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Why We Quit Our Jobs & Gave Up a 6 Figure Income to Teach English in China

Some people probably think we are crazy, but we know that we aren’t the only ones who have done this.  Liz and I have always loved traveling and exploring together.  While on vacation, we would actually start planning and counting down to the next adventure.  Sound familiar?   But before we knew it, we were back in the rat race. Wake up early, work long hours, eat, sleep and repeat.  And for what?

While we were fortunate to live the lifestyle that many people aspire to, we didn’t see the point in buying a bunch of “things” to fill our home…that’s not what makes us happy.   In fact, research has proven over and over that people derive long-term, true happiness from experiences…and NOT from accumulating “things.”  For us, the experiences that made us happiest were when we were out exploring the world together.  So ultimately, our “normal” middle-class lives were just getting in the way of what we loved most.

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Creative Commons The Great Wall” by Alistair is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We also loved working together on this website; writing and sharing information with others.  It was our passion.  And we found it a lot more fulfilling than 50 hours a week at a grocery store and Liz working in corporate life.  For quite some time, we had talked about pursuing our dreams of living abroad and concentrating on other activities that made us more happy.  But how could we see the world and support ourselves???  The answer, we discovered, was to be a Foreign English Teacher.

The Chance to Fulfill My Childhood Dream

This idea really got me thinking, and I couldn’t shake it.  I had always wanted to be a teacher.  In high school I was a “Granger Pal” and I would volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club and other local schools.  I really enjoyed it, and I believed that I was good at helping others and impacting the lives of students. Since then, I had always wanted to be a teacher.

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But, as things sometimes go, my life after graduating high school went in a different direction from where my heart initially wanted to go.  So I never fulfilled my young dream of teaching, and changing careers at this stage of my life would have cost a lot of money, and many years of my life back in school.

Why Teach English Abroad?

A lot of people asked us the question, “why teach English abroad?”  Well for us, we just wanted to see and do things differently, and our day to day lives were not cutting it for us.  Living abroad was appealing to us because we wanted to experience a different life overseas, and be able to travel to new places in our free time.  Back at home, on the weekends we could only go so far and we had already seen and done many of those things.  Being overseas, we could spend our time off exploring totally new countries!  

Living abroad is different from just visiting as a tourist, you have more time to really get to know the culture and experience things the way locals do.  We loved the idea of being able to do this, and possible learn a bit of a foriegn language too!

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However, it’s not easy to just up and move to another country.  In many places, you need to actually have a job to stay there for quite some time.  While there are ways to get jobs overseas, by far the easiest way is to be an English teacher.  After all, we both have the skills needed for that — and many countries are looking for native English speakers for their students.

In addition, the salary of an English teacher overseas is more than enough to support yourself (and even save money – which we will talk about later).

Why Teach English in China?

Ah yes, this was the next question that our friends and family asked us after we told them of our plans.  Well simply put, China has the best opportunities right now.  For starters, it’s no secret that the country is growing like crazy.  And most people realize that English is a valuable language to know, especially for doing business.

Being that China has such a large population, this means that a larger number of people have money, and they want to invest it in educating themselves and their students to help continue to improve their lives.  So the demand for English Teachers in China has skyrocketed in recent years (and continues to do so).

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Another point to make is about the compensation.  While most countries around the world pay foreign English teachers a livable wage, China (and a few other countries) actually pay their teachers very comfortably.

 Between the two of us, we can live in China at the same lifestyle that we had in the States…and continue to save a large sum of money!  That combined with the chance to put include international work experience in China on our resumes, AND be able to explore this really amazing country really appealed to us.

 

We go into a lot more detail about this in our post Why Teach English in China, so be sure to click the link and check it out.

So Why Not Now?

We don’t want to live our lives with any regret.  At the time of our decision to move to China to teach English, I was working 50 plus hours a week helping to run a local grocery store in Atlanta.  It was exhausting, unfulfilling…and it was really tough on my body physically.  I couldn’t imagine the thought of doing that job much longer, I knew my body would give out sooner rather than later. For Liz, she was working in the corporate world.  While she had a great job with a great company, she was frustrated because it wasn’t her dream; and she was sick of having to deal with the narrow-minds, egos, and greedy selfishness.

