Is it possible to travel the world for an indefinite amount of time and still have a stable and solid income? I asked myself that question a lot while I was wandering from country to country and job to job until I discovered online teaching. Since that moment the way I travel has changed and a lot more possibilities have surfaced, as well as a few limitations.
Traveling from job to job
I started my travels about six years ago. I was tired of living in one place and was always wondering if there wasn’t more to life than working, paying my bills and going from time to time on vacation. I felt something was missing. Ever since I was a teenager, I was dreaming of traveling to far away places. I was curious about the world, about all the different people and cultures. I wanted to learn more about it, not by reading books and watching documentaries but by really going to the places I saw on TV and preferably live there for a while to really experience daily life in those countries.
My relatives were hesitant, it’s not the kind of lifestyle that’s so conventional. My mum kind of understood me, she used to travel a lot herself, but she always pushed me to study and get a degree first. I was a good obedient daughter so I did what was expected from me. I decided to become a teacher because I hoped this profession would give me possibilities to work abroad.
Teaching in Turkey
After graduation I took my first footsteps in the working world and had my first experiences working ‘9-to-5’ or in my case as a school teacher ‘8-to-4’. I realized soon that this was not what I wanted. I felt claustrophobic between the concrete walls of the school. Strangely enough I’d had the same feeling during my internship abroad. The year before I graduated I went to Senegal to teach in a school for two months. I thought a new world would open to me, but I had a hard time staying in line and following the school rules. It’s not that I’m a difficult person or a little rebel, as people used to call me, I just didn’t agree with how things worked there and I often felt locked up, even when I was in an exotic new country. I was yearning for freedom, not only in my environment but also in the way I wanted to do things. I knew I was a good teacher but I couldn’t fully express myself in my job. In “Things no one will tell you about teaching abroad” I wrote more about this. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side or in another country, especially when it comes to the educational system.
At one point I felt so unhappy that I just threw in the towel. I closed the school doors behind me, thinking I would never return to teaching. I gave up all my belongings in my home country, except for a big backpack filled with clothes and travel gear. I applied for a working-holiday visa in Australia, bought my plane ticket and left. My plan was to travel for a year but little did I know that this was just the beginning of my nomadic life.
Feeling free as a bird
I didn’t have much savings so after a few months of ‘living the good life’ I had to start searching for work. I was a little nervous about that because I didn’t have much experience finding a job in foreign countries but within a week I started working as a waitress in a restaurant in the Blue Mountains of Australia.
This was the start of my working journey around the world. I worked in a place for a few month until my working visa almost expired or until my help was no longer needed during seasonal jobs. Then I moved on again to the next place where I enjoyed my time until the money I had saved almost ran out and went job hunting again. In the first few years I didn’t really mind this cycle. I gained so much knowledge and I was quick at learning new skills. Of course I realized I couldn’t keep doing this ‘for the rest of my life’. It becomes tiring after a while, not knowing where the next paycheck will come from. So far I had always been lucky finding a job in European countries where I could work legally or apply for a working-holiday visa, such as Australia and New Zealand, and where I earned a good wage.
Training llamas in New Zealand
Meanwhile I had passed the age of 30, which meant it would become a lot harder for me to apply for a working-holiday visa – most countries only issue them to travelers between the age of 18 and 30. My options to earn a good wage became more limited, especially since I’m on a hitchhiking journey across the world with my Canadian partner Niko. We’re traveling over land and sea from Ireland to Alaska, across six continents without taking any airplane. Although we had worked and saved up for this journey, we knew that at some point we would have to find a way to make an income if we wanted to continue this trip. The biggest challenge would be to find a well-paid job in a country where we’re allowed to work but we stayed positive and knew that a solution would come.
Hitchhiking in a remote village in Georgia
Traveling as an online teacher.
Eight months into our world trip I came across an article about online teaching. We were in Turkey back then and even though we still had some savings left, we were looking out for a job. The idea of teaching came back to my mind. I thought about giving it another go as nowadays a lot of people want to learn English but I was a bit reluctant to teach in a school – oh, that claustrophobic feeling, those rules,… When I read about online teaching and how they made it appear as a very independent job where the teacher has the freedom to give the classes in his own way and time, I thought to give it a try. After a lot of research I came across an online education platform based in China that was looking for qualified English teachers. Thanks to my teaching degree – thank you mum for pushing me back then – and my previous experiences as a teacher, my application got accepted. I was now an online English teacher. This was a big game changer!
It doesn’t matter anymore where we are, as long as we have a laptop and WiFi
I’ve been doing this job now for six months and couldn’t be happier. My partner also applied and works as an online language teacher. Not only can we now count on a solid monthly income – depending on how many hours we chose to work of course – but we can also teach from wherever we want. We weren’t location dependent anymore. We’re traveling slow, we often stay in one place for a few months but whenever our feet get itchy, we can move on to another city or country without having to quit our job. This is not the only advantage. I can teach on my own tempo and with my own methods. I don’t feel claustrophobic as I can teach from anywhere I want. Niko and I are at the moment renting a small apartment in Georgia (the country, not the state) where the living costs are very cheap. I can teach on the balcony if it’s a sunny day or in the living room. Heck, I could even stay in bed all day long while I teach! I also don’t have to deal with difficult bosses or colleagues, which used to stress me out.
What I also love about this job is that I keep learning about other countries and cultures. Since my students are from China, I’ve been learning a lot about their traditions and lifestyle without even being in the country. Some of them even became friends and I’ll be visiting them at the end of this year when traveling to China.
But… there are always two sides to a coin. I might be location independent but I am WiFi dependent. This job requires a fast and stable internet connection which is not always so easy to find, especially since we’re often hitchhiking to off-the-beaten-path places. We never know where or when we will arrive and if we’ll find a good internet connection. We have to be available to teach at least 8 hours a week. Even if we decide to teach those hours all in one day, we need to find a place with a strong WiFi connection. It already happened a few times that we were staying in a village when the electricity got cut off, due to bad weather. That caused some stress because our company and our students are counting on us and if this would happen a lot, we would lose this job. The first time this happened, I ran around like a chicken without a head, desperately looking for internet so I could explain to the company what had happened. Luckily this occurred only a few times and now we’ll plan our travels a bit better in the future, making sure that on the days we have to teach, we’ll be in a place with a stable internet connection. Well, let’s hope we’ll be able to find places like that…
No wifi when we’re camping outdoors
Despite of this one disadvantage – and only because that’s due to the way I travel – I would definitely recommend this job to anyone who want to travel and/or live abroad without having to worry about working visas and local wages. It’s a fun way to earn a good income from anywhere in the world! I can’t say I will be doing this job until I’m old and gray but at the moment this is the perfect solution to maintain my nomadic lifestyle until my next project. And who knows, the way technology is advancing nowadays, one day I might be teaching English online from the outback of Australia or somewhere in a jungle in the Amazon.
If you’re interested in becoming an online language teacher, check out my ultimate guide to online teaching.
- The Benefits of Traveling the World as an Online Teacher - February 23, 2017