Teaching English online has changed the TESOL industry. The option to live and teach wherever we want has never been more attractive, with teachers all over the world ditching their board pens and starting their new life as an online teacher.
We’ve done it already – both me and Agness. It’s one of the ways to earn money while you travel.
The biggest advantage of teaching online, aside from not having to clean a classroom at the end of the day, is that you are free to go wherever you want. A lot of teachers are now becoming digital nomads, choosing to travel around instead of staying in one location while they teach.
This is something we did and the experience taught both of us a lot. Living this lifestyle isn’t for everyone though, so let’s take a look at some of the things you will need to know before teaching online and traveling.
What equipment to use for teaching online
Starting life as a digital nomad is exciting and if you’re anything like me, putting together an itinerary is one of the best parts of any trip.
Getting this list right is going to be vital though, as you will want to be as minimalist as possible and you will not want to be having to buy stuff on the road. There are some things that are obviously essential – a laptop and a good pair of headphones being the two most obvious ones, but there are also some other items that you may not have considered.
Sometimes you may end up in a country where internet connections just aren’t as strong as you’re used to. You might even be traveling with another teacher and be teaching in separate rooms. Regardless, this is one of the most useful tools you can acquire and they are generally pretty cheap and light to pick up.
So, in case you haven’t realized, there is a bit of a theme developing here. Your job will largely depend on the internet and if the internet in a place isn’t up to standard, then you are going to need a back-up plan. Due to the nature of the job, working in a coffee shop is often not practical, so having your own personal Wi-Fi network is the best solution.
If you are teaching children, you are going to want to make sure your classroom looks great. This can be difficult when you are moving every week, so make sure you have some portable decorations you can carry on the road with you.
But make sure they’re extremely light. For your own good.
Where to stay when you teach online
When you are traveling and teaching for a long time, or at least you plan to, you will want to try and make sure you keep things as cheap as possible. Accommodation can often end up being the biggest expense on the road, so what kind of places should you be looking for if you are planning to teach?
As a general rule, hostels should be ruled out. They are too noisy and the internet connections are weak because of the number of people using the server.
Finding cheap apartments on VRBO, or something similar, is your best option. Depending on where you are staying, most places are cheaper if you book more than a week.
I also strongly recommend that you ask the host to tell you the internet speed. This can be crucial as you don’t want to end up in an apartment for two weeks with bad internet.
You can also ask about laptop-friendly work space, like a desk or large table. Without this, you may end up with a back pain, and that’s not fun.
What qualifications are needed to teach English online
If you are already a qualified TESOL teacher, then you will not need any extra qualifications to teach online. Depending on what country your clients are based in, however, you may need a degree to teach legally. China is such a country, and we taught there earning really good money.
Oh, and did I mention that you could teach English even if you’re not from an English speaking country? That’s right, as long as you’re very proficient and have TESOL/TEFL certificate you’re good to go.
One of the biggest factors you will need to take into account while teaching and traveling are time zones. Time zones can be incredibly restricting and can pretty much ensure you have to stay on one or two continents for a lot of the time.
There are ways you can avoid this but they are not too advisable. You could work for a platform where you don’t have set students, but this can lead to an inconsistent income and make traveling difficult anyway.
Working through the night is one option, and it is one that many teachers choose to take. This will come down to how much you are willing to endure a nocturnal schedule. I found myself able to do that easily when I was in my 20s, and not quite anymore (at this point you can imagine my sad face realizing I’m no longer in my 20s…).
Scheduling travel while teaching online
One lesson that you will learn very quickly if you are teaching and traveling is that it is never a good idea to schedule a trip on a day you are supposed to teach.
Your check-out time or your arrival time may end up clashing with a lesson, and take it from me, there is nothing worse than trying to frantically teach a class in an airport terminal or a train station while keeping one eye on the departure board.
That’s if you can multitask. I cannot.
To deal with this, just be sure that you have set days to travel each week. A nice way to deal with this is to arrange your work schedule so that you are only working Monday- Thursday or Tuesday – Friday. This way, you get a long weekend where you can travel and still manage to get the time to take a break.
As much as you can prepare for difficult situations, there are still going to be unforeseen issues that arise when you are on the road and in the classroom.
As a digital nomad, you will quickly learn to adapt to your surroundings and you will be able to find new and innovative solutions to your issues.
Does that mean you may have to turn your camera off and teach in a departure lounge? Possibly, but you will learn from your mistakes and become both a better teacher and a better traveler for it.
Downsides to teaching while traveling
When I would tell people that I had spent a few years of my life traveling and teaching at the same time, their first response would be to express how jealous they were. In many ways, they were right to do so – I was seeing a new city or country every few weeks and was meeting a lot of interesting people along the way.
While this does sound perfect, it is not perfect for everyone and there are definitely some things that you should consider before packing your bags and heading out to live on the road.
The biggest issue I encountered was fatigue. Constantly getting used to a new location while working and trying to meet people is exhausting and it will definitely begin to take an effect on you.
One solution for this is to have a base that you can check into every now and again. Whether this is your parent’s home or a friend’s apartment in a city, you should make sure that you stop to recharge every now and again.
Should you travel and teach English online
Teaching online has presented teachers with a range of new options when it comes to traveling and more and more teachers are taking advantage of this. The lifestyle of a digital nomad is not going to be for everyone but for many. It will be a life-changing experience, for sure.