Most people would think it is crazy to give up our solid middle-class, comfortable lives.  But we never wanted to wonder “what if” when we got older.  For more, see our post 5 Reasons to Travel the World Now.

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Another benefit to us making the change to uproot our lives in the States to teach English abroad was so that we could spend more time doing what we love, which is writing and sharing our travels with our readers.  We truly love inspiring others and sharing useful information with them to help plan their future travels.  Working on the website along with our full time jobs, made it feel like we were working 2 full time jobs! Just thinking back on it drains me even now.

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But as a foreign English teacher our hours are much more reasonable. Work weeks as a Foreign English Teacher range depending on the school, from roughly 25 – 35 hours a week.  This includes a couple weeks of vacation time and quite a number of national holidays off.  Compared to my old job in the States, these hours sounded great and would leave us plenty of time to explore and work on other projects.

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Taking that First Leap

After making the announcement to our friends and family, we had a few people who scratched their heads.  But mostly people told us “I admire the two of you for chasing your dreams.  That’s so brave of you.”  It’s strange, because to us it doesn’t seem “brave,” it just seems like a good idea.  We can always come back if it doesn’t work out, so why not try it out to see how we like it?

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After spending the first few months on the road traveling around Hawaii, Thailand, and New Zealand (with some short stops in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Myanmar), we were ready to make our way to China to teach English.  Luckily, everything worked out perfect and we were able to find a job teaching English in China – just as we wanted!

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I was very happy to land a job at First Leap, an after school program that teaches children English using fun topics such as art, music, and science.  Liz is also doing exactly what she wanted, teaching adults and corporations.  But for me, I really couldn’t have asked for a better school and better English teaching opportunity here in China.  I really love my job, I feel like I’ve found the best teaching job in the world.  And I’m so happy to be fulfilling my dream from so long ago, halfway around the world!

We are so happy that we decided to take this leap in our lives.  It has been fulfilling for us in so many ways, and it’s great that we were able to go on this adventure together.

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Creative Commons Huangshan, China (YELLOW MOUNTAIN/LANDSCAPE)” by Chi King is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For more information about Teaching English in China click HERE and be sure to check out our other stories and resources on this website. We are happy to help!

16 thoughts on “Why We Quit Our Jobs & Gave Up a 6 Figure Income to Teach English in China”

  1. I loved reading this as I am currently playing with the idea of teaching English abroad as well. I don’t have a specific country in mind, but South Korea, China or Thailand would be ideal.
    I’m glad it worked out so well for you 🙂

    1. Thanks Zascha! Yeah, we have really enjoyed it here – but of course, every city (and every school) is different. It’s interesting to be here when the country is going through such a transition. Let us know if you are interested in a Job at Josh’s School (First Leap). They are growing a bunch an have locations all over the country. The hours are great, leaving plenty of time to travel and explore. We would be happy to put you in touch with someone to help speed up the process.

      Happy travels!
      – Liz

  2. Great read, was excited to find your blog. My boyfriend and I will be embarking on a similar adventure – should be in China by August! Did you and Josh find your jobs before you got to China or after you got to China? If you found them after you arrived, how did your schools handle the Z-Visa… did you have to leave the country to apply for the Z-Visa or were you able to transfer your tourist-visitor visa over to the Z-Visa? Thanks for the info, hope you are having a blast!

    1. Hey there Ellie!

      Thanks for reading, and for the comment. We are happy to hear about your upcoming adventures and glad that we can help with some information. You will never regret this journey! 🙂

      As far as jobs, Josh found his job in advance while we were traveling in Thailand (via the internet and Skype interviews). However, I (Liz) found my job once I arrived in China. You can read more about this process in our post: How we found jobs teaching in China (https://www.peanutsorpretzels.com/find-job-teaching-english-china/).

      With regard to our Visas, we plan to write more on this in the future — but here is the quick scoop. Most people who find jobs in advance of coming to China from the States, will secure their job and the company will help them get their Z visa BEFORE they arrive. However in our case, we were in Thailand and traveling already, so we switched our visas after coming to teach.

