A Small bit of Memoir: Gift

[From July 2019, in South Korea]

Everything is a gift.
Even the cockroaches are a gift.
How else would I have cleared out the extra plastic bags under my sink,
how else would I have scrubbed behind my refrigerator,
how else would I have sorted through every single thing in my kitchen to determine whether or not I really needed it in there in the first place?
They scurried around when I turned on the light
And I know that’s not something that you want to hear.
I know it’s not pretty, it certainly is not beautiful to me when I walk into my kitchen,
a little hungry,
a little tired after work
and find one medium sized cockroach flying across my countertop back into its hole in the wall where there may be an entire colony just living their lives,
and enjoying the literal breadcrumbs of my existence in this space. 

But the theme of my life right now is creating space… Getting rid of the old things which do not serve me, maybe they have never served me. I’ve given my energy to so many meaningless things over the course of my 28 years on this planet and so many of those things were not mine to begin with. They were meant for someone else. 

They were maybe meant for my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother before me and maybe…they were meant for none of us. 

And I can see now, these years I thought I had space for all around me, I thought that I kept my bubble pretty clear. But I can see now, these years I thought I had space all around me, I thought that I kept my aura free of debris…the truth was that I was full of clutter. 

I’ve called myself a minimalist, I’ve claimed to have lived a simple life, I’ve even been known to count my physical possessions out of pure curiosity followed by a slight purge just so I could reduce the number of things a little bit more to soothe my minimalist ego. 

Even if I never told anyone, and even if no one was going to find out, I held my little pride in my heart space like a nugget of gold. Somehow the physical possessions that I owned, or the lack thereof, defined me in some sort of way and I felt that yes, I had space.

Something of a reckoning hit me, maybe a month or two ago, maybe it started as a seed planted longer before. I’m not sure. What it grew into was the knowledge of the baggage. (Autocorrect changed “baggage” to “baguettes” just now and I had a little laugh to myself. Joy is in the small things, no? Moving on…) The reckoning when something like this… I realized that there was only me. It’s only hit me that nobody was coming to save me, nobody was coming to change my life for me, no one was coming in to take the bitterness and confusion and pride out of my heart before me. It was up to me, and it was not going to be pretty, but it was going to be worth it all. 

So, I guess this is my life update now. Now I live in South Korea, once again. I spend my days teaching English to actual children and I spend most of my nights teaching love, discipline and gentleness to my internal child…who, it turns out is still in there and mostly just wanted me to notice her again. And give her a hug.

My kitchen is disturbingly clean as I am now slightly obsessed with keeping it that way. And yes, there are cockroaches in there. I don’t plan to keep it that way but here we are. Denial isn’t going to help anything. Action, as in clearing more and more space in the kitchen will help and over time (I silently pray) the little pests will be gone forever. But for now, I take a few deep breaths and enter the kitchen, turn the lights on and greet my small ugly roommates. Whether I can see them or not, they are with me. 

Even the cockroaches
are a gift. 

prisms

a memory.

 

a vision
sheets of glass fall swiftly
onto
concrete

sheets of linen
sway gently
in the summer
breeze

often
i am taken back to a time
when the leaves fell from the trees
and
i didn’t know
what bittersweet tasted like

seeing
clearly through wide eyes
as if for the first time
like a floating soul
above the constraints of time
and over
my body

now
windows
left open
and the musty cabin
is filled
with a freshness
it has never known
before

the summer rain fell
and the fine dishes
gathered dust
and the
mirror rusted
and the
ivy grew
outside

and the vision
the broken glass
still on the ground
refracts the sunlight
and makes colorful prisms
dance
where there once was
nothing

Teach and Travel with VIPKid

So, you want to teach and travel the world…

I wrote a post awhile back introducing you to my love for teaching English online. Now that I’ve done my first (brief) stint in Southeast Asia, I thought I’d give you a little heads up about how it all works to teach and travel. It seems like the dream, right? Travel around the world, work a little bit here and there, and never worry about money! Well, it truly is great, but there’s more to consider than that.

