Get Paid to Teach English
If you’re a native English speaker, you may not realize it, but you already have the number one qualification you need for a fun, portable income that can hand you a steady pay check from anywhere in the world.
You’ll be surprised at how far your native language can take you.
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“Can you meet me at Puro Cafe at noon?” asks my husband, Mark. The times and locations of our rendezvous may change, but my response is always the same—yes! Who can say no to meeting for coffee at one of the quaint sidewalk cafes in picturesque Cuenca, Ecuador with its cobblestone streets, majestic churches, and irresistible Old World charm?
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel severals time a year to places like Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico. You might wonder how I became so lucky? Well, seven years ago, I came to Mexico to teach English as a second language. This allowed me to fulfill my dream of living abroad and immerse myself in another culture.
The sun is out and brilliant blue skies with white fluffy clouds—that you can almost touch—overlook my morning jog next to the Yanuncay River. The linear trails, three blocks from our condo, are immaculately groomed with colorful flowerbeds and towering Eucalyptus trees that give off a familiar scent reminiscent of my childhood in California. Along the way fellow joggers greet me with “Buenos Días.”
When our children found their various paths in the world, my wife, Jane Ann, and I watched them launch into their own trajectories in the world with pride…but also with some jealousy for their new adventures. I spent my career in healthcare and financial services, while my wife managed dental practices: staff, patients, and finances. We were well planted in our traditional professions, our community, and our home in Seattle. And we had now become empty nesters.
Martine Rheaume was 52 years old when she left everything behind in Boston to start a new life in Cusco, Peru, as an English teacher with no prior experience. Three years later, she has more friends than ever before, a dream job with more work than she can handle, and a renewed passion for life that only living in Latin America can give you. “I landed in Peru with only ‘mañana’ and ‘gracias,’ but six months later I was speaking Spanish and had an active social life,” she says. Originally from Montreal, Martine has traveled extensively all her life, fueled by her strong interest in ancient history. It was this that ultimately led her to Peru.
“I came to Panama 10 years ago on vacation and never left,” says Carl Conway. “I was drawn in by the sunshine and blue skies…the warm water and sandy beaches…the palm trees and bright flowers…it was a tropical paradise.” Now age 43, Carl enjoys a rich and laidback life in the rural town of Santa Fe in Veraguas Province of central Panama.
After years of trying to find a way to travel and getting nowhere but frustrated, I was struck by inspiration. Maybe, just maybe, I could create a business that paid me to travel. The more I played with that idea (which seemed outrageous at the beginning), the more determined I became. Gradually, it started to happen. I wrote motivational articles and, after a while, invitations to speak at seminars began to come in. That, of course, meant traveling.
White-sand beaches…ancient wonderlands…and cities full of flamenco music and orange trees. Thanks to my ability to teach English, I have seen them all. And it doesn’t matter what age you are when you start. I’ve had colleagues in their 70s. My path as an English teacher has taken me across four continents over the past 15 years. It has allowed me the opportunity to travel extensively—never being tied to one place for longer than the term of a teaching contract—unless I wanted to extend.
It was a day in mid-2012. I woke up to the annoying alarm clock, hastily got ready for my stressful sales job and sat from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the same back-breaking chair, in a dull office. High pay, San Diego sun, the American Dream, right? Wrong! Three years of this monotonous rat race was enough to push me over the edge. I craved a meaningful existence packed with travel and adventure.
In 2012, Dani Leis, quit her job in the non-profit health sector and left Portland, Oregon for Thailand with nothing but a single duffel bag and a dream to start a new life. Her intention was to hit the beach and support herself by teaching. But she obtained her TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certification miles from the coast in the northern city of Chiang Mai and fell in love with the area. “The people here are friendly, kind, and open-hearted,” says Dani, 55. “They enjoy a culture centered on sanuk, meaning to take pleasure in what you are doing.
Stomping my feet as hard as I could, I twirled around in a frenzy, flailing my arms and yelling before coming to a standstill next to the dark haired woman in front of me. “Bien.” She clapped her hands once and then left the room. I smiled as the guitar player and other students picked up water bottles and wiped down their foreheads with small towels. I was in Seville, Spain, and having the time of my life learning to dance flamenco.
Eileen McRae has lived in Spain three times. And during those trips her Spanish has gone from passable…to conversational…to fluent. It has allowed her to play basketball with a local team, visit Spanish friends in their own homes, and pick up a job as a nanny.
