A big reason why so many are attracted to TEFL in the first place is because of the opportunities it provides for travel. TEFL is one of the best ways to experience a country, allowing you to immerse yourself in a different culture and spend time exploring your surroundings in a way a holiday could never offer.
But if you’re going to make the most out of travel as a TEFL teacher then there are a few things to consider first. Here are our top 5 tips for TEFL teachers who have the travel bug!
Pay attention to contracts
If travel is a priority for you then you’ll want to pay attention to the terms of any contract you’re offered, specifically hours, working days and holidays. For example, a job at a language school involving split shifts (mornings and evenings) might leave you with little time or energy to spend exploring the local area – many teachers find these shift patterns a killer.
You’ll also want to ensure that your days off are consecutive, which will make it easier to travel further afield. Joel and his partner, Menna, secured a job in China that gave them three consecutive days off a week, enabling them to travel extensively around the country. But even with just two days off you can get away for a couple of nights to explore a different part of the country!
And remember – always read contracts thoroughly and never sign one you’re not happy with. There are, unfortunately, some unscrupulous employers out there that try to exploit newly-qualified TEFL teachers keen to land their first teaching job. Check out our post about TEFL scams and bad employers to get clued up.
Make the most of holidays
Holiday allowances will vary depending on the country and employer. Public schools are more likely to offer more holidays than private language schools, but the trade off is often a lower salary. And don’t just assume paid holidays are included – as we mentioned above, pay attention to contracts!
TEFL Org graduate, Helen, has this great advice for teachers abroad:
“At the beginning of your contract, ask to see a list of all of the public holidays and double-check your contracted holiday allowance. Make a note of this in your diary (essential for a teacher!) or calendar and plan your three-day weekend trips ahead of time.”
It’s also very common for teachers to finish up a contract and spend a month or two travelling before starting another. In certain parts of the world, employers give teachers an end-of-contract bonus, which can set you up nicely for taking an extended holiday!
Consider short contracts
Do you want to experience as many new countries and places as you possibly can? If that’s the case, a year-long contract that ties you to one place might not be what you’re looking for. Consider shorter contracts at language schools for a term, or summer camps for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
It’s important to note that short contracts are more common in some parts of the world than others. In Asia, where there are strict visa processes, you’ll find that most employers are unwilling to consider teachers who aren’t going to be sticking around for a full year. But in other parts of the world, particularly Europe and South America, you can find teaching contracts that last the length of just a term or a semester. Ideal if you’re wanting to spend as much time as possible travelling.
Think about where you’re going
There’s a reason Southeast Asia is so popular with backpackers. Flights from Europe or North America to countries such as Thailand and Vietnam can be pricey, but once you’re there you’ll find that it’s very cheap to hop on flights to neighbouring countries. Frances, who has been teaching in Vietnam since 2016, told us about the “unreal travel experiences on your doorstep” in a previous blog post.
And make sure to consider the infrastructure of a country. Countries like China and Japan have incredible rail networks, which make getting around the country easy and often very affordable. Europe is likewise well-connected by rail networks, making travel within countries, as well as to elsewhere on the continent very accessible. There are various interrail passes available for travelling Europe by train.
Taking up a job in a country or area with poor – or expensive – public transport will limit your opportunities to travel as a TEFL teacher, so bear that in mind when deciding where to go!
Become a digital nomad
If you’re looking for complete freedom to travel whenever you want then a traditional teaching position in a bricks and mortar school might not be the best fit. With the online teaching market booming, you can find a teaching position online and work from anywhere in the world. All you need to work is a laptop and stable internet connection.
Digital nomads might spend a short amount of time in one place, or take advantage of the rising number of digital nomad visas being offered around the world and stay longer. TEFL Org graduate, David, has been travelling the world as a digital nomad since 2016. Teaching English online has allowed him to spend a significant amount of time in countries such as Japan, Mexico and Serbia. Check out his YouTube for travel vlogs as well as lots of helpful tips for aspiring online teachers!
The only question now is: where will you go? Download our FREE Guide to the World and discover 70+ incredible TEFL destinations!