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

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!

How I Paid Off $23,000 Teaching English in South Korea

I paid off $23,000 in student loan debt teaching English in South Korea for two years. Not only that, but I put a nice chunk of money into an emergency fund and savings account too!  I’ll break it down for you here to see how easy it could be for you to do the same.

 

A palace you will see when teaching english in south korea

 

 

My Background

I graduated university with about $40,000 in student loan debt–some from a private lender and some from the US government. During the four years following my graduation I worked really hard in multiple jobs. I was trying to both pay my monthly bills and pay down a bit extra each month on my debt payments.

As an “Urban Studies” major who graduated at the age of 20 (side note: who lets 18 year olds take $40,000 in loans for a random liberal arts degree??), I really had no idea what to do next. I had always believed what I had been told–a college degree would make my life better and more financially stable. Now, I didn’t choose the most logical degree. Even though I loved what I studied and it really opened up my mind–there’s a lot of instrinsic value in that–I just couldn’t afford it. But, lenders told me I could, so I did. My degree was not a financially lucrative one, as anyone could’ve guessed. There was no specific career path for me to take, and so began my four year streak of “a little bit of everything.”

I worked as a caregiver, a nanny, an office cleaner, and a barista and a server in the Alaskan wilderness (more about that here!). I did office work, delivery driving and bartending. Most of the time, I was juggling two to three jobs at once. All of this work was an attempt to cover my bills and pay a little extra each month towards my student loans.

Something needed to change.

Teaching English in South Korea

A series of life events led me to decide to become TEFL certified and apply for EPIK, the government program for teaching English in South Korea. About a year after making that decision, I was on a plane!

After buying my ticket, I only had about $1,000 to my name and about $23,000 in student loan debt. Over the previous four years, I had worked hard enough to pay off $17,000. It had, though, been extremely stressful and I had overworked myself to an extreme degree. And, having a “net worth” of -$21,000 doesn’t exactly feel good.

But all of that changed in Korea. I won’t say the job itself was easy though, especially at first. Nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock, confusion at what my role in the schools I worked in exactly was, or the cockroaches in my government provided apartment (the landlord brought in pest control, but it was a bit horrifying for awhile!). But I am so thankful for my experiences and the financial freedom that teaching English abroad provided me with.

The Numbers

Now, for the fun stuff! At least, as a budgeting nerd, I find it fun!

How Much Can you Make in a Year Teaching English in South Korea?

Pay varies depending on what job you have and where you work. Most native English teachers will make about 2.2 million won per month. I will base the bonuses received on my own. Again, for reference, I worked for EPIK in a provincial office of education from 2016-2018.

  1. Paycheck – Deductions: 2.3 million won/month (approximately 27 million/year)
  2. Entry Allowance: 1.3 million won
  3. Settlement Allowance: .3 million won
  4. Severance Pay: 2.2 million won (equal to one month’s pay – extras)
  5. Exit Allowance OR Renewal Bonus: 1.3 million won (if you renew, you’ll get 1.3 mil at the end of your first contract and .7 at the end of your second)
  6. Pension Refund: 2.5 million won (Pension refund is only available for teachers from the USA, Canada or Australia I believe)

Yearly Total: About 34.5 million won  (~$30,615 USD)

Consider Your Expenses

You won’t be paying rent, vehicle expenses (unless you choose to buy one) or extremely high health care costs like you might be at home if you’re American. These numbers will vary from person to person based on your values. But if you are considering just the necessities along with a bit of fun, this will apply to you. Here are some expenses you can expect to pay while teaching English in South Korea.

  1. Utilities: This includes electricity, gas and maybe an apartment complex maintenance fee. It should be around 50,000 won.
  2. Cell phone: Again, depends on your plan. Plan on about 40,000 won for a month to month plan.
  3. Food: Groceries and eating out combined, I spent about 300,000 won per month on food. If needed, you can definitely go the “rice and beans” route and cut back on this!
  4. Transportation: Getting to work and back by bus costed me about 70,000/month. Add 30,000 won/month for traveling around Korea for a monthly total of 100,000 won.
  5. Fun/Stuff: This can include anything you like to do! Some people are into drinking the night away or going to clubs. Some are into shopping (though I would discourage doing this on a regular basis if you want to pay off debt or save–things seem cheap in Korea but add up SO quickly!), some people are into a hobby, and some people like me are into visiting every cute cafe in every city and drinking all of the coffee. Everyone should make the most of their time in Korea by exploring the country–it’s so easy to get around and there is so much to do! We’ll allot 200,000 won/month for this to be safe.

That brings us to a total of about 700,000 won per month (8.4 million/year), plus maybe an extra 1-2 million won per year for traveling or other expenses. Let’s say you’ll spend 10 million won/year.

Yearly Total: 10 million won (~$8,875 USD)

What’s Left?

The answer is–a lot! About 24.5 million won (or more) per year if you play your cards right. That’s about $21,740 USD! Even if you end up spending more than I’ve allotted for expenses, you should still be doing pretty well.

