Stephen leading a yoga class in Shanghai.

Stephen leading a yoga class in Shanghai.

Teaching Traveling: Did you know you can fund travel by teaching yoga abroad? Teaching and traveling is not just for English instruction!

Let’s hear how one couple makes this work. Stephen, tell us about yourself.

S: Hello, I’m Stephen. I travel full-time with my wife, Jane, and teach yoga around the world.

On our first trip together, way back in 1997, we left our home in Vancouver, Canada to go backpacking around Europe. It was very eye-opening but was also a complete disaster for our relationship. We finished the trip by breaking up and going our separate ways…

A few months later, we reunited in London and decided to stay there for a few months. We ended up living there for 9 years! I worked in the music industry, doing PR and Marketing for bands like Radiohead, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay and some less famous, much cooler ones, too. Jane worked for various companies as a web designer, copy editor and writer.

Once we got tired of all the cold and rain, we moved to LA where we kept working in the same industries. It was in LA that we fell in love with yoga and made the big decision to quit our careers, sell our home, and set out around the world by bicycle.

For two years, we cycled 10,000 miles through 22 countries, teaching yoga along the way. After two years of cycling, we decided to send our bikes home and keep on traveling. We’re still full-time nomads! Find out more about our cycling adventures here.

Stephen ascending a misty mountain pass by bike in China.

Stephen ascending a misty mountain pass by bike in China.

TT: Absolutely incredible! Tell us more about your travels.

S: By far the most interesting travel experience we’ve had was our epic bike trip. Though we had traveled a lot before, there’s nothing that compares to traveling by bike. We love the freedom of getting to set your own pace and your own route. There’s no negotiating with surly bus drivers or sitting for endless hours in airport lounges. Just complete freedom on the road.

On that trip, we cycled from Rome to Russia, across Scandinavia and down to Berlin. Then we flew to Beijing and cycled south from there, spending four months in China, followed by Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and finally ending in Bali, Indonesia.

After that, we realized we never wanted to go back to “normal” life. It was time to figure out how to keep traveling and earning a living on the road.

Taking the slow boat to Taman Negara in Malaysia.

Taking the slow boat to Taman Negara in Malaysia.

TT: Wow. How do you plan your travels?

S: Jane does most of our travel research on Pinterest, which helps us find other travel bloggers who have been to the places we want to go. We love reading travel blogs for their personal spin and the amount of detailed information they provide.

We gave up on Lonely Planet and other guidebooks during our cycling trip because they always seemed to be out of date or not have any information about the offbeat destinations we wanted to visit.

Handstand in front of a famous graffiti wall in Prague.

Handstand in front of a famous graffiti wall in Prague.

TT: Interesting! How do you find the money to fund your extensive travels?

S: When we were working in the corporate world, paying for travel was easy, since we only had a couple of weeks off a year and were earning a relatively huge amount. We funded the first year of our bike trip almost completely with money we got for selling our two cars and all of our belongings. It’s amazing how much money people have tied up in possessions!

Now, we pay for travel through yoga teaching and freelance writing and design. We are working hard to expand our blog, My Five Acres, enough to make more money from that, too.

The view from Velika Planina in Slovenia.

The view from Velika Planina in Slovenia.

TT: Fascinating! Tell us a moment from your travels that was particularly interesting.

S: One night we were staying in a small city in China, called Leizhou. We had nicknamed it “Dogtown” because every single one of the stalls in the night market and every small restaurant was selling dog meat. They all had skinned dogs or dog heads displayed prominently to attract customers!

We’re vegetarian and couldn’t find a single thing to eat. Finally, after two hours of searching, we found a grocery store where, miracle of miracles, they had a fridge filled with mock meat. We were so happy to find food that we were laughing and talking loudly in the store, which was when two teenaged girls approached us.

They shyly said “Hello, how are you!”

This took us by surprise because it was the most English we had heard in months! It turned out that there English was excellent, even though they had learned it in school from their Chinese teacher. They told us that they were so excited to see us because we were the first foreigners they had ever seen!

Stephen doing a little outdoor yoga at Mount Bromo, Indonesia.

Stephen doing a little outdoor yoga at Mount Bromo, Indonesia.

TT: What a story! So, how do you find yoga teaching opportunities when you travel?

S: In the beginning, it was all about online research. I would try to estimate when we would arrive in a city (it’s always tough to schedule when you’re traveling by bike) and then email studios in that city who offered the kind of yoga I teach.

Our bike trip was a major hook, getting people interested in what I had to offer. Also, I usually suggested donation-based class, where students pay as much as they want to. That allowed studios and students to say “yes” to a complete stranger without taking a big financial risk!

Because of our travels, I now have contacts all over the world so it’s much easier to book teaching gigs. These days, the tough part is to figure out how to schedule all my workshops.

I try not to fly to much, which means trying to keep all my dates in a certain country or a certain region close together. So, for example, I’ll spend September and October in Asia and then fly to Europe to teach there during November and December. This also lets me keep blocks of time aside for other adventures!

In small villages, people would often bring their babies to meet the strange foreigners.

In small villages, people would often bring their babies to meet the strange foreigners.

TT: Absolutely brilliant. Now, what advice do you have for yoga teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching yoga?

S: For people who are already yoga teachers who want to travel to teach, my biggest piece of advice is just to start asking. Ask everyone you know in the yoga world if they would let you teach at their studio. Or, decide where you want to go and then find the studios in that location whose style of yoga aligns with yours. You can’t just sit around waiting for someone to invite you to teach! That will never happen.

If you’re a traveller thinking of supplementing your income by learning to teach yoga, be warned that it takes years of hard work before you start to make much money! Don’t expect to graduate from a 200-Hour Teacher Training and then use that to pay for your travels right away. I’ve been teaching yoga for 10 years and working on traveling and teaching for four years and it still only pays about half our bills!

It’s not easy money, but teaching yoga is a great way to connect to people around the world!

TT: Thanks so much, Stephen! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?

Jane takes in the beauty of Mount Bromo, Indonesia after a long, steep climb.

Jane takes in the beauty of Mount Bromo, Indonesia after a long, steep climb.

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Posted by Lillie

Lillie started TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share the infinite ways to combine education and world exploration. Lillie has been a Boston teacher since 2003, and chronicles her own travels at AroundTheWorldL.com.

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