The 4 Must-Knows to Keep in Mind When Travelling The World

This post was made possible through a collaboration with TINZ. This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

If you’re about to embark on a stint of travelling, whether it be your first or fifth time, there are some things you simply need to know before you go. To make your trip a lot easier and more enjoyable for yourself, keep these 4 must-know tips in mind.

Prepare Thoroughly

You’ll want to make sure you’re making the correct preparations before you even embark on your travels. Packing is just one thing to consider – and depending on where you’re going and how long for, it could be a challenge. If you’re planning on going away for the long-term, be sure to not overload yourself with too much.

Bring a few outfits you know will be comfortable and durable, as well as suitable for the climate you’re about to head into. Don’t bring your whole wardrobe – you won’t wear nearly as much as you may anticipate. And don’t fill your case or bag to the brim with gadgets and unnecessary extras, as you’re overestimating the amount of things you’ll need. Make it easy on yourself and bring just the bare essentials. Your phone and camera is more than enough.

Image Credit: STIL
Image Credit: STIL

Stay Vigilant and Careful

Regardless of where you’re going in the world, you need to be careful. Opportunists and potential danger can be found anywhere, and travellers can easily be a prime target should you not be taking precautions. Don’t, for example, flaunt your expensive valuables in areas that are particularly underdeveloped and risky – you never know who is watching, and incidents such as bag-snatching are becoming increasingly popular in areas such as Southeast Asia.

And be sure to look after your luggage, too – if it goes missing, making a claim for it can be tricky. It all depends on the circumstances, and if it was out of your power, you should be successful. Be negligent and fail to look after your things, though, and TINZ details how it may not work out in your favour.

Respect the Different Cultures

You’ll notice in certain areas of the world just how prevalent and important culture can be. Head to a country like Thailand, for example, and you’ll be potentially overcome by the many customs and norms that play a part in day-to-day to life – paying respect to the national anthem twice a day, at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., is just one of them.
That’s not to mention the taking off of shoes before entering certain buildings, too, as the feet are said to carry bad energy being at the bottom of the body. But Thailand isn’t the only place in the world where the culture is crucially important to understand and respect. The locals likely won’t be too upset should you slip up once or twice, but be sure to do your best to fit in and appreciate the many cultures you may experience.

Image Credit: Emmet Connolly
Image Credit: Emmet Connolly

Don’t Hold Back

Many travellers fail to make the most out of their experience because they’re too afraid to. Don’t be scared to dive in and embrace every opportunity that comes your way – travelling is something that requires you to not hold back, and instead live it to its fullest potential. Whether it be challenging yourself with an activity such as bungee jumping or trying some of the world’s weirdest food – anyone for a fried tarantula? – travelling opens doors that lead to unparalleled levels of self-discovery.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore. The world is quite literally your oyster.

Image Credit: Jérémie Crémer
Image Credit: Jérémie Crémer

Moving to Mexico: FAQs Answered

I’m moving to Mexico!!!

In June, I said adiós to Madrid. Spain was my home for two years, and while my experience there was better than I could have ever imagined, I knew it wasn’t my forever place.

moving to mexico pin (1)

Image Credit

In January, I started to feel restless. I decided not to reapply to the North American Language and Culture Assistants program for a third year and began brainstorming what my next move would be. The possibilities were endless. Countries in the running included Uruguay, Ecuador and Chile.

However, it didn’t take us (my boyfriend and I) long to decide on Mexico. With less than two weeks until the big move, I couldn’t be more excited.

As was the case with moving to Spain, the reactions from my family and friends regarding moving to Mexico have been overwhelmingly positive. I’m fortunate to have so many supportive people in my life.

Of course, that support hasn’t come without questions. People love me so they want to know the thought process behind my decision. Perhaps you’d like to know it too.

So, here’s the lowdown on moving to Mexico featuring some frequently (like super frequently) asked questions:

Why are you moving to Mexico?

Mexico quickly became the obvious choice for several reasons:

  1. Travel between the U.S. and Mexico is easy and affordable. I just did a quick search for round trip flights between Chicago and Mexico City the week of Thanksgiving. United has a ticket for $390, and flight time is just four hours and 15 minutes. With options like that, I’ll be able to visit family and friends more frequently.
  2. Spanish is Mexico’s national language. While I’ve been in Michigan, I haven’t been speaking Spanish on a daily basis, and it feels like a part of me is missing. I’m incredibly proud of how much my Spanish progressed during the two years I lived in Madrid. I’m not ready to stop learning!
  3. History, culture and food! Mexico is a traveler’s dream come true. My new home will be the perfect base from which to explore.
  4. Travel to South America will be more convenient. Machu Picchu, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Bogotá: the list of places I want to visit in South America is long. Although my priority to start will be discovering my new country, I plan to keep an eye out for airfare deals to S.A.
  5. An opportunity to get to know family. My mother’s side of the family is Mexican, and although my grandparents raised their children in the United States, we still have lots of extended family living throughout central Mexico. It’s been years since I’ve visited my relatives, but I have reached out to a few and look forward to building those relationships.

