For most people who do it professionally or semi-professionally, travel blogging alone is not enough to make an income.
Most travel bloggers out there also have another job they rely on for money, and it seems teaching English as a foreign language is a popular choice.
It seems that many bloggers who do this will have a fixed contract with a school in one place and will travel from there, though some will also base themselves in a particular place and build up freelance work there.
On the other hand, I’ve been lucky enough to find a way to teach English and travel at the same time, with a company that offers one week intensive courses around the world.
While I’ve only ever worked with this company in Europe (in fact, mostly just in Austria, but also in Hungary, Switzerland and Germany) I have colleagues who have been to Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to teach on short courses from three days to a several of weeks.
People often ask why my weeks teaching like this moving from one school to another look like, and how I balance it with running a website, so here’s a peek at a week in my life as a teacher and blogger.
10:00: Zab and I go for brunch, a Sunday ritual in Berlin. Since I’m working on my own in Rostock, and the local teacher at the school can’t meet me till Monday morning, I’m in no particular rush to get there.
17:00: I pack my bag for the week away, making sure I have all my necessary teaching materials.
19:30: On the train, I plan out my lessons for the following day. Since the students I’ll be teaching are preparing for their Abitur (exams taken at roughly age 18 in Germany required for entry to university), the course is pretty intensive, but I am looking forward to working with students whose English is at such a level that we can enjoy a regular conversation.
21:30: I arrive in Rostock and check in to my hotel (booked for me by the company), unpack and then repack my bag for the following day, including snacks.
22:30: I check our social media for the blog, respond to any new comments and procrastinate on Facebook before watching some Star Trek.
06:45: My alarm goes off. It’s still dark outside. I shower, dress and come down to the reception, where a specially made vegan sandwich and an apple is waiting for me, as the hotel doesn’t usually offer breakfast this early. Fortunately, the school is only five minutes away.
07:45: I arrive at the unfamiliar school, and stand in the entrance for a moment looking lost trying to locate my contact, who I’ve never seen or spoken to before. She finds me and shows me where I’ll be teaching, explains the copy machine and shows me where to get tea or coffee.
08:15: Lessons begin. The students are a little shy but enthusiastic. I can tell they are curious about me, but they ask no direct questions. We work on using the present perfect for past experience, skills for dealing with listening exams, language for making group decisions and we play a murder mystery game.
13:40: Breaks are few and short in German schools, so lessons are over. I chat briefly with my contact teacher about how the first day went, then go off to eat lunch at a place in central Rostock I’d heard does vegan food.
16:30: After eating, resting and changing clothes at my hotel, I wander around town, keeping an eye out for other places offering vegan fare, then sit in a café and answer a few emails for the blog.
19:00: I sit in the communal kitchen of the hotel where I’m staying and plan my lessons for the next day. Once they’re done, I dive in to writing a post for the blog.
08:00: School is now a little more familiar. Lessons go as planned, and my students open up a bit more.
13:40: Another teaching day over, I pop over to another place I’ve heard has vegan food in Rostock in order to see if it’s worth mentioning in my upcoming vegan guide to the city. It definitely is, and I end up stuffing myself on cake.
17:00: After sleeping off the cake, I head to a café to bang out some lesson planning, followed by catching up on emails and scheduling posts for social media.
22:00: In bed, I draw up a definitive list of the places in town to try out for the vegan guide.
11:00: During a class debate, I find out the opinions of my students on such topics as the death sentence, sex education in schools, the legalisation of cannabis and positive discrimination in the workplace. Despite having taught these topics several times before, they manage to surprise me with their nuanced opinions and complex arguments.
16:15: After napping, I go out shopping for a few things I need for my lessons the following day, such as kitchen sponges, a foam sword, silly straws, paper cups and clothes-pegs. This is followed by writing up a blog post in a café.
21:00: After discovering its existence from my students, I decide to go to the small art house cinema in Rostock and watch Wish I Was Here, the only film showing in original English version with subtitles (even though I speak German, I can’t stand watching dubbed films). I enjoy it.
10:00: It’s the birthday of two of my students, so as soon as the break is announced, cakes are presented and hugs exchanged. One student has even made one of the cakes vegan, especially so I can have some!
11:20: Using the materials I’d bought the day before, I get my students into two teams and instruct them they must try to build a taller free-standing structure than the other team while making decisions, suggestions and working together only in English. After about half an hour one team looses their enthusiasm seeing that the other team will likely win. I tell them there’s a prize for the winner, and suddenly they’re in full-on competitive mode again.
19:30: In the hotel common area, I work on a post for My Gay Travel Guide while nibbling on carrots and hummus.
12:10: The students start to get anxious about presenting the sketch we’ve been working on (a journey on a plane with exaggerated characters and incompetent flight attendants of their own imagining that’s actually pretty funny) to the other classes who are coming to watch it in an hour. I drill them on their lines, correcting pronunciation and tell them that yes, the audience will laugh, and no you don’t look ridiculous in that hat.
13:40: The presentation over, my students are all smiling, and they thank me for everything during the week. They tell me how much they enjoyed it and that they hope I’ll come back the following year. I wish them all luck and say goodbye, then thank my contact teacher and make my exit.
14:20: My final vegan lunch (a plate of cold falafel and uninspiring salad) in Rostock disappoints me, and I decide to leave that place out of my vegan guide.
16:45: I fill out and take some paperwork to the post office to send to the company in the UK. Back at the hotel, I pack my stuff up in anticipation of returning to Berlin by bus the next morning. It’s been a pretty good week.