As a public school teacher with a lot of bills to pay – including some hefty student loans – it’s safe to say that I’m hardly rolling in dough. People often ask how I’m able to travel as a single woman on a teacher’s salary, and I have to admit that their tones are colored with a little bit of judgment. The simple answer is that I prioritize travel and that money I save (beyond having a solid emergency fund) is dedicated toward new experiences and not necessarily new “things.” That being said, there’s no denying that traveling can be an expensive endeavor, but there are some ways that teachers specifically can lighten the financial load and still see the world.
Lead a Tour: If you’re feeling brave, why not check out one of the many organizations dedicated toward student travel and sign up to lead a tour abroad for yourself and your students? There are so many amazing options – EF Tours, ACIS, Passports, just to name a few – that cater exclusively toward getting students and teachers into the best possible classroom: the one with no walls and life-changing real-world experiences! I led a tour last summer and it was the highlight of my professional career. All of these student travel companies offer incentives to teachers, specifically that for every X amount of students sign up (typically 5-6) then the teacher and his/her chaperones travel for free. Group leaders can even accrue reward points for each new tour they lead that can be applied toward future solo travel.
Apply for a Grant or Scholarship: If you don’t mind combining work and pleasure, you might consider applying for a teacher travel grant or scholarship. Many organizations offer these – NEA, Fund for Teachers, Fulbright, Erasmus, just to name a few – and all it takes is a quick Google search to find the one that’s right for you. These grants will often cover the tuition for any classes you wish to take as well as provide assistance (or pay for completely) costs associated with airline travel, train tickets, and housing. You may have to design an educational “plan of action” or attend a few classes, but it’s still an amazing way to see the world and be an immersed in another culture without breaking the bank.
Teach Abroad: If you’re fortunate enough to work in a district that allows you to take a leave of absence to pursue teaching opportunities abroad – DO IT! You’ll be paid to live and work in the country of your choosing and will be free to travel as you wish during school breaks and weekends. Some sponsors such as Fulbright may even provide a travel stipend to award recipients, greatly reducing your own financial commitment.
If you do your research, you’ll find that traveling on a teacher’s salary is definitely a feasible experience! All it takes is a little time and research to find the right resources. The world truly is your oyster and I firmly believe that international travel and exposure to other cultures makes us wiser and more mindful educators in the process.