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How To Take Your VIPKID Online Teaching Job On The Road

How realistic is it for me to teach online while travelling?

Very!

From the very first moment I decided to do this myself, all the way up until the moment I first got on that plane to Thailand (where my online Teaching journey all began), I was SO nervous to begin this new adventure. I hadn’t met anyone yet who was travelling full-time while balancing an online teaching job, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

What if I failed? As with anyone who travels, especially long-term, being concerned with money is inevitable. And, having a secure financial backing is crucial, especially for those unforeseen Travel emergencies and setbacks. So, what if I blew through all my money I had worked so hard to save up while teaching in South Korea and Taiwan, and needed to return home to Mom and Dad with my tail between my legs? After telling all my friends and family about my entire master plan to fund my travels over the next year, solely through online teaching, this would undoubtedly be an embarrassing turn of events, wouldn’t it? And, hey, it ain’t over yet. Fingers crossed you don’t see me writing a “mission failed” post anytime soon…

Joking aside, with only a few minor hiccups along the road so far, everything has been good… well, better than good! I’ve been on the road since November and have travelled thus far through 5 countries, all while teaching. I have been making a steady income that offsets all my monthly spendings, while still putting some aside for a rainy day. I would have never been sure that this was possible if I hadn’t tried and challenged myself to do this in the first place (and I would be kicking myself forever if I hadn’t).

As I’m entering my third month on the road, with no plans of slowing down yet, I’m getting a much better grasp of working remotely in an ever-changing location, with just my backpack and computer. I’ve written this post in hopes to encourage teachers, aspiring to become world nomads, to take the plunge and dive into the world of remote online teaching. I’ve put together some advice bits and tips I’ve learned so far to help you transition into this new and exciting chapter of your life. Happy travels and teaching, everyone!

VIPKID Teach Travel Online


What Do I Need to Budget Beforehand And How Much Can I Expect To Earn While On The Road?

How Much Should I Have Saved Beforehand?

I would never advise anyone to leave home to start any sort of remote gig while travelling, without a chunk of cash saved up already. Travelling can be super unpredictable, sh*t happens, so be sure to have a reasonable amount put aside for the particular destination you are travelling to. In countries within Asia and South America, you may be okay starting with a little less, while if travelling in Europe, you definitely will want to have more.

Of course you will need enough money to cover the cost of your initial outbound flight, but, I also suggest to have set aside the cost of your return flight home (if you haven’t booked it already), in the event that you need to come back home due to an emergency. Have enough to get you through your first one to three months, comfortably, so that you don’t have to worry about anything else other than the transition into your new remote, expat life.

Now, bear in mind, you also need to consider how long you have been teaching with Vipkid (or any other online teaching company) and what type of lifestyle you want to maintain while on the road. If you are new or fairly new to online teaching, you will probably have fewer class bookings than those who have been at it for a while. I was only a few months into online teaching myself when I took the job on the road with me, but I knew I was getting enough bookings already to sustain a steady enough income to travel. If you are fairly new to online teaching and aren’t sure of what a “regular” schedule for you will look like quite yet, then make sure to bring more money to start. It never hurts to have a little more! As you continue to teach, you will get more and more repeat bookings and will slowly start to build a solid client (parent) base. Then, you will have a better idea of what your monthly salary will be. But, until you get to that point, make sure you do have enough to support you through all the uncertainty.

Having a good awareness of the type of traveller you are also helps to know how much you should have saved beforehand. If you like more lavish experiences and accommodations, then you will need to start with more saved, be prepared to work more hours while travelling, or will need to cut back on certain luxuries. If you have no idea what type of traveller you are and what your spending habits are, then it will take you at least a few weeks, or even a month, to start to develop an understanding. This also totally varies on what country you are travelling to, the types of activities and excursions you are doing, and how often you are picking up and moving on to the next location.

I’ve been living abroad and travelling for three years now and still go back and forth between spending like an unsupervised child with their parent’s credit card at Disneyland to an overly cautious and responsible adult planning for their unborn children’s post-secondary tuitions. Travel is an ongoing learning process, isn’t it?..

How Much Can I Expect To Earn With VIPKID?

