Interview: How Cynthia & Niko Travel the World while Teaching Online
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A big thanks to Cynthia & Niko from A Journal of Nomads for this interview!
Cynthia (Belgium) has been traveling for 7 years while Niko (Canada) has been on the road for almost 11 years. They met three and a half years ago during the grape picking season in France. They’ve been together ever since. In September 2015 they embarked on an overland journey from Ireland to Alaska, across 6 continents and without taking any flights. Instead of rushing through places and ticking of countries on a list, they prefer to spend quality time in the places they visit and connect with the locals. They document their experiences through videos (Niko), photography and written stories (Cynthia).
Given that you all have been traveling for the past 5+ years, when did you decide to start teaching online and why?
We discovered the possibility of teaching online about 2 years ago, just before traveling in Turkey. We were considering teaching in local Turkish schools and were trying to figure out how to get a work visa. We then discovered that there were plenty of online schools for which we could teach and earn a decent hourly rate, and that got us really excited. This would change the way we traveled. We wouldn’t have to find a job every so often and wouldn’t have to rely on the local salaries, which are in certain countries very low. This would allow us to work from anywhere in the world in a field that we knew well, providing that we had a good internet connection of course.
How has your travel style changed because of teaching? Do you base your destinations on wifi or stay longer in one place in order to work?
We started traveling a lot slower. Every time we travel to a new country, we’re looking for a good home base. Ideally, a small city from which a lot of interesting touristic destinations are easily accessible. Even though we prefer to be in the countryside, it’s not always possible to find a decent internet connection there. We tend to stay longer in one place now as it allows us to discover the country more in-depth while putting money aside for the rest of our travels.
You talk (on your blog) a lot about the differences between working on demand for an app and setting up a regular schedule with a company – which do you currently do and why?
We first started teaching online using an app. We weren’t ‘stuck’ to a regular schedule so we had the freedom to decide in the morning if we would work that day or not. The disadvantage was that we never knew if we were going to have many students that day. We couldn’t rely on a regular income.
That’s why we decided to start working for a company with a regular schedule. We know in advance when we’re going to teach and we can also rely on a steadier income. The disadvantage is that we can’t go on a spontaneous trip but that’s actually not that bad. We make sure we have enough days off to have a good work – travel balance.
Is online teaching enough to fund your travels entirely or do you rely on other income?
Online teaching can entirely fund our travels, as long as we teach about 3 days a week or a minimum of 20 hours. It also depends of course where we base ourselves. If we would live f.eg. in Australia, where the living costs are very high, we wouldn’t be able to save so much. But since we’re exploring Asia, where it is very cheap to live, we’re able to put enough money aside as we travel.
What would you tell someone who is considering doing something similar – any advice or cautionary tales?
When you teach online, your home becomes your working space. This can be tricky in the way that you spend a lot of time at home, alone. Make sure to go outside during the hours or the days that you don’t teach, so you can spend time in a different environment and meet people. Otherwise, it can become pretty lonely…
Has online teaching kept you from traveling somewhere or encouraged you to visit someplace new?
Online teaching hasn’t really prevented us from going to any destination. The only disadvantage is that we can’t go off-grid for too long. We need to choose our (temporary) home base carefully, as our work depends on the internet. Once we find a nice place with a decent internet connection, we tend to stay there longer. This encourages us to explore the countries where we decide to stay more in-depth.
Have you ever met any of your online students on the road?
We haven’t met any of our online students yet, but we will as we’re slowly making our way towards China. We’re also planning on visiting the headquarters of the company we’re working for.