Teaching Traveling: Want a way to live for free in Spain or Germany (food and housing covered!) for a week or more through short-term teaching? Check out this tip from teacher, Abbey Algiers! Abbey, tell us about your background.
Abbey: I’m an ESL teacher and freelance writer who has been obsessed with Spain since the fourth grade. At that time, my older brother was studying abroad in Madrid. My parents took me with them for a trip to visit him, and from the moment I started to explore the city, something clicked inside me. I felt like I was home, in an odd past life kind of way.
Now, as a 10 year old, I probably didn’t feel it was past life or anything, but I was completely comfortable and in love with the country. I specifically remember being fascinated with the number of shoe stores on one street. How was this even possible? That had to be part of the appeal as well.
After that trip, I took Spanish in summer school, and never stopped learning about the language and country, and I continued to look for ways to visit again.
In spring of 2012, a fellow teacher and I were looking for affordable ways to travel to Spain for our summer break. On a whim, I discovered a volunteer program called Diverbo: “Pueblo Inglés” that offers an 8 day stay in Spain for free in exchange for English instruction.
It was the answer to my prayers of “how can I travel to Spain economically while still enjoying the people and culture?” All I had to do was get to Spain… after that, my expenses were covered for 8 days. My friend and I went, and had the time of our lives. Our group consisted of 25 Spaniards and 25 Anglos (English speakers). On that trip, I made lifelong friends who I now visit each summer.
This past summer, I participated in another program offered by Diverbo: Pueblo Español. This program is an intensive 8 day immersion in Spanish. While it is not free, it is an experience of a lifetime, and a chance for any Spanish teachers (or those needing to use Spanish) to really fine-tune the language, and learn about the Spanish culture. Plus, if necessary for a teaching job, it could be tax-deductible.
My time at Pueblo Español was another game-changer. It really recharged my spirit and my zest for the Spanish language and learning about other cultures and people. Plus, since it was a total immersion (and I mean 100%), it gave me an idea of how my ESL students feel when they come to the US.
TT: Wow! Tell us more about Pueblo Inglés!
A: I’m sorry to be a broken record about Pueblo Inglés, but it was such a life-changing event, that I must tell you more. Basically, the program takes an equal number of volunteer Anglos (i.e. English speakers from all over the world) and Spaniards, and places them in a venue for 8 days. These venues are all over Spain, plus there’s one program in Germany for Germans learning English.
During the 8 days, only English is allowed, thus offering the Spaniards/Germans a chance to be immersed in the English language compliments of their English volunteers.
When I signed up for the program, I thought, “Cool — a chance to spend 8 days in Spain for free.” This was true: I got a free vacation, in a great venue with great Spanish food. But I also made lifelong friends. Since my first visit in 2012, I’ve kept in touch with my Spaniard friends.
I visit a number of them each summer when I return to Spain, and one of my Spanish friends and her husband visited my husband and I in our Milwaukee home. The next summer, we traveled with them in Spain. They are truly lifelong friends that I met only because of Pueblo Inglés. My trip to Pueblo Inglés opened my world to so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t taken the chance and tried the program.
TT: I am so intrigued by this program. In general, how do you find your travel opportunities?
A: I Google opportunities all the time, focusing on my interests in teaching and out of teaching as a means to find fun programs. This has taken me to a language school in Granada, Spain, where part of the program had yoga classes as well.
My philosophy is that if you have an interest in something, there’s a way to do it away from home, and for a great price. Anything is possible, and by investigating dreams and ideas, we discover new places and new friends. There are tons of volunteer opportunities available for teachers to investigate, home exchanges, and other ways to combine learning with travel (thus offering a tax break in some cases).
TT: How did you find the money to fund your travel?
A: I do freelance writing to fund my travels, and look for opportunities to barter (travel writing in exchange for participation in programs or staying at various places). I also look for volunteer opportunities, and ways to make the most of a trip.
For example, if I just get myself to say Madrid what are all of the activities I could do while I’m there, both paid and for free? Cities have tons of free activities for travelers… it just takes a bit of research and being open to whatever comes up while traveling. For example, a trip to Rome meant a free Billy Joel concert, outside the Colosseum! I heard about the event while getting my morning cappuccino!
TT: WOW! Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
A: Even though I’m married, I usually go alone to Spain each summer. This is especially troubling to my parents, who ask, “What does your husband do while you’re gone?” The truth is, thanks to technology, it’s so easy to keep in touch with anyone back at home. While it’s not the same, FaceTime allows for daily conversations in a variety of situations.
For example, this summer I found myself lost in the woods while running. I had taken a wrong trail and was freaking out. I shared my location via Google Maps with my husband, and then Face-Timed him (even though it was 2 am his time). He was able to guide me out of the woods and to my nearby village. Technology keeps home close by when you need it while traveling!
TT: So interesting! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and how have your travels impacted you as a person?
A: My Spanish immersion experience this summer really gave me an insight of what my ESL students feel when they come to the US with limited English. My head hurt after speaking Spanish all day, and I felt a culture shock of sorts. I also felt how nice it was to have patient, supportive Spaniards to help me as I struggled with some of the conversations. This gave me a new appreciation of what my students may be feeling, and inspires me to help them more!
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
A: My advice to anyone wanting to travel is to write down your top five “dream trips.” Then pick one at a time… Google like crazy. There’s a way to make travel happen, no matter what your budget is. Also, be open to trips you might not have considered before. Amazing things happen when you open yourself up to new possibilities! Go for it!
TT: Thanks so much, Abbey! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?