How much you can earn with VIPKID totally depends on how often you see yourself working while travelling. For me, having a solid work-life-travel balance is key. I always set a goal to earn at least $2000 CAD a month and budget my spending on accommodations, transportation, activities, and rainy day savings around that amount. I generally teach over 150 classes or 75 hours each month, which works out to be just less than 19 hours a week. I’ve travelled to places where I could not teach because of poor Internet (hey, Laos!), so I’ve had to put in more hours in places where I could teach (read more about this below).

The great thing about VIPKID is that there is so much flexibility for scheduling. You can work as little or as much as you want. So it’s totally up to you how much you want to earn! Keep in mind, that the company does operate on Beijing’s time zone. So, you will need to consider how these hours will affect you, wherever you will be travelling. Asia is a popular choice for many, as it lines up perfectly with those VIPKID peak hours (and it’s not a bad place to save on a bunch of costs, as much of Asia is relatively cheap to what we can be accustomed to).

I personally have been getting by just fine with the amount of hours I work while travelling through Asia. I will add that as I’m travelling with my boyfriend, so we do split the costs for accommodations and most meals. I’ve been bumping around from place to place a lot, which I am now realizing isn’t the best, most sustainable idea long-term. In May, I will be taking my travels and online teaching to Europe, where I will be staying put in one spot for much longer before moving on to the next, and will be working a more consistent schedule week-by-week. I will definitely need to put in more hours to sustain a European lifestyle, which will definitely be more expensive than what I’m used to now, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it!

If you are not familiar with VIPKID or its pay structure, you can learn more about the company by clicking here.


What to Pack in Your Luggage for Teaching

One of the questions I get asked the most is how I manage to lug around a whole bunch of teaching props with me while I travel. Well, I don’t. Let me tell you, I’m definitely no Marry Poppins and surely don’t have a magical bag with endless space for flashcards, animal figurines, a backdrop with my name card, or reward systems. And, being that I mostly travel using discount airlines such as AirAsia or Scoot, which only allow 7 kg of luggage total, I don’t travel with anything more than I absolutely need. So, all of those teaching supplies that I would normally use at home, I have left just there.

So, how do I make an online teaching environment work with zero props and no background? I use a webcam software called ManyCam, which allows you to create custom backgrounds and props virtually that you can live stream into your classrooms! My current set up looks like this.

I downloaded the Studio version for $69 USD, which supports 2 devices, so my boyfriend (who is also a VIPKID teacher) and I can both share it. If you don’t want to spend the money for a software, I get it! I know another fellow teacher who made her own roll-up felt background, which holds a velcro prop system – a simple, lightweight, and compact way to instantly spruce up a virtual classroom!

IT wise, I have my laptop, my laptop charger (jeez, MacBook chargers weigh a whole ton, don’t they?!), a universal adapter, a set of headphones, and an unlocked phone. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an unlocked phone. Most countries sell SIM cards for cheap with amazing deals on Internet packages. I always get a SIM card wherever I go to use as a backup hotspot, in the event that the WiFi goes out while I’m teaching.

VIPKID Teach Travel Online

For everything else, I travel with a very limited clothing and toiletries supply. I have a few staple clothing items that I rotate to make seemingly more outfits than I really have. Us teachers can be so creative, can’t we?.. Oh, how I miss my the rest of my wardrobe at home. And, I’m forced to constantly do laundry, which can be a real pain! I buy small toiletries as I go, and I don’t carry big bottles of any sort of liquids or creams with me. I’ve left my big makeup bag at home and travel with only a few items, like a mascara tube and a foundation bottle.

I live very minimally now and I’m still not sure if I can totally say I like it. I dearly miss having outfit options and access to a spread of makeup and hair styling tools. But, I do also enjoy how easy it is to travel with just a backpack and taking advantage of all those cheap deals with discount airlines. Also, I’m learning to appreciate the simplicity of my life now – living with only things that I really need and realizing the material items that I don’t really need.


What to Look For In An Accommodation

Whether you’re staying in an Airbnb, hotel, hostel, resort, guest house, homestay, farm, boathouse, or whatever else kind of accommodation, ALWAYS read the owner’s description and guest reviews first – carefully! This will probably end up being the most time-consuming part of planning your travels, but I promise it is worth it. There’s nothing worse than booking a place that claims it has WiFi, to find out that it only works at a glacial pace… and, only in the common area.

