A digital nomad is defined as “A type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner.”
But what does that mean? What do you need to be a digital nomad? How does it work and how to do you live and travel?
Basicly you work online and travel at the same time. Sounds like a dream right? But how?
Ill tell you what I did and what I know.
I was a digital nomad for a year in South East Asia, and while working 22 hours a week I was able to travel to Indonesia, Philippeans, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India and Sri Lanka all while working online. I was an online teaching for a Chinese company
Theoriticly ANY job online could propell anyone to the status of digital nomad. Teaching Englihs online, or online toutoring is a common job, but I have personal met instagram influncers, bloggers, bitcoin traders, photograpers, videotogrphers and writers. But anything is possible from codding, to selling foot fetish photos.
About online teaching...
First I'll tell you about my job, my company and how I got started.
Every company is different so I will start with explaining what my company was all about... I worked for a company called Landi English. All Chinese students, operators and staff but all of the teachers are international. Short and sweet, I liked my job.
To get down and dirty with it... 25 minuet classes, pay range from 18-25$ an hour, my company required a degree and teaching exprince or a TESOL.
The bookings were quite consistent and I got booked quite a bit because even though I was traveling I was able to maintain a level of professionalism... more on that later.
Landi pays per time slot, a time slot is 25 minets or one class, each time slot pays $9-11 depeding if you are on time of if the students attend the calss.
While I was traveling I would teach about 18 hours each week. $25 an hour so 25×18 = about 450 a week. On top of that you were given other bonuses. If you had good ratings from the students and parents (out of 5 stars) you would get a little bit extra every month. Also if you were on time you were thrown in a little extra every weed. Honestly I couldn't keep up all the bonuses, I was very happy with my paychecks every month, and I never over analyzed my paystubs. But you can get penalized, if you're late you get $2 deducted from every class for the entire week bring you to 9$ per slot, So you lose money if you not super punctual. Pay is deducted if you don’t clock in, if you are a second late to class or if you leave before the 25 minets is over.
If something happens like you get sick or if there's a power outage the Company likes to have some proof like a video of the lights not turning on for a photo of you with a thermometer in your mouth or something.. I don't know my company was usually pretty lenient. I had a pretty good track record of being on time and not missing classes so they often let me off the hook for little things.
So even though I was getting paid $550 a week I would get these bonuses and if I was on time for all my classes my monthly paychecks were usually about I thousand $1300. Not bad. And with the cost of living in south east Asia it was really not bad!
At the end of my year teaching with them I ended up staying in one spot for about three months. So I was living on an island the beautiful tropical island and are “working remotely” than “digital nomading” if that makes sense. So I increased my hours to 24 hours a week and I was making about 2400 every monthly paycheck, (I was able to save a lot with low cost of living in Thailand!!!)
The way my classes worked… Each class was 25 minuets long, I would book all my classes back to back so I woul have a 5 minuets break inbetween every calss where I would quickly type up the “memo” for each student, including what were there strengths and weaknesses, and I would often rant about how adorable they all were too, a memo would go somthing like this…
“Coco was late 4 minuets to class but she just missed the review and she jumped right into the lesson. She is such a strong reader and she uses such complete thoughts in a very confident manner. She did a great job of remembering what farm animals need and talking about it with me and her peer. She did a good job but can make sure she knows the difference between using “is” and “are”. We use “are” when there's plural nouns! Coco was very well behaved today. She was a good listener she sat well and she was totally focused. She also did well with the vocabulary today, she was so involved with the lesson, fantastic work all around! Great work Coco!”
Your best friend well writing memos will be copy and paste as well as the speak typing setting (pressing “FN key twice on your mackbook).
The lessons were pretty much an interactive slideshow. There are three video boxes the the side, one was mine and the other two were the students. My company has 2 kids in each class. The slideshows were colorful and had cute charcters like “Landi bear” and “Sandi bear” that would make an apperance every lesson. There was a hello song at he beginning of class . And two at the end one video song to summarize the lesson and one short one to say goodbye.
