How I Taught English in Four Countries over Two Years

 | Teaching House Nomads Blog

Sometimes I forget that I travelled the world and taught English in Ecuador, Brazil, Australia and Thailand within 2 years. After working in the same language academy, here in Seville, for 11 years, I try to remember what was spurring me on and how I taught in so many places in such a short space of time.

Life was different back then. I was up for adventure, moving about, seeing the world and trying to find my place to settle. Like any young lad I wanted to appreciate the finer things in life before actually becoming ‘responsible’ and finding a career, family, and home.

Perhaps you’re keen to travel the world, stop in various countries to get a real feel for the culture, learn the language, and get to know the locals. By doing a CELTA and becoming an ESL teacher you can lead an exciting, fulfilling, and rewarding life. But how can you go about working your way around the world? Here are a few tips to help you on your adventure.

Plan ahead

Before you set off on your journey, do some serious planning and research. If you want to teach in a particular country, find out when term starts. Originally I wanted to work in Mexico, but I arrived during term time, with no experience, and foolishly only gave myself two months there. No one would take me on, so I just travelled instead.

CELTA-certified teacher Barry O'Leary thinks that planning ahead is important for landing good ESL jobs
Teaching in Australia

Luckily I found three jobs in Quito, Ecuador, but even then I arrived during term. I planned Brazil better. I arrived in Salvador, Bahia, just before the carnival, found work, and then partied hard before I started teaching.

In Australia I had to do a depressing sales job for a couple of weeks before I got a teaching job because, yet again, I arrived at the wrong time. In Thailand I found employment online before I went, but I felt obliged to stay in a school where I wasn’t completely comfortable.

Make sure you find out when term starts in the country you want to work in before booking those flights, and a CELTA course.

Be frugal

I got myself in a mess at the start of my trip. I’d saved about £4,000 to last in South America before going to Australia. As I couldn’t find work in Mexico, I probably had a ‘too good’ a time, and when I got to Ecuador only had about £2,000.

I had to be frugal. I rented with an Ecuadorian family as opposed to forking out for a hostel. I cooked my own meals and ate out less. I stay in more, but I was normally knackered after teaching long hours, plus I was happy studying Spanish. Scrimping and saving allowed me to save up enough for a trip across South America too.

In Brazil my financial situation got worse, especially after blowing a load in Rio de Janeiro and the carnival in Bahia. Getting my bag got stolen in Rio didn’t help either, so I had to be extra cautious with money.

ESL teachers should learn to manage their finances well when they travel from country to country
Monk-y business

I found a dirt cheap place to stay, about $50 a month, living with a Brazilian family and other travellers. It was fun and I met some interesting characters. I enjoyed living a simple life, hanging out with students at the weekend, taking long walks through the city to the beach and learning Portuguese.

By the time I got to Sydney I had a mere £300 left. I had to do a sales job before finding my first well-paid teaching job, in which I saved up $3,000 over four months, but I blew most of it on a trip up the East coast.

In Thailand I lived like a King as wages were decent and my accommodation was paid for, plus the cost of living was ridiculously low.

If you want to be on the road, moving from one country to another in a short space of time, then save up and watch those pennies.

Leave each job on good terms

Most employers, logically, will want you to stay for the term, and I’d thoroughly recommend doing that. Not only because you’ll mess up the students, but you’ll want to have a decent reference.

Seeing out the whole term might not always be possible though, especially in countries like South America where you may have to work illegally, possibly not have a contract, and need to leave to get a new visa.

I was lucky in Ecuador because my employers were fine with me only staying three months. In Brazil it was more difficult. I had to pretend with one employer that I was going to stay the whole term. That guilty feeling was unpleasant, especially as I built up a rapport with the students. I found a replacement and we ‘sort of’ left on good terms. Some students were really disappointed, but others I’ve kept in touch with. Since then I’ve planned better and always stick out the term.

Don’t give up

On numerous occasions, I thought I’d end up going home. After getting mugged in Ecuador, my bag stolen in Rio, and my watch ripped off my wrist in Salvador, I wondered whether teaching in such dangerous countries was a clever idea. I lived in fear in Salvador as I was staying in the heart of Pelourinho, an area known for the high crime rate. My landlady said that if I wanted to get someone killed, I could pay her 10 Reals, about $3 and she’d sort it out. Luckily I didn’t need to.

Being alone was a hard slog too. Sure you make friends, but they are never as close as the ones back home, and you can’t replace family. After my parents and sister visited in Thailand, I realised how much I’d missed them and needed to be closer. These days it’s easier with Skype and smart phones, but back then I had nothing.

CELTA-certified teacher Barry O'Leary thinks that travelling is the best part about being an ESL teacher
Teaching in Thailand

The best bit about being an ESL teacher on the road was the amount of travelling I fit in. I saw most of South America, went across the States on a Greyhound bus, visited half of Australia, and travelled overland from Bangkok through Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China, and ended with the Trans-Siberian railway from Beijing to Moscow. My trips were made possible by saving while teaching, living frugal, and pure determination to see the world while teaching English.

Thinking about doing the same? First you need to get a CELTA. Why not try Teaching House CELTA course? Any questions about teaching and travelling then just let me know.

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