The “Great Leap” F.A.Q.

First of all, there is absolutely nothing I like better than  contributing to the corrupti… errr, inspiring other wanderlusts to follow their own travel dreams.  To slap on a backpack and head to a foreign land. Or better yet – to suck in a great big ol’ gulp of oxygen, and do the unthinkable:  Dump all your “stuff” and move lock, stock ‘n barrel to some far-away corner of the Planet.

(well o.k. – perhaps there IS one other thing that I like better: uh… flying off to explore some new exotic land myself, of course.  But hey – this is a travel blog after all, pecked by an avowed wanderlust, so of COURSE that’s gotta be my perpetual numero UNO favorite thing in the whole wide world, no?)

Ah but seriously. My SECOND most favorite thing, is to inspire folks to likewise take “The Great Leap”, and furthermore, to pass on whatever tips on doing such that I’ve managed to collect (often by trial and error – the latter being the disturbingly frequent operative word here) along the way.

And speaking of “leaps”, this blog has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 4+ years since I first hatched this roller-coaster plan to become a perpetual nomad – first in Vietnam, then a stint in Thailand, and now resettled on the tippy-top of an Andean mountain in Ecuador. And naturally I get quite a stash of private emails from folks with questions on “…just how do I get started?” “…are there really any EFL jobs there?” and of course a perennial favorite – “Why are you always harping on this whole “It ain’t a dress rehearsal” thing?” Though individual circumstances may vary, quite often the questions posed in these private notes are repeated again and again.

Thus I’ve created this separate TL page just for such “F.A.Q.”s that seem to be on a lot of folks’ minds when contemplating an exodus from the comfy same ol’-same ol’ to… the (understandably a good bit) scary prospect of living and/or working in some distant land.

So if you have a question, do first scour the entire TL site (via the handy “Search —>” function gizmo on the far right of the TL menu above). Plus pop into this F.A.Q. page regularly to see if your question has already been asked and answered.

And if not, then please don’t hesitate to shoot me a private note and I’ll try my level best to help.

And now – on to the growing list of Q ‘n A’s sent in by folks just like you:

[Simply click on any of the Questions to reveal my answer (click the question again to close the answer). Note also that my answers are from over a period of 3+ years now, so some of the info may be out of date.]
 

TAKING THE GREAT LEAP

Q: Oh my – this is a great site – so inspiring. I’m from Seattle, just finished the Camino, and can’t contemplate continuing my work at my present job here – I want to travel.  4 daughters grown up and gone. Adored living out of my backpack. More than enough. How to begin – would like to be able to support myself enough as I walk and talk my way around the world. Best steps? CELTA looks good. I’m 60. Ready to live my best Act III.

I’ve now spent most of the day reading on your site. Thank you so much for the information. So informative and yet you make the information seem not so overwhelming by injecting such wonderful spirit into your writing. Even as I was having a heart attack trying to wonder if I could do it – I also couldn’t stop reading and appreciating the grit, determination, and humor that you bring to life.

Am still sifting. Researching and continually asking myself, “What is it that I found preparing for the Camino and then doing it that I want to live now completely in my life?  I’m wondering how much I have to have figured out about the why? About what I am looking for? Is it possible that, knowing that I have a heart that is open, is enough of a reason to just prepare and then just go?

I have never left the country before. This has been a huge year for me. I’m willing to live many huge years!

A:  AB.SO.LUTE.LY! Indeed, if I could give you just one single piece of advice at this stage, it would be: You will NEVER have ALL the answers, nor ENOUGH information. Period.

If you wait until you have all the answers (which, uh, you.never.will), you’ll never do it. You just do the best you can, and then JUMP!​

Trust that you WILL.LAND.ON.YOU.FEET Simple as that. Really.

You did the Camino. Just like that – just put one foot in front of the other. Don’t think too far ahead. Just start putting together the logistics. Downsize, sell stuff, buy an air ticket. One step at a time. And before you know it – you’ll BE ON YOUR WAY!

