“I want to travel right now, but I don’t have any money saved. I think I’ll have to wait a couple of years before I can leave.”
The above situation is one that many people email me about, people who know that they are afflicted with the travel bug, but who feel the need to put that desire to explore this groovy world in the closet for now due to the balance (or lack of) in their bank account.
At first, I was going to write a lengthy introduction detailing my thoughts on a lack of money being a completely invalid excuse for not following one’s desire to travel. But then I realized that I could sum it all up in one sentence. Here it is:
When someone says they are unable to travel because of insufficient funds, they are actually stating, “I am unable to travel because I am not yet aware of all the opportunities out there that will allow me to accomplish my goals.”
Of course, if you are $29,000 in debt, the situation becomes a little more difficult. However, the point is that you don’t have to wait until you have $29,000 in your bank account either.
And while there are literally dozens of options that will allow you to explore the world while earning money, I am going to focus on one option here. It’s an option that doesn’t require much planning at all, doesn’t require any experience and can be put into action almost immediately. In fact, if you’re reading this post on Saturday, you could be earning money in a foreign land by Monday. Actually, let’s say Tuesday just to give you an extra day to get over the jet lag.
It’s all about teaching English.
WAIT! WAIT! WAIT!
Let me re-phrase. What I am actually referring to is “Creative English Teaching”.
This form of teaching English overseas does not require a degree, nor a teaching certificate. It doesn’t require previous teaching experience either. Heck, you don’t even need teaching materials or even a classroom. All you need is YOU, a sprinkle of creativity and a desire to interact with people of a different culture.
When a good friend of mine and I decided to rest our tired legs during a trip to Southeast Asia a few years back, we were looking for two things. First, we wanted to find a location where we would enjoy living for at least six months and secondly, we wanted to find a way to earn some money.
For us, the decision was quite easy as we chose what had been one of our favorite stops during our two months of traveling – Chiang Mai, a mid-sized city in northern Thailand.
NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY
On our second day after arriving back in Chiang Mai we set out in search of work, thinking that our best bet would involve teaching English. The first thing we did was decide not to visit the dozens of established language schools scattered around the city, as we assumed they wouldn’t be interested in hiring two backpackers without any credentials to teach English to their students. Instead, we simply went over to the DK Book Store and bought twenty pieces of white paper and a black marker.
After creating twenty hand-written signs that read “Want to learn English from two Native English Speakers? First class free. Call us today!”, we took a taxi to the 25,000-student Chiang Mai University and posted the signs all over the dormitories and student union center.
And then we waited.
Amazingly, at 10am the following morning, the phone rang in our apartment and after a very brief conversation, we had our first student. After two more days, we ended up with over 20 students signed up for our classes, something that was, truthfully, quite unexpected and which forced us to get creative rather quickly.
We didn’t exactly have a classroom at our disposal, so we decided to hold our classes outside in the grassy common areas of the university. And upon realizing that we didn’t have any books or study materials, we decided to focus our classes strictly on conversational practice. Without any clue whatsoever about how to teach, we just winged it and acted as if we had been doing it for years. Luckily, the students proved so overly-eager to learn that they showed up to every class with a long list of questions to ask. By the time we finished answering them, the two-hour sessions were over and we didn’t have to rely on the ridiculous lesson plans that we had haphazardly put together.
Before we knew it, we were holding several classes per week with more and more students signing up almost every day. And that was that. We had organized and launched a successful English teaching operation in a matter of a few days.
Did we earn a fortune? Of course not. We actually charged our students a mere 100 Baht (approximately $3 USD per hour), but we earned enough income to live a comfortable life in beautiful Chiang Mai, one that included a decent apartment with mountain views and rarely having to watch what we spent. Had I been more motivated, I could have scheduled three classes per day, five days per week, and earned enough to accumulate a decent amount of savings as well.
For those that might think teaching English is not the kind of work you’d be interested in, let me point out that what I just described above could hardly be considered work! Spending a few hours a day sitting in a park, interacting with and creating friendships with the kindest, most respectful students imaginable, taking field trips to waterfalls, caves and Buddhist temples and learning about life in Thailand in a setting far from any tourist path, was more along the lines of a deep and rewarding cultural interaction than a dull work experience.
As a result, it’s a perfect way to jump-start your travels, live overseas, meet new friends, learn a new language, eat endless plates of pad thai (this yummy noodle dish can also help you start traveling sooner than you think is possible) AND earn as much money as you are motivated to earn.
And, and, and…Thailand is not the only place where you can make this happen. If you’re dreaming of travel right this very moment but think you don’t have the money to do so, consider this: As long as you speak a decent amount of English, you could move to Vietnam, Czech Republic, Mexico, Bulgaria, Bolivia or Jordan (or dozens of others) tomorrow, and in most cases, with a little creativity, set up your own creative English teaching operation by the end of your first week.
Have you experimented with teaching English overseas or thought about doing so?