Laura started her TEFL journey teaching English in a private school in Thailand. Since then she has taken to the world of online English teaching. Financial freedom and full flexibility from her online teaching gig has allowed her and husband Mike to travel the world whilst working remotely. Time to find out how she made it possible!
Tell us about yourself. You and Mike have been traveling since 2017. How has your experience been?
Traveling has been an incredible journey for us over the past three years. Although it’s a common misconception that full-time travel is always perfect. Of course, it has its downfalls. As much as we love our lifestyle, we constantly face challenges. We had to adjust to different cultures, navigate foreign lands and deal with situations that are less than ideal (like getting held hostage in Indonesia by greedy taxi drivers).
But for us, travel is a way of life. Ever since I had my first taste of travel, I haven’t been able to stop. The exhilarating feeling of a new adventure every day makes us crave more and more. Not only have we turned this lifestyle into a profitable business, but we’ve also learned so much about ourselves. We look at each new trip as a way to grow, learn, and experience everything that this world has to offer.
You started your TEFL journey by teaching in a private school in Thailand. How did you find the experience of teaching in such an environment?
After graduating university in 2013, I found myself ready to tackle the world. The only problem – I didn’t know which path or direction to choose. I stumbled upon the opportunity to teach English in Thailand after seeing a friend do it. Intrigued, I started to look into the requirements and opportunities available for me. Like any young adult, I wanted to see the world and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Six months later, I had packed my bags for Thailand and I jet-setted halfway around the world all by myself. Moving to a completely foreign country is understandably intimidating. So I had a company help me find a school and I ended up teaching in a private school in downtown Bangkok, one of the biggest metropolises in the world.
They were there to offer support and advice for the entire time. Going through a company was a good fit for me. I had no idea where to start, but many other teachers found schools through job boards and networking. My time teaching English in Bangkok was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was the only native speaker that worked in the school! On top of that, there were very few students or staff members that understood or spoke English.
So I started to learn the Thai language and dive deep into Thai culture. I experienced and celebrated all of the Thai holidays and festivals with my Thai teacher friends and students. I also had a strict Thai food diet and experimented with all of the local delicacies. This type of experience cannot be replicated simply with a trip to Thailand. Because for me, I could fully immerse myself in a foreign culture and it helped me understand the Thai way of life.
You have since completed your 120 Hour Advanced TEFL Course with Premier TEFL and transitioned to teaching online. How did you find going from the classroom to a virtual space?
Although I loved the experience of teaching in Thailand, I wanted a bit more freedom. Upon returning to the United States, I earned my 120-hour TEFL certification through Premier TEFL and decided to try teaching English online.
Through online teaching, I could earn a remote income while still pursuing a full-time traveling lifestyle. The transition from a brick and mortar classroom to a virtual classroom was difficult, but I was able to apply all that I had learned as an English teacher in Thailand and what I had learned from my TEFL course to my new teaching gig.
What do you find are the positives and negatives of both in-person and online teaching?
Teaching English abroad and teaching English online are two very different experiences. Each have their own positives and negatives.
While I was teaching in Thailand, there was a lack of flexibility. I was at school from 7:00am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday. I realize this is quite common, but it was especially difficult for me because there was an entire country out there to explore.
For me, teaching English online is the opposite. I have complete control of my schedule. If we have travel plans, I don’t book any classes. When I have downtime, I open up my availability. This flexibility is the best part about teaching English online.
However, there are many things I loved about teaching English in Thailand that aren’t the same as being an online English teacher. Firstly, my school covered all of my medical expenses. I actually ended up in the ER while I was in Thailand too, so the medical cover was great. The school also paid for my living expenses. They provided a furnished, modern apartment and paid for my cell phone data. I even got holiday pay, which I didn’t expect.
As an online teacher, you are responsible for your own medical expenses. They usually do not offer any benefits like a 401K, holiday or sick pay. Although you must cover your own expenses and are not granted benefits with online teaching, the pay is typically higher than what you would receive if you were to teach English in school in Thailand.
The last thing that made me fall in love with teaching English in Thailand was the people. The culture was enchanting. I had to quickly adapt to Thai culture whether it was the cuisine, the festivals, or the language. This is an experience I could never replicate with online teaching.
Where do you see the online English teaching market going in the near future?
We’ve all seen a sudden urgency and dependency on online teaching recently. I think this shows that online learning is possible and an effective way to learn.
As an online English teacher, I have seen an influx of teachers and students flocking to our platform. Watching this company grow makes me believe that more companies will be turning up in the near future, which means more opportunity for online teaching and learning.
If I could offer advice to someone looking to teach English online, it would be to start as soon as possible. Get your TEFL certification and get your foot in the door now so that you can establish yourself with a company and grow as an online English teacher.
Do you see yourself continuing to teach online remotely?
Since I started my online teaching journey a few years ago, I have been hooked. Of course it gets a bit exhausting here and there, but seeing my students light up when I enter the classroom reignites my love for teaching.
Although we run several successful blogs and can earn an income from other sources, I see myself teaching English online for the foreseeable future. When I start my day off teaching my students and watching them learn, I have a much more positive outlook on the rest of my day.
How has working remotely and teaching online allowed you to travel the world with your husband, and is it really possible for others to do?
Teaching English online was my first real taste of working remotely. When I first discovered the company that I work with, I thought the opportunity was too good to be true. The pay was good and the hours were extremely flexible. I couldn’t really believe it was real!
Since I was desperate to find a remote source of income, I applied anyway. I’m glad I gave it a chance because ultimately it has funded our world travels. The flexibility of teaching online has also given me the time to focus on our travel blog. Without this valuable time, we wouldn’t have been able to successfully turn our blog into a lucrative business.
Whether you want to transition to a full-time jet-setter, spend more time with your family, or even just take a few extra trips each year, teaching English online is an excellent option. There are so many legitimate companies that are currently hiring, so don’t wait; jump into your teaching journey as soon as you are able.
What’s next for you and your husband?
Since current circumstances have put our travels on pause, I have found myself spending much more time teaching classes online. Although many businesses are closed, the online teaching world is still thriving.
We are also spending time creating YouTube videos for our travel blog and dreaming about our next big trip. When things start to get back to normal, we plan on taking a huge road trip across the United States in search of the best hot springs and hiking trails.
Laura was an English teacher in Thailand from 2014-2015 and has been working as an online English teacher for more than two years with two different companies. She is also the owner and author of Mike & Laura Travel and Travel Blogging Success. Both sites focus on helping others secure remote work opportunities from teaching English online to growing a travel blog.