Where in Mexico?

I’m moving to Santiago de Querétaro, which is located in central Mexico. It’s approximately 132 miles northwest of Mexico City. Due to outstanding economic growth over the last decade, Querétaro is one of the fastest-growing cities in Mexico. The metropolitan area, which is home to more than one million people, has been repeatedly recognized for its high quality of life. Querétaro is often lauded as one of the safest cities in the country.

Map of Mexico

Image Credit: Nations Online (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)

How long will you be there?

When I went to college, I knew I’d be there for four years. When I moved to Indianapolis, I knew I’d be there for eight months. When I moved to Madrid, I knew I’d be there for two years.

This will be the first time in my life that I move somewhere without knowing the end date, and that’s something I’m very much looking forward to. It can be difficult to establish relationships and get involved in a community when you’re only going to be around for a finite amount of time. For now, the plan is to stay in Mexico (not necessarily Querétaro) as long as I am happy there.

What will you be doing?

In December, I started teaching English online for a Chinese company called VIPKID. I’m already on my second contract with the company and plan to continue working for VIPKID after moving to Mexico. Since my teaching schedule is according to Beijing time, the hours will be early. I don’t mind though. I’ll be able to explore the city in the afternoon (and maybe even have more time for blogging). Furthermore, the flexible scheduling grants me the freedom to travel!

I don’t make a fortune teaching for VIPKID, but with central Mexico’s low cost of living, I’ll have no trouble covering my expenses.

In less than two weeks, I'll be exploring the gorgeous streets of Querétaro. Image Credit: Gerardo Olvera
In less than two weeks, I’ll be exploring the gorgeous streets of Querétaro. Image Credit: Gerardo Olvera

Aren’t you scared?

Mexico has certainly had its share of headlines recently. In September, the country suffered back-to-back earthquakes which caused severe damage and loss of life. Residents of Querétaro felt the earthquake on September 19, but no one reported injuries or damages.

Also in the headlines is drug-related violence. However, what many people don’t realize is that the majority of violence occurs far from where travelers visit. As with any country, it’s important to do your research. The U.S. State Department reports that travel to the state of Querétaro is safe, and there is no advisory in effect. Mexico City does not have an advisory in effect either.

Don’t you want to settle down?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure what this question even means. I think it has something to do with babies and mortgages.

Once I get to Querétaro, my first order of business is finding an apartment. I will also need to get a cell phone and open a bank account. After I have a place to live, I’ll be able to start working again. In my free time, I’m looking forward to making friends. I can’t wait to start a new book club and join a gym.

All that sounds like settling down to me.

Have you ever lived abroad? If not, would you consider it? Leave your answer in the comments below!

Making Money with VIPKID

In December 2016, I was sitting on a hostel bed in Granada, Spain, across from my friend, Heather. The conversation turned to finances–a topic hardly taboo among auxiliares de conversación.

You can make money teaching online with VIPKID!

Image Credit: Tax Credits (Image Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)

I wasn’t strapped for cash, but my recent decision not to renew for a third year in Spain had me thinking about the future. I needed to start saving money for my next venture. But, how?

It was important to me to retain the freedom to travel. I needed a flexible gig. The previous year, I’d upped my income by taking on more private classes but had run myself ragged commuting all over the city. I needed something close to home–something I could potentially keep doing once I was back in the States.

Heather, bless her little heart, had the answer: VIPKID.

What is VIPKID?

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Beijing, China, VIPKID is an online education company. VIPKID offers an American education experience to Chinese students aged 4 to 12.

I teach English as a second language to children living in China through an online videoconferencing platform devised by the company. It’s similar to Skype. The students have varying levels in English. For some children, I’m their first contact with an English teacher. Others are nearly fluent speakers.

Every class is one-on-one and lasts 25 minutes. I utilize prepared lesson plans designed by VIPKID and implemented based on the student’s level. Just so this is clear: I don’t do any lesson planning!

The lessons are fully immersive (you don’t need to speak Chinese) and were designed according to the U.S.’s Common Core State Standards.

Who can apply?

VIPKID employs more than 20,000 teachers and has over 100,000 students. Are you seeing dollar signs yet?!