Honestly, that’s the best advice I can give you. And the only thing I might add is – need I remind you of my own life-long mantra?

THIS AIN’T NO DRESS REHEARSAL! 😉

Q: My friend and I have also been dreaming of doing some traveling, and the one place that has been on our minds for quite some time has been Cuenca, with the possibility of moving there. We will be taking our first trip there in July and wondered if we might be able to get some tips from you. One thing we are interested in is how easy or difficult it might be to get some type of work there if we were to move there. My friend is a CPA and I have worked in computer software, training primarily. Another piece of advice you could give is the best area of Cuenca to stay in to get the most feel for the culture and people.

We are both “of a certain age” but have not been quite as fearless as you — yet we hope this trip will help change that for us! We hope spending the month of July in Cuenca will give us some of the answers we are looking for. We enjoy your stories — so entertaining and informative. We have both been single moms and enjoy reading your exciting adventures. We hope to step out of our comfort zones and do some exciting living ourselves now that our kids are all self-sufficient. Look forward to hearing from you and maybe meeting you in person once we get down there.

A: Thanks for writing, I’m happy to shed some light on what’s in store for you here in Cuenca, but good that you and your friend are coming for a goodly visit to see things for yourselves.

While I don’t presume to know much about working in Ecuador other than teaching English, my hunch is that the pay here in Ecuador (presuming you could even get a job in either of your fields) would be very low indeed. So I don’t think you can count on such to support yourselves here. Even teaching English is low-paying and the best jobs (at barely living wage of $6 – $7 per hour) require a degree plus a CELTA certificate or other recognized EFL teaching certificate. That plus, in order to get a permanent visa, you must show either a permanent income from other sources (e.g. a pension/social security) of at least $800/month, else a goodly investment of (I think, not sure) $25,000 in a CD or property. In short, to my knowledge, your best bet is to have a means of reliable income from a digital source, else get yourself a CELTA and plan on teaching English.

Your second question is an easy one for me – if learning Spanish and mingling with the lovely Ecuadorians, learning the culture, etc. is what you’re after, then your best bet (at least for the first 6 months/year) is to live right here in the heart of Cuenca (El Centro, where I’ve happily lived now for more than a year). It can be noisy here, but there’s always something going on, lots of little cafe’s with $2 and $4 “almuezos” (full lunch), and you’ll pick up the language much faster than living further out in the high-rises of “gringolandia”.

And yes, do feel free to give me a holler when you get to town. I’d love to take you to my favorite mercado to taste your first (heavenly imo) “hornado”. Meanwhile, I suggest you join the Ecuador Expats (private) group on Facebook. Some of the discussions can get a little wild, but there’s plenty of folks here (lots of single lasses “of a certain age” like us) that can are happy to help with any stray questions you may have.

Q: Hi Dyanne, I am so curious about you. I am 62 and have been divorced for 4 years, now that my kids and grandkids are grown I want to travel and have some adventures and would really appreciate any advice you can give me. Are you single? If so is it easy to travel in Ecuador? Thank you so much.

A: Ah, yet another lass “of a certain age” with dreams of travel and perhaps a little adventure! And why not? After all, there’s absolutely no reason we dodderin’ lasses must live out our days crocheting booties for the great-grandkids, or playing bingo at the neighborhood Senior Center. NO WAY!

And yes, I too am single (divorced a bazillion years ago) with grown kids and near grown grandkids. But I’m afraid your request for “any advice” on traveling is a bit too broad for me to know how I might best be helpful

For starters, if you’re curious about me – I’d suggest you pretty much read most every post here at TravelnLass. I know, I know – that’s a tall order (200+ posts in the past 4 years!) But not only will that help you to get to know me, but you’ll have a much better feel for my particular style of travel, so as to see if that might suit yours. For if there’s one thing I can tell you for sure, it’s that we are each very different when it comes to travel styles. What *I* might consider an “adventure”, might well make you cringe and run screaming for the hills. Conversely, what I might find way too tame, might well be your perfect, comfy travel style. No right or wrong way of doing it.

