Would you quit your job to teach TEFL (teaching English) abroad in your 30s? My Experience...

This is something I did! I can't say that I never looked back during the initial stages, but I can say that it changed my life for the better. It is not recommended for everyone and can certainly go wrong. Making the decision to leave and to teach EFL in your 30s is actually the hardest part about making the move. However, if you are determined and don't think age should stop you from making a change, then life really can get a lot better (or at the very least, a lot more interesting). People get set in their ways, but making a change can give you a whole new outlook.

I was working in management, but things had reached a stale grind. My job was OK, it was well paid and life was pretty easy. I had a nice car, good friends and an active social life. The problem was that I was still bored! This was when I originally decided to travel. I quit my job of seven years and went out to see the world. Traveling opened my eyes to what the world had to offer and all the extreme possibilities that were waiting. But, as all trips must, it eventually came to an end as funds diminished.

This was when I returned home and started to work again. I thought I would feel more settle, but the problem now was that all the experiences of traveling had changed my perspective on life. Once again stuck at a desk, I felt fidgety and like life was passing me by as the rain tapped on the windows and the dull ticking of the big clock rumbled in my ears. I knew I needed to change things on a more permanent basis! I just wasn't sure how.

Strangely, fate set in and the buyer of an old bike I had advertised told me all about his experience teaching TEFL in China. I was surprised that this sounded so easy, almost too good to be true, but thought 'what the hell'. This was when I decided to take a TEFL course and go to teach English as a foreign language overseas. I picked one of the countries I had passed, purposely picking somewhere cheap to live in and booked the ticket. This gave me the deadline I needed to get myself moving. I had 6 months to pack up my life, save some money and go make a new life in a completely foreign country. The TEFL certificate was actually interesting to study, more so than I expected, as I actually learned a lot about the English language that wasn't covered in normal school English classes, along with many techniques for teaching English to students that may not understand ANY English.

As 6 months came to an end, I had a 100 hour certificate in TESOL (TEFL) and about 4000USD (at the time, about 2000GBP). I had sold my car, my furniture and most of my belongings, just keeping some 'memories' with family for the future. All my credit card debts were clear and I was ready to go. However, the flight only allowed 27kgs in total (including carry on luggage), so this forced me to be very choosy about what I took and what had to be sacrificed.

When the day of the flight arrived, it was a bitter-exciting time. It was so strange to say goodbye to friends and family, having no job and no idea what was going to happen during the coming year. However, this 'not knowing' also had me feeling more alive than ever!!

As the plane touched down, we all jostled towards the exit. Hot air bellowed into the air-conditioned compartment and when I felt the sun on my face, I somehow knew this was going to be an interesting year! Outside the airport, many friendly taxi drivers were keen to whisk me away to a nearby hotel. For the first time in my life I was free and relatively rich. I paid for a hotel room for one month (which only cost about 400USD). This was so that I had a secure base and also because I knew only too well that if I didn't land a TEFL job by then, I would start to run into financial difficulties quickly after.

I needed to meet people, so made a point to be sociable and get out as much as possible, as the local community is key to settling in a new country. This strategy is actually what saved me, as locals and ex-pats were only too happy to help out. They pointed me in the direction of schools, websites for recruiting and even gave me advice on the local culture and what not to do in interviews. This was invaluable and to my surprise, after only two weeks I had three job offers.

It turned out that schools like people to be in the country already, as they can be more certain that interviewees will actually turn up for the job (apparently many like the idea, but then cancel at the last minute). So, my maddened rush to teach TEFL abroad paid off. The following year had plenty of ups and downs, some of which I mentioned in a previous hub "How much for that dream life?", but overall my life is now far more interesting and fun than it had ever been before. I plan to continue teaching English,, as it actually turned out to be more rewarding (and challenging) than any other jobs I have experienced.

So if you are tempted, take a look at what is on offer, often the packages are VERY rewarding and are combined with some great job satisfaction.

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Comments 35 comments

wiserworld profile image

wiserworld 5 months ago

Getting TEFL certification will definitely open doors to more jobs. I would suggest getting practical teaching experience with a community college, university or Trinity/CELTA certification if you want to be a more effective teacher though for sure. Thanks for the hub.

