A Guide to Teaching Online & Traveling

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

Woman sits in front of her computer holding a picture of a smiling face. Behind her is an American and Chinese flag and cut out fish that decorate her online English classroom. e
Teaching English Online Gives you the Freedom to Travel Anywhere you have Access to Wifi!

Traveling and working is something many dream about. Lucky for us, with today's technology, teaching English online is a great way to pursue this lifestyle! For those that enjoy connecting with people from around the world and don't mind waking up early, teaching English online may be just what you are looking for! A trend that is growing in popularity among young adults and just about anyone who yearns to travel and earn an income.

Teaching and traveling can be both liberating and, at times, stressful. You have the flexibility to work from anywhere while also having restrictions regarding where you can realistically stay and work. After months of traveling and teaching online, I’ve compiled a list of helpful tips and tricks for anyone looking to pursue this lifestyle.

Reliable Wifi

Reliable wifi is non-negotiable. No wifi = no work. Many online English companies explicitly state the speeds needed to teach on their platform. Although I must confess I have taught at less than the recommended speeds, knowing the wifi speed before booking a place is essential! This can, unfortunately, cause additional stress as you decide where to travel. Lucky for you information regarding wifi speed is just a google search away.

Check Wifi Speeds before Booking

Before traveling to a new area, my boyfriend and I do a quick search to see which cities and towns have the best wifi. This ultimately dictates where we decide to look for accomodations. When we contact our potential Airbnb host, hostel or hotel we let them know we need stable wifi to work effectively, and our stay is dependent on the provider they have and wifi speeds. Many will happily conduct the speed test and share a photo of the results. We then use this information to decide whether or not we will stay at the place in question. I recommend using speedtest.net to conduct your speed tests. It’ll give you all the necessary information to determine if the speed is right for you!

Invest in a Back-up Hotspot

Of course, internet outages still occur, so it is always good to have a backup! In each country we visit, I purchase a SIM card with at least several GB's of data. In the event of an outage I switch to my hotspot. Another alternative is to invest in a portable wifi hotspot. I do not have personal experience with this but I recommend doing independent research to see what will work best for you and your situation.

Coworking Spaces

If you teach during regular working hours and don’t mind carting around your classroom supplies, you can look into teaching at a coworking space. These spaces exist all of the world and sometimes double as hostels and restaurants. For a fee, you can rent a desk or a room to work. Be sure to check hours of operation before relying on this option as some may not open until after 8 or 9 am. Coworker.com allows you to search for spaces worldwide. Be aware you will most likely be sharing the space with other digital nomads.

I personally have not taught at a coworking space since I teach before 8 am; however, my boyfriend has utilized these spaces for his remote work and has found the wifi very reliable!

Creating a Consistent Schedule

Although traveling means your location and day to day life may change, consistency is key to building relationships with students and getting regular bookings each week. Not to mention a consistent schedule will help keep you sane and on a decent sleep schedule! Booking rates may change depending on the platform you teach with, but in most cases, you will not see much success if your schedule changes dramatically every week. Even when my location varies week to week, I strive to keep a consistent schedule so students can easily book me. Of course, there are certain holidays, events, and travel days when I close my schedule, but these are few and far between.

I also highly suggest beginning your online teaching journey before embarking on your trip. This allows you to become comfortable with the online teaching platform while still in the comfort and familiarity of your home. Teaching before your departure date will enable you to develop a consistent schedule of students and begin to see reoccurring bookings that are sufficient to support your travel lifestyle.

Creating/Finding your Classroom

Online classroom. Laptop rests on a bed surrounded by 2D props of vocabulary flashcards. From the windows near the classroom you can glimpse an image of the Pacific ocean and green foliage.
Classroom setup in Santa Marianita, Ecuador

Although you do not need a ton of space to create your online class, several things are important to keep in mind. You’ll need a quiet area, a place to sit, a place to rest your computer, decent lighting, a clean background if you intend to use a backdrop and an outlet depending on how long your laptop holds a charge. I travel with my partner, and therefore, strive to teach in a separate space from the bedroom so he can sleep in the early morning. Sometimes this means I set my classroom in the bathroom. There have been quite a few weeks where the bathroom toilet acts as my chair, and stacked boxes become my desk. Teaching and traveling require a lot of creativity and ingenuity. Chairs may become your table and the floor your chair; it isn’t always comfortable or glamorous, but in my opinion, it is worth it to be able to financially support yourself working online and traveling.