If you don’t already know, I teach for VIPKid and absolutely love it. I used to work for another company, but now solely work for VIPKid (and like it much better!) It has allowed me to roam around the US for 6 months, and come back to wander around Asia for almost 2 months without watching my savings account dwindle.

Requirements for being a VIPKid Teacher

 
 
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fisher twins // unsplash
 
 
 

First of all, you’ll need to be hired if you aren’t already (obviously). Make sure you fit the requirements. As of late 2018, these are the requirements straight from the VIPKid website:

 
 

– Eligibility to work in the US or Canada (sorry, California residents are now excluded)
– Bachelor’s degree in any field
– 1 school year of traditional teaching experience or the equivalent in mentoring, tutoring, or alternative education

 
 

You can be creative with that last one! ANY kind of work with kids, provided it has been a year or longer, can be translated into “teaching experience.” Maybe you were a volunteer tutor, art or dance teacher, or worked at a daycare. If you’ve worked with kids before and loved it, you will enjoy this job too!

 
 

You’ll also obviously need a computer (right now the platform is compatible with a Desktop, Laptop, MAC, or Surface. You’ll also need a camera (your built-in is fine!) and a headset (I use earbuds with a mic as I find them more comfortable–big head problems).

 
 

How to teach and travel

 
 

Internet speeds, internet speeds, internet speeds. This is the most important part of choosing a place to stay when you are preparing to teach and travel. You’ll need to find a quiet place to teach too, so cheap hostels are out. This is the most difficult part of teaching and traveling. You have to message your host on AirBnb, Booking or wherever you choose to book to have them send you a screenshot of their download and upload speeds. It should look something like this:

 
 
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These speeds are perfectly acceptable for teaching, although a higher download speed wouldn’t hurt. 
 
 
 

You might think that it’s too expensive to rent an Airbnb while traveling, but you can pretty easily earn your money back for a week’s stay in a day or a few. You can usually arrange a discount with your host, too, if you stay a month or longer.

 
 
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spend the morning lounging at the ocean and a few hours in the evening teaching cute kiddos! #vipkidlife
toa heftiba // unsplash
 
 
 

How much can I make?

 
 
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$$ with vipkid, you’ll always be paid in usd $$
 
 
 

Everyone wants to know how much money you can make while they teach and travel. It greatly depends on 2 things: 1) bookings and 2) how many classes you teach.

 
 

Peak hours are 7-9pm Beijing time and all morning on weekends, and when I open those hours they are typically fully booked. Most teachers start at $8/class, but a $1/class bonus for just showing up on time and not having IT issues. If you teach more than 40 classes in a month there is an additional $1/class bonus. Sometimes VIPKid also runs incentives where you can earn bonuses for opening a certain number of classes in a given time period.

 
 

All of that being said, I will tell you that I am super casual about teaching, and I don’t usually teach on weekends. I have a full-time job contract starting up again in Korea so I’m just not that worried about saving a ton of money at the moment. You could say I’m kind of on a “mini-retirement.” 😉 For the sake of example, let’s say you teach all the peak hours during the week. 

Peak hours during the week: 20 classes x $8/class base pay = $160
Participation Bonus: 20 classes x $1/class bonus = $20
40+ Classes/Month Bonus: 20 classes x $1/class bonus = $20
Total pay: $200/week x 4 weeks = $800

 
 

That’s $800/month for just working 10 hours a week. Sure, you’ll need to consider taxes (If you decide to stay abroad for 11/12 months of the year and you’re American you’ll qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion though! My amazing friend Jerrica of Jerrica from America is doing just this!). But if you’ve ever been to Thailand or Vietnam, you’ll know $800 is more than enough to live on in a month. And, by all means, teach more if you want to earn more. Teach less if you don’t need it and just want to relax. You’ve got the power, baby.

 
 
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alesia kazantceva // unsplash
 
 
 

How to find a place to stay

 
 

Most people I know use a word-of-mouth referral from another VIPKid teacher, or find places on Airbnb directly and message the host about internet speeds.  It’s also good to have a sim card plan that can be used as backup should the wifi cut out for a time.

 
 

Several teach and travel Facebook groups exist with recommendations of places to stay by fellow teachers who can vouch for the reliability of the internet connection. I like this one.