In short, as far as having “a little adventure” goes – the best advice I can give you is:

  1. Push yourself a bit out of your comfort zone
  2. Take “baby steps” until you feel confident to push a little further
  3. Go with your heart, and above all…
  4. Just GO!

Do it. Go somewhere! Go anywhere. If you’ve never been out of your state, your native country – GO!

After all (geez, do I have to say it AGAIN???) THIS AIN’T A DRESS REHEARSAL!

So if you seek “a little adventure” – simply MAKE.IT.HAPPEN.

If you’ve never traveled anywhere by yourself – just book a flight to New York (presuming you live in the U.S., and don’t live there already) 😉 Do the research, book a hotel, buy a theater ticket (“Jersey Boys” is HIGHLY recommended, especially for we boomers – ah, “Sheerrr-err-iii, Sherrie baby!”) Yes, take yourself to dinner – solo, or better yet, sample some of NYC’s delish street food. Maybe take a day tour, but that’s all the “tour” stuff you’re allowed. 😉

New York City too expensive? Then just take a bus to someplace (the beach, the mountains, the city) in the next state for the weekend – solo.

If you’ve never been out of the country – even a 5 day cruise to the Bahamas or Mexico will no doubt be quite the adventure. Better yet – book the cruise BUT (and this is key) DON’T pre-book ANY of the shore excursions on offer. Instead, spend the first evening/day befriending a new chum (who likewise is looking for a little adventure) and… step off that gangplank the next morning INDEPENDENT.

No tour bus waiting to whiz you around some tiresome, pre-determined circuit of standard tourist spots. Nope, you (and btw, better even SOLO if you can handle it) just stroll away from that ship, and wander the nearby lanes until you get away from the hawkers and trinket shops. Likely it will only take but a few blocks off the tourist trail and you’ll find yourself among the locals busily working, shopping and playing.

Be open (don’t be gabbing with your new shipmate chum or with your nose stuck in a guide book). Be open with a great big ol’ smile for all the locals. Don’t know the language? No problem. Just smile and mime whatever it is you’d like to say. Seriously. I’ve done it in every blessed foreign country I’ve ever landed in. It works. The smile and the openness (and being off the tourist trail) is the key.

In short – in any of these examples – I can almost GUARANTEE you’ll most definitely have a good bit of adventure, and return home with plenty of interesting tales to tell. And even better, you’ll return home…

With a bit more confidence, and a smidge more travel-smarts. Ready to take on an even bigger travel challenge the next time.

P.S. Oh and… “is it easy to travel in Ecuador?” Again, hard to say not knowing your travel experience. But I’d have to say yes – even for a complete greenhorn traveler, Cuenca is fairly easy to navigate and explore (and btw, there’s a TON of single solo lasses expatting like me here). I’d say on a par with Costa Rica or Italy. Not as easy as say… Belize (where the national language is English). But compared to Burma? or Mongolia? Ecuador is a walk in the park. 😉

HTH inspire you to not put off having your own little adventure. And if you have any specific questions – do give me a holler.

Q: Reading your stories about your new home in Cuenca, Ecuador – sounds like an awesome place. Maybe I should consider swapping Chiang Mai with Central America…

A: Well first of all, Ecuador is technically in SOUTH (not Central) America. Now with the geography all tidied up – given that I recently lived in Chiang Mai myself Nina, I can tell you that the two “darlings” of the expat crowd both have their merit. They’re both very economical to live, and both have an excellent infrastructure for we digital nomads. I prefer the cooler climes here in Cuenca (not to mention none of the infamous “burning season” in Chiang Mai) but if you favor the tropics, just head down in altitude to the numerous beaches to choose from along Ecuador’s coast.

And probably the sweetest difference between Ecuador and Thailand – is that here, the visa situation is far more amenable to long-term stays. None of that silly running to the Mae Sai every 14/30 days. Here you can get a 90 days freebie upon arrival, that’s renewable for another 90 days. Better yet, there’s a variety of permanent residency visas (Pensioner, Investment, Professional and Student) if you’d like to stick around a year or more.

