How I Traveled to 17 Countries and Saved $3K

In short, there is a three-word answer to how I traveled to 17 Countries and saved $3K: 

Teach English Overseas.

This blog post will talk about the ins and outs of teaching English abroad – specifically in South Korea.  I will share my experiences, discuss what to expect and tell you how to find jobs.

In my opinion, teaching English is the best way to travel, while making money and experiencing a new part of the world.  Whether you are fresh out of college (like I was), or you’re sick and tired of your corporate job, there is never a bad time to start teaching overseas.   

That’s exactly what I did. I moved to South Korea just three months after I graduated from The University of Wisconsin-Madison in August 2013. I had an open mind and I was ready to conquer the world.

The only requirements to get job teaching overseas are to hold a passport from an English speaking country, to have a bachelors degree from a 4-year University and to obtain a TEFL Certificate (Teach English as a Foreign Language).   I understand that many of you don’t meet these requirements, but that’s okay because you can still be a private English tutor if you are fluent in English (which I am sure that most of you are!)

Teaching English jobs are available in almost every country in the world that isn’t an English speaking country.  There are pros and cons for every different country.

But if you’re looking to make some serious cash, then there are really only a few countries that allow you to do this.  There are the Eastern Asia nations of South Korea, Japan and China, which are the best options for the highest salaries.   Also, there are some countries in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait) which pay even twice as much as these Eastern Asian nations, but then you are sacrificing the awesome lifestyle and freedomness of living in a place like Korea.  There’s a trade off for everything. 

All factors considered, I strongly consider South Korea to be the best option if you want to travel around Asia, experience a fascinating culture, and save some money while you’re at it.  It’s also a pretty cheap standard of living. Yes, I realize that I am slightly biased, but I am just trying to spread the word to as many people as possible.  I want you all to know about the incredible experience that you can have.  

But before you get too excited, there’s a few things that you need to know about teaching English in South Korea.

First, there are two types of jobs that you can get:
1) Teaching in a private academy (called a Hagwon)
2) Teaching at a public school

Private and Public teaching jobs are drastically different, with different benefits and contracts.

In Korea, most private school gigs are more strict and require you to do a LOT more work than public schools.  So, I recommend that you look into getting a public school job (but they are harder to find).  Each public school operates a bit differently, so your benefits can vary depending on which school you are placed at.  

That being said, here is a general outline of the benefits that a starting public school contract offers.  

Public school benefits:
– $2,000 USD per month salary
– 4-6 weeks vacation (2 weeks paid)
– Free rent
– Health Insurance
– Exempt from taxes
– $2K year-end bonus
– about $3-4K in returned benefits when you complete your contract
– Free Inbound and Outbound flights to Korea
– Free (or very cheap) school lunches
– About 10 paid sick days 

Since I took my job in late August, 2013, here is a timeline of my travels in order.

Korea –>  Japan –> Philippines –>Brunei –> Malaysia –> Singapore –> Sri Lanka –> Thailand –> Cambodia –> Vietnam –> China –> Hong Kong –> Macau –> Japan –> Taiwan –> Indonesia –> Australia –> Japan.

How on earth did I afford all of this?

Well, I make about $2K per month, with very little expenses and no taxes deducted from my paychecks. So, give or take, that is $2K cash that goes into my pocket every month, or $40K for the 18 last months of teaching (including all benefits.)

$ Forty-Thousand Dollars $

Eating meals is dirt cheap in Korea, and the standard of living is much more affordable than back home in Arizona.  I don’t buy useless shit and I can afford to party, eat out whenever I want, and have fun. All of this, while saving some money each month in my bank account.

You also need to realize that travel costs around Asia are so cheap! The only expensive part is buying the plane ticket, but I am pretty good at finding the best deals online. Contact me if you want some tips to find cheap flights!  

For ever more proof of how cheap Asia is, here’s a list of 7 Things I Bought for Less Than $2 USD.

Ok, I’m sold! How can I find a job? 

Well, there are several private recruiters that you can apply for a job.  Look out for Facebook groups that frequently offer jobs.  Search for ESL (English as a Second Language) and TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) in South Korea.   

My employer is a company called GEPIK.  It stands for Gyeonggi-do English Program in Korea.  Gyeonggi-do is the name of the province that I live in, which has a population of 15 million people.  GEPIK has cut lots of jobs in recent years, but there are still many job openings.  Also, you can look into EPIK (English Program in Korea) which is another employer of public schools. 

If you are still lost, then contact me and I can guide you in the right direction 🙂 

If teaching isn’t your thing, or you aren’t fluent in English and you want to work overseas, then here are some other job ideas: 

– Do freelance work online
– Start a blog and learn how to monetize it to many $$
– Work on a cruise ship
– Work at a hostel
– Be a bartender or work in a restaurant
– Become a tour guide or instructor for your passion (rock climbing, scuba diving, etc.)

So, there you have it, I just laid out for you exactly how I traveled to 17 new countries while having a positive balance of about $3K in my bank account.

All of these valuable life experiences can be yours too, if you really want it.  But will you take the risk? 

16 thoughts on “How I Traveled to 17 Countries and Saved $3K

  1. I am planning on teaching in South Korea next year starting at the beginning of the school year {I think in Feb?} I couldn’t be more excited. Just looking at your itinerary of travel from 2013 had me squeal with excitement. I will make sure to bookmark this when I am looking for jobs.

  2. You are definitely an inspiration! You love EDM (huge plus), you love to travel (always on my mind), you’re doing what you love (true inspiration)! Hopefully, I see you at EDCLV this summer!! (and I really mean hopefully since there will be THOUSANDS of people)

  3. Drew – I’m thinking of doing this when I get tired of traveling. Are there many folks in the 40+ age group teaching in Korea?

  4. That’s pretty good you managed to save so much while traveling to so many countries, I have always wanted to go to some Asian country to teach English and Korea sound like an amazing place.

    I have one problem though, I am not from a native English speaking country, I studied and worked in the U.S. for 5 years and I speak fluent English without any problems.

    Do you think if I got the TEFL certificate I could get a job as a English teacher in South Korea?

    1. Thanks! You can’t get a contract job unless you have a passport from an English speaking country.. but you can do private tutoring gigs that pay just the same, if not more than a contact job. Email me if you want more info!

  5. hey Drew! This is amazing! Thanks for sharing your secret 🙂 you are such an inspiration! Do you know how the market is for teaching Spanish? I am a Spanish native speaker and just got a certificate in teaching Spanish as a foreign language and I also just started a travel blog ( and want to travel 17 countries
    and and write about it! 🙂 thank you so much for all the valuable info you share and keep up the good job!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Ana! Unfortunately, I don’t know what it’s like to teach Spanish, but I am sure that you can find lots of info online.. Your comment really made me smile 🙂 Thanks!

  6. $3k is nothing to sneeze at, but I’m more impressed by the number of places you managed to visit! Wow, were you busy. From the many accounts of traveling English teachers out there, South Korea does seem to be one of the better destinations for it.

    1. Deia- yeah South Korea is definitely a great option for teaching English abroad. The lifestyle here is (in my opinion) unmatchable to any other Asian nation. Are you considering it?

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