Rodney Evans’ tale of wanderlust includes midnight buses through Tijuana, Mexico…traveling around Europe and the Americas, making friends and playing music. Along the way he taught English in Spain and elsewhere. If you like Europe and its history…its romance and culture…then where better to base yourself with a live-anywhere income like teaching English than Spain?
I’m sitting on the patio of the Villa Nova Inn in Cuenca, Ecuador enjoying a few beers. I’m watching the sun go down, looking out over the manicured grassy banks of the Tomebamba river. I can hear the laughter of children in the new Parque de Madre just across the river.
The great part about being an English teacher is that you can do it just about anywhere. When I told people that I was moving to Scotland to teach English, I got confused looks. Didn’t they already speak English?
The bright Andean sun is bursting through the cloud cover and slowly breathing fresh life into this bustling mountainous region. The waitress smiles pleasantly as she pours me sticky, black Peruvian coffee. I pause for a second and savor the aroma before taking a big gulp and wash down the pastry that I’ve just eaten. I’m in Cusco, Peru, the historic and spiritual heart of the Inca Empire and a designated World Heritage Site.
When 52-year-old Michael Druillard first set foot on Panamanian soil, this sunny, Central American country won his heart. It was the perfect country for his needs. Besides the warm climate, it has a stable government, a low cost of living, and varied employment opportunities. Now his life in the warm beach town of Coronado is a world away from shovelling snow in his native Canada.
Stacey Roush is a teacher who left the United States…without ever missing a class. Thanks to technology, she now lives in a low-cost area overseas while still teaching her geography class—online—to students in Pennsylvania. Stacey’s new home is Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia.
With almost perpetually sunny weather, glittering stretches of Mediterranean coastline, and a relaxed, easygoing lifestyle, Spain has long been a favorite playground for Americans on vacation. But plenty of business-savvy Americans are extending that vacation into a way of life, and making a prosperous living here, too. In a country where even the Prime Minister struggles to speak English, locals are only too aware of the need to improve, meaning native speakers can easily find work as English teachers and translators.
As Corey Coates finishes his morning stroll along Jaco beach he can’t help but feel grateful to have such balance and peace in his life. Every day he wakes up with the sun, meditates, enjoys Costa Rica’s superb fruits and coffee for breakfast, then visits the ocean from his beachfront luxury condo. “The satisfaction I feel each day doing what I love is immeasurable. Some days are harder than others, but at the end of the day I’ve done exactly what I want when I want.”
I used to think that teaching English was the only way to survive financially as an expat, but, boy, was I wrong. When I first made the move to the fairytale city of Prague, I jumped right into teaching English, like all the other expats in town. Mostly it involved meeting up in eclectic and bohemian cafés and classic Czech pubs for one-on-one conversation practice and free coffees or beers courtesy of my student, in addition to my payment.
When people ask me what’s so good about Uruguay, I often talk about the various income opportunities, the natural beauty of the land, or the ability to live a simpler and less complicated life. Just a while ago, I was trading notes about life in Uruguay with Karen Michele—a single mother from the U.S. who moved to Punta del Este, Uruguay with her 12-year-old daughter, Etanne.
On a crisp, cool morning I met several Spanish friends next to a golden brick church in Salamanca, Spain. We were on our way to tour a bodega, a local winery, in Castile Leon. After a tour of the facilities, a cozy dining hall with dark-colored wood and long tables bedecked in white linen awaited. This homey room had been set aside just for the group to try more wines not available at the tasting, accompanied by rich, savory Spanish cuisine.
When Carla Willoughby, 40, decided to move from Asheville, North Carolina, to the mountainous Monteverde region of Costa Rica, she needed an income. And she knew that life would be much more comfortable if she were making U.S.-level wages in her new home, where the dollar can stretch further.
People often ask me what I love about travel and the answer, I think, lies in certain memories that stand out more than others. Riding in the back of a pick-up through the Peruvian jungle—a hundred miles from the nearest village—I caught a glimpse of an ancient temple. It wasn’t on any map. The mist dissolved before me and there it was—a palace of crumbling stones, laced with creepers. Howler monkeys cried from the treetops.
Wanted: intrepid explorers…adventurers with a thirst for different cultures…must be willing to taste new and exotic foods…have a deep and friendly smile…age unimportant…you choose your working hours but remember to leave enough time to travel, an instant social life filled to the brim with colorful people who will genuinely try to make your life as easy as possible and you’ll even get paid!