In short, my stay in Vietnam/Thailand was perfect for exploring all those many wondrous neighboring lands on that half of the globe, but Ecuador is likewise great and gives me a whole new continent (South America) to explore. So a “nomadic freelancer” like yourself might well give Ecuador a go.

Q: I see that you lived in Thailand and I wondered if I could ask you a couple questions? How long ago did you live there? Where in the country did you live? I am single and don’t have a travel buddy that can go with me, so what do you think of a single 50s female traveling/living alone in Thailand?

A: What do I think of a single 50s female traveling/lining alone in…?

Shoot, ANYWHERE on the Planet, my dear. Wherever you like. Hundreds, if not tens of THOUSANDS solo lasses doing it all over the globe, as we speak.

Indeed, you’ll get no nay-say from me on the travelin’/expat scene. I’ve been traveling solo all over the world (including solo backpacking across South Africa and Mozambique at the tender age of 6-oh!) Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Nepal, Mongolia, younameit. Indeed, I MUCH PREFER traveling solo. No compromises. And if/when you want a bit of company for a few days, a week, etc. There’s plenty of folks you’ll meet along the way.

Only question I might ask of you: So have you ever traveled to a developing country before (either solo, or w/ a pal?) If not (i.e. only 1st world countries like Italy, Britain, etc. or cruises don’t count), then Thailand will be a bit startling. But that said, still doable. Especially where I lived: Chiang Mai. I only lived there about 4 months (suffice Thailand’s visa regs are completely nutso) plus… I honestly wasn’t crazy about it as in my experience/opinion there’s just too darn many expats and backpackers in Chiang Mai.

But that’s good news for you. I lived in Vietnam for 2 years before moving to Chiang Mai, and I much favor the lack of tourism and the dearth of fellow expats in Vietnam (i.e. I don’t travel to hang out with folks “just like me”.) But if your not as experienced traveling solo, you’ll love Chiang Mai (Bangkok’s nice too, but much bigger of course). So many expats means many (though most certainly not all) of the locals speak English. It’s very easy to navigate, and extreeemely cheap. (we’re talkin’ a modern a/c studio apt w/ wifi, fridge and flatscreen tv for <$200 per month including utilities.) In short, GO.FOR.IT. You're not getting any younger, and as I always say: "This ain't no dress rehearsal!" So just follow your dreams [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q: Cuenca sounds really lovely. Do you feel as safe wandering around at night as you did in Chiang Mai?

A: Though I generally don’t bat an eye at the preponderance of fear mongers who proclaim that travel in {insert most any patch of foreign dirt on the Planet, but of course excluding movie theaters in Colorado, school yards in tranquil Connecticut towns, childcare centers in Oklahoma, uh… need I go on?} Nonetheless, I must admit before I arrived here in Ecuador, I WAS a bit put-off by some of the ominous tales being told about this or that city in Latin America.

Ah but now that I’m here, I can honestly report that all the fear-mongering is (as usual) highly overrated. There’s surely far LESS crime here in Ecuador than in my native U.S. of A. land, and the answer is: yes, I feel quite safe here in Cuenca. As safe as I feel in most every blessed place I’ve roamed on the globe (including solo across all of South Africa which, sadly seems to ever be an especially ripe target for idle fear-mongers – sigh…)

That said, there ARE ways to mitigate the chance of becoming a victim of course, but such would take a separate post (not to mention plenty has already been written on the subject – just Google for “safe travel tips”) and even then – such safety practices are the same be it traveling in Chiang Mai, Cuenca or Seattle.

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[Click on any of the Questions to reveal my answer (click the question again to close the answer).]
 

PACKING

Q: Hi Dyanne, it’s me again with my bazillion questions. This time I’m wondering about electronic devices. I’d like to get a laptop for traveling and I’m wondering if you have thoughts or suggestions on that. Also, what kind of camera do you use? I don’t know much about blogging but I’d like to be able to post pictures and do a basic blog to keep in touch with friends and family. Trust me, you cannot overestimate my ignorance on this. ;) I’m looking to get very basic equipment (read, ‘as inexpensive as possible’) but still able to do the job.