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Alise- Evon 3 years ago

Great story, Brett! I left a 20-year career as a Speech Therapist at the age of 47, having only some idea of where I wanted to go. That was scary, too! Best thing I ever did, though. Life is fun again. Even though all the pieces are not in place yet, they are definitely getting there one step at a time.

Voted useful.

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 3 years ago from Thailand Author

@ Mareseo,

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree, it helps to get something before you go! I hope you are enjoying the trip. Like you, I don't know what I would do if I had to go back to the UK, but then I personally have no intentions to return ;-) ...

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Mareseo 3 years ago

I did this last year, I am in my late 40's (gave up a good job) to teach in South Korea. I don't regret the decision for a moment and am really enjoying the experience of a new language and new culture. I do have a wee niggle at the back of my mind about what to do when I return to the UK, but at the end of the day you will never know what is out there for you until you make the decision to go. You wont be one of those people who sit at home wondering what it would be like. A word of advice: try to find a job in South Korea before coming to the country.

Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 4 years ago from Canada

I want to teach English in Russia after I'm done studying in Germany. I hear there are some places so desperate for teachers that you only need a bachelor degree.

livingabroad profile image

livingabroad 4 years ago from Wales, UK

Hi Brett,

I've also made the leap into teaching EFL but am not sure whether I will continue to do so as a career? Maybe a short trip back to the UK will sort out that out! Up and awesome as usual!

wheelinallover profile image

wheelinallover 5 years ago from Central United States

I am in no way a pioneer. Never have left the United States. People tell me anyone who spent time in two military services and never left the United States is rare. I did try to volunteer to go to Korea but was turned down. They had no need for people with my training there.

There were two times I had the chance to work out of the country, once in Mexico and once in Australia. They were at times in my life when I was married and the invitation was only for me, so I didn't go. As far as teaching English I don't know that I would have been qualified and still wonder now. My understanding of English is good now, however even though it's the only one I now speak I don't think in it. For those looking for a novel way to spend time in another country and love teaching I will be socially SHARING.

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Thank you for all the great comments. While I understand that pets could be tricky, don't worry about your property. Many schools offer free accommodation and what you earn in SK or Japan would more than cover most mortgages :-).

Cammiebar profile image

Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

I went to college for TESOL and I love teaching, but not in the United States school systems. I would definitely go abroad if given the opportunity! Great hub!

cebutouristspot profile image

cebutouristspot 5 years ago from Cebu

I think that would depend if I am married or not. If I am married probably no. If I am single then yes :) Great hub btw.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

We have loads of teachers out of work in the states. This is a great review and promo for TESL. Voted up and SOCIALLY SHARING on LinkedIn teacher groups!

everythingdazzles profile image

everythingdazzles 5 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

I think that would be an amazing experience to teach abroad. It would be both challenging and wonderful. I have longed to go abroad for a very long time the only thing holding me back is a lack of funds. Hopefully one day though. Great hub.

cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 5 years ago from Western NC

Great hub! I've studied in other countries and have contemplated living in other countries. My obstacles are that I have a house I can't sell, and pets that I can't bear to part with - I know that sounds like a cop-out, but my animals are all strays that came to live with me, so I feel more obligated to them. But, perhaps one day I really will take the leap. :)

alocsin profile image

alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

This is quite inspirational to people who are older seeking to make a change. It just goes to show that age does not matter. I started getting into acting in my late 30s, and started involvement in fitness at 50. Voting this Up and Interesting. Thanks for SHARING.

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi Princesswithapen,

Thanks for such a detailed comment. Yes, it really does change your way of thinking and your priorities. Any move abroad is an incredible experience, even if it doesn't work out perfectly.

As far as teaching abroad is concerned, it does normally work out well. As the schools have to attract people, your salary and package is often far higher than what a local person receives. This normally means that you can live well and save!

Hope your ventures work out too, what is it you are doing abroad?

princesswithapen profile image

princesswithapen 5 years ago


Moving countries is a great experience. I can vouch for that. But what you've done by changing professions in your 30s is commendable. Only daredevils have the heart to give up a stable job and move to newer and exciting pastures. But from the looks of it, you seem to be having fun and that's what life is all about.

Life is about following passion, travelling to places and following your heart. Teaching English overseas sounds fun and I'd assume it would work out financially well if the country in question had a currency lower than the dollar and a general standard of living that is not too expensive to attain. This has been a great read and I could in fact, relate to "..this forced me to be very choosy about what I took and what had to be sacrificed.." since I have moved countries myself.


kloydskii profile image

kloydskii 5 years ago

i wanna do this too!

