Nick and Natasha are a traveling couple who live and teach in South Korea. Throughout their journey, they live, learn, and venture as much as they can, chronicling their adventures at Live Learn Venture. Find out more about the finances of teaching English abroad and how they make ends meet below!
(See also: How do I Get Into Teaching English Abroad)
In this series, we’re exploring the various careers of world travelers, and how they make ends meet financially while living abroad. Yes, financially sustainable full-time travel is possible!
This post was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
We just finished a 12 month contract teaching English abroad in South Korea. We live in an apartment in a rural part of South Korea, but get significant vacation time to travel around the country as well as overseas. Since moving to South Korea, we’ve been to Thailand and Hong Kong, Japan, and Vietnam.
Please describe what you do for income.
For income, we both work full-time teaching English to elementary school students. We work a typical 9-5 Monday-Friday workweek most of the year. We do get a lot of vacation time: 32 vacation days per year, plus all National holidays off.
I (Natasha) also bring in some income with freelance writing projects.
How many hours per week do you work on average?
We each work 40 hours a week at school. That being said, we only teach up to 22 hours per week. Our extra time is used for lesson planning, working on personal projects, travel planning, and blog work. We have to be in our office during our set work hours, but we can work on whatever we want once our work is completed.
I (Natasha) also work a couple of hours a week working on freelance writing projects. I just finished writing an e-book about living and teaching in South Korea. I also work on some paid client work, which brings in additional income. A lot of my writing is done during my free-time at school.
How much money do you make?
We both make a monthly salary for our teaching jobs. After insurance costs, school lunch fees, etc. We each make about $2,200 USD a month. We are lucky in that our income is not taxed for two years due to a treaty with the U.S. and we also get free rent, which is included in our contract. This helps make it possible to save money to travel and spend a good chunk of our income on travel.
My freelance income fluctuates depending on the projects I’m working on and how much I choose to work each month. I’m currently bringing in about $500 USD (after tax) a month.
We are hoping to learn more and find ways to make a small income from our blog and other sources, like e-book writing.
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
Yes, having a teaching contract helps to ensure that we have a steady income coming in. We do save a good bit for student loans, emergency funds, and retirement. These are sent to appropriate accounts on a monthly basis. If we travel overseas (which happens about four times a year), we don’t save extra money that month, and instead use it for travel costs.
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
We recently signed contracts for our second year of teaching English in South Korea. We hope to continue teaching, traveling Korea and overseas and learning and exploring for the next year. I think for now, it’s temporary. We’d like to set up a home base again, back home. But, I think we will always continue to travel — even if it’s weekend and summer travel! There’s a lot left to see!
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
There are so many opportunities out there for you to make an income and travel the world. I would say do it while you can — now! It’s easy to make excuses, but there is a lot waiting to be seen out there.
If you’re worried about finances, I would build up an emergency fund so that you have a safety net. Once you’re on the road, set automatic payments and savings up as much as possible, to help make everything less stressful. You should always keep a lookout for other opportunities, as well.