A: Well of course I can’t recommend any specifics as there’s just so darn many techno-choices nowadays and the latest and greatest seems to be changing daily! But as a guideline, yes – if you plan to blog you’ll want at least a netbook or e-pad, and better yet… As you’re going to be teaching, you’ll likely want a full-size laptop.

That, and a decent camera of course. There too it depends on your druthers, but unless you’re into serious photography, and/or happen to already have a DSLR, then I’d recommend one of the mid-level point and shoots which will serve you just fine.

Phone? First of all, if you already own a smartphone – you definitely want it unlocked so you can use cheapo sim cards wherever you land. Alternately, just wait til you land and buy yourself a cheapo phone for $30 to get you started.

My own little “flashpacker” kit now includes an HP 17″ laptop for home use here in Vietnam, along with a little Asus netbook for traveling. For photos, I have my trusty Panasonic Lumix p&s (with a 12x optical zoom and video) plus a DSLR that I never use (my travel style is so “light” and off-the-grid that I always feel like the DSLR is too bulky/obtrusive to take on my jaunts to Mongolia, etc. but maybe someday…) I also have a beloved Kindle, and have recently (happily) switched from an unlocked iPhone to a Galazy S4 (talk about “smart” – I love that I can simply say “cheese” to the phone and it snaps the picture!)

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[Click on any of the Questions to reveal my answer (click the question again to close the answer).]
 

TEACHING EFL

Q: My husband and I are considering moving to Cuenca, hopefully within the next 2 years for early retirement and I just found your blog while doing some “research”. I have really enjoyed reading about your adventures in Ecuador and everywhere else. Sounds like a great life.

I noticed that you teach English (ESL) as well, and have been considering that for myself.I would like to take a course here (in Canada) and get certified before we move and I was wondering about the job opportunities in Cuenca. I am not looking to work full time, just part time to supplement our income (savings) while living there. Oh ya, I am also in my 50’s and am worried that I would be considered too old. Any information you could help me with would be very appreciated.

A: Well for starters my dear, let me assure you that you are most definitely NOT at all “too old”. Indeed, as (proudly) proclaimed in my TravelnLass tagline there in my logo “Proof positive that you’re never too old to… follow your dreams”. Furthermore, I started teaching EFL in Vietnam when I was well over 60, and 4 years later, here in Ecuador, I continue to teach EFL at one of the best private English schools in Cuenca.

That said, yes – you will need a good, solid (on-site, not some flaky online course) ACCREDITED course in teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language – note that “ESL” = English as a Second Language). The latter is teaching English to new immigrants in a country like Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, etc. vs. the former EFL is teaching English to locals in Vietnam, Ecuador, etc. and I dare say – there are significant differences in the method of teaching between the two.

I highly recommend the CELTA (arguably the gold-standard of EFL teaching credentials, accredited by no less than Cambridge University and recognized the world over). And while you can take the course there in Canada (the CELTA course is standardized and strictly monitored for excellence no matter what country you take it in), as I mention below, I recommend taking the CELTA in the country where you plan to teach English. No guarantees of course, but generally the school where you take the course will best be able to either hire you or support you in finding a teaching position at a school nearby. And if you’re planning on moving to Ecuador, you’re in luck – they just started offering the CELTA right here in Cuenca, and… I believe you can also opt to take the month-long course at the beach or… even in the GALAPAGOS ISLANDS!

Lots more details here on TL (e.g. unfortunately EFL teaching pay here in Latin America is quite low (here in Cuenca ~ $7 at best) compared to what I made in Vietnam (a sweet $22 per hour!), so do be sure to read every word here in this FAQ, along with all under the “Teachn” menu above, plus Google for “Cambridge CELTA” to find course locations round the world (incl. most all the provinces in Canada), etc.

