This past weekend we were excited to launch our new, free guide – Getting You on the Plane: A Travel Manifesto – we hope it will inspire its readers to make travel a more regular part of their lives.
While there are many ways to travel the world, we both began our adventures by taking jobs as ESL teachers. This decision was the best one of our lives, but we realize it’s not for everyone.
Is it for you? Here are some questions to consider:
What qualifications do you have?
The most important qualification is simply being a native English speaker – or at least living somewhere where English is widely spoken.
If you have that covered, you’ll just need to find the country or school that prioritizes what you offer. Some countries care most about what kind of TEFL certificate you have. Others primarily want those qualified to teach in their home country. Some are looking for college degrees in English, or just a college degree full stop.
What qualifications could you reasonably get?
If you are lacking qualification, all hope is not lost. TEFL certificates can easily be earned online, and some schools will even pay for you to get certified before your job begins.
Do you like the idea of settling in another country for a year or more?
ESL teachers usually have plenty of travel opportunities, but their day-to-day isn’t quite as adventurous compared to the life of the traveler who is changing cities and countries every few days or weeks. They are making a home in another country, not just visiting one. After the initial honeymoon phase wears off, teachers settle into a routine that becomes quite normal.
This kind of slow travel is perfect for some people. You can really get to know the culture, form genuine friendships, and even learn the language.
Do you want a creative job with a lot of variety?
Teaching is different every day. You are always teaching something new, overcoming new obstacles with your students, and coming up with new approaches and activities. If you are a creative person, and the idea of a monotonous desk job fills you with dread, teaching is for you.
Do you have plenty of energy?
Teaching can also be exhausting in every way – physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’ll need to be able to summon seemingly limitless energy to keep your students engaged and positive.
Are you patient?
You’ll need patience both inside and outside of the classroom as an ESL teacher. Language learning is a slow process, and your students will get frustrated, confused, or discouraged from time to time. It’s easy to also feel the same as their teacher – but you can’t show it.
Outside the classroom, you’ll encounter a host of challenges beyond the typical traveler’s stress. Arranging work visas, dealing with landlords, setting up bank accounts and international transfers – all of these tasks will take a cool head and plenty of patience.
And here are some questions that aren’t as important as you think (and why):
Are you good at grammar? Didn’t do so great in English class back home? Don’t worry – if you’re teaching beginner or intermediate classes, you’ll be able to manage the grammar lessons just because you’re a native speaker and the most common errors will naturally sound wrong to you.
Do you like kids? Not all ESL classes are for children. Look into adult language centers if kids aren’t your thing – they are just as common in most major cities.
Do you speak the local language? You don’t need to. You will only be allowed to speak English with your students, and outside of the classroom you’ll get by with body language and charades until you start picking up some basic survival phrases naturally.
Have you ever considered teaching abroad before? What’s holding you back?