Digital Nomad David: From London to Japan

My journey to becoming a TEFL certified English teacher began in late 2015. After many years of travelling solo around the globe when I could, I reignited my passion for travel by volunteering in South Africa caring for cheetahs and a varied assortment of animals.

Upon my return to my role as a personnel manager with a large retailer in London, I felt unfulfilled and lacked direction. Every day was the same. My passion and ambition were not being realised. One day on the Tube in Central London, I made a decision. I’d had enough.

I devised an ambitious plan, one which involved a level of risk and bravery, one which involved an ability to persevere, be patient, one which required a monumental amount of courage, passion and drive. Many of those around me believed I was insane, that the only lifestyle possible was the life expected of you, one which conformed to society’s norms.

After a long period of discouragement and a barrage of apathy and lack of understanding from those around me, I sold my property in West London in mid 2016, left my mortgage and career behind and embarked on a year of travel, quitting the life expected of me and never looking back.

Over the course of the next 12 months, I visited 24 countries, very much on a budget. From climbing a volcano in Japan to ‘attempting’ to converse with locals in Kyrgyzstan, I quickly came to the realisation that the reason for living is not money, not a house, not a car, not materialism, but the experiences we have, setting a goal and that nothing compares to a sense of achievement.

As time passed, I discovered a burning desire to pursue this lifestyle for as long as possible. Alongside running a Travel Youtube channel, on the subject of Travel Advice, Things to Do and City Basics, I discovered a passion for languages, lost in the mists of time since my days of studying German A-Level many years prior.

In October 2017 I completed the 120-hour online TEFL course. I began this course with a certain level of complacency, that I was a native English speaker with an advanced level of knowledge of grammar. Despite my years of speaking English, I was taken aback somewhat at my ignorance of a number of grammatical terms, which the TEFL course helped me clarify and understand.

As a frequent traveller, my goal was to teach online, to become location independent as a ‘Digital Nomad’ using various online apps such as Italki, while continuing to build my YouTube channel in addition to pursuing freelance video editing.

My experience in my previous role put me in good stead in terms of the Teaching Methodology course; I had experience of speaking to large groups, engaging, eliciting, influencing and building knowledge in a manner which was impactful and meaningful to the audience. This course added to my knowledge and built my confidence in relation to building lesson plans. My greatest learning from this course was that every student is different and learns in different ways. As a teacher, adaptability is key!

The assignments built into the Teaching Methodology course build your confidence, especially if teaching a class fills you with overwhelming fear. The tutors at TEFL.org.uk are incredibly supportive in answering queries and giving constructive feedback.

Once I had completed my TEFL while in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I began the long hard process of devising a plan to minimise my expenses and maximise my income from my various income streams. I always talked about becoming a Digital Nomad, or read exaggerated or unrealistic stories of beautiful, tanned blonde girls on a beach with their laptop or in a ‘co-working space’ in Thailand. I don’t like conforming to the norms or well known expectations of a Digital Nomad. The aforementioned lifestyle was not what I wanted.

Workaway (or other volunteer programmes available) is a fantastic way of minimising your outgoings while travelling. Currently, I work for 2-3 hours a day in a guesthouse/hostel in Hiroshima, Japan (I fell in love with the place on a previous visit). This allows me to film for YouTube or teach online in my spare time, thus building an income from multiple income streams, as well as experiencing the culture for a longer period and finally being able to find somewhere I belong and feel comfortable.

 

I currently teach on Italki, an excellent platform for a novice online English Teacher. Both the Teaching Methodology course and Telephone Teaching course available in the 120-hour TEFL provide all the information required on HOW to teach these lessons…. which was initially my greatest concern.

Again, the key is adaptability. Some students have a good level of English and may simply require regular conversation practice. Others may be at a less advanced level and require support and coaching on selected grammar points. My biggest advice is to go into each lesson with an open mind, do not have a set structure for every student and work WITH the student to discover the most productive method of teaching which will benefit their learning needs.

My confidence is growing daily, my student base is growing daily (I currently have approximately 25 lessons a week) and most of all, I’m enjoying myself!! Obviously the most important factor is the student’s learning, however I have discovered something I never expected. The life of a solo traveller or Digital Nomad can be lonely. Teaching English online using my 120-hour TEFL has allowed me to meet fascinating and interesting people from across the globe, from numerous locations, many of which I have visited previously. I finally discovered the missing link between being a Travel Youtuber and making a living through teaching online!

Going forward, once I have left Japan, I will continue teaching and travelling simultaneously. There are so many avenues open to me, from gaining further experiences by volunteering in a language school in Vietnam, to actually teaching in a classroom environment in a country where positions are available for TEFL certified English Teachers.

Gain a new skill, ignore the discouragement and apathy you will undoubtedly experience and quit the life expected of you!

Follow David on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for great travel advice and videos!