My students ranged in ages from 4 - 12 yreas old, the younger ones usually focusing easy topics on colors and animals, 3-5 vocbaulary words and a simple sentence. Older kids had more difficult lessons, ones that often left me wonering “omg what is a compound word again its been like 20 years since I talked about comopound words” then franticly googleing it during the hello song. Most lessons went very smoothly and most kids were very well behaved. But….
Sometimes you got a crying kid.... Sometimes you got a kid that was bouncing off the walls…. .sometime to go to sleeping kid... sometimes you got s shirtless Chinese dad doing streches and the kid is no where to be found..
I have heard some horror stories of parents beating their children during a lesson, luckily that didn't happen (to an extreem) while I was working. Sometimes a flick on the ear and a slap on the back, but I was always on edge becasue of what I have heard. Usually parents are really kind and often not involved in the lessons.
For the most part the parents are really encouraging, sometimes a little too push,y for the students to learn. Chinese students are pushed to do tons of extra curricular activities so I would try to be very understanding if they came to class really exhausted mentally or physically. The most advanced kids would tell me about grueling weekends with every hour filled with dance class, piano recitasl and extra math or science classes. I asked one of my older students "what do you do on your birthday?” and she deadass looked at me in the eyes and said "homework".Sometimes the students misbehaving in the parents are nowhere to be found.
Remember the children do the lessons from their homes so they are in their comfort zone they're not afraid to be silly or pick up the tablet while the lesson is being broadcasted you into the bathroom becase they have to peepee. It’s very very rare ordeal. I had the power to turn off any students video or audio in case something happened but usually everything went very smooth the classes were very fun.
I had the same students booking me every week so some of them I had for the entire year. Just like teaching a classroom, I got to see them grow, have birthdays, lose teeth and most of all, learn a lot of english! Unlike being in a classroom kids wouldn't sneeze or cough on me and get me sick!
A lot of these companies do care about how you look, I hate to say it but it's true. My company preferred having a cute background in my teaching space, so I had a map and an ABC poster and a “teacher Alex” sign. I made sure that my teaching space was well lit and had to strong Internet. I have had friends that have companies that prefer them just to be sitting in front of a white blank wall.
My company never got on my case about how I looked but I had a friend whose company with tell her to brush her hair or another friends company told her to please wear lipstick.
My company was pretty hands off and if I made a spelling error or if I wasn't looking pristene, they never bothered me about it. And that was one thing I really valued my company for, because I hate being mirco-managhed. They gave less feedback, but the 2-3 times they did give me feedback I would take it seriously
. Their lessons were easy-to-follow and didn't require much prep... actually I stpooed preparing for my lessons after a few months becasue I started to understand the games and the flow. The lessons were extremely easy-to-follow and I could often be creative and use the lessons to create conversation with the students.
I'll be honest when I first got hired I was definitely a mess. How could a four-year-old didn't make be this nervous? I thought that there was no way I could be online teacher and that this really wasn't the career fair me. But I got comfortable with it. I got to know the students then I started to understand the lessons and before I knew it I was making animal sounds and jumping around and really getting involved and that's what the companies like to see. And I was able to finish the lessons in exactaly 25 minuts, but it came wiht practice.
I taught a lot of my lessons with just a normal headphones with a little speaker. Buying really cheap headset (the kind tat makes you look like you work at mcdonald drive though) may function the same as earbus but it makes you look more professional. And again these companies care how you look! I would recommend investing in a $15 headset that you buy online. Just make sure you can plug it into computer. Some have 2 plug things….
I taught from my relatively new MacBook Pro and tan into almost no problems using it. Some companies let you teach from iPad, or even your phone. My company strongly recommended me having an ethernet cable but let's be real I don't even know really what that is or how to get one. I just made sure I hade dope wifi.
