This post was provided by Nic, an online English teacher house sitting her way across the world. She is into food trucks, bullet journaling, and all things guacamole. For more information about house sitting and teaching English online, check her out at www.seenicwander.com
How to Start Teaching English Online and Traveling Full-time
My coffee steams up the window of the sleepy cafe on my street. Brussels in winter is an icy grey, but it’s warm inside and everything smells vaguely of chocolate. From my little bubble in the window, I see some of the most influential people in Europe making their morning commute to the EU Parliament building. Some mornings, I practice my French with the barista. Other mornings, she practices her English.
A middle school science teacher turned traveler with a passion for vegetarian cooking, red wine, and looking dramatically out over the sea while the wind blows through my hair, I can hardly believe mornings like these. They come with a sensation of being somewhere new — of being lost — but simultaneously feeling at home. I’m in my city, in my sleepy cafe, drinking my usual coffee, but I couldn’t be farther from everything I know.
I’ve had many mornings like these because for the last five months, I’ve traveled the world while teaching English online.
At the beginning, I thought I would teach English abroad in a traditional classroom. I envisioned myself teaching somewhere in South America or Southeast Asia and I devoured travel blogs like this one about people building lives and careers in exotic places while impacting the lives of their deserving students.
I applied for a job teaching English online as an afterthought. I figured I could use it as a summer job to save up some money before moving abroad to teach.
After working online for just a few weeks, I realized I couldn’t give it up. I was having a blast. The kids were lively and excited to learn, the online platform was easy to use, and frankly, I was really enjoying teaching in my pajamas from my kitchen table. The money wasn’t too shabby – in fact, it was quite comparable to what I’d make as an English teacher in most countries around the world. So I decided to travel full-time and take my online job with me.
I also decided I’d save as much as I could on accommodation by house sitting. As a house sitter, you live in another persons house for free while they are away. In exchange, you look after their home and pets. You get a free place to stay and they get free pet care and peace of mind! Through websites like TrustedHousesitters, travelers can find homes in every corner of the world.
I’ve taught from my laptop in England, Belgium, Scotland, and Germany, all while house sitting! Next, I’m off to Romania and Croatia. This lifestyle gives teachers ultimate flexibility but getting started can be intimidating.
So let me help: here’s how to start teaching English online and traveling full-time, in ten easy steps!
1. Sign up with a reputable company.
I teach with VIPKID and I’ve had a great experience with them. With VIPKID, teachers completely make their own schedule. This means that teachers pick the days they work and what time during the day they work. They can choose as many or as few classes as they want. Classes are one-on-one and 25 minutes long. All the lesson planning is done for you and there is no grading or outside prep work. The pay rate is between $18-$22/hour. My schedule fills easily and VIPKID pays on time. Whatever company you choose to go with, make sure you research their requirements. For example, VIPKID doesn’t have a minimum or maximum amount of hours teachers are required to work in a week. Some companies do. If you want true flexibility with your schedule, stick to companies without minimums. Learn more about teaching English online here.
2. Secure your job at home before you leave.
While exact requirements vary with each company, you should generally expect to meet the following criteria:
- You should be a native English speaker
- A Bachelor’s degree is often required
- Experience working with children in some capacity is required, but that experience doesn’t have to be in the classroom. Summer camp counseling, tutoring, babysitting, and parenting are all acceptable.
- Teaching degrees and TEFL certifications are usually not required but they are an advantage!
You also must have the appropriate technology. To teach English online while traveling, you will need
- a laptop that can handle Skype/video chat functions
- a set of headphones with a microphone (I just use the little apple ones)
- Some kind of portable light source so that you show up on the webcam – I use this rechargeable selfie ring light for less than $20 on Amazon
- A universal adaptor so you can charge everything up, no matter what country you are in
- reliable internet connection
Expect the hiring process to take about three weeks. You will receive your first paycheck about a month after you teach your first class.
3. Pack up your classroom.
Essentially, you have to carry your classroom with you while you travel. If you plan to travel lightly, which I always recommend, you will have to be strategic. Bring a piece of felt or other light fabric that you can hang on the wall behind you to make a background. This way you can teach from anywhere without distracting items behind you. Like I listed above, I highly recommend bringing some kind of portable light source in case you can’t get good lighting while traveling. Don’t forget the teacher staple items like ABC flash cards, some small stuffed animals, and lots and lots of laminated 2D cutouts of everything from flags to cars to countries. More ideas can be found in my packing list here.
4. Get travel insurance and research Visa requirements
I walked into a pole and busted my eyebrow within an hour of landing in Europe. Make sure you have travel medical insurance in case a pole jumps in your way! Online teachers are independent contractors and don’t get any kind of health insurance benefits, so you will have to research and purchase your own.
Research the visa requirements for the places you are interested in going. Many countries allow you to stay between 30-90 days without having to apply for a special visa, but this varies based on your nationality and the destination.
5. Pick a location with good WiFi.
WiFi is about to be your best friend. I resisted this hard at first. I never wanted to be one of those travelers who was obsessed with staying connected. But here we are. Stick to cities and accommodations that have high speed internet connections. If you are booking accommodation with Airbnb or Couchsurfing, ask the host about the quality and speed of their internet. Many online companies have strict cancellation policies — you’re getting to work online after all — so they won’t allow you to miss work, even due to tech issues. After five months, I’ve only had two classes canceled due to the internet going out.
6. Consider house sitting while you teach English online.
Housesitting is a great way to manage the internet issue. Individual homes almost always have superior internet to a hostel or hotel. When you are house sitting, you have a higher quality internet connection and you have it all to yourself. Just make sure to confirm with the homeowner that the home has high-speed internet when you begin corresponding.
7. Plan to spend more time in each place.
While city hopping every few days is tempting, travel days are not good for working. Every day you change location is a day you probably can’t work. By staying for two weeks or longer in each location, you can fill out your work schedule far in advance and you will lose fewer work days to travel. You will save money on travel expenses and develop a deeper connection to each place you visit!
8. Stay healthy.
Sitting at a computer all day can be hard on the back. This was something I didn’t anticipate since I was always on my feet in the classroom. Make sure to get out and stretch, walk, cycle, or do yoga regularly to prevent soreness. If you work long days like I do, schedule some time off between classes to get out of the chair and stretch.
9. Take days off to explore!
I’m a big fan of the four day work week. I work 20-25 hours a week and I prefer to condense it all down into four days then take three days off for adventures. The nice thing about working online is you can completely set your own schedule, so if you know there is something going on in your city or you have a friend coming to visit, you can take off work those days and work more later.
10. Be okay with the fact that some days will be obnoxiously normal.
Sometimes, you will wake up, get breakfast, teach online, get groceries, watch some Netflix, and live a normal life like you would back home. Cherish these days and be okay when they happen. You’re living an amazing life and having adventures most people only dream of!