This month, I hit my first anniversary since I started working online. It had been a dream for many years to discover a job that would allow me to travel, and as it happened…it just took me becoming completely overwhelmed by my career (then as a social worker) to make the dream a reality. Sitting here a year later, having made it happen–I figured it’s time to share a recap on my experience of changing my life in the pursuit of travel and how I did it.
For a few years now, I’ve been keeping up with job postings abroad from websites like Idealist.org, and at times I have even applied, interviewed, and turned offers down out of fear of completely uprooting my life in the states.
But it was on my birthday in September of 2016 that I realized I desperately needed to make my dream happen…dare to travel and take time to find passion and enjoyment in my life. I got serious about the job-hunt…and revisited the idea of remote work. Yah, I had checked out the various blogs and Pinterest boards before…promising extravagant incomes from work-at-home jobs…eventually leading me down the rabbit hole of signing up for some sort of website, service, or business model. For a long time, I didn’t think I would find a truly geographically-free job without being a tech expert, business owner, or hands-down lucky.
But this episode of scrounging for jobs led me to something new…something that would, in my opinion, be something of a life-hack. I found a post for a job making $16-22 an hour online teaching English to children online. I initially figured I probably wouldn’t be accepted, as I didn’t have a formal teaching degree…though I had taught children in different capacities over the years. Fortunately, the job at VIPKID didn’t require a credential. Nor, do many other online English teaching jobs as I would come to find out.
I did some steadfast research, applied to a few companies, got offers from all three…and eventually decided on VIPKID due to their solid reputation in leading this business model and for their nice pay rate. An interview, a mock class, some paperwork, and a week-and-a-half later, I had my first class booked! That was late November 2016. I taught a total of 7.5 hours that month and made a whopping $123. Not a fortune, but hey I was just a couple of weeks in and still working my full-time social work job. Yah…I woke an hour or two early to teach before heading to work.
After I vetted the job…meaning I confirmed I could indeed make money, gain students, and fill my schedule, I made a hard escape and travel plan. Doing the math, I could save some money for initial travel expenses and some bookings with the extra money I was earning from VIPKID. After leaving my job, I would work exclusively for VIPKID, increasing my hours to 20-30/week while living abroad. Already taken by ideas of travel to Mexico, my husband and I made a pact to move ourselves and our dog to Mexico City by April 2017 to enjoy travel in the region, a low cost of living, and of course tacos and beer.
And wow…can you believe our plan worked? Yes, we did it! Here’s a breakdown of my hours and earnings over the last year. See there…I worked what I could until April, then increased my hours once we arrived in Mexico. I flexed month-to-month depending on regional travel as I enjoyed taking time off to explore more rural areas. Summer was an awesome time for stacking the dough, since the kids in China were out of school and could sign up for more classes. Over time, I’ve even figured out how to increase my per hour rate by booking short-notice classes and earning incentives.
We lived out of a couple of different apartments in Mexico City and I taught out of both of them…mostly without difficulty and always with my dog in tow. I had a couple of spotty internet issues that were quickly resolved. The weeks I was at home, I usually cranked out more hours, so I could take the next week to travel to places like Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido, Puebla, and Tulum. I didn’t take my work with me to any of those places, though I reasonably could have in many instances.
I feel like I have life-hacked somehow. This job has inspired more life changes for me than most other things in my life. Suddenly, I worked only part-time to enjoy a better quality of life. We lived in a nice apartment in one of Mexico City’s hippest neighborhoods, ate and drink out multiple times per week, and traveled often.
Though the teaching hours are early, I was able to finish my work early, allowing me to venture out in exploration of archeological ruins, world-class museums, and festivals during the day. Most importantly, I found myself with time to reflect, to nourish myself and my relationship with my spouse (and dog), and to explore personal interests. People close to me know that I dabbled in arts, such as watercolor, for the first time in years….I even watercolored some reward systems for my students.
I was truly happy. I got so inspired by the city that I restarted blogging and took on my first assignments as a contract travel-writer too (a little extra taco money never hurts)!
Now this very happy tale does continue, but with a bit of an interruption. Of course, in September, we were affected by the horrible earthquakes that hit Mexico City and after an assessment of the damages around us, we chose to return stateside to land on stable ground and regroup. It was a terrible experience to say the least…the earthquakes, uprooting from a city I loved, and experiencing intense culture shock once I returned home. But…the entire time, I was able to ground myself with my job at VIPKID.
Seriously…it was one of the only things that was familiar to me when I returned to the states…I could keep the morning routine I had established in Mexico City and see the kids across the globe who I’ve built such solid relationships with. It really kept me sane…and comforted knowing that I could take my work with me wherever I landed. Most people in such a situation would be crippled financially after such a life disruption. We sacrificed previously booked plane tickets, apartment rent, and the costs of transporting our dog unexpectedly to move…and VIPKID helped us to do it. We were set back, but we have since regained stability. I am incredibly grateful…and now planning our return to Mexico in the spring.
So what’s on the agenda for traveling in 2018? Well, in February, we will spend some time in Mexico City, Guanajuato, and San Miguel de Allende to explore parts of the region we didn’t get a chance to visit on our previous trip. I plan to teach in all three locations. Then we fly to the Yucatan where we will take a quick off-line trip to Holbox Island and Tulum, before heading to our semi-permanent base in Mérida. We’ll stay in Mérida a couple of months, allowing me to teach and to continue the travel writing and travel design services I have been able to grow while here in the states. From there, who knows…?
So, it has only been a year, but I really am living my dream, seeing places to new to me, sharing my joys with people dear to me, and discovering the things I am capable of as I go along. It’s a beautiful thing…and I am excited to see what the next year brings.
I see many blogs these days touting the wonders of working for VIPKID, many that focus exclusively on marketing the company…but I have chosen to wait to share my experience until now so I could really have time to assess the situation. I tell my story now out of the desire to share this quasi-life-hack with others so they too can pursue the more-balanced, engaged, or adventurous life they desire.
This post is in no way sponsored by VIPKID and I am here to tell you that it is absolutely a life-changing opportunity and excellent way to finance your travels or alternative lifestyle.
For more information, you can check it out and sign-up at VIPKID. Signing up through my exclusive link will match your application with me. I will then offer to mentor you, providing you personalized support through the entire process including the interview, mock classes, and beginning teaching experiences. I have successfully mentored others through the process, have a fully booked schedule, a 5 “apple” rating, and over 800 student followers. In November, I made the leaderboard three weeks in a row for the highest rate of trial sign-ups in my state.
I’m thrilled about my success and am super excited to start mentoring others who want in. I’m just saying…if you’re even considering it…go for it! You’ll be happily surprised.