Q: Hi there, a friend (Nora) sent me to your site. Small question if you have the time to reply: To teach in Asia do I need a degree or is a TEFL course enough and would 60 be too old to get a job there?

A: Good questions, let’s start with the easiest latter question: “…would 60 be too old…?” The answer is a resounding NOPE!  Nosiree, 60 is not at all too old to get an EFL teaching job in Vietnam (though I have no first hand experience in other Asian countries – I understand that Indonesia, for example might have a work permit limit of 55 yrs., but there may be ways around that). I was well past 60 when I arrived in Vietnam and never had a bit of trouble getting a job with the top schools in Vietnam.

Which leads me to your first question “…is a degree required or is a TEFL course enough…”?  It depends. Is the TEFL course accredited and does it have an on-site teaching component? Suffice there’s a plethora of dubious EFL teaching certificates out there, and you most certainly don’t want to pay good money for one that none of the good schools ’round the globe recognize. I recommend a CELTA certificate as it’s the gold standard of EFL creds and recognized world-wide. It’s offered throughout the world (they just started offering the CELTA here in Cuenca, Ecuador) and it’s generally best to take it in the country that you intend to begin teaching in (i.e. no guarantees, but generally wherever you take the course, you’ll likely be offered a teaching position upon successful completion of the course). I took my CELTA at ILA in Ho Chi Minh City, and can highly recommend them – top pay, great support, very professional, and among the largest and best private English schools in Vietnam. And finally, no – a degree is not required to take the CELTA, but… my understanding is that many countries require a degree in order to get a work permit, so… That said, do your research and confirm what the specific requirements are in whatever country you plan to teach in.

P.S. And yes, thanks, I shall indeed forever “keep traveling”.  😉

Q: Hello Dyanne! I wanted to get your thoughts on traveling and/or teaching ESL in Africa. I’ve wanted to go there ever since I read Born Free about 40 years ago. I know you traveled solo through South Africa a while back, so of course I’m interested in hearing about that. But I also saw that there’s a CELTA center in Cape Town and I’m wondering if getting trained there makes much sense. In my research I haven’t seen a lot of teaching jobs anywhere in Africa and certainly not ones that pay much of anything.So would it make more sense to get the CELTA and teach somewhere more lucrative and then go to Africa? But could I really make enough to save when I’m just starting out teaching? How much money do you suggest I have as a cushion before I even set off on my adventures? I know it depends a huge amount on where I go but thought you’d have insights.

A: Good to hear from you again, my dear. All good questions – let’s see if I can shed a little light on them.

First of all, while your dream may well be Africa, you’re right – if there’s few EFL teach jobs there and most pay next to nothing… Yes, unless you happen to have a generous trust fund, you might well look to another part of the world to start your EFL career.

(and btw, note that the ancronym “ESL” = “English as a SECOND Language” – meaning we use that to describe teaching English to foreigners who have resettled in an English-speaking country, e.g. the U.S., Canada, Australia, etc. Alternately, what you’re looking to do is teach “EFL” = English as a FOREIGN language – meaning, teaching English in a country whose language is NOT English – like me here teaching EFL in Vietnam.)

In short, (as always) do your research. EFL teach jobs, pay, perks and drawbacks vary wildly around the world. For example, when I did my research before moving halfway ’round the globe to start an EFL career, I initially favored doing so in Costa Rica (a country that I know well having run tours there for more than 20 years, adore, and speak the language – Spanish – fairly fluently). But… turns out EFL pay in Costa Rica is but about $8 per hour, whereas in Vietnam, starting pay for a CELTA trained college grad (even with no teaching experience) is nearly $20. Uh, which country do you think I chose?

That said, there are a LOT of other factors beyond pay to consider in choosing which country to take a flying leap to (see my December 2010 “Narrowing Down the Expat Options” for details of how I worked through the dilemma). It just depends on your own personal circumstances, financial situation, and druthers.

