Ever since a family vacation abroad in middle school, I knew I wanted a life of travel. The enticing elixir of entirely new sights, sounds, and ways of life drew me in and has held me tight ever since.
I even went into university as an International Relations major just to ensure a life abroad. As it turns out, you don’t need that degree, or in some places any degree at all, in order to live a life abroad.
I’ve been teaching English abroad for the past six years and it has consistently made my life better. Here’s a breakdown of how it’s done just that for me and so many other expats.
Daily life evolves into a sensory overload as your body takes in the lights, sounds, and smells of your new surroundings. The simple experience of finding a new cafe feels like an adventure as you do your best to communicate in an unfamiliar language, read a menu, and then navigate your way back home. All of a sudden, what was once mundane is now exhilarating.
Once you settle into your life abroad a bit, you have the neighboring countries at your fingertips to explore and do it all over again on weekend getaways or semester long hiatuses. You see ways of life that are very different from what you’ve known, yet seem to work just as well if not better to achieve the same outcomes. Maybe we aren’t so different after all?
Simply put, by leaving what you know, you’re allowed to experience life in a way you haven’t done since you were a toddler discovering the world for the first time. It’s like Life 2.0 just downloaded and now you get to explore all the new features. I can’t recommend it enough.
Making a difference
Soon after I began teaching and working with children I immediately felt like my life had more of a purpose. All of a sudden I had 18 four-year-olds who looked forward to me walking through the classroom door instead of a boss angry that I didn’t make a sale yesterday. I had something to offer that could actually help these kids in the future. It feels good to know that what you’re doing matters, and it’s why many teachers end up staying abroad for so long.
Back home I was making what seemed like a lot of money, but after rent, gas, food, and the occasional night out, I was left with nothing month after month.
In terms of total dollars, I make a little less teaching abroad, but my money goes way further. First off, I don’t need a car to get around, and gas for my motorbike costs me less than $10 a month. A pass for the subway is around $30 for a month of unlimited trips for those who would prefer to avoid the road altogether.
My rent is around $650 a month for a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a kitchen and a private rooftop in the city center. A far cry from the closet I could afford near Washington D.C. for triple that price.
Cooking all your meals is something many people back home do to save some money each month. In many places abroad, the food is so cheap that you can eat out every night for roughly the same price as cooking on your own. So if you don’t want to cook, you don’t have to!
Every month I am able to save a sizable chunk of my paycheck, which allows me to be more relaxed with everything else I do. Stress kills happiness, and not being stressed about money has allowed me to enjoy my life immensely more than when my paycheck had a bigger number on it, but I was still pinching pennies.
You won’t get rich teaching English abroad, but you’d be surprised how comfortable you can live with what you make, especially in certain countries.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of great friends back home, but I often felt like they never shared my passion for exploring the world. Once abroad, I was immediately immersed in a group of likeminded people, including all of my coworkers at school, who all made the same life changing decision as me.
A round of beers with friends like this leads to rich discussions about the world, recommendations on where to go next, and exhibits an overall depth that many of my conversations back home simply lacked.
Since they’ve decided to move halfway around the world, you can also bet they’re down for a spontaneous trip to South Korea or willing to bike around the entire country of Taiwan. Life is more fun with adventurous friends.
Independence and problem solving skills
Whether you move abroad alone, with friends, or your significant other, you will still have to navigate and problem solve your way through situations you could never have prepared for.
I’ve literally been stuck between the borders of Thailand and Malaysia overnight, dropped off by a bus miles from my actual destination in the middle of nowhere, accidentally walked into Laos, and gotten a flat tire while day tripping through the countryside of Thailand. In each one of these situations, there was no Triple A to call and no daddy or mommy to help me out. I had to assess the situation, come up with a plan, and execute it on my own. What choice did I have?
And guess what, it always worked out! The more ridiculous the situation, the more empowered I felt after sorting my way out of it. You’re much more powerful and capable than you know, it just takes these types of situations to bring it out of you.
(To answer your question: I slept on the sidewalk until the Malaysian border opened at 6 a.m., I begged a friendly firefighter to give me a ride to my house in his fire truck, I walked back across the border as quickly as possible and didn’t stop even when someone shouted at me, and walked my motorbike into town then proceeded to ask every person I saw if they could help me fix a tire until someone said yes).
Teaching abroad has improved my life in more ways than I could ever list, but if you’re ready to make a change, do something incredible, and inject excitement back into your life, I invite you to come see for yourself. Start your adventure abroad today with TEFL Adventure!