I am very low tech and every day of my life I am impressed with myself that I held an online job down for so long. I don't know anything about technology, I get scared when I update my laptop…
When it came to scheduling my company would you make your schedule and it was set. You can only change it once every six months. For me personaly, I was okay because I knew my classes started at the same time every day, same day every week and I was never late. The companies
Chinese time so for me living in south east Asia was ideal because there's only a 1 to 2 hour are time difference. Other companies let you change hours every week, Some companies let you just sit down and open your laptop and students will come to you whenever youre online!
Almost all companies are like afterschool programs, so usually going from Monday to Friday. The hours are in the evening after school hours (5pm-10om) and then all day on Saturday and Sunday.
Wow I know, lots of information, dont worry, I’m sure there is mroe I forgot to mention but there will be training and a handbook. OH YES… how to get hired.
I cannot stress enough how different every company is so I'll try to touch on the things that all the companies probably having common when it comes to hiring. Usually they will start with an interview with yourself and an adult, a normal employee for the company. For this interview do some research on the company!!! What kind of backgorund do they like? If they like fun backgrounds, make one for the interview!!! Do they want employees to have a blue T-shirt? Go get a blue T-shrit! Know what they want and blow their minds when they open there Skype for the interview!
So they want a resume. Write it up really milk any teaching experiences you have. Did you work at a summer camp and talk infront of a gorup of campers? Given yourself a fancy title and really talk it up! If you have a real classroom teaching experience? hype it up and let them know! Put it on the top of your resume… you know the drill.
A lot of companies will require you to have a degree or some sort of TESOL/TEFOL. I do know people who have photoshop to themselves a degree and sent it in but I don't recommend it. I really don’t…
But most of all what a company is looking for is a native English speaker. This can be tricky if you're like Vietnamese-American. They might looking you and be like “She looks like me, does she speak English?” Yeah I know this REALLY SUCKS but you might have to explain your heritage or family time line. Also it can be harder if you are fluent in English but it’s you second landguae , try to neutralize your accent, again I know this really sucks but ugghhhh welcome to the world of online teaching.
So you passed the interview yay! They like your resume, woohoo! Now it's time for your demo class. I interviewed with two companies. They will give you a lesson to look at beforehand, and DO look over the lesson and practice in front of your dog, youtube other online teachers and just coppy them.
One company had me do the demo class in front of a student, didnt go so well, it was my first online class even and I was akward, not smooth at all…
The other demo class was in front of an adult. I nailed the this one. It was actually quite comical because it was this woman who was like in her 30s pretending to be a five-year-old Chinese kid, so not only was it kind of funny but I she would somtimes pause the demo to give me small corrections or feedback, and then we would return to the “demo”.
Some companies will offer you a salary depending on how your demo class goes… if the demo goes okay -18 an hour offer. If it goes really well- 20 an hour offer. My company offered the same for all employees which I really liked, because I was new but it gave me an incentive to stay with the company and actually try to become a better online teacher. I made good money right away.
Some tricks and tips to doing a good demo class…
1- TPR. This means just like making a hand gesture for everything. If you're doing an animal lesson, and the word alligator comes up make alligator mouth out of your hands and have a go snap snap snap every single time alligator comes up. It's almost like using Pavlov's dog theory on kids.
2-Speak really slowly and very clearly and if the student makes some mistakes during the demo it’s really important to stop and make time to fix it. Fix the mistakes!
3- Bring in a stuffed animal. Sock puppets work becase you can make them talk like a muppet. If I ask a student “how are you?” and they say “how are you back?”, Turn around to that stuffed cat on the table and say “hey Miss Kitty how are you?” And then lean back and have miss kitty coming the camera and say “I'm great!”, usually it clicks with the kids, and the student bwill be able to mimc Miss kitty and say “im great”
4- get STOKED when a kid does somthing right tell them they did great, dance around, give hi-fives (thought the computer but the get it), get excited! Be silly, do somthign goofy, laught at yourself, you can have fun during the classes too.
