Pros and Cons of Traveling While Teaching English Online
Posted on 11-10-2019 by Adam myTEFL
Guest post by Darah and Garrett from wherefoodtakesus.com
It’s now been more than a year since we packed our bags and left the USA to teach English abroad. Our plan was to teach English in Taiwan for 12 months and then hit the road a little longer before returning home.
However, after arriving in Taipei, we quickly realized that we didn’t want to stay in the same place for too long. We’re not saying anything bad about Taipei; it’s one of our favorite cities in the world. We’re saying the urge to see the world was just too much!
So, what did we do? We found a job that allowed us to teach online and travel! We work for SayABC, teaching English to children in China and it’s been a lot of fun (read our SayABC review for more insight). We’ve now visited 16 countries, more to go, and taught online the whole way. None of this would have been successful without a TEFL certificate, as our company requires this. Thanks to MyTEFL and a sense of adventure, we’ve been exposed to a world of new experiences and we’d like to share some pros (there are many) and cons (yes, there are some of those too) about teaching English online and traveling non-stop!
Let’s get the “bad” out of the way. Honestly, there is no true negative to this experience because, hey, we’re seeing so many countries and trying so much authentic food that we can’t complain. That said, there’s been a huge learning curve and we’ve had some really stressful situations.
1) Con: No Benefits
Yikes! We left our full-time jobs behind in the States and our benefits stayed behind too. Unfortunately, online teaching jobs don’t have benefits, at least not that we’ve found through our research. There are alternative options out there for things like health insurance but you do have to pay extra out of pocket. One of the most popular plans out there is offered by World Nomad. That said, it’s also one of the most expensive. They have plans that cover health and gadgets like laptop, camera, phone, etc….
We use Seven Corners, which offers a cheaper, basic health plan. It’s very customizable. Then again, you can just risk it and not pay for any insurance. But we wouldn’t recommend it! You never know what’s going to happen. Our first year we met the $500 deductible in one visit to a clinic in Budapest. Luckily, we had no other health issues for the rest of the year but if we had then our insurance would have taken care of it.
2) Con: Classes Aren’t Always Guaranteed
The nice thing about a stable job? You have routine working hours! While we do have a pretty steady routine nowadays at SayABC, classes are not always guaranteed. When teaching online, you have to take your students’ lives into consideration. Will their schedule change? Will the parents like your teaching style? We’ve lost classes a few times before but it wasn’t anything we could help. Even so, our company has resupplied us with other continuous classes. Being on the road and worrying about income is not fun!
3) Con: Working Hours
The hours you work depend on where you are in the world. Most companies have their hours between 18:00 and 21:00 Beijing time. If you’re in Asia then you’ll be working evenings around the same time as Beijing. If you’re in Europe, your day is cut in half as you’ll be teaching late morning to early afternoon. We honestly think the best place in the world to teach online is the Americas. You wake up early (really early) but then you have the whole day to explore your destination!
4) Con: Strict Tech and Internet Requirements
Probably the biggest hurdle we’ve had to face, tech requirements have made us think we need to just pack it up and go home. We’ve made it through but it hasn’t been easy. Our company, like many others, requires minimum specs for your computer, like RAM, processor, etc…. But that really wasn’t the problem for us, as our computers still meet the minimum.
Internet speed is the real issue. Our company requires a minimum speed and they require that we be plugged directly into the router by ethernet cable. Always on the go and moving from Airbnb to Airbnb can be really hard at times, especially when the host isn’t honest about internet speed. Several times we’ve had subpar internet speed and have had to get a last minute Airbnb, like we did in England, or seek out a coworking space, like in Bali, Indonesia. It got pricey booking these last minute things but it saved our job in the long run. If you miss classes frequently then you will lose them so you have to do whatever you can to keep them!
Now for the fun part! This has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and there are so many pros to teaching English online and traveling, more than we’re listing below. If you’re considering doing this, get your TEFL certificate and get going!
