I have spent the last two years saving money to travel indefinitely! Even with how hard I’ve worked (and how inexpensive most of Southeast Asia is) I won’t last very long if I don’t earn money while I travel. The dream is that one day I will have a hugely profitable online business or blog that will support my traveling habit. Ooooo or maybe a New York Time’s best selling book! But those kinds of things don’t happen overnight!
(Update: It’s been a year and a half since I originally posted this article. When I set out to travel indefinitely, I thought for sure I was going to be a hugely successful “digital nomad.” You know, one of those people who works beside the beach in Bali all day, eating açaí bowls and drinking ice coffee. It didn’t take me long to realize that is not the world I belong in. AT ALL. In my 10-Epiphanies from 10 Months of Traveling post I state
“Business is for the Birds. Business, for business’ sake alone, is not where I want to put my energy. Sitting behind a computer, crunching numbers, sending emails, delegating, planning, budgeting, putting out fires and even making money does not inspire me. At all.”
I do still want to write a book, but most likely in won’t be for personal profit. I am not a fan of capitalism. AT ALL.)
Making Money While Traveling
I am prepared to find work as I travel. I can cut hair (which I hear is a great way to make a few bucks off Westerners on the backpacker trail). (Update: It is indeed!) I also have experience bar tending. Neither of these options will fully support me, but hey, they will definitely offset the cost of a hostel stay … or a flight! Every little bit helps! If I get to a point where I want to settle somewhere for a longer period of time (several months to a year) and need to support myself, I can teach English!
Teaching English overseas has been in the back of my mind for awhile. But just like traveling itself, it took me a long time to realize it was something I could actually do.
Introduction to English as a Foreign Language
My introduction to English as a foreign language (TEFL) came from the perspective of the foreign English Language Learner, not that of an English teacher. And definitely not that of an English teacher overseas.
The elementary and middle school I went to hosted the English as a Second Language (ESL) program for my school district. In fourth grade I was introduced to English language learners from Chile, Germany, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Somalia, and Yugoslavia. I was infatuated with my foreign peers. I wanted to know everything about them. From native languages to traditional cuisines, no question went unasked.
Somehow my incessant questioning parlayed into several life long friendships. I learned to say random Dutch phrases like “je bent een olifant” (you are an elephant) and grew up eating Somali food. In 2016, over 15 years after we met, I went to visit my friend at her home in the Netherlands!
Even with my early exposure to English language learning, teaching English never seemed like an option for me. English is the only language I speak. I didn’t think I could teach it to people unless I shared another common language with them. Looking back, I must have assumed that the ESL teacher in my elementary school spoke a dozen languages because she taught students from that many different language backgrounds. Maybe she did, but I doubt it.
Teaching English… Overseas?
In college, while pursuing my degree in Elementary Education, I started to hear about people teaching English overseas. It was always a friend of a friend who had this elusively cool job, but never someone I knew personally. They must speak another language, or have connections in a foreign country, I thought. Not just anybody can teach English overseas…
At this time, I still hadn’t come to terms with the fact that traveling overseas was possible, let alone living and working overseas. Without knowing someone firsthand who did it, I couldn’t plug myself into the lifestyle. Between the cost of travel and global language barriers, it all seemed so impossible (and it was for my younger self, especially financially). Writing this right now from a guesthouse in Bangkok, knowing how possible it all actually is once you put your mind to it, the irony brings a smile to my face.
It took moving across the country, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, taking three massive overseas trips, meeting countless people from around the globe and a plethora of other life experiences to realize traveling, living and working overseas is possible. And that teaching English is a great way to support myself!
Getting TEFL Certified
Through How to Teach English Overseas by Matt Kepnes, I discovered the International TEFL Academy. It is one of the best schools for TEFL certification and it’s located in Chicago! At the time, I was staying in Chicago with my mom while preparing to travel. Destiny! Okay, maybe not destiny, but the near by location felt meant to be!
My experience at ITA was fantastic! Everyone who works there has taught overseas in one capacity or another. (Now I actually know people who have successfully navigated living and working overseas!) ITA also offers lifetime job search guidance! Not knowing yet if, when or where I will want to teach, this is invaluable!
With a degree in Elementary Education I probably could have secured a job teaching English in many countries around the world. However, it has been six years since I graduated from college! I got TEFL Certified to refresh my teaching skills, brush up on grammar and to network within the TEFL community. Plus, having the credential definitely won’t hurt my marketability!
If you are interested in taking the in-person TEFL certification course at ITA in Chicago, check out this post on where to got and how to get around during your course.
HIGH Demand for English Teachers Overseas
There are upwards of 360 million native English speakers, 500 million second language speakers, and 1 billion English language learners at varying proficiency levels around he world. English is the global common language. It is used when people from different native language backgrounds need to communicate in print, tourism, business, and education. It is the official language of over 50 countries and many organizations, including the United Nations and the European Union.* These stats make it the most widely spoken language in the world!
People all over the globe want and need to learn English!
And guess what?! You DO NOT need to speak another language to successfully teach English! Today, the communicative approach is the most common philosophy for teaching English. With a focus on communication, all classroom interactions and activities are conducted in English.* Exposure to native English speakers is the best way to develop communication skills- Hey, that’s something I can do!
Prepared to Apply
From my childhood to my degree to getting TEFL Certified in Chicago, many life experiences have made teaching English overseas an option for me to support myself while traveling. Most notably, the privilege of being born a native English speaker! Prior to leaving the states I completed stacks on stacks of paperwork! From reordering college transcripts and updating my resume to applying for a diploma Apostille and a Federal Criminal Record Check, I am prepared to apply for jobs teaching English overseas! I’m still unsure if, when or where I’ll teach, but it gives me peace of mind knowing I can teach English to support myself while traveling indefinitely!
*The Fundamentals of Teaching English as a Foreign Language- International TEFL Academy