Looking to explore the world, but don’t have the bank account to match your ambitions? Consider teaching English. It is the fastest and easiest way to go abroad and you don’t need special qualifications other than a university degree. Nicky Wetzelberger and Rhys Farrow, have funded their travel bug by teaching English in both Korea and Vietnam. They share their experiences and offer advice in this interview.
Please tell us about your travel background?
I’m Nicky and have been traveling alongside my boyfriend Rhys for the past 2 years. We left home in 2009 with a one way ticket to Bangkok and traveled all over South East Asia for 3.5 months before moving to South Korea to teach English. We finished our one year contracts for public schools in Ulsan before hitting the road again through India for nine weeks and then on to Nepal for a month. We are currently living and working in Ho Chi Minh City, teaching and traveling once again, but this time in Vietnam.
What was the impetus to move abroad?
Our Trans-Atlantic relationship wouldn’t allow us to do anything besides move away and travel the world together. I am from Maryland, USA and Rhys is from Cardiff, Wales. It’s strange that it is 100% easier for us to live in Asia than either one of our actual homes! Damn immigration laws. Plus, when I was a junior in college I took the leap to study abroad in England, and from that moment on I was hooked. The travel bug has never stopped crawling through me making me itch to get on the road and explore! Then Rhys Farrow, the Welshman, happened and once we started dating there were two options. Either runaway to Asia, or get married. So, duh..the choice was easy, go runaway to ASIA!
Where are you now?
For now, home is Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Life was like a cake walk teaching in Korea, everything was set up for us. Life was almost too easy, and after two months struggling through India we were ready for an adventure. We did some research and quickly realized Vietnam was our very own land of opportunity. With hundreds of English Schools scattered across the city, teachers are in high demand. We moved here and in less than a month had three jobs each, two motorbikes, and an apartment. It was as easy as ABC. We had traveled through South East Asia two years before, and fell in love with the endless abundance of sunshine, beautiful beaches, and tropical fruits so making the move back to South East Asia was pretty brainless.
Here’s a post about our initial move to Vietnam.
How do you earn an income now?
Teaching is the way to go if you’re desperate to travel but don’t have anything in your savings account. When we left home nearly three years ago we had no idea what would happen. If you would have told me I’d still be in Asia three years later I probably would have laughed at the idea. But, teaching to travel and traveling to teach has somehow landed itself as our own little travel slogan. The pay is great, work is minimal, and life is a vacation. I teach kindergarten and third grade at an elementary school (all subjects) and Rhys teaches law and geography at a high school. By the way, neither of us are teachers at home. We’ve got bachelor’s degrees and that’s it. No need to worry about CELTA’s and TEFL’s.
You taught English in both Korea and Vietnam, which do you like better?
Eeek! The question that gets asked all of the time. What’s better? Vietnam or Korea? Comparing Vietnam and Korea is nearly impossible. Both experiences are entirely different. The cultures, people, and work. Korea is easy. If this is your first move to Asia and first time teaching English, go to Korea. Life is amazing, you’ll get hooked up with unforgettable friends upon arrival and will watch your bank account continue to grow with little effort exerted.
Need a challenge? Come to Vietnam. It’s an extremely rewarding experience when everything falls on your shoulders. We moved here with a handful of resumes and a bag of clothes. No apartment waiting, no friendly face to greet us at the airport, just Rhys and I. Life is harder because it is a developing country, but we will walk away with experiences so true that offer a whole new outlook on life because Saigon is truly one of a kind.
This post goes into the nitty gritty about teaching in Vietnam and South Korea:
Which country offers a better quality of life?
Quality of life is high in each country. Saigon is really dirty, crowded, and polluted but there is a huge expat scene here that helps you forget you live in such a chaotic city. South Korea is so advanced and technology creeps into everything. Seoul, South Korea is nicer than most US cities. My monthly pay in Vietnam is higher than it was in South Korea. However, in South Korea both of my flights (in and out) were paid for, we received completion of contract bonuses, and I swear every time I blinked we were getting handed money for some small brainless task we completed. Our monthly wage is higher in Vietnam but we have to pay for things like flights and apartment, while bonuses are non-existent. In each country you can walk away with $15-20,000 saved up for the next adventure or backpack trip!
What are you living expenses in Vietnam?
In Vietnam everything seems to cost pennies. I eat dinner for $1-5 and buy beer for $1. Rent is $400, and my motorbike costs $4 to fill the tank up. I can go out for the best massage I’ve ever had at the nicest place with all the right incences burning and music playing for $20. Or I can get a massage from the little place over the train tracks that last three hours for $2. Dinners and fancy Western bars are everywhere and affordable, if that’s what you want or need to feel like you live a somewhat normal chaos-free life for an evening.
Is it easier or more difficult travelling as a couple?
I’m all about girl power and not having to rely on anyone but yourself, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I was so glad to have Rhys by my side. After our insane time in India, I am certain we can take on anything life throws at us. We’ve slept on filthy train station floors and used book pages for toilet paper, nothing really phases us too much anymore! Advice for couples: avoid hungry, angry situations at all costs especially when you’re trucking your backpack around on your back and it is 100 degrees. Have a snack ready for all hungry, angry situations, it keeps you thinking rational!
How long do you plan on living abroad?
It looks like we will be living abroad until we feel it’s time to take the plunge and marry. Which were not planning on anytime soon! Some days I think, ‘man life would be so much easier to just move home where language barriers aren’t a problem’… but then I look out my apartment window at motorbike traffic weaving in and out, shops taking over the sidewalks, the fruit lady selling mango for $0.50, and kids playing in flooded streets from the recent monsoon rainstorm and don’t know how life at home would ever be able to compare again!
Do you have any advice for aspiring English teachers?
Patience. Patience. Patience. Like any job some days I’m the happiest girl in the world, and other days I feel like kicking every student out of my class. In the end though, I feel live I’m living a dream in a country that was so alien to me at first, and now makes more sense than home does at times. Oh, yeah and don’t smile for the first week because then they know you mean business!
2Nomads1Narrative.com – Nicky and Rhys’s Blog
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