 
 

Meet all the requirements and want to apply?

 
 

I’m here for you. If you apply through my link or use my referral code (AMAND0639) and shoot me an email, facebook message or comment here with your email address, I’ll gladly send over the feedback I received during my interview (I was hired immediately after the first interview so I think it can be useful for you!) I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have that aren’t covered in this post.  For transparency’s sake, I do get a referral bonus if you use my link. I’d appreciate the support if you’ve read this far! 🙂

 
 
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nabilah saleh // unsplash
 
 
 

Thanks for reading, beautiful people! 

 
 
Amanda

Our Beliefs About Money & Why They Are Holding Us Back

Our beliefs about money change everything about the way we handle it.

Most of us have deeply ingrained beliefs about money whether we are consciously aware of it or not. We may have inherited these ideas from our family, the media, our religion or our culture. Because many people around us may share similar beliefs it may be extremely difficult to pull our beliefs about money apart from our societal conditioning about who we are in totality.

What are you even talking about, Amanda?

Depending on your background, you may identify with one of the following blockages. These examples are either from my own former beliefs about money, or from my friends’.

  1. Money is bad. Wealth will make me a bad person. “Rich” people are bad. If I earn, save, invest and spend money I will become bad. (We even have an idiom for this: “Money is the root of all evil.” This is actually a misquoted and misunderstood verse of the bible.)
  2. Money is the ultimate goal in life. I can’t be happy unless I earn $X. My life is difficult because I haven’t earned enough money yet.
  3. I can only make money through struggle and difficulty. It is impossible to enjoy a high paying job. I have to choose between my own happiness and earning money.  Rich or happy, choose one.
  4. When I have money saved, something bad will happen and I will need to pay for it. Therefore, it’s better to spend my money and enjoy it right away before I lose it.
  5. I am simply not good with money. It is too difficult to understand most financial concepts so I stay away from learning about finance altogether.

These might sound a little silly when you read them, but these sorts of ideas hidden inside of us can seriously impact our ability to handle paying off our debt and saving for travel or for the future.

SO…I have messed up ingrained beliefs about money. What can I do about it if I can’t even figure out what my beliefs are?

You NEED to identify these beliefs. I know, that’s easier said than done. There are a number of ways to uncover what we really think about money, but honestly, it might not be pretty. Chances are, it is going to take a lot of hard work and often times we need to be guided through the process by someone who has been through it or even by a professional. Some of our beliefs about money are tied to painful times in our lives and when we uncover them, we often are digging up shallow graves we’ve long tried to forget about.

A great first step is just getting into some quiet time for yourself. Get out a pen and paper and fill in the blanks. Write whatever comes to mind without holding yourself back.

  1. When I think about earning money, I feel ________________________.
  2.  When I think about the way my parents handled money, what comes to mind?
  3. Money is ______________________________.

These three questions can serve as a great starting point, but if you want to really delve into this, I suggest reading the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, checking out this workshop by To Be Magnetic if you want to get spiritual, or talking with a licensed therapist online or locally. Even writing about how you feel when you watch this video can be helpful.

Identifying blockages when it comes to your finances can set you free to pay off your debts, save money for emergencies and for the future, and travel the world more freely.

This blog post only contains a sliver of a glimpse inside the complexities of our beliefs about money. I’m not going to play psychologist here, but I am certain of one thing: when we identify our harmful beliefs about money and begin to work through them, we can find ourselves propelled into debt freedom so much sooner. Please don’t judge yourself during this process. You are not alone! Trust me. I could write a book on this subject.

Let me know in the comments if you found this helpful. If you feel comfortable, go ahead and share some of the yucky beliefs about money you found within yourself. You are totally welcome to use the comments section on my blog as the landfill for the beliefs about money you need to trash.

Sending love. May we all be FREE!

xo Amanda

Teach English Online!

Can you speak English at a native level? Then you can teach English online!