      The process for getting a new Z visa after you come to China will vary depending on the company you are working with. They all have their own visa agencies and processes set up (it also depends on their licenses…and a bunch of other Chinese factors that we don’t fully understand!). Josh did all the paperwork here, but ultimately had to go to Hong Kong — he applied for his Z visa there, and then came into China and got his residence permit (which is ultimately what you need to get).

      I (Liz) am in the process right now of changing to my Z. Currently, I’m on a tourist visa while everything gets sorted. Legally, you are NOT allowed to work on a tourist visa; however, people do it all the time (and we were able to get a bank account too). It gives us time to sort the visa paperwork. Then I will have to travel to Hong Kong to convert to the new Z visa. It is a process, but ultimately, it has worked out for us.

      Good luck with everything. If you are interested in teaching jobs, we have some great connections at Josh’s school and can vouch for them. He loves it – and they have kept their word on everything, including his Z visa. So just let us know and we can put you in touch with people to help get you a job.

      Cheers and happy travels. Please stay in touch!

      – Liz

  3. Great post! I’m currently working toward teaching English abroad. I’ve considered China but I don’t know if it’s really the right place for me. I’m thinking South Korea or Japan would be more for me but I still have time to think things over while I complete my TEFL. It’s nice to hear things worked out for you so well!

    1. Thanks for reading Meggie. Yeah everything is working out great. China has been a good decision for us. We are saving money and having the time to also work on the site and of course explore this great culture. I have friends that left to go teach in South Korea and 8 years later still doing it. Let us know if you want more info on teaching in China. All the best!!!

  4. Thanks for this article! Which version of TEFL did you take? There are so many options online. Also, I’d love to learn more about First Leap school. Do they offer jobs for shorter terms like 4-6 months?

    I visited China last summer, took a year of the language, and love the people. I’ve been thinking about teaching.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Julie. I’m glad you found the article interesting. We did our TEFL on Koh Samui for one month with a company called TEFLWorld. We had a blast and we were ready to teach once it was over. It prepared us really well. First Leap was an amazing experience. I don’t think they only do 4-6 month contracts. They like to sign people to one year contracts. If you want more info we can discuss more about it if you want to. Check out our TEFL experience on the site for more info.

      Josh

  5. Hello Liz and Josh me and my Finace are from South Africa, Cape Town. We really considering making the move pretty much have a similar story to you guys. Only thing is we haven’t travelled before, however within our own town we very adventurous. Any words of good Faith will help. I will keep in touch with questions.

    1. Hello Robyn – thanks for reading! Congrats to you on your new adventure. Moving to China to teach English was definitely an adventure…and a memory that we will forever cherish. I’m sure you will have a wonderful time, whether you teach English or just spend your time exploring — traveling is amazing!

      Best wishes to you!
      Liz

  6. Thanks for the great read! I’m in the beginning stages of trying to get hired to teach in China and i was wondering what your experiences were with meeting others? I will be traveling solo and I’m excited but a little nervous about going at it alone.

    1. Hello Krystina – thanks so much for reading and for the comment!

      We know many many people who went to China alone to teach English. They don’t remain alone for long, as it seems immediately they are absorbed into different expat groups and make a local “family” of other teaching friends. Even though Josh and I had each other, we both made many friends at our schools — and even created a group of expat teacher friends from all different schools in the area. It’s easy to spot foreigners in China, because you stick out as being different! Everyone seems to flock together for friendship and support, so we found it was quite easy to make lots of friends in China.

      In fact now that we have left China, we often miss our “China family” and stay in contact online. We know many other people who made life long friends while teaching in China, and some who even met their significant others too.

      Hope this helps.

      Best of luck!
      Liz

  7. Really greay article thanks for sharing I have been teaching for over 20 years at a public school in South Africa I have a Tesol and a Bachelors Hons. Degree in education I am now tired and would lije to experience teaching abroad . I was quite skeptical to teach in China but after reading yl about your experience I feel a bit confident and may consider.
    Thanks

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