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Why I prefer teaching abroad over being a digital nomad

Becoming a "digital nomad" is all the rage these days, and I totally see why. There are a ton of perks:

  • You can travel virtually anywhere you want
  • Depending on how you structure your work, you can ramp up or ramp down when it suits you
  • You can work from anywhere - blurring the lines so that it feels like you're on a permanent vacation.
I have LOVED my time as a digital nomad. I've traveled to over 15 countries on three continents. I've gotten to write part of my book from the beaches of Greece and the islands of Italy. I've met dozens, if not hundreds, of fascinating people from all over the world who have the courage to design their lives in whatever way suits them best. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.

But there are downsides.

  • It's difficult to building relationships and community when you're transient. Besides the fact that relationships take time, people aren't always willing to invest in you when you'll be gone soon.
  • Moving every 3 months becomes exhausting - new languages, customs, and neighborhoods. There were so many times when I was in flow and making incredible progress on an important project - only to have my routine disrupted by a forced move to a new country when my visa expired. It's not easy to jump right back in when you have to get used to sleeping in a new place and re-learn basic day-to-day things like how to find the closest grocery store.
  • It's hard to explain what you do and answer "where do you live?" I can simply say I'm in a teacher when I'm in China or South Korea and that makes sense to people. But I also remember being in Santorini, where I lived for about a month, and waiting for the ship to take me back to Athens. A restaurant owner where I was eating asked me where I lived (read: where I was heading back home to) but it's disorienting when you live ...well, nowhere, while you transition back to a place in Athens, and that actually, this has been your home.

Teaching English abroad has offered me:

  • generous salary (60k+) and benefits (free housing, free breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, free yoga classes and coffee on campus, free roundtrip airfare home, 3+ months of vacation, free medical care, six months paid maternity leave, and visa sponsorship)
  • relaxed schedule (my current workload is ~8 hours a week teaching full-sized classes, and 10-15 hours a week teaching one-on-one classes with zero lesson planning or grading).
  • built-in relationships - I currently work with a company that has over 500 teachers employed in my city, and I have 6 other foreign teachers at my school. It's so much easier to find the cool places to hang out or the interest groups when there are a bunch of other people who are in the same boat.

On top of that - I'm only just getting started exploring the lucrative side of this market. Based on my current opportunities, it's likely that I'll double that salary over the next year.

Ultimately, I've never dreamed of buying luxury cars or yachts. My goal is and has always been to live a good life, and as it stands, teaching English as Second Language Abroad meets all of my criteria for a good life:

  • Meaningful, engaging creative and impactful work - literally helping citizens of other nations expand their opportunities.
  • Flexibility and autonomy - when I'm in the classroom, I have total control. I don't co-teach. I decide how and what is the best way to meet our learning goals.
  • Travel, adventures and new experiences - living in another country and celebrating their holidays, learning their language and customs provides a much richer experience than passing through and taking a tour.
  • Financial stability and security - the teaching salary alone is 60k+ in a city where it costs $1,000 to live my best life. That leaves me with thousands of dollars a month left over - to invest in index funds, real estate, business ventures, personal projects or to save up for virtually anything else. 
  • High quality of life - I live in a green environment with great food, I can comfortably afford access to the gym, the acupuncturist and the massage therapist, and all of these things combined provide a general sense of well-being - while saving me from the stress of having to constantly pack and move.

I genuinely enjoy my life more than ever. I love my students. I love that sharing this talent (of being a native English speaker) that I completely took for granted can make such a massive impact on people's lives around the world. I was thinking about what I wanted to do when I hit my retirement number in a few more years, and honestly? I see myself doing more of this. And that's the best gift of all.

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