So it’s difficult for me to say just where would be best for you to take the CELTA (you can take it in many places around the world, and I do recommend you take it in the country where you plan to start teaching) and start your EFL career. Likewise, how much you can save when you start teaching will vary by the country you choose. But I can tell you that here in Vietnam – especially in the large cities of HCMC and Hanoi, good teach jobs (again, with a CELTA or other recognized EFL cred) are plentiful, and you most certainly can live a reasonably comfortable life style while saving quite a little bundle each month to travel to… perhaps in your case – head to Africa to play “Born Free” for a few weeks on holiday after you’ve taught a year or so. 😉

And finally, yes, yes – a “cu$hion” of course. Again, it depends on where you go. But I’d suggest the price of a ticket home (should you find the life of an expat isn’t to your liking,) plus at least a couple months living expenses in the country you choose. That, in addition to the cost of taking the CELTA of course (which likewise can vary a bit around the world, but generally will run you around $1,500 for the month-long course.)

Q: Hi there, I came across your blog while looking for information on Dalat. My… er… boyfriend and I (seems a strange term to use when 48 looms in your headlights but what the heck) are currently teaching ESL in South Korea and want Vietnam to be our next destination. Dalat looks like a little slice of heaven on earth. And your digs! Yikes! Now that winter is loosening its death grip on Korea we’re heading into our last term of teaching and planning the Escape to Vietnam.. very excited! We’re putting out feelers for jobs but since the Vietnamese like to have a warm body to interview, it seems, we might just sign up for a CELTA course and take it from there.

A: Well hey there – good to “meet” a fellow EFL nomad! Happy to give you tips on Dalat (yes, it IS Heaven.On.Earth), teaching prospects in Vietnam (EXcellent, presuming you have a degree, EFL credentials, and sounds like you have good experience – you should have no trouble whatsoever landing a good job here).

So what EFL credential do you have? Yes, here in Vietnam the CELTA is king, most the good schools favor it. With a CELTA you’re practically guaranteed a job!

As you know, I took the CELTA in HCMC – at ILA, and I can highly recommend them. Though not guaranteed, chances are they’ll offer you a job when you complete the course – leastwise every one of the twelve folks who took the CELTA w/ me got hired by ILA. I also can recommend teaching there – excellent facilities, teaching resources and especially teacher development.

And yes, as I understand it, Korea often hires long distance. But that’s rare here in Vietnam. Besides, personally I’d not want to commit to a job unless I’d personally seen the facilities, met the staff, etc. Much better to come and see for yourself.

If I were you, I’d allow about a month – no more than two, to get a job (so… expenses-wise for rent, food, etc. about $1,000 – $1,500 to be on the safe side). Plus if you take the CELTA it’s about $1,600 for the month-long course I think – but I believe there’s a bit of a discount if you sign on early.  In any case, if you’re serious about long-term EFL teaching – then you simply can’t go wrong by tucking a CELTA certificate under your belt.  That plus a bit of EFL teaching experience, and you can verily write your own ticket anywhere in the world.

Q: It sounds like Dalat is heaven on earth, and I’m not keen on living amid the sweltering temps/humidity of the big city (like Ho Chi Minh) year ’round. I know you’ve said that EFL teach jobs are plentiful (for those w/ a degree plus a recognized CELTA/TEFL credential) in Saigon. But what about smaller places like Dalat?

A: Yes indeed, for native English speakers with the proper EFL teaching credentials, jobs here in Vietnam are quite plentiful. But if you want the best pay (up to $20/contact hr.) and the widest choice of schools, then you’ll need to look in the larger cities (Saigon/Hanoi). I’ve “heard” that ILA offers $18 in Da Nang (a beach locale if that’s your fancy) but can’t confirm it. And I can only imagine that turnover at such schools is rock-bottom (as such beachside positions are understandably highly coveted), so you might well have to bide your time to nab an opening there.

And yes, yes, as I can fully attest – dear Dalat IS Heaven.On.Earth as far as I’m concerned – with oh so pleasant cooler climes (Dalat sits at nearly a mile high in altitude) and greeeeeen/flowers everywhere. It was originally established as a French hill station and I must say, the architecture, the ubiquitous “roundabouts” (oh and btw – not a SINGLE TRAFFIC LIGHT in all of Dalat!) all make me wake up wondering if I’ve not flown from Vietnam to Paris while I slept!

