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Teaching English online: my journey as a backpacker

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Teaching English online: my journey as a backpacker

At TeacherTee, we love to travel, and we’re passionate about teaching English online as a means to afford us the chance to explore the world while earning a comfortable wage. Here, writer and The Snapshot People founder Bradley Green talks us through his epic journey through South America alongside online teaching.

Sometimes you were up; sometimes you were behind. That’s what my mum has always told me. I couldn’t complain: I’d just spent an exhilarating two months in Brazil for carnival. I got to do things I’d never dreamed of doing, got up to too much mischief to do justice here, and met some people I hoped to call friends for life. But there was a huge problem. I’d massively underestimated how much I needed for this trip and my dream of working in all the big South American capital cities lay in tatters on month three. I winced as the English lad next to me ordered four Jaeger bombs for him and his entourage. Not because of how much I hated them, but the fact I couldn’t afford premium liquor like that. What was he doing differently?

A balmy night in Medellin, Colombia. March 2017. I didn’t realise it at the time, but a night that started off with a worried glance at my near-empty bank account ended up being the platform for one of the best times of my life. I met TeacherTee’s founder Luke [Sheppard] in Medellin, and not only did he go on to become one of my best friends, he taught me that it’s possible to travel a continent (yes, continent) while earning money in the process. I’d always been dubious about it and thought it seemed too good to be true – thank god I let him buy me that first drink, because what followed was invaluable.

Medellin, Quito, Cusco, La Paz, Santiago and Buenos Aires. Six capital cities across five months teaching the ENTIRE time between six and 10am. I was earning £250 a week as a minimum and still had more than enough time to see the places any ordinary traveller would. Sound impossible? What if I told you that you can do this without breaking a sweat? Fellow backpackers, take notes: these are my top tips to transform your trip from cautious to carefree.

8 hot tips

1. Get a TEFL! This is so worth it – it opens so many more job opportunities for you. Also, if you want to do some physical teaching in these countries, it’s a necessity; especially if you do not have a degree, like me. It’s great to have the option to do both. See TeacherTee’s TOP 3 TEFL Courses.

2. Get yourself both a good Ethernet cable and headset before you travel. In Buenos Aires, I found electronic shops were starting to realise the quality of life backpackers were being afforded by teaching English online and knew the equipment was in demand. Luckily, Luke had a spare because they cost a fortune.

3. Message both the hostel and Airbnb owners in advance of your stay, to check whether they have a quiet area to teach and at least 10mbps of WiFi – this is the standard requirement for most teaching companies. Don’t just assume party hostels won’t be teaching-friendly, as the hours you’ll work are actually when people will be recovering from the night before, so you hopefully won’t be disturbed while on the job. One time licensing will work in your favour!

4. Keep it moving. It’s very easy to get comfortable when you’re earning the money you do from teaching to stay in one place. Don’t fall into this trap as, if you’re constrained by time like me, you won’t get to see all the places you want to. Just remember that you can teach in any capital so see as many as you can.

5. Use your days off to travel from A to B. Remember that you’ll be teaching in the week, so plan ahead and ensure any travelling between cities is done outside of teaching hours.

6. Book your travel ahead. It’s great to be spontaneous and you never want your trip to be too structured, but there are big price differences in booking your coach three weeks before you intend to travel and, for example, a week before. It can save you a fortune booking in advance, so do it when possible.

7. It’s nice to be nice. Remember that hostel owners have seen it all, and unfortunately, they are often the victims of lewd, drunken behaviour at the hands of backpackers. On checking in at new accommodation, be it a hostel or Airbnb, introducing yourself with a smile goes a long way. By speaking to people how I wanted to be spoken to, in Cusco I was able to use a staff room with the best Wifi in the house for my teaching after becoming friends with the owner. Beats a dorm!

8. Share your story. While I feel privileged to know how beneficial online teaching can be while travelling, part of me wishes I had met someone with to tell me about online teaching years earlier. My travels through southeast Asia, while amazing, were cut short due to lack of funds and I now know I could have supported myself for as much longer as I wanted if I knew these things sooner. Help people have a better trip! 

I truly hope this article helps you as much as it helped me meeting Luke, and if it helps get the word out on the wonders of online teaching while abroad, my work here is done.

As a side note, the money I earned from teaching English online meant I could return to London and set up my own start-up company taking people on ‘Instatours’ around London. This is a concept I am hugely excited about. Our handle on Instagram is @thesnapshotpeople so do give us a follow and let us know what you think of our early work.

All the best and safe travels.

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