Last year I wrote a post titled “Why You Don’t Have to Quit Your Job to Travel“. It went viral, generating a lot of feedback from readers who were inspired by advice on how to travel more while working full-time. I still believe in that post and continue to travel a LOT while working 9-5. But the truth is, I don’t really love my job anymore. I spend my days day dreaming about a life of travel and hope to one day trade my cubicle for a backpack and a nomadic lifestyle. And I know I’m not alone.
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There are many of you out there, dreaming of traveling the world, crippled by the big scary question, “How could I ever afford it?” No matter how much you save, no matter how cheap you travel, eventually the funds would run out and you’d find yourself on the plane back home. But what if we you didn’t have to?
Welcome to the “Work and Travel Abroad“ Series! In this series, I feature weekly stories of travelers who have managed to find ways to earn money while traveling by working jobs that don’t resemble a typical 9-5 routine. They share their experiences, give their advice, hopefully inspiring many of you to believe that paying your bills and saving for the future while traveling the world IS POSSIBLE!
Today, I’m excited to share my Q&A with Nick and Dariece from Goats on the Road, who share their experience working as English Teachers in China.
1. Who are Goats On The Road? Tell us a bit about yourselves.
First of all, thanks very much for having us on your cool site! We’re a 30-year-old Canadian couple who love chocolate, wine, meeting new people and travelling. But what we love more is being digital nomads, which allows us to sustain our travels through earnings on our blog.
2. What was life like for you before you embarked on your big adventure?
Life was very typical. We had a home, a car, good jobs and we often socialized with friends on the weekends. But, we were both getting a bit bored with the same ‘ol thing day after day. When we returned from a one week, all-inclusive vacation in Mexico together, we decided we wanted to have that tropical feeling forever!
We started watching lots of travel programs on TV. and in particular, Departures. It’s about 3 guys in their mid-twenties who drop everything in their lives to travel the world for a year. They were what inspired us to go on our first year-long trip.
When we returned to Canada after that trip, we felt like aliens in our own country. We knew this life wasn’t for us anymore. So, we worked our butts off and saved as much money as possible to fund our second trip, which was 15 months long. We’ve been away from Canada full-time since February, 2011.
The travel bug got us!
3. You spent some time teaching English in China. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?
After that second trip, we decided to move to China to teach English for a year. This is one of the best life experiences we’ve ever had. We taught in a private school in the city of Yangzhou and worked 20 hours/week on average. We had a wide variety of classes, with me (Dariece) mostly having kindergarten classes and Nick having primary-level students.
We met so many great people, both local and foreign, all of which we’re still friends with to this day.
4. Can you run through typical day on the job? What did your job entail inside and outside the classroom?
Because we were a private cram school (meaning students came to us outside of their regular schooling hours), our busy days were Saturday and Sunday, with evening classes on weekdays. Monday and Tuesdays were our days off.
We had four different classes each on Saturdays and Sundays. Each class was 1.5 hours long, with a 10 minute break during that class time. During the class, we would teach the predetermined lesson for the day, which included introducing the concept, drilling, games and book work.
Outside of the classroom, we were required to write our lesson plans, do some promotional work for the school, and once a week, we each had to teach at a public kindergarten school for 2 hours.
For a more detailed account of a typical day at work, click here.
5. How did you find these jobs?
We were in China when we were looking for a job. We looked at posting boards in hostels, but didn’t like the schools that were on offer there.
We ended up finding our job through Dave’s ESL Cafe. Jobs can also be found on Transitions Abroad and TEFL.net.
6. Did you have any prior experience teaching English?
Except for volunteering in Laos for a day, and volunteer teaching in a village in Myanmar for a week, no, we didn’t have any experience.
7. Did you need any education/degrees to teach English in China? What about local language skills?
Technically, you are supposed to have a TEFL certificate and a university degree in any subject to be able to teach in China. However, our school bent the rules and we were able to get a job without these two items.
However, the Chinese Government is tightening up on its requirements lately. Especially in the bigger, more popular cities like Beijing and Shanghai, it’s necessary to have the proper degrees and certificates, or you’ll be turned away.
You don’t have to speak Mandarin to work in China. In fact, classes are full immersion meaning that no Chinese language is allowed to be spoken in class, only English. In order to travel around your city, we definitely recommend learning the basics, which can be done in-country.
8. Was the pay enough to cover your living expenses? Where you able to save anything?
The pay was great actually. We earned 8,000 RMB each per month (which at the time was about $1,300 CAD), on top of that, we were given monthly student retention bonuses. Our flights to and from China were paid for by the school, as was healthcare, Mandarin lessons, taxis to the downtown school and 800 RMB ($130 CAD) monthly was put towards our housing costs. At the end of the contract, we each earned a $500 completion bonus.
We lived well throughout the year and as a couple, we were able to save $21,000 teaching English in China!
9. Why did you choose to teach in China?
We chose to teach there because we had just finished up travelling through the country and fell in love with it. We also knew that, since we don’t have university degrees, it was a country that we had a good chance of getting a job in.
10. Did you enjoy the experience? Would you do it again?
We’ll never forget our year of living and travelling in China. It was such an amazing experience! We really got to learn a lot about the culture, the food and the people. By having Chinese friends who spoke English, we were able to ask a lot of questions about their way of life, and be invited into many homes for meals. We also attended 4 weddings!
We would definitely teach English again, but I think on more of a volunteer level. Because our blog takes up so much of our time, I don’t think there would be enough hours in the day to have another job.
11. Would you recommend teaching English to others that are looking to make money while traveling? What advice would you give to them?
Yes. 100% yes! Teaching is such a great way to make money on the road and extend your travels. But don’t think of it as just a quick way to make a buck. The students and their families are relying on you to give them a good education and to be a professional.
Teaching can be a lot of fun and a great way to earn money, but it can also be exhausting! Make sure it’s the right job for you, and that you’re willing to put your best foot forward and be the best teacher you can be. Too many times we saw teachers not putting any effort into their lesson plans, or showing up to class hung-over, or worse, drunk!
Have a good time, but be responsible. After all, that’s what you’re being paid for.
12. What’s next for you guys?
We’re currently living on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and are loving it here! After this, we’re making our way down to Costa Rica for a house sitting job, then off to Grenada for two house/pet sitting jobs – we can’t wait to get back to “our” dog and the island, we love it there 🙂
Nick and Dariece are the couple behind Goats On The Road and the bi-weekly column on Credit Walk. Their website is designed to show others how to turn their travels into a lifestyle. Masters at making money abroad, they’ve been on the road since 2008 and have explored some of the least visited places on earth, finding adventure wherever they go.
Huge thanks to Dariece and Nick for taking the time to answer my questions and share their experience with us!
Does being an English Teacher sound like something you might want to do to help you travel the world? If not, check out other posts in the “Work and Travel Abroad” Series for more ideas and stories from other travelers.