An excellent way for English speakers to save money for travel–or to make money while you travel–is teaching online!  This is my main source of income as I take time off from having a “real” job. Presently, I teach English online about 10-15 hours per week. Because I’m mainly surfing couches and staying with family at the time being, this is more than enough to cover my basic monthly expenses so I don’t need to dip into the money I saved while teaching English in Korea.  However, there are many people who do this “full time” (20-40+ hours/week)to earn income while they travel or live abroad long term!

Why is there such a demand for online English teachers?

In China, competition for getting into the best universities and eventually landing good jobs is intense. Because of this, a lot of Chinese parents choose to enroll their children in extra classes to help their child get ahead. Traditionally, this meant that students would go to a physical academy after school for various subjects. Thanks to modern technology, however, these students can connect directly with a native English speaker from the comfort of their own homes.

These students face a tremendous amount of pressure in their lives from a young age when it comes to their academics. Teaching English online gives you a great opportunity to connect with these students. Not only can you teach them correct grammar and pronunciation, but you can help them have fun and let loose a bit while they learn.

Where can I find a job teaching English online?

I currently teach for two Chinese companies, VIPKID and 17zuoye, though many similar companies do exist. While the application process with VIPKID can be tedious, it is the best company to get started with. They have excellent training, and there are a ton of VIPKID teachers due to the size of the company. Because of this, you can find an answer to most questions with a simple Google search. Several Facebook groups specific to VIPKID  also exist.

I also teach for Cambly on the side, which isn’t a Chinese company and focuses on free-talk sessions with students from all over the world. This might be a better fit for you if you prefer teaching adults. Although the pay is significantly lower, you can choose to log in whenever you want. You’re also guaranteed 15 minutes of pay for every Priority Hour you sign up for. You never know who you’re going to end up talking to and it can be a lot of fun!

To find more information on other companies out there, you can visit the OETjobs website or Dave’s ESL Cafe International Job Board.

The flexibility and fun make teaching English online the best way to earn extra money. The cuteness of the kiddos makes you forget you’re even trying to pay off debt in the first place!

 

What Do You Need to Get Started?

You likely already have a laptop or desktop computer, but if not here are two that come highly recommended. You’ll also need a good headset or a solid pair of earbuds. You can find some props around your house to start out



Teaching English online isn’t the right fit for you?

Check out these other side gigs you can do from home to earn a bit more money to pay your debts and travel the world.

Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting in South Korea

If you’ve landed a job teaching English in South Korea, congratulations! It can be a confusing process–you’ve passed the first hurdle. You may not be thinking of you finances just yet, but it is always good to have a plan! You will need a budget if you want to make the best of this situation financially. Because a lot of your expenses are covered, you may think budgeting is unnecessary. But with so much potential to pay off debt or save money, it’s good to have a general idea of where you want that extra cashflow to go. Follow my guide to budgeting in South Korea and tweak it to meet your own personal needs!

Everyone’s job will have a slightly different pay scale. For the sake of averages, I will say that you are starting with a 2.2 million won budget.  If you happen to make more than this, congratulations! You can follow my budget plan and put the remaining money into various categories depending on your needs. I recommend adding anything extra to debt payments first, then an emergency fund, then investments. It’s easier than you think to save over 50% of your income while in Korea.

Something that’s important to remember when making your budget in Korea is that you should always pay yourself first. What does that mean? It means you should put your budgeted amount of money “away.” This will look different for everyone, but for everyone it means that you cannot easily touch or spend this money. Do not leave this money in your normal checking account. Depending on your situation, this could mean putting aside 1 million won, paying 200,000 into your savings account and 800,000 towards your debt. Maybe you already have a solid emergency fund and you want to put the whole 1 million towards your debt.

You will, of course, be able to include fun in your budget. Part of the reason you went to teach abroad in the first place was because you wanted to enjoy a new culture, experience a new country and travel to surrounding countries. You should definitely allot a certain amount of money per month for these kinds of expenses because if you travel all the way to South Korea to sit in your apartment for one year spending no money, having no fun, and never experiencing the culture around you–you’re definitely missing out on something important! It’s the kind of investment that isn’t monetary.

Kimbap! Cheap, delicious and filling.

