Welcome to another edition of the “Work and Travel Abroad“ Series! In this series, we feature stories from those 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, we are excited to share our Q&A with Adi Zarsadias from Love the Search who shares her experience working as an international traveling yoga instructor.
Q: Who is the Adi Zarsadias? Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I’m a yoga teacher, I have been teaching in different yoga shalas for the last 3 years. I also blog about my travels on Love the Search and most recently, I have reconnected with my artistic side so I’ve been painting a lot. I’m into rock climbing, skateboarding and cycling as well. And to be honest, I have a massive case of wanderlust that I’ve tried to get rid off but nothing works!
Q: What was your life like before you started your career as a traveling yoga instructor? Where did you live/study/work?
A: I was born and raised in the Philippines and groomed to succeed in the corporate world. But my soul longed for something else, I listened to that soft whisper and oblivious of the process at that time, but I that’s when I started the process of introspection. I practiced yoga, got into surfing, and started traveling solo. Gaining all these new awesome experiences really opened up my world to things I would’ve never thought possible if I dedicated my life to climb the corporate ladder instead.
I’ve taught in Palawan, Philippines and different places in Lombok, Indonesia. I have just come back from a year of backpacking Latin America where I had the honor of teaching in Costa Rica for half a year. Most recently, I’ve been teaching on a pristine surf island in the Philippines called Siargao.
Q: What inspired you to start traveling? How long have you been traveling for?
A: Looking back, I’ve always had the traveling gene. My family would drive out of town whenever we got the chance on weekends. I chose to go to college in the United Kingdom when I was only 16 years old, and the United States to hopefully finish another degree when I was only 20. Both experiences were a drastic change from my lifestyle back home, but I loved that I learned so much from living in completely different places.
Q: How do you afford to keep traveling?
A: I have been renting out my apartment on Airbnb for the past 4 years. I work and volunteer as a yoga teacher when possible. While backpacking Latin America, I wrote to different hostels and tour companies for sponsorships to complete my one year there. Nope, I have no plans on going back to the corporate world at all.
Q: How/when did you land your first job as a yoga instructor? Did you have any formal training/education prior to securing your first job?
A: I’ve completed an AntiGravity Yoga Teacher Training and the standard 200-hour course under YogaWorks. I thought at that time that they were the most physically and mentally demanding thing I’ve had to do… until I started backpacking solo.
My first gig as a yoga teacher was at a Passion Play retreat in Zambales, Philippines. I was lucky that my friends who organized it gave me a shot. That day I was high on the realization that I would really love to do this as a living!
Q: Where in the world have you now worked/taught yoga?
A: I enjoy teaching in tropical destinations so I’ve taught yoga in the most dreamy places like a vegetarian cafe in Lombok that overlooks the whole south coast and a resort with its own private yoga shall right on the beach. I had the time of my life leading classes in one of the most secluded private islands on El Nido. In Costa Rica, a lush organic farm up in the rainforest, a peaceful retreat house near Playa Negra, a yoga studio close to Manuel Antonio National park and lastly an idyllic yoga retreat center in the Osa Peninsula teeming with wildlife. Right now, I am teaching at the Greenhouse yoga shala on Siargao Island.
Q: What are some highs and lows of being a traveling yoga instructor?
A: Yoga, like everything else could get pretty monotonous. We have to teach classes in such a way that both beginners and advance practitioners benefit from the class. In my case, since I choose to teach in tourist destinations, my students are usually first-timers or beginners so I try to stay on their level.
On the other hand, working as a yoga teacher means that you’re only working one or two hours a day! So much time to develop your other interests.
Q: Is the pay enough to cover your living expenses? Are you able to save anything to continue traveling?
A: It depends. In Asia, it’s more than enough if you’re working at least one hour a day and provided free lodging. How a person saves varies greatly. In my case, I spend my money in eating well and try to invest in a bicycle if I’m a place longer than a few months. However, in other places like Costa Rica, your yoga salary is definitely not enough to live off of. I spent my 32nd birthday alone and depressed because I only had like $5 that day. I couldn’t afford to celebrate!
Q: Have you visited any countries where being a yoga instructor was tough? Maybe your skills weren’t in high demand or for another reason
A: Other than Costa Rica and some places in Nicaragua and Panama, it’s still hard to get a job in the rest of Latin America when you’re not bilingual. So I took a course with Flying Tree Yoga in Medellin to learn how to teach yoga in Spanish.
I came home to Lombok recently and was saddened to find out that the government has tightened its working visa regulations recently, making it too expensive and almost impossible for companies sponsor foreign employees. The problem is, yoga does not appeal to the locals anyway so this leaves a big gap in the supply and demand for yoga tourism across the whole country.
Q: Would you recommend being a yoga instructor to someone who wants to quit their 9-5 routine and explore the world? What advice would you give them?
A: I would recommend being a yoga instructor to someone who has a deep personal practice, first and foremost, meaning someone who does yoga on and off the mat. And by that, I don’t mean striking yoga selfies on the beach. One can only benefit from this lifestyle if you are authentic in your own right. The rest, like sharing your practice with others will naturally take its course.
Sometimes you can’t work because of language restrictions or visa regulations. However, the most meaningful yoga classes I’ve led were spontaneous ones on a hill overlooking the coast at sunset or most recently, an impromptu restorative yoga class in skate bowl in a hostel full of people sore from surfing or moped accidents.
Q: Where would one start if they wanted to follow your path of becoming a yoga instructor?
A: When I started practicing yoga back in 2000, there were no yoga classes anywhere in the Philippines yet. But I read about it in a magazine and was intrigued by the practice. I found a VCD at the mall (that gives away my age) and was hooked the first time I played it at home. So there’s no shame starting your yoga practice with YouTube.
The best investment you can make is a good quality yoga mat. Start taking up different classes in your area. Even the most random one might interest you. There are hundreds of different kinds nowadays, from the slower meditative kinds like Yin Yoga and Restorative to the more physically demanding ones like Ashtanga and Hot Yoga, and literally everything in between. Don’t give up on your first class if you feel unsatisfied.
Q: What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2017?
A: Though I still dream of backpacking the rest of the world, This year, I’m reinvesting in up-and-coming eco-destinations around the Philippines. It’s probably not a localized problem, most cities are over crowded, polluted and there is a scarcity of well-paying jobs. I want to show my peers that you can still live comfortably and have your own version of success outside of the city where you can lead a happier, mindful and more sustainable lifestyle. And that, it really is up to you to decide.
About Adi: Adi is a yoga teacher and writer with extreme wanderlust. She currently hold classes in different resorts on Siargao Island, Philippines. Follow her adventures on Instagram and get valuable travel advice from her blog, lovethesearch.com
Huge thanks to Adi for taking the time to answer our questions and share their experience with us! If you have any further questions for Adi, leave a comment below!
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Does working as a yoga instructor 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.