My husband, Tim, and I were 44 and 49 when we left Australia with a plan to travel for a year then work for a year. That was in 2010. Six years, and many adventures later, we’re semi-retired and teaching English in Vietnam.
We always knew we wanted to see more of the world so, after a lot of research and having obtained our teaching English qualifications, we packed up our lives and hit the road.
We’ve now been to 130 countries and have no plans to stop anytime soon. We’ve just returned to Vietnam from our latest 12-month adventure (cycling through Scandinavia and Eastern Europe and sailing in the Caribbean). Vietnam has been good to us and has played a big part in helping us achieve our dream lifestyle.
Our first stint here was in 2011. After travelling around Asia for a year, I applied for and obtained a three-month summer school position at a private language school in northern Vietnam. Tim picked up work once we got there by simply asking around.
You need a work permit to teach legally in Vietnam. It’s a bit complicated but our school helps us through the process. Both work permit and visa rules change on a regular basis, so having that support is a bonus. Currently, you need an authenticated degree; an Australian Federal Police check, a medical examination and an ESL teaching qualification. I completed a basic TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course in Brisbane and additional studies online. Tim has the TESOL and a CELTA (Cambridge English Language Teaching in Australia) completed here in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).
When we got back from our latest trip we had jobs waiting for us. Because we’ve done the right thing by our school in the past, we can come back at any time, which means we can really kick back and relax while we’re on the road.
I have two years’ experience, teach about 17 hours a week and earn around $2,000 per month. Tim has slightly less experience and earns around the same for a few more hours. We live well and still manage to save all his salary. Best of all, we’re not spending our savings or income from our Australian investments which are mounting up to finance our next adventure.
We’ve had some amazing experiences over the years, following the Silk Route from Shanghai to Istanbul via Tibet and 10 months “overlanding” in Africa (Think large trucks with a multinational group of people, camping and cooking as a group.), are just a few of our favourites.
The other big bonus for us is the amount of free time we have to pursue personal interests—I’m writing books, building a freelance writing business and running two websites. Tim is busy planning our next trip—a 12-month cycling tour through the U.S., Canada and Cuba.
When we’re not on the road we really enjoy our time in HCMC, where we rent a spacious, modern two-bed apartment for less than $900 per month. It’s fully furnished and air-conditioned and in a quiet, secure neighbourhood, within walking distance from the city centre. The rent also covers Pay TV, WiFi, a cleaner two days a week, a gym and secure motorbike parking.
Eating out in HCMC is cheap. We can easily eat for less than $10 a day if we choose local Vietnamese food. And, if we decide to stay in, over 600 local restaurants deliver to our door, serving any cuisine you can imagine. Australian steaks, Tex-Mex or Afghani. It’s all here.
We like to treat ourselves at least a few times a week. A nice meal in a medium-priced restaurant rarely costs more than $30 for both of us, including a couple of beers each. If we head to the movies, a ticket costs less than $6.
Transport is also very cheap. I rent a decent motorbike for less than $55 per month, and it costs me about $2 a week to run. A taxi across town is rarely more than $6.
Vietnam, especially HCMC, is growing and changing so rapidly. It’s exciting to be here and watch it happen. We’ve found people to be open and welcoming and have made many new friends. A thriving expat community creates plenty of opportunities to socialise.
We’ve been really lucky to have these amazing experiences thanks to teaching English in Vietnam. We’re certainly not missing the 9-to-5 grind!