Teach English in Japan: From Jobless Solo Traveler to Freelancing Whiz

I admit that my freelance career in Japan did not start the conventional way. In fact, it only kicked off when I met the man who would eventually become my husband.

I had left my nine-to-five job in Toronto and was traveling solo throughout Southeast Asia. At the time, I was living off my savings. However, when I met my husband to be, my plan took a turn.

After three years of touring South and Southeast Asia together, detoxing from our busy lives, exploring, and practicing yoga and meditation, we got married in a private ceremony on a Thai island, and made the move to Japan, where I’d dreamed of living for so long.

It was very important to us to find work that would enable us to travel, both within the country and abroad, so I knew that finding a job teaching English in the classroom was not for me. Luckily, I found work as an online English instructor and proofreader, and while I work as a freelancer, most of my income comes from one company.

I love that I can make my own hours, be responsible for how much money I earn, and that I can work from anywhere. I also love interacting with so many clients through this work, often in the form of pen pal-style communication. I’m learning so much about the Japanese way of life from my students, who have also become my teachers.

When I say that I can work from anywhere, “anywhere” is often a café, or even my home, which was already quite exotic for me at the beginning. Our first apartment was in the heart of the city of Nagoya, where we had access to all kinds of great food and culture. I’m a morning person, so I often get most of my day’s work done well before noon and then later in the evening, and have most of the day to explore the amazing nature that can be found not far from any of Japan’s main cities. It’s a country of tiny hubs, teeming with culture, old and new, and surrounded by mountains, ocean, and sea.

More recently, we’ve relocated to the countryside, and I can’t get enough of looking out the window just above my desk at a mountain full of bamboo and a trickling stream below. The view and peace and quiet also nourishes my creative mind.

Since I’ve been in Japan, I’ve flourished in another kind of freelance work: writing. I’ve published three poetry books—one traditionally published and two self-published—co-edited two poetry anthologies with friends I met in a writers’ group online; proofread and copy-edited poetry books for Japanese and American clients, and wrote columns for two online magazines focused on spirituality and wellness. All this from my trusty little laptop, which has allowed me to financially thrive and form connections all over the world beyond my wildest dreams.

Best of all, for this travel lover, we’ve been able to spend time nearly each year either visiting my home country of Canada or traveling to Laos and Thailand, where we continue to practice yoga. This helps sustain our peace of mind in the more fast-paced atmosphere of Japan.

We are truly lucky to be living in an era when we can be both productive and fulfilled without having to spend hours in long commutes or tied to one specific location. Being in an international marriage, and devoted to a life of teaching and spiritual pursuits, I love having a job that grounds me but allows me to explore the world and different cultures.

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