Potential teachers must meet the following qualifications:

  • Be a native English speaker from North America.
  • Have any Bachelor’s degree.
    • Individuals with an associates for early childhood education are also eligible.
  • Have some teaching experience.
    • Formal teaching experience is not required. Motherhood, babysitting and camp counseling all count.
  • Have a reliable internet connection with audio/video capabilities.
  • Have a passport.
    • A scan of the first page of the passport as well as a college transcript or diploma must be submitted during the application process.

You can make money teaching online with VIPKID!

Image Credit: Charels Yamut

How much can I make?

Depending on your teaching experience and performance during the application process, you will make between $7-9 per class. Since you teach in 25-minute segments, you can make $14-22 an hour including bonuses.

If you teach at least 45 classes per month (22.5 hours), you receive an extra $1 for every class you teach. For every class you’re on time to and teach according to schedule, you receive an extra $1 as well. So, if you earn all the bonuses (which is not hard to do), you’ll earn $18-22 per hour.

You can also earn extra money when a student signs up after you teach a trial lesson and for accepting class bookings within 24 hours.

Teachers are paid between the 10th and 15th of every month for the previous month’s work. The money is direct deposited into your American bank account.

How can I apply?

To be perfectly honest, VIPKID has a very rigorous application process. But, hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it!

First, you need to create a login using an email address. In making your account, you need to upload your resume. This screens applicants for basic requirements and teaching experience.

Second, you will be invited to schedule either a 30-minute session with a VIPKID recruiter or record a demo lesson. In either case, this is your opportunity to showcase your teaching abilities using material provided in advance. Generally, only those reapplying are asked to record a demo lesson. First-time applicants interview with a recruiter.

Third, you have three days to watch a mountain of training videos regarding the company’s technology, standards and curriculum. Take this part seriously, and don’t try to watch all the videos in one sitting! This is the bulk of your training and how much you’re able to take in will be vital to your success in the mock classes.

Fourth, you have six days to complete two mock classes. The mock classes are similar to the initial interview in that the interviewer (this time an actual VIPKID teacher) acts like a student. You will be asked to practice teach a full-length class. This is hands down the most difficult part of the application process.

Preparing with someone who has successfully passed the mock classes is invaluable. I’m more than happy to guide your through the process. You can email me at ealexiswittman (at) gmail dot com.  

Last, once you’ve passed both mock classes, you’ll sign your contract and upload your documents (passport photo page and proof of a Bachelor’s degree). Prior to opening yourself up to bookings, you will also need upload a profile picture and make a short (very short) introduction video. Take care because this will be your students (and, more importantly, their parents) first impression of you.

You can make money teaching online with VIPKID!
Meet Cindy Mi: VIPKID’s fearless leader! Image Credit: TechCrunch

Once you’re hired

It’s time to start teaching! VIPKID provides videos (yes, more videos) to help familiarize you with the booking process. The company asks that you provide a month’s worth of availability. However, there is plenty of time to make adjustments. Students are able to begin booking classes every Monday for the following week.

VIPKID’s teaching hours are based on Beijing Time. The most popular times, or peak times, are Monday through Friday from 6 – 10 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. You will need to calculate those hours in accordance with your own timezone prior to setting your availability.

Get ready for early mornings! Currently, I teach Monday through Friday from 6 – 10 a.m. (EST). At the moment, I’m not willing to get up any earlier, but if I was, there would be lots of opportunities to teach and make money! Occasionally, I will teach Friday or Saturday night from 9 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Why I love working for VIPKID

At first, VIPKID sounded too good to be true. I thought Heather had been scammed. However, with no other promising options on the horizon, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

It didn’t take long to recognize VIPKID’s legitimacy. Even basketball legend Kobe Bryant is an investor! With serious backers, the company has grown exponentially.

I went through the hiring process at the end of December 2016. Due to traveling, I didn’t teach my first class until February, but once I did, I was hooked!

VIPKID has been everything I was looking for and more. When I was living in Spain, it helped me supplement my pay as an auxiliar without sacrificing travel time. I was able to save money, and the flexible scheduling allowed me to take three consecutive weeks off to travel!

Now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m teaching 25 hours per week and loving every minute of it. The work is fun and fulfilling! Just today, I taught my 745th class with VIPKID. I feel so fortunate to work for such an innovative company. Furthermore, VIPKID genuinely cares about their teachers. All my questions and concerns are met with timely and thoughtful responses. I don’t just feel like part of a team. I feel like part of a family.

Apply Today

So, what are you waiting for? If you’re looking for a flexible, fun way to make money, look no further than VIPKID! Click here for my referral link. Don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment here with any question or concern.

Good luck, and happy teaching!

Are you interested in working for VIPKID? Do you work for another online ESL company? Let me know in the comments below!