The smell of fresh tamales mingled with whiffs of sweet atole and my stomach grumbled. Throngs of people of all ages were crammed into the dark plaza with lighted brujas (lamps) as the only source of light. Someone came onto the stage: a roadie setting up a mike. An excited murmur moved the crowd.
Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up and wish you could change who you are, where you are, and what you do? I used to have those days too, until I realized I could make all of that happen by cashing in on a skill I already had. A skill that thousands and thousands of people, in nearly every country on the planet, are desperate to acquire, and will pay to learn.
I grew up in a really small town in the northern U.S., where cows probably outnumbered people 1,000 to 1 and I, alone, made up 20% of my graduating class. If it weren’t for having our own postal code, we probably would not have even been considered a town at all—more like a rest stop, maybe.
I’ve been living in paradise for a few years now. I’m just five minutes’ walk from a beautiful, picturesque beach lined with palm trees and seafood restaurants that serve the catch-of-the-day, fresh, every day. And, get this…I only pay $320 a month in rent for a two-bedroom apartment, complete with a second-story terrace where I watch the sun set, as I’m caressed by the cool ocean breeze on most nights.
When Costa Rica got its start as an expat haven more than three decades ago, it was all about retirees. But over the years, the great weather, stable government, and low cost of living have also attracted those too young to retire (or those who never want to). And they’ve found plenty of ways to support themselves—and their families—while living in a tropical paradise.
I used to be like you. Sitting in front of a computer screen dreaming of faraway places…the sun on my face…lazy afternoons exploring forgotten seaside villages…or drifting through market towns in search of exotic indigenous rugs and hammocks to adorn my beautiful, colonial apartment. And then I decided to actually do it! In 2003, I chucked in my day job, bought a ticket to South America, and never looked back.
Three days a week, I take an early morning walk to a park near the beach, not far from my apartment. I sit in the cool morning air and listen to the birds rustle and sing in the trees above the park bench. I like to arrive a little early, before my first client of the day arrives to meet me. This is Latin America, so even though our appointment is at 7.00 a.m., she usually doesn’t arrive until about 7.10 a.m. She is a single mother, working full time and studying for her undergraduate degree. I admire her resolve to make a better life for herself and her children. And, I get to be a part of that.
“Many educators will tell you that schools are not in the business to make money,” says Janice Gallagher, who set up a children’s school in Nicaragua. “I, on the other hand, am a business woman, and there is definitely potential for profit. There will not be profit immediately because you will need time to grow and establish yourself. There are several private schools that do turn a profit after several years.”
There are few places on earth as romantic as Buenos Aires. At night, in the backstreets, couples dance the tango. Old men sit outside the bars, playing the accordion. Sad music that tells of loss, longing, and the complications of love. I’d come to Buenos Aires with two prized possessions: my dog-eared copy of the poems of the blind poet, Jorge Luis Borges, and my folded and torn certificate for teaching English.
A train ticket and a TEFL certificate were all I had when I traveled the 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires to San Carlos de Bariloche. As we rode through the endless flatness of Patagonia—past broken railway sheds and the silhouettes of wind-bent trees on the horizon—I wondered what I was getting into. I had no job. I’d never been this far south. I knew no-one.
My profession has taken me all across the world, experiencing unique journeys…attending world famous events…and meeting fascinating people. And I got paid to do it. I have rung in the New Year at Hogmanay in Edinburgh, danced up a storm at Seville’s April Fair, and was awed by the beauty of Buddha’s birthday celebrations in South Korea. I have ridden camels through the Sahara desert, liberated baby sea turtles in Mexico and swam with sharks in Belize.
Gliding between the jagged peaks of the French Pyrenees in my chairlift seat, I took a deep breath and tried to relax. It wasn’t the soaring height of the peaks that made me nervous, or the prospect of swishing down them on my skis. It wasn’t the weather, either—blue skies stretched from peak to peak. Nope, everything on the slopes was perfect.
The night I arrived in Mexico to start my first English-teaching job…the sky lit up with fireworks! I asked the taxi driver what holiday it was. He responded that it was not a holiday, but likely a birthday of someone in the neighborhood. Mexico likes to celebrate. I decided right then and there, I had come to the right country.
With a 16-hour work week…a month-long winter vacation…a huge number of well-paid jobs …and all the Chinese food you can eat…it’s no wonder so many people of all ages and backgrounds are heading to teach English in China. Demand for teachers is high as China is a world player and millions of college students and adults enroll in English courses to help them get better jobs.
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