It seriously takes me hours just to find and book one, single accommodation. Each time I book another place to stay for teaching, I read the reviews thoroughly. I don’t normally do this to such an extreme, but I’ve found it helps to eliminate a lot of potential problems that could arise. I mostly use Airbnb – not totally exclusively, but probably 99% of the time. It’s my own personal preference as I really like Airbnb’s platform for searching properties. You can also type in key words like “Internet” into the guest reviews that filter all of the comments previously made about that specific key word. I also like to stay in places that feel more “homey” and comfortable. Especially because when I am teaching from “home,” I want a space that I enjoy spending time working in  (especially when I’m working those long weekend shifts).

Accommodation Features to Consider

So, what are you looking for in the property’s description and its guest reviews? There are so many different features to consider, which will vary depending on the type of person you are. But, there are some items that every VIPKID teacher should be on the lookout for.

Internet Speed

Well, we are online teachers aren’t we? This is super important! VIPKID requires a minimum Internet speed of 20 Mbps, although, I have taught with lower speeds and made it work. That being said, I always try to find an accommodation that does in fact have more than 20 Mbps.

Depending on what type of accommodation you’re staying in, there are different things to consider. If you are staying in a hotel, the Internet speeds might be slightly lower than in a private home, as you will be sharing the Internet with the other guests. Some teachers I have spoken to always request that their hotel room be near where the main router is. Others, teach with a pocket WiFi or through the hotspot from their phone. As I usually stay in an Airbnb, I always send a direct message to the Airbnb host and ask what the quality of their Internet is (if it’s suitable for working) and sometimes ask if they can quickly conduct an Internet speed test and send me the result. This can be done easily and for free on loads of different sites. I usually use this speed test site (they’re all pretty well the same though).

Private Space

Hostels may not be the best option for teaching, unless you get yourself a private room or if there is some sort of private space you can rent out. An alternative solution if you really like staying in hostels and the social aspect they provide is to find a coworking space with a private room you can rent out.

Are you travelling with another person? Is this person a VIPKID teacher, too? You will most likely want to find an accommodation that has 2 spaces, separated by a door. Listening to my own voice while singing a Voice of VIPKID lesson is painful enough, let alone listening to my boyfriend’s at the same time too. I’m a food ninja, any of you VIPKIDers?!

Quiet Environment

With that private space, you’re also going to want to book something with relatively quiet surroundings. Getting a private room in a crazy party hostel, can be just as bad as teaching in a common room. Is there painfully loud, nearby construction going on? Are you on a main street with lots of car and motorcycle traffic? Although these might not be deal breakers per say, they can definitely make an environment more difficult to teach in. I was teaching in Chiang Mai during its annual lantern festival. During that time, there are constant fireworks being set off all throughout the evenings. While I was teaching, I would constantly hear the echo of the fireworks blasts through my headphones, which means my students were hearing all of it too.

Table + Chair

Most accommodations do offer some sort of table or desk with a chair. And, of course, there are some that don’t. Before booking, look at the pictures of the accommodation carefully and try to locate a table and chair, sometimes it will also be stated in the property description. I prefer to book a place where the table and chairs are not fixed (in some parts of Asia built-in and fixed furniture is quite common). I enjoy being able to move furniture around to where I want, so that I can create the optimal classroom to teach in. I usually try to find an area with good lighting and a plain white background to set up my temporary classroom. I’ve even gone to the lengths of transporting a table from a rooftop balcony down a ladder to create a suitable office space.

Lighting

Speaking of creating a good temporary classroom… having access to good lighting is key! Big windows, rooms with lots of natural light, floor lamps or desk lamps that can be moved around easily, are all things to look for. Avoid basement units, as they usually have poorer lighting. With the software that I use, ManyCam (mentioned above in things to pack), I adjust the brightness to create the illusion of an even brighter room.