 

That being said, I was able to pay off $23,000 in debt, save about $6,000 and travel to 8 countries. I also traveled all around South Korea and regularly did fun things in my city with friends. I went out, had drinks, ate all the food and visited almost every province. If I can do it you can do it too!

Because in most cases you’re not legally allowed to have a side income while you’re working in Korea, you’ll have to rely on one source of income when making your budget. This makes it pretty simple and straightforward. I’ve created a sample budget below. Keep in mind that I’ve simplified everything for the sake of example. This would have been one of my more extreme months when I lived on only about 500,000 won. Your numbers will look different than mine because you’ll have different goals and interests.

 

How to Find Free Accommodation While Traveling

So, you’re going on vacation.

You have a little debt left or you’ve just finished paying it off, and you score a super cheap flight to that place you’ve always wanted to go. Great! But the flight price isn’t the only thing you have to consider, of course. Nightly accommodation prices add up quickly and I find that (along with transportation) they can be one of the most expensive parts of traveling. I’ve compiled a list of the best ways to find free accommodation while traveling. Drop a comment if you have any other ideas!

 

 

Where to Look for Free Accommodation:

  1. Couchsurfing: Couchsurfing is a website and an app that allows you to find free accommodation with locals. You can send out messages to individuals or make an announcement that you’ll be in a certain city at a certain time. Some people may be concerned with the safety of this; however, if you know what to look for you’ll have some of your best travel memories with fellow Couchsurfers. Some of my favorite times in Europe were spent with Coushsurfing friends! I recommend going through the list of hosts to find someone with good references and a well thought-out profile. Send a message and get a feel for the person. If someone’s profile is blank and they have no reviews, then pass on them! As a solo female traveler, I typically only reach out to other females. Common sense and following your intuition are your best friends.
  2. Couchsurfing, the old school way: What better way to find free accommodation then by staying with someone you already know or have a connection to? The world is getting smaller every day, so it is likely that a friend of a friend or your sister’s coworker’s cousin lives in the city you’d like to visit. In this type of situation, you definitely don’t want to overstay your welcome. As with Couchsurfing (the website) I think two to three days is a decently non-awkward amount of time. If the host offers for you to stay longer and you feel good about it, treat them to a nice dinner or a gift to thank them for their generosity.
  3.  Housesitting: Several websites exist to connect homeowners going on vacation with housesitters. Oftentimes, these homeowners have pets that need care or maintenance work that needs tending to, so they will offer free accommodation in exchange for a set of agreed-upon duties. You will likely need references and/or a background check, as people don’t want just any random human in their home. The housesitting platforms charge a fee to become a member of (to weed out creeps, presumably). Check out Trusted House Sitters, Mind My House, or House Sitters America. Other websites exist, but these ones seem to be among the most popular.
  4. Free campsites: If you are traveling around the US by car and have a tent and sleeping bag, you may want to check out these free campsites! Note…Always check your surroundings and make sure you feel safe and make sure there are no signs prohibiting camping. These listings may be old and you don’t want to be woken up by the police in a random place!
  5. Volunteer exchange: There are a number of websites that help connect volunteers with organizations or individuals who need them. You can find work on organic farms, volunteer at a hostel, teach English to a family’s children or provide a number of other services. In exchange, you will get free accommodation and in some cases even free meals. Also, you’ll typically get at least 2 days off a week to explore the area! These opportunities are available around the world.
    Check out WWOOF, HelpX, Workaway or Hippohelp, among others.
  6. Make use of referral bonuses: Some booking websites offer a referral bonus when you invite a friend to the platform and they make a booking. This can work out really well if you are staying with a friend or a group of friends. For example, on booking.com you can invite your friend, your friend can make the booking, and then after your stay you’ll both get $25! In some countries that’s a couple nights of free accommodation! Airbnb offers a referral bonus as well. (Note: if you are using airbnb, check local laws to assure airbnb is legal where you’re going.)
    If you haven’t used booking or airbnb before, please feel free to use my referral codes. You and I both get a discount if you do. Booking.com Airbnb.com

Let me know if you have other ideas or if you’ve tried any of these options in the comments below!

With a little searching, you can cut the costs of your travels with these free accommodation options. Happy travels everyone!