And while I knew going into it (i.e. moving from a top-paying Teach position in HCMC) that pay would undoubtedly be lower here, I must say, in my present negotiations with one of the best private schools here in Dalat, I’m a bit dismayed at the “range” of compensation on offer.  But $8 – $12 per contact hour (bearing ever in mind that with unpaid lesson planning hours, that brings the average compensation down to little more than $8 tops). ;(  Still, food/lodging ARE a bit cheaper in Dalat, plus…  In short, with the overall cost of living in Vietnam so breathtakingly low, you can easily have quite a comfy life here in Dalat even at minimum wage pay (by U.S. standards).  But of course, if you’re looking to make/save a bundle, then you’ll need to stay in the big, sweltering city.

Q: I’m delighted to have discovered your site. A friend and I (61 & 71) would love to adopt you as our mentor. I have a BS & MS in Education, but haven’t used it in 25 years and she has a BS in English. We’d both like to teach and be able to live from our salaries. Are we too old to be hired? How does one begin to determine where age is not an issue?

A: I’m most happy to inspire you and your friend. And while we of “a certain age” might find getting hired a tad more challenging than a 19 year old, suffice I’ve done tons of research on just that particular dilemma and..

I’m convinced that it won’t pose a significant problem. For example, I’m presently in contact w/ a lass who just finished the CELTA course in Saigon (precisely what I plan to do) and she confirmed that one of her fellow students for the course is 70 yrs. old. I’ve also been encouraged by many expats presently teaching in Vietnam. And I believe that with both a BS and an MS plus a CELTA (the gold-standard credential of EFL world-wide) I’ll easily find a job in VN.  If nothing else, I can always do private tutoring.

That said, I strongly recommend you have a bit of a financial “safety-net” before rushing off to the other side of the Planet. It needn’t be a fortune, but enough to get you a ticket home along with some resettling funds, should you find that the life of an expat in a developing country isn’t for you.

[editor’s January 2012 update: Yup, more than a year and an excellent teach job here in Vietnam later – I can now personally confirm that age is of no concern in getting hired. Far more important is that you have the credentials (a degree and a recognized CELTA/TEFL certificate) plus, can demonstrate that you can put together an educational and fun lesson for most any age/English level.]

Q: A question (one of a 1,000 jumping through what’s left of my brain). I don’t know what to do about the “clean police record”. I know to start it early & I know it’s supposed to be sent to ILA. I emailed ILA and they said that they don’t want it but it’s only for getting a job but that it wasn’t “good” for more than 2 months. I’ll probably not have a job for the first 2 months. So..what do I do? If I recall correctly you got extra prints made. Did you take them with you? What exactly did you ask for? Same goes for “proof” of graduating from College. What do you send to them vs. what do you take with you? Hope this makes sense!

A: Yes, you only need the criminal record check to get a job, (i.e. to get a work permit) not to simply take the CELTA course. But YES, you need to get one NOW while you’re in the States. And YES, it’s only good for… I’m pretty sure it’s good for 6 months. IOW, once you’ve been in VN for 6 months or more, you’ll instead need a criminal background check from VIETNAM authorities in order to get a work permit.

As for degree “proof” – see my post on “Apostille, Ashmostille…” – you need to get ORIGINAL copies of your degrees APOSTILLATED by the state where you got your degree – and take these with you to Vietnam. Some say they don’t need to be apostillated, but suffice some recommended it, and I wanted to have all bases covered.

In short, if you wait until you’re already over here (or any place else like Thailand, etc. for that matter) – securing such documentation will prove a very expensive and time-consuming NIGHTMARE.

HTH, but don’t rely solely on my advice – do your own diligent research as well (i.e. Google for FBI criminal record check procedures – they have a website w/ a form you can print out, call the university where you got your degrees, etc.)


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