Teaching English online is a fantastic way to fund your travels abroad. We didn’t know teaching English online was for us but here we sit at 8 months later, and we’ve got some awesome tips to help our fellow teachers out there make ends meet while traveling. Who knew that our decision to teach English abroad would turn into teaching English online while we travel from country to country? It’s been an adventure!
Understand Your Company’s Rules
Keeping your teaching job is essential. It’s what funds your adventure abroad. With that said, be very mindful about your company’s rules and guidelines. Our company requires that we have a minimum download speed of 20 mbps and be plugged into a router with an ethernet cable.
That means we cannot use wifi! Ouch, that hurts.
It’s a hard hump to get over but now that we’re in a rhythm of things it’s not so bad. Using wifi would make our lives so much easier but we’re finding a way to see the world while teaching anyway.
Granted, there are other online English companies that don’t require ethernet connection. Choose the right company for you! We give a breakdown on five companies as well as some general teaching tips in our post on teaching English online.
Your company’s rules and policies set the groundwork for how easy it is to travel abroad and teach English. Make it fit your travels, not the other way around!
Flexibility and Mobility
As a traveling online English teacher, the digital nomad life is the new norm. Being flexible enough to weather the storms (there will be plenty) and being mobile enough to get where you need to go is key.
For instance, you just arrived at your Airbnb in Prague but it doesn’t have fast enough internet speeds and you teach the next morning. Or the internet has gone out while you’re in Bali and you teach in four hours.
Initiate panic mode!
Don’t do that! Luckily we have the internet to help us fix these problems in a flash. Flexibility and mobility is key! Be ready to pack up and go in an instant.
In Bali, our internet actually did go out a few hours before we needed to teach. We found a co-working space nearby that had Skype rooms and booked them asap. We commuted there for a couple of days while our Airbnb’s internet was fixed. It was an annoyance having to travel back and forth but ultimately worth the price of losing money from missed hours or worse, losing our jobs.
Flexibility is important for other reasons as well. Since there are two of us, we need separate rooms. Sometimes that means one of us is teaching English in the bathroom. Sometimes it’s on the floor. The floor isn’t where we’d prefer to teach but that’s the way it goes!
Many factors dictate where we teach in our homestay like lighting, sound, and access to the router. Our company doesn’t care if we teach on the floor or at a desk. They want us to have stable connection, be punctual, and be a good teacher!
A great way to add some flare to your teaching area are teaching signs. Since we don’t have a permanent background that we can style and decorate, we take our signs with us wherever we go. Even though the walls behind us change, our signs are always there. As is our whiteboard, markers, flash cards, etc…you get the idea. Even the smallest teaching props go a long way in providing continuity in the online classroom.
We’ve mentioned homestays and Airbnbs already. In our opinion, Airbnb is the best accommodation option for traveling online English teachers. They’re almost always cheaper than hotels, especially outside the touristy areas. Plus, you have the privacy of a home so you can teach and not bother anyone.
We’ve thought of teaching in hostels but we doubt anyone would like hearing, “Hello! How are you?!” several times a day, several times a week. Booking an Airbnb also gives you access to a private home and its wifi. More importantly for us, it allows us to plug directly to a router with ethernet (like our company requires).
TIP: We heard through the the online teacher grapevine that if you receive confirmation from the host that they have certain internet speeds and it turns out they misled you, Airbnb will help you find appropriate accommodation (and maybe even pay the difference in price) as long as it’s within 24 hours of checking in. Another reason to not travel on a day you teach.
When inquiring with an Airbnb about a potential stay, be sure to explain your situation to them upfront. It’ll save you some headaches down the road. For example, we reach out to Airbnb hosts with the following:
Destinations and Internet Speed
Obviously, going to countries where internet isn’t widespread may not be the best idea. That said, don’t let anything get in the way of you and your travels. That’s why you teach English online while traveling abroad, after all!
We know a fellow teacher who taught in Laos and barely got by with 1 mbps download speed. That’s terribly slow. However, he crossed the border to Thailand and was perfectly fine. That said, Thailand can be a little shaky because of storms.
Nowhere is perfect but some places are more reliable than others. There are things to take into consideration at every destination. The weather, internet speed, transportation (if you lose internet you need a way to get to a place that does).
A good place to check internet speeds on a broad level is https://www.speedtest.net/global-index. This shouldn’t dictate everything but it serves as a great guide to your possible destinations!
Travel on days off
One thing we’ve noticed is how annoying it is to travel on a day you teach. Asking Airbnb hosts for a late check out on top of asking about their internet speeds and access to an internet router is an unnecessary hassle. Save yourself the headache and travel on days you don’t teach.
We teach four days a week, leaving three for travel. Traveling on teaching days is sometimes unavoidable. If the cheapest flight from Budapest to Berlin is on a day you teach then it makes sense to travel on a working day.
Honestly, most Airbnb hosts abroad have been fine with us checking in early/late if we have to teach English. But there are times when they can’t do anything about it. If their next guest is arriving that afternoon then you won’t be getting that late check out.
Summary of Tips to Teach English Abroad
There are many pros and cons to being an online English teacher and traveling. However, the pros much outweigh the cons. No amount of internet issues can hinder the joy you get from traveling. Doing so much online, we’ve realized the beauty of using our time off to get away from the web and explore where we are. That’s why we left home in the first place: to see the world!
Maybe you’re traveling and teaching English right now or maybe you’re thinking about it. Either way, we wish you luck! If you have any questions about teaching English online or want to share your experience then let us know in the comments below!
Happy teaching and traveling!