in Boracay, to which island has the best bioluminescent plankton in Cambodia. Fellow teachers are a wealth of information and make wonderful travel partners. Through the expat community, I have gained new lifelong friendships that send me to new destinations with each one I make.
For me, teaching ESL has been a “dream come true.” I’ve been able to travel through teaching ESL in ways that would have never been possible otherwise. I have the resources, information, and support to bring any travel plan to fruition. Teaching English abroad is truly a ticket to travel the world. With some creativity and motivation, your TEFL experiences can become the adventure of a lifetime!
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