5) Pro: Gaining Teaching Experience (and Patience) for the Future
Whether teaching and traveling is a career gap or you plan on doing it for the long term, the experience you gain from it is invaluable. Firstly, you learn how to be patient. Most likely you will be teaching children between the ages of 4 and 16 AND it’s their night time AND it’s after they’ve been in school and other lessons ALL DAY. A lot of the students are fun and attentive but there are times where you want to pull your hair out because they’re not paying attention or ornery.
Secondly, time management and classroom management (or group management) are great skills gained from teaching English online. For us at SayABC, we have 40 to 45 minutes to go through 20-35 slides of content. Sometimes you take longer and sometimes you have 10 minutes left and have gone through all the slides!
After you have a few months of experience under your belt you’re able to figure out what you need to do to make sure each lesson lasts the right amount of time.
This experience goes hand in hand with traveling. Sometimes there are delays, sometimes the internet isn’t good enough, sometimes class is terrible, but you learn to weather the storm time after time. When you’re eating arancini in Palermo or kebab in Skopje or chowing down on dumplings in Taipei, those storms fade away and you remember how awesome this is.
6) Pro: Great Pay
When we started at SayABC we were making $15 a class plus a bonus of $6 per class if we completed a unit of 9 lessons with the same kid. A whopping $21 per 40 minutes! By the end of the month, at our fullest schedule, we were making almost $2000 a piece! Unfortunately, the bonus for SayABC has gone down to $4 per class but it’s still plenty to fund your travels and even put some money in savings…if you’re smart with your budget!
7) Pro: Trying Food
One of our favorite things to do (and most people would probably agree) is to try the different foods in whichever country we’re currently residing in. Nothing excites us more than to look up the cuisines each country or city is known for! Some of our favorite food destinations has been the countries in the Balkans. There are so many different cheeses and yogurts and unique desserts in this region. However, Taiwan and its bubble milk tea and xiaolongbao are up there too. We’ve been exposed to so many different foods that our taste buds will never be the same!
8) Pro: Learn How to Budget
We know about how much money we’re making each month and about how much we should spend. However, when things don’t go as planned (this happens a lot!) then our budget has to change. If there is one really important life skill we’ve learned from all of this traveling and working, it’s budgeting. We pay student loans, save for retirement, rent apartments, book trains and buses and flights, all the while with a goal to save money in the end. We’ve picked up some great experience with money that will be very helpful when we finally settle down.
9) Pro: See the World
If you’re reading this, the whole reason you’re even thinking about teaching English online is because you want to see the world. We originally got our TEFL certification through myTEFL because we wanted to travel. Back then, we thought the only way to travel and teach English was by working in a brick and mortar school.
When we arrived in Taiwan we realized we wouldn’t be able to travel except on major Chinese holidays until our contracts were up a year later! Teaching English online gave us the flexibility to travel from country to country, culture to culture and see the world to our hearts content!
10) Pro and Con: Comfort Zone
You will be tested when you travel abroad. With endless travel come endless circumstances. On one end you’ll likely run into tech issues and you’ll be thinking it’s the end because you’re going to lose your job but desperation is a great motivator. We’ve only had to cancel our classes a small handful of times because of internet problems and we still have our jobs.
On the other end. When you’re traveling around the world while working you get the opportunity to visit countries you may have never thought of visiting before. These countries, some of them not as popular with tourism, may shock you at first but once you take a deep breath you’ll realize everything is okay and you’ll have a new comfort zone! Everywhere we’ve gone we’ve met amazing people who have opened our eyes to a new point of view!
Summary of Pros and Cons of Teaching English Online and Traveling
Obviously, there can’t be a perfect situation or everyone would be doing it. While there are some cons of teaching English online and traveling, we think the pros greatly outweigh them. If you’re thinking about taking the leap abroad then go for it! Get your TEFL, research your options, and get started. All those faraway destinations and yummy food are waiting!
We’re Darah and Garrett from Where Food Takes Us, two mistake-prone wanderers with a mad love for food. We quit the 9-5 life to move abroad. Now, unexpectedly, we’re digital nomads who teach English online. Life is full of surprises!
We believe in sharing budget-friendly advice and seek to offer a unique point of view on travel destinations around the world. We hope our fellow wanderers can find our words useful and in turn feel inspired to travel and eat the world!