Teaching Traveling: A common question for Teacher-Travelers is, “Can I earn enough as an international school teacher to take time off to travel?”
Though the answer varies by location and position, this interview with Tim Gasciogne reveals some elements that make it possible. Tim, tell us about your background.
Tim: Hi everyone! My name is Tim, and I’m really happy to share my journey of travel and teaching in international schools with you all. It’s amazing to teach and travel the world!
I am originally from the tiny island of Bermuda. No, I never got lost in the Bermuda Triangle — but if I had a dollar for everyone that asked me, I could travel the world for free! I was born and raised in Bermuda, but moved to Canada, where my mother is from, for University.
I decided to pursue teaching in University, and got my B.Ed in Ottawa, Canada. Coming from a small island such as Bermuda and having my extended family living in Canada, we traveled quite a bit as kids, and spent many Christmas holidays in Ontario, Canada. I am one of those very fortunate people to actually own 3 different passports: Bermuda, Canada and U.K. (since my father was British).
My thirst for travel didn’t have a “start” — I believe it was always with me. I traveled a bit in University and always dreamed of moving or living overseas, but it always seemed like a pipe dream. I had several friends go overseas to teach English, and I always knew about this option, but I was studying to become a teacher and wanted to be in a place that hired real teachers.
After getting my teaching license and teaching for about 3 years in New Brunswick, Canada, I met a colleague who had just completed a 1-year experience teaching in China. I couldn’t ask her enough questions, and eventually learned that she went overseas with our district and was able to keep her job back in Canada for up to two years if she wanted to return.
This sounded perfect to me. I would be able to use my skills as a teacher in another country, be valued for my profession, make a great income, and pay off student loans, travel a ton and then slip right back into my teaching position when I was “finished” with the traveling and teaching. I applied and was hired almost immediately to teach Grade 1 in Beijing, China.
I had the most fantastic experience, and decided to ask my district to extend my leave of absence to 3 years. They accepted, and I moved to another school where I taught for a further 2 years, making that 3 years in total in Beijing.
At the end of the 3 years, I had the tough decision to either return home, or give up my permanent contract in Canada and make teaching overseas a more long-term opportunity. It was during this time that I learned more about the sheer number of international schools around the world.
I got on some international school recruiting sites, and landed a position teaching Grade 3 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While living in Malaysia for 4 years and teaching in a great school, I was able to save enough money to travel during the summers and holidays to almost every country in the region. I was enjoying the travel, but in 2017 desired to do some slow travel (spend longer in one place) and take some time off of teaching to explore other passions and interests.
Now, I run a site called, Spartan Teachers and a fitness travel blog, One Fit Nomad. I am pursuing a more nomadic lifestyle while working on side projects. (Do contact me if you want more information about online teaching, which I’m really enjoying. You can also use my referral code here for VIPKid: a great way to earn money by remote English instruction.) These opportunities could only have been afforded to me because of the time I spent teaching in Asia, saving as much as I could, and dreaming larger than I knew was possible.
TT: What an inspiring story! Now, can you elaborate on why you’d recommend teaching at an international school?
T: Glad you asked that question. When I was teaching in public schools in Canada, I had no idea that schools existed overseas where teachers like me could be employed. I knew about teaching English in Korea or getting TEFL certified and teaching in language schools around the world, but it wasn’t until meeting a teacher in my school district who taught in China that I realized there was a whole world out there with opportunities for teachers who can make an actual career in international schools.
In the early days, people often asked me when I was returning from my “trip”. I told them that this was not a trip, that this is my life now… and I still think that people don’t really get it. Yes, I put the beautiful beach pictures on social media, but behind them, I have a real teaching job, and I worked hard for my money and saved as much as I could in order to reach those beaches.
Just to be clear, the difference between teaching English overseas and teaching in an international school is that you need to already be a certified teacher in your home country to teach in international schools. International schools are set up in countries around the world to service the expat (and local, sometimes) population.
There are all kinds of international schools, but generally speaking, they pay well with great benefits as well as high savings potential, depending on where you are teaching. If you have a love of travel or you want to start traveling the world and you are a certified teacher, consider teaching in an international school.
TT: Great advice. Those are amazing opportunities. Can you explain more about what makes paying for travel is easier as an international school teacher?
T: Teaching in international schools has afforded me the opportunity to travel. The salaries are generally higher than back home, and the savings potential is high in many countries. Schools normally cover your housing and medical care and you generally have limited bills and expenses.
I also watch my finances. That is the number one way I am able to fund my frequent travels. While living and teaching in China and Malaysia, I was able to save a substantial amount of money and have been able to use that for my travel. The biggest difference with my travels now is that if I want to fly somewhere, I can easily do that because of how inexpensive flights are in Asia and because of the low cost of living.
While living back in Canada, I may have tried to save up all year for one trip on Spring break or the Christmas holidays, but while living overseas, I have been able to travel to 5-6 different countries each school year! Imagine that! Yes, it is possible and it isn’t difficult to do. While teaching, I spent most weekends planning trips, booking hotels and getting excited to trek in the mountains of Nepal or explore the old city of Osaka, Japan as well as many more.
TT: Brilliant! Tell us about your favorite travel experiences.
T: It really is hard to pinpoint one amazing travel experience, as I have several on each trip I take, but one of the most incredible experiences was probably visiting a floating village in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
A few of us teachers flew to Cambodia and Vietnam for a 3-week trip during the holidays. We did the normal temple tours (which is amazing!) in Siem Reap and saw some incredible history amongst the temple ruins. During one of the afternoons, we came across a sign that was advertising a sunset boat trip out to one of the floating villages. That sounded super cool! So we booked it, and off we went in the late afternoon.
Floating down the river at sunset and jumping off the bow of the boat was a memory I will never forget. It was beautiful, and almost surreal. As the sun dipped in front of us, the boat steered toward the floating village, where we met local families who have so little and survive on the basics. All their needs are on floating barges and they educate the children, buy and trade goods, and have medical care all floating on the water. It made me realize how much we have to appreciate as people who are lucky to live such privileged lives.
TT: Yes! So, how have your travels impacted you in your current career, and as a person?
T: Travel has changed my life. As a teacher, travel gives me experiences that I can relate to with my students, and brings so many perspectives to my teaching in the classroom.
As a person, travel has broadened my world view and helped me to realize that all people have the same needs and wants and desires in life. The difference is all about opportunity and what we have available to us. Some have less and some have more.
I learn a great deal about other cultures from traveling, and the most valuable travel experiences have been the ones I have had while actually living in a certain country. I really advocate spending time in a place beyond just a week long holiday.
International teaching allows you to live in a place for more than a couple of years, and you get to know the people, culture, food and customs. You learn why things are a certain way with the local government, and you can make friends with people from a particular place and really get to know them beyond the surface. Living in Beijing and Malaysia for more than seven years has enriched my life more than I could have ever imagined.
TT: Powerfully said. What closing advice do you have for teachers who want to travel by teaching in an international school?
T: Get in touch with people who have done or are doing what you want to do! This site is great for finding really neat teaching opportunities. If you are looking to teach in international schools, join some Facebook groups like International School Teachers and connect with people who are already teaching abroad.
Teaching overseas can change your life, open up doors of opportunities you never knew existed, and help you to become the person you always wanted to be living the life you always wanted to live. I addition, my site, Spartan Teachers, aims to help support, and encourage teachers who want to become a part of a courageous community of teachers who want to change their lives, teach overseas, and travel the world.
TT: Thanks so much, Tim! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is National Board Certified Teacher from Boston who has been a full-time public school educator since 2003. She launched Teaching Traveling in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational cartoons. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following on social media with the links below!