Places I’ve Stayed While Teaching

You can never be one hundred percent certain that the accommodation you’ve booked can support an online teaching environment… until you’ve actually arrived there and tested it for yourself, or, unless someone you know who has taught there themselves can vouch for it. Last month, on New Year’s Eve, I experienced my first MAJOR problem with an accommodation. The Internet connection at my Airbnb appeared to be totally fine at first, of course, until it crapped out on me multiple times throughout multiple lessons right before going out to celebrate the new year. And it sucked, a whole lot. I had several class cancellations due to “Teacher IT” issues and was stressed beyond belief while ringing in the new year. On New Year’s Day, I had to find a new Airbnb listing, cancel the one I was currently staying in, and quickly get myself to my new booking before classes started in the evening. Let me tell ya, SUPER STRESSFUL.

Of course, we can’t predict and plan accordingly for every mishap – that would be SO boring, wouldn’t it?! But, it would be nice to avoid the headaches and stress that come from situations like these, right? So, I’m compiling a list of accommodations specifically for teaching, tried and tested by yours truly. As I continue my travels, I will update this list for you regularly. I hope this helps you, my fellow online teachers!

Now, bear in mind that I almost always stay in an Airbnb while teaching. So, most of these listings below are through Airbnb. This is my personal preference and by no means are you limited to this option. Airbnb is the easiest option for me because I generally am travelling with my boyfriend, who also teaches with VIPKID. We both teach at the same time, so we need our own personal spaces to teach. I find that it is easy to find places using Airbnb that offer larger and private spaces, conducive to a good teaching environment.

If you have never used Airbnb before and want to try it out for yourself, here is $45 CAD towards you first trip! Sign up for an Airbnb account first with the link, before booking a listing! Otherwise, the $45 CAD credit for your first trip will not work. 


Laos

Vientiane

Sailomyen Hostel – Hostel 

What I liked about it: Good, central location, a few short minutes from the “hustle” of Vientiane. The hostel is impeccably clean and the beds are like soft, mushy clouds. Laos is known notoriously for its bad Internet, so it was pretty surprising to find a stay with relatively stable Wifi, phew!

Thailand

Bangkok

Entire House in Chinatown – Airbnb

What I liked about it: This is probably one of the best Airbnbs I have ever stayed in! The home is super spacious, with two full floors. It’s bursting with character and has lots of quirky and fun decorations throughout the space. It is perfect for two teachers, with one bedroom upstairs for teaching and the living room as another teaching space. We brought the table from the upstairs balcony and a chair from the dining room table into the bedroom to create a makeshift office space. The Internet worked well, with just a few, very minor hiccups over the entire week we stayed there. A perfect, “homey” stay, especially for longer ones!

Chiang Mai

Old City Private Apartment – Airbnb

What I liked about it: This is a small, studio apartment in the heart of Chiang Mai’s old town. I spent a lot of time researching this one, as I was looking for the cheapest option for being so central in the old quarter. This is a huge steal, at just $13 CAD a night. It’s perfect for one person, equipped with a small desk and chair. I did experience some Internet problems throughout the week that I stayed there, but had a hotspot as a backup for when these moments occurred. I was pleasantly surprised to find another fellow VIPKID teacher teaching RIGHT NEXT DOOR to me. Talk about a small world, eh?!

Ko Pha Ngan

Windfall – Airbnb

What I liked about it: Great house in a great location! Loads of restaurants and the beach are both within walking distance. The Internet was speedy and the host was very responsive. I booked this house after reading a positive guest review from another online teacher. The house has a separate bedroom and living room area, creating two separate spaces for teaching – a perfect property for two people!

back balcony

A/C bed room

Pai

Dreamy Room In Mountain Home With Magical Views – Airbnb

What I liked about it: You can’t ask for a more dreamy office space! The views from this Airbnb are absolutely stunning! It is located a bit away from the main town of Pai (about 5 minutes by scooter), set in the lush countryside with an incredible background of mountains. The host is amazing and helped me out a bunch. She made sure that the Internet was in good working condition (I had to use my hotspot twice in one week during minor WiFi glitches) and even provided me with new, bright lightbulbs in the event that I wanted to switch them for the ones that were in the room.


Want to connect with other VIPKID teachers while on the road? Join the Facebook group VIPKID Teachers Who Travel to meet other fellow teachers on the road and for more tips and advice!

Did I miss something about teaching online while travelling? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy teaching and travels! And, HOORAY for absolute freedom!

The post How To Take Your VIPKID Online Teaching Job On The Road appeared first on A Broader Tale.



This post first appeared on A Broader Tale, please read the originial post: here

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