Last week I wrote about getting off the beaten path when you travel, going to places that most tourists don’t go and doing things that most tourists don’t do. This is, after all, how you really get something out of traveling, and how you really experience something new and foreign.
That being said, getting out there and into the thick of the ‘real’ part of a country is easier said than done. So exactly how is someone supposed to finagle these sorts of adventures?
There are a number of ways, but some are more feasible than others. There are a number of jobs that are common to find abroad, but many of these are either involved in the travel industry (which will keep you very much on the beaten path), or they don’t pay anything, like working on a self sustaining farm (known as wwoofing). However, there are still other options. One of the best, and my personal weapon of choice, is becoming an English teacher.
I taught in a small town in Thailand which was, by all means, very far off the beaten path – about 6 hours by bus off of it. I taught at a primary school, and my students were ages 10-12. I had 800 students, which was a very daunting task at times, but the expectations are not unreasonable (in fact at times I even wished they were higher). Many schools will help you learn the language as well, although I did this the old fashioned way – by just getting out there and mingling with people who don’t speak English.
Although it was not always easy being a teacher, getting to know my students was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and the skills I picked up as a teacher are invaluable. It’s good to remember that this is a job that is not only easy to get – if you have a college degree you’re pretty much in – it’s also an amazing experience, AND looks good on your resume.
Thailand is a very friendly place, and my friends and I were made to feel at home immediately. We got invited to other teachers’ homes for dinners and parties so frequently we had to turn down as many invitations as we accepted. Furthermore, it was almost impossible not to immediately make friends and have a fun time with the locals, which is important because most teachers are older, and this way we were able to make friends our own age. Believe me, sharing beer with ice cubes or whiskey and soda water with a group of people who are just happy to be alive is a liberating experience and can be far more fun than partying it up at a hostel with your cronies.
Many countries, Central and South America in particular, do not have the funds to pay very much, but the areas that don’t have as much money will provide you with the best cultural experiences. If you need to make money while abroad, look into Asian countries. Thailand pays well (about $900/month for your first semester), China, Japan and South Korea pay even more. Certain countries in the middle east pay up to $60,000 per year, including vacation time and they cover your flights to and from your home.
The best way to become an English teacher is to find a TESOL or a TEFL program, which have placements in almost every country the world over. www.teachabroad.com allows you to search for programs in the country you would like to teach in. The site even verifies the programs so that you know they are not scams (the ones that have green check marks have been verified).