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi Leslie Jo Barra,

The salute is returned ;-). Yea, travel is a really wonderful experience, it opens your eyes to new possibilities and even the bad helps widen your experience of life ... worth every moment.

Thanks for reading!

Leslie Jo Barra profile image

Leslie Jo Barra 5 years ago

Sounds interesting and is a great experience. My husband's job has taken us overseas and allowed us a lot of travel opportunities. I am a teacher, so as one to another, I salute you for your service!

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi Moiragallaga,

Thank you for your kind words. I don't think of myself as a pioneer, but I understand that the hardest part about doing something is often just DECIDING to do it! lol. Hope this hub inspires some others to have an adventure.

Thanks for stopping by ...

moiragallaga profile image

moiragallaga 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Beautiful hub Brett. I salute you and admire the way you went out to go do what you wanted to do in the face of uncertainty. That is the stuff and spirit of pioneers. It should serve as an inspiration to others.

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi Justmesuzanne,

Thanks for the contact details ... I'll be in touch soon to find out more! :-)

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi spanishtoday,

Cheer for popping back. Teaching online sounds pretty cool, the fun of teaching with the flexibility of being able to teach from ANYWHERE ... congrats on landing that one. It is something I am looking into at the moment ...

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi edmob1,

The two sites I mentioned should be a good start. HK and Malaysia will pay better, but Thailand is VERY cheap living, beautiful and fun!

If you can, apply to the Malaysian Government's TEFL program ... VERY GOOD PACKAGE ;-). I will be doing that gig in a year or two!

spanishtoday profile image

spanishtoday 5 years ago

Hello Brett, I was teaching in Spain for a few years and now I am teaching online. I'm also learning other languages and really have the bug now. Keep writing good stuff like this, I'll be back.

edmob1 profile image

edmob1 5 years ago from United Kingdom

I will be dropping you a line if I can figure out how to do it.Back to the east appeals HK now under China rule, Thailand,Malaysia,



justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Hi Brett,

Send me an e mail, and I'll get in touch with you re: online tutoring.



Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi Edmob1,

Great to see you back.

I think most countries will allow you to work up to 65 years of age (some beyond). A great one for mature teachers (over 40s there) is Thailand, as the older you are, the more respect you get! If you are interested, check out Ajarn.com (Ajarn is Teacher in Thai). Daves ESL Cafe (Google it), is also very good for all countries.

Where would you like to teach? Maybe I know a school/someone there ...

Hope you go for it, traveling new countries and getting paid is a wonderful life! (and you can save too).

If you are seriously interested, work out where and send me a message or just drop me another comment ;-).

Best of luck

edmob1 profile image

edmob1 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Brett reading some of your TEFL stuff and the comment from your F/mail seriously tempting me again.Your right there's loads of companies advertising on the net.Do you know if any of the more reputable ones have age recriutment of foreign language standards.



Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi Justmesuzanne,

Thanks for the comment

Go for it! It is a real opportunity to experience some wonderful lifestyles :-).

However, I would be interested in teaching online too ... do you have any details/recommendations?

justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

This is something I consider more and more! Many thanks for the first hand info! Voted up and useful! :)

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi Spanishtoday,

Where are you teaching? Are you currently teaching English or Spanish?

I have considered teaching in Europe for year, but am still looking at options. I agree with you about the bug, teachers (ones that WANT to teach) never stop learning! We are always looking for new ideas and activities :-) ... constantly learning and developing.

Since I became a teacher, I have always been an online student! lol ... ironic really, but it's a good way to get ahead.

spanishtoday profile image

spanishtoday 5 years ago

I moved to a country closer to home but it was an amazing experience. I still teach now (online) and have learned a lot about teaching and the English language. I have the language bug now and I spend a lot of my time either teaching, learning languages or writing about them.

As you mentioned, it's not for everyone and there is a lot more involved than just showing up and teaching English.

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 5 years ago from Thailand Author

Hi freecampingaussie, thanks for reading.

I highly recommend it! It takes your to some really interesting places, the money isn't always that great, but the lifestyle sure is!

freecampingaussie profile image

freecampingaussie 5 years ago from Southern Spain

Great hub, have wondered about doing this myself .

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