Teaching Traveling: Do you seek a career that lets you travel the world, but still teach back home? Kobus Mans may have the answer in the form of online teaching.
Kobus, tell us how you landed upon this fascinating location-independent job.
Kobus: I am from South Africa, but moved to Seattle, Washington in 2006 with my wife, Jessica. I have been teaching Web & Mobile Design and Content Management Systems for Lake Washington Institute of Technology for three and a half years.
The last 9 months I have taught solely online and on the road.
Teaching online has given me the freedom to go live wherever I want in the world. Currently I am traveling with my wife and her brother down the Americas. We started in Seattle last October, and aim to be at the southern tip of Argentina sometime early in 2013. After that… well it’s still under debate.
We run a website called LifeRemotely.com as a resource and guide for becoming a digital nomad or a location independent professional. Our site provides information for working while traveling, general travel advice, international freelancing and telecommuting jobs. (My wife also freelances as a graphic designer, and my brother-in-law is a software engineer.)
Together we have worked online through south and east Africa in 2008, Australia in 2010, and Italy and Austria in 2011. These smaller trips were test runs to work out the logistics of traveling and working indefinitely.
Our aim with this trip down the PanAm is to prove that you can work from anywhere in the world. We are all one click away. You do not need to be confined to the same classroom, office or cubicle every single day of your working career.
The hardest thing for me to accomplish for this trip was moving my classes online. It took weeks of rewriting and recording lectures, writing handouts and creating visual how to guides for projects and assignments. The second hardest part was convincing my dean that I could not only teach the classes online, but that I could do it as successfully as in person.
We saved and planned for about two years to afford this trip without working. We call it the back-up plan. But since the trip has started we have consistently earned enough to offset the costs of travel. With luck we’ll be able to travel perpetually!
Every day brings new experiences. To me the most powerful and interesting moment for me was when I met Dave (a.k.a Baja Buda). Baja Buda is a retired Vietnam Veteran who taught me to look at life in a different light: To treat the road and its users with even more respect, and to live to tell the tale. I wrote an article about it at on our website called “This F’ing Road Will Kill Ya.”
As a teacher on the road I have come to appreciate the fine art of preparation and planning. Preparing for a class weeks in advance and making sure that everything lines up perfectly maximizes my student retention and class satisfaction.
As a person, I have learned how to slow down and appreciate a reliable internet connection. To maintain connectivity we use internet dongles that we buy from cellphone providers in each country. We also try and find campsites, hostels or hotels with free internet for our dedicated work days.
My advice for anyone who wants to teach on the road but does not know where to start is this: Figure out what you can offer to take your classes to the next level. What can you create that will convince your students (and your dean) that a virtual classroom is not only equal, but better than a traditional one?
For me the key was to build a curriculum catered to all types of students and learning styles. My lectures are delivered in video and audio format as well as a transcript of the lecture. Assignments are twofold.
First, students have to find unique examples as discussed in the lecture. And second, justify the example by explaining why they believe it meets the criteria. Classroom interaction is simulated by having weekly discussions boards where I reply to almost all posts with additional input and examples.
Students get the valuable participation as they would in a traditional classroom, but they get it in their own time, from wherever they are. For more advice on how to transition your career, visit our website.
Remember, just because you’ve never seen it before and people say it’s impossible, does not mean it cannot be done. It takes ONE outlier to prove them wrong… so be that person.
TT: Thanks for this fascinating advice and inspiration, Kobus! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this online teacher who travels the world?* So far, this article has been read by ... fans. Share it around! *