5- Use the tools, the tools are there to be used, there are tools like drawing tools, I often underline what my stuednts are reading, so they dont get lost or their eyes follow along, draw littl stars and happy faces if they do well. There are usually awards like stars and bells you can press and points you can give the kids, use them!
After the demo there will be some “training” This usually consists of a lot of reading handbooks some funny videos signing papers and preparing your new schedule! It took me a month to get started with my company.
Traveling and teaching, a balancing act.
First thing you got to do is figure out how much money do you need and how often do you have to teach. What I did was I work Friday evenings for three and half hours all Saturday and all Sunday. This gave me enough money to travel and for full days off to do what ever I want and go anywhere I want as long as there was Wi-Fi
So my week would go like this-
Mondays I would usually be on a flight, a train or a boat going somewhere new.
Tuesdays Wednesdays and Thursdays I would be in a hostel with my laptop locked up someplace safe and secure. Time to sightsee and party! I would usually check out of said hostel on Friday morning and move myself to an air BnB.
Fridays I would check into the air B&B as early as possible around noon and the first thing I would do before the host left and before I unpack my bag was done a Wi-Fi speed test. If the Wi-Fi was good then I was happy. If the Wi-Fi was bad I would ask the host to fix it, if they couldnt I would just go someplace else. I only book airbnbs if they had good Wi-Fi and I would often ask the owners to run a Wi-Fi test beforehand. Anyway I'll talk about that more… anywy I would set up my backgrounds, arrange my flashcard and dust off my stuffed cat, make sure I had good lighting and get my laptop fully charged. Then I would go relax on my own, get some food and sit my butt down evenings and start teaching some children from the Air BnB
Saturday and Sundays I would teach teach teach, but had nice 2-3 hour breaks where I would chill out at a coffee shop, do my travel laundry, go to the beach whatever. Just bang out most of my classes. Sunday after my last class I would pack my bag and do it all agin. I did this for a 9 months, and I loved it. Last 3 months I setteled into one place and uped my hours to save money.
When finding a place to teach on the weekends my number one concern was usually Wi-Fi. I sometimes would book a private rooms and hostels or cheap hotels but usually the Wi-Fi was shared with the whole floor and not crazy fast Wi-Fi. One time the fastest Wi-Fi was in a broom closet on the ground floor of a hostel so with the managers permission I stuck myself on the floor of the nasty broom closet and taught my classes, and the poor lady who was the janitor was like trying to throw away the trash next to me but be all quiet it was really weird so I started looking air B&Bs because usually it's one Wi-Fi router for that whole room, not shared.
I would often look at the area a few days in advance and scout out some cheap rooms like $15 a night or $20 (which is totally doable in south east Asia) then directly message the owners and asked them to run a speed test. Now Internet speed test are not always completely accurate but they're usually pretty good, so for like video chatting it had to be like 25 mbps or above. If the owner ran a test and it was good I would book, if they would say “oh just trust me it will be fast internet” it’s more like a 50/50 change it was fast enought to teach on. I would very much recomend asking for a speed test before booking.
Once an air B&B lied to me about wifi and I showed up the place was a dump and there was no Wi-Fi at all, so I had to run to a more expensive hotel downt he street and do my teaching there. Air B&B refunded me and gave me a coupon for my next trip because I had screenshots of our conversation, and screen shots of the speedtest saying “error no wifi”. Air B&B really had my back while as an online teacher.
On a side note as a backpacker after spending five days in a hostel, getting to have to on your own kind of like chill out and cleanup is really nice so this is a really nice balance that I came to love going crazy for five days chill out for two.
As a back up Wi-Fi I would hotspot my phone or I would use my little pocket Wi-Fi. I really liked having strong Wi-Fi and then having hotspot as the backup because it just made things a lot less stressful. Sometimes the power goes out… when the power goes out I had a system.