What can you do with that $20,000 USD? Anything you want! Pay off your debt, save money and travel the world. You can do it all as a result of diligently following your budget.

I worked in Korea for two years and paid off the last couple of thousand I had left with the pension lump sum I received after finishing up my contract. The rest of my savings have been invested, saved or are sitting in my emergency fund for peace of mind.

I can’t recommend teaching English in South Korea enough to any native English speaker with student loan (or other) debt to pay. If you love to travel the world and save money, give it a try! What do you have to lose except your debt?

Girl happy with teaching English in South Korea

 

10 Side Gigs to Help You Save Money for Travel

Finding room in your budget for adventures at home or abroad can be difficult, especially if you’re already working hard to repay your debt. Here are 10 side gigs you can do to help you save money for travel.

1. 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 presently my main source of income as I take time off from having a “real” job. Presently, I’m only working 10-15 hours per week, though I do plan to increase this in the next couple of months to save for my fall/winter travels. While it doesn’t give me the chance to stockpile extra savings, it covers all of my expenses in a month (which has mostly been plane and train tickets since I came back to the US from Korea, oops!) However, there are many people who do this “full time” (20-40+ hours/week) income while they travel or live abroad long term!

You can read more about my experience with teaching English online here. I currently teach for two Chinese companies, 17zuoye and VIPKID, though many similar companies exist. I also teach for Cambly on the side. The flexibility and fun of this job make it the best side gig on this list.


2. Freelance Your Skills

If you have an art, design, tech or other skill to share, you can do freelance work to save money for travel! Maybe you are good with photography and editing software like the Adobe suite. Excellent with social media? Look into social media management for businesses that don’t have the time. Proficient in more than one language? Design a website and course or create a YouTube channel to teach others and eventually earn passive income. That’s easier said than done, of course. But if you put the work into it in the beginning, you’ll likely thank yourself a year from now. If you have any kind of tech skill, you should have no problem finding freelance work. You can promote yourself on websites like fiverr or search for gigs on Upwork.


3. Babysit Some Kiddos

Love hanging out with kids? Post your services in your local newspaper or Facebook group, or create a professional profile on childcare service websites like Care.com or Sittercity. It will be good to gather a few references and become first aid certified to distinguish yourself among caregivers.


4. Sell Your Creations

Are you a creator of physical or digital goods? Sell your work on etsy, or create and promote your own website for it! This is best for someone with a more permanent space, as you’ll need to house your materials and inventory, and have a good shipping system.


5. Transcription

This won’t make you a ton of money, but it can likely cover a few cafe visits in Bangkok or a Sunday brunch in NYC! You might even learn something interesting in the clips you transcribe. Check out Rev, TranscribeMe or Scribie and choose your favorite platform. I like doing this between teaching classes online to make the most of my working hours.


6. Sharing Economy Apps

If you live in a larger city and own a car, this may be the choice for you. Check with Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Food Dudes and others for their vehicle and personal requirements. In some cities, car rental may be available if you don’t have your own.


7. A Good old Food Service Job

Don’t forget about this trusty old trick! You can often get a pretty flexible schedule to work around whatever it is that you’re already doing and make some cash. Bartending, serving, making coffee and delivery driving are all good options. Put your tips in a jar or put your paycheck in a separate savings account meant just for travel. I worked a very part time bartending job for about four months and it paid for my trip to Sri Lanka entirely!


8. Tutor Kids or Adults

If you have a degree in STEM or another subject that’s in high demand in your area and you are good with kids, tutoring during after-school or weekend hours could be a great way to help in your community and earn some extra cash for travel. Many parents are willing to pay good money if you can help their kid become proficient in and even enjoy a difficult subject. Think about advertising on community Facebook groups and set up a basic website outlining your offerings.


9. Sell Your Things (…and don’t buy more)

You probably have a lot of stuff. You probably don’t use all of it. If you have good quality items that are just collecting dust, list them on Facebook marketplace, Craigslist or Ebay. Your space will feel more clear and organized, someone will get some use out of something you aren’t using anymore and as a result, you’ll get some cash for your adventure jar. Feeling a little more old school? Host a garage or yard sale.


10. Start a Blog

Do what I’ve done here and start a blog! It will take a lot of time, passion and dedication…not to mention patience. There won’t be heavy cashflow in the beginning. You may fail the first time around. But, if you are passionate about your subject, the work will flow out of you, and you could be doing as well as this couple in a few years! (Special thanks to Anna and Tom at Adventure In You. I took their basic blogging course and it encouraged me to get started!)

Honorable Mention: Paid Surveys

Surveys are not exactly my cup of tea; however, if you enjoy participating in market research studies, you can make a little change here and there. A lot of survey sites and apps will pay you via PayPal or Amazon gift card. It might take a few months to reach your cash-out point, but if you have a few extra minutes in your day you can use this avenue to save money for travel, too! Check out Google Surveys or iPoll.

 

Happy traveling, loves.