In some cases, I have no option but to teach in the same space as my sleeping boyfriend. As a result, we have invested in some heavy-duty earplugs and an eye mask. Lucky for me, he is very accommodating, but if you are traveling with other people, be sure to have a conversation with them before leaving. This could quickly become a reality you face at some point during your travels. And let’s be real…no one wants to wake up to a teacher loudly singing, chanting, and being silly with their young students.

Props and Teaching Aids

2D Props

A bright green folder carrying 2D printable teaching tools. A pink fluffy bunny and white board rest beside the folder. On the white board is written "teach and travel, packed and ready to go"
Simple, 2D props make teaching on the go easy!

Many online English companies, especially ones where you are working with children, like to see you use props in the classroom. This means extra weight in your bag, which is not ideal when traveling. Have no fear; it is still possible to be an effective teacher with minimal props! I use a handful of printed pictures that I use over and over in virtually every lesson. Even better, they all lay flat and fit nicely into a folder!

If you are looking for resources to start your journey check out the ESL/EFL Resource page on my site or click here to view my Online Teacher Printable Starter Pack which includes 100 flashcards and 4 reward systems. I also have many FREE resources such as a free pronoun chart, set of flashcards and reward systems. Click here to access them.

3D Items/Props

White board with a image of a girl surrounding by images of food. Above the girls head it says "I eat a...". Teaching tool and supplementary reward for online teaching.
A whiteboard is an invaluable teaching tool.

In addition to my 2D props, my mini white board has proven an invaluable tool. I use the whiteboard to draw images to facilitate comprehension of new vocabulary, write out words to practice spelling, and sometimes use it as a supplementary reward system. Lastly, if you have space in your bag for a small stuffed animal I suggest carrying one. Having a soft and cuddly friend will prove helpful when you teach younger students. Its a useful tool to help get a student's attention, keep them engaged and model sentence frames.

Utilizing Realia/Real Life Objects

Image of fake blue, white and green flowers. A teaching tool to learn the verb "to smell" and colors.
Example of realia to be used in the classroom.

When I arrive at a new location, I make a point to search the rooms for items to use as props during class. I use everyday household objects to help teach verbs, vocabulary, and concepts. Cups or mugs from the cupboard can show the verb “drink” while a postcard can demonstrate the preposition “to” and “from.” Different colored objects around the house can aid in teaching colors. Realia or everyday objects are perfect to use in any ESL or TEFL classroom, especially with older students. They greatly enhance learning and add no extra weight to your bag. Examine your environment and take advantage of the items at your disposal!

No Prop? No Problem! — Use TPR (Total Physical Response)

If you do not have an object, prop, or the drawing skills required to aid you in teaching a concept, you can rely on TPR (total physical response). TPR is acting out words or actions with your body. For example, you can use your arms to demonstrate the action “throw,” “catch,” or contort your body into the different shapes of letters and numbers. TPR is an excellent way to get students moving during class and visually represent what you are teaching without a physical prop. Click here to read the full article on how and why you should be using TPR in language classes.

Electronic Visuals

Welcome to the 21st century where virtually everyone and their grandmother has a cellphone or tablet! While teaching on a laptop you can use your phone to show images or videos that relate to class. The VipKid platform, in particular, has an amazing Facebook group of teachers who've compiled a selection of images and interactive slides that teachers can access from an app and use during class. You can also independently look up pictures before class and slide through them during the lesson to show your students. Electronic visuals are stimulating and perfect for the traveling teacher!

Yes, the unknowns of traveling and teaching online can be overwhelming, but the good greatly outweighs the bad. You have the freedom to work from virtually anywhere. You spend each day with students from all over the world, connecting with people of different cultures and backgrounds, not only during your travels but also in your online classroom. Now, what is better than that? What are you waiting for? Get teaching, get traveling!

If you have additional questions about teaching and traveling or about the platforms I teach with please comment below or send me a private message! I am more than happy to answer your questions.

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