I'll be sure my laptop always had a full charge so would last for like five or six classes in a power outtage. I also carried a headlamp with me at all times and I would put it to something and shine on my face so the kids could see me in the dark. Then if my phone was running low battery I would put my sim card into my pocket Wi-Fi and have another few hours of Wi-Fi. Most companies will be really understanding the power out goes, and give you a pass, but like if you have the resources why not keep teaching make that extra money honey. Also in countires like Sri Lanka the power went out ever day! So I had to be ready
When I would arrive in a new country I would always always always get a local Sim card and spend a couple extra bucks on a very good Wi-Fi package. If you're in a pinch you will be heavly relying on your sim card to provide internet to teach. You can get a sim at the airport but somtimes they charge more and give you “tourist” packages (rip off packages), maybe its better to get a sim card in town if you can wait.
I would keep my laptop in a Pelican case which is quite big and heavy for a laptop case but it was functional. It's waterproof and it shockproof.
I know I abuse my backpack when traveling, so having my laptop protected made me feel alright know my laptop was getting thrown at the bottom of a pile of luggage whie boarding a boat or a bus. I took a motorcycle trip across Vietnam and got all my stuff rained on, but my laptop was dry. Once on this motorcycel trip I realized my backpack had fallen off my bike about a mile back going at a fast speed on a highway, but guess what! My precious laptop was safe! I think you get it, I recomend pellican cases, there also was plenty of room for me to fold up my backgorund posters and stuff them inside the case without geting crinkeld.
I also had a hard box of heaphones, my laptop charger, pocket wifi and other odds and ends like tape to tape up my posters and various sim cards from other coutnires I may pass through again.
While teaching it's important to have props with you. I used a lot of flashcards because they are flat and easy to pack. I had glashcards for colors, animals and shapes that I made muyslefI used balloons for lessons on parties because you could deflate them and I kept a pair of wooden chopsticks for verbs like eating. I had my stuffed cat who seconded as a pillow and extra paper and pens to draw any new flashcards that I needed.
Meeting up with other digital nomads
I met digital nomads everywhere I went. The more I chatted with people about what I did the more I found out that digital know that for all around me. There are some places where digital nomads going to be more satruated than others. Usually Instagram Havens like Bali, Singapore or Chiang Mai.
You can find different events, socials and start up houses online. Facebook groups are big, and hastags. You can also find in various support groups and they can be broad or narrow like anything is brought as just “digital nomad” and anything as narrow as “solo traveling female online traders”.
In my experience, my closest friend in Thailand (teacher Niki) found acstart up house in Bali called “Tribe theory”. There are different Tribe Theory locations around southeast Asia and they cater to digital nomads and anyone else who wants to stay and learn about working remotly. They often hold events with free alcohol and fruit and have speakers come in and talk about working abroad, different remote jobs and how to acquire extended visas.
There are also group trips you can join, you can find them on facebook groups or even websights like https://nomadlist.com/trips
The time I spent at tribe theory was amazing. I ended up staying there for a few months.I learned a lot from other digital nomads and I had a lot of fun. I only knew one other online teacher there (teacher Niki). It was more like bloggers, web developers and bit coin traders. Where as on Koh Tao, every other person is an online teacher.
Even if you're proud to be working online sometimes I wouldn't let the authorities about your job. Don't list it on the entry card, or on your visa application, and if officals asked you give them a smart answer. Sometimes you need a work permit to do these jobs in certain countries or even if you don't need a work permit the police are sometimes corrupt and will tell you you need one in charge you a bunch of money. You can get denied a visa or not let back in during a visa run, Ive seen that happen. Tell your friends what you do, go to meet ups but keep on the hush…. One one visa run from Thailand to Melaysia, the man in charge told everyone they should not have their carrear lsiten on their Facebook profiles in case authorities went ahead and check this out online. That might be a bit extreme but it's never too much of a precaution to take a guess. This guy has an organizing Visa runs for like 15 years so I guess I'll take his word for it.