Teaching English While Backpacking

teaching english children in Uganda

How to Help Children and Travel Forever

If you speak English, you can pretty much travel forever! Teaching English while backpacking is one of the most popular options for long-term travelers who are looking to earn funds and reside outside of their home countries.

You don’t even have to be a native speaker. English does not even have to be your first language in order to start teaching English, and no, you do not have to speak the local language where you want to teach! You will learn some of the local language once you get there, but being bilingual is never a requirement.

Most schools want to submerge their students in English. Many even just want your Western presence in their schools. Everyone knows Westerners are expensive — so you may actually be flaunted as an asset for the school!

Note: Teaching online is very popular now days, especially in places such as Chiang Mai in Thailand, but this article is referring to actually working in schools.

How Much Does Teaching English Pay?

That depends on the country and your qualifications.

Travelers with university degrees are given preference — always. But not having a degree isn’t necessarily a show stopper, especially if you earned some sort of TEFL/ESL certificate. If you have a teaching, child development, or linguistics degree, you’re gold!

Some schools in developing countries only offer room and board to travelers who want to teach English. You’ll only be expected to teach a few hours each day. This is a good arrangement for taking some pressure off of your travel savings, however, you won’t be earning any money, either. The good news is that in these roles, travelers aren’t expected to sign a contract with the school.

On the other end of the spectrum, schools in East Asian countries such as Korea and Japan are willing to pay great salaries — sometimes upwards of US $60,000 a year! The tradeoffs are dealing with a higher cost of living, and you’ll be expected to commit for at least a year, usually. The school has to spend money to arrange your work permits; they want to know you aren’t going to get bored and bail to travel some more after a few months.

These are “real” teaching jobs, but they’ll allow you to save money while working and experiencing a foreign culture.

Fun fact: Travel writer Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding, began his career as an English teacher in Korea.

How to Travel Forever!

Teaching English is not for everyone, but if you enjoy the challenge of getting others excited in the classroom, this is the perfect travel gig for you.

You may be expected to manage a room of noisy kids…or you may find tutoring gigs.

Even if you have no teaching experience, you can still probably find work. Getting your TESOL/TEFL certification helps bring credibility and gives you an edge over other travelers. Just have a look at some of the available teaching jobs in other countries.

You can even take the short TEFL certification course online — doing so opens up your options later once you are on the road and increases the chance you’ll score a gig. You will probably never make it rich by teaching English, but it can extend your travels infinitely! Ask Rolf Potts.

You can decide to volunteer your time just to live somewhere warm and beautiful with a new culture, or you can take a paying job. Either way, by living and working in a country, you will gain an insight into the life and culture that most travelers never get to see. Traveling through a place is one thing, but actually stopping and living/working gives a much deeper understanding.

Teaching English is without a doubt the surest way to get funds while on the road. Even if you do not intend to make teaching a career, the leadership experience looks great on future resumes. Not only that, but the personal experiences you gain by teaching and interacting with locals will last a lifetime.

You can greatly increase your chances of teaching English abroad by getting your TEFL certification online in advance.