Teach English online is a great way to fund your travels. Picture yourself strolling around Kyoto’s weaving streets, taking in the beauty of Mount Fuji, sampling authentic noodle dishes in one of Tokyo’s famed ramen shops, or having a spiritual experience at a Buddhist monastery or Shinto shrine.
If the idea gives feelings of excitement and anticipation to you, then you may have wondered how best to get out there and experience it! Travel can be expensive, and Japan is one of the priciest destinations on the continent, but what if you could earn money while you travel?
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is an increasingly popular way of making money in Japan and living the digital nomad lifestyle. If you aren’t familiar with the term, a ‘digital nomad’ is a person who makes money and earns a living working online from anywhere in the world, without a fixed location.
…unless you take charge of your life and decide to become a digital nomad, of course! If you aren’t familiar with this term, a ‘digital nomad’ is a person who makes money and earns a living working online from anywhere in the world, without a fixed location.
If becoming a ‘digital nomad’ is your calling, but you don’t know where to start, you might want to consider teaching English as a second language online. To become an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher, you’ll need to be able to understand and speak English fluently and have a TEFL certificate.
More and more language schools nowadays require their teachers to hold a TEFL qualification through a course that covers a minimum of 120 hours – take a look at the range of accredited courses TEFL has to offer.
Upon receiving your certificate, you’ll be able to look for your first job and then the world will be your oyster! Looking for your first online job seems daunting? No problem, Tefl can help you with that too!
Ok, so now you’re all set, but before you pack your bags and embrace your new lifestyle, have a look at a few tips that might make your ‘digitally nomadic’ experience run more smoothly.
First and foremost, sort out your tech. Teaching English online your livelihood heavily depends on your equipment. At a minimum, you’ll require a reliable laptop with the latest software updates – there’s no need to spend lots of money on it, there are plenty of deals if you shop around, some applications are even free!
It might also be useful to carry around a pen drive where you can save your go-to teaching materials and resources. Technical glitches can happen to anyone at any time. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to use someone else’s computer, your pen drive can become a life-saver…or a ‘lesson-saver’.
Secondly, but equally important, book your accommodation according to your needs. Hostels are probably the cheapest and most flexible option available, but there’s hardly any privacy, and quiet areas are rarely available – this is an important aspect to consider when you’re delivering online lessons.
Find somewhere that allows you to be completely in your ‘teaching zone’ during your class time, like private renting for longer stays, or through Airbnb for shorter ones. Also, check with your host about early/late check-in and check out, depending on your travelling schedule. If you explain your reasons (e.g. flight times, lesson arrangements etc), you’ll find that most people are flexible and understanding.
Check internet connection speed and reliability. Before you confirm your booking, check with your potential host that a fast and reliable Wi-Fi connection is available at their accommodation. There are many websites that allow you to check your internet speed for free – take advantage of them and use them as a guide.
Depending on the online school you decide to work for, they might have specific requirements regarding this. Some might request that you are plugged into a router with an ethernet cable. This is a hardwired connection, meaning that you cannot use Wi-Fi. Again, check with your host if this is a feasible option.
Select your props. When travelling, your background will change frequently, but your students will benefit from some familiarity. Carry with you some posters that can be strategically positioned in front of your camera and behind you.
Think about a phonemic chart and a dry-wipe whiteboard and markers – and don’t forget your own logo (if you have one) and the logo of the school you work for!
Travel light. We all tend to pack more than we need because…well…just in case we might need it. Adopting a digitally nomadic life means that you can’t allow yourself to carry around large amounts of unnecessary stuff, so be strict and selective when you decide what to pack. After all, you’re already taking your tech and props with you!
When it comes to clothing, for example, think about how your day will be organised: touring/travelling, working, bedtime, and the sporadic smart occasion. Choose casual and comfortable clothes to wear while you’re sightseeing or travelling – some of them could even double up as nightwear.
You want to look professional in front of the camera during your lessons, so pack a couple of outfits that are fit for that purpose and can be worn if you decide to treat yourself to a meal at a fancy restaurant, for example.
Be ready to weather any weather condition (pun intended!). Champion the ‘onion style’ and dress in layers that you can easily put on or take off depending on the temperature.
There are some countries, like Morocco for example, where there is a considerable drop in temperature from day to night-time: you could be wearing a light top in the day, but needing a coat in the evening.
Travelling tip – avoid travelling on teaching days. Yes, this is easier said than done, and sometimes you can’t help it. A flight fare might be considerably cheaper on a working day, so it might be worth the hassle.
However, a way of making your life as stress-free as possible is to agree on set teaching days with your online school right from the start. This would give you the freedom to better organise your journey, achieve a balanced work-life routine, and fully experience your adventure.
Let’s recap the steps to take you on route for a digitally nomadic TEFL life:
– Obtain an accredited TEFL qualification from a reputable provider.
– Get a reliable laptop and updated software
– Select suitable accommodation
– Check with your host about specific requirements you might have regarding internet connection and check-in/out options
– Decide on your props that will be staple features on your teaching background
– Carefully select your clothes depending on your daily schedule and on the weather
– Be smart when organising your teaching/travelling routine.
You’re now ready to go but you still have some questions, I get it – leaving a familiar and comfortable environment can put anyone on edge.