By Josh Butterworth. Josh is Impact Teaching’s Marketing Manager, and he lives in Thailand.


If you’re reading this then you’re probably just like me – you want to see the world, have experiences and learn about other cultures. Hello friend, I’m Josh! I currently live in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. I’m here to learn Thai and am working remotely for Impact Teaching. I love it here and feel very lucky. I’ve previously taught in China and another part of Thailand, but have found a new passion helping adventurers just like you begin their teaching journeys abroad.

But I must be honest, I am feeling a little down as I write this today, let me tell you why. For the past week or so I have had two of my best friends from the UK visiting me here in Chiang Mai, it’s been a blast. But earlier this morning we went out for our last meal together and I dropped them off at the airport. They’ve been travelling for around five months – exploring Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Australia. I was the last stop on their way home. Of course, they told me all about their amazing travels, but it made me think. What’s the better option – travelling or teaching abroad?

Country side in ThailandI don’t think I need to dive too deeply into the benefits of going travelling. Waking up each morning carefree and ready for adventure is truly a feeling like no other. From town to town and country to country, everything is new and exciting. Your senses feast as you turn every corner and you meet other wonderful people basking in the glory of it all. But do you ever really get to know a place? And how much is it all going to cost? For my friends – it was a lot. During the five months away they spent over £10,000 between them, £5,000 each! When you consider the cost of rent, bills and food in the UK – it doesn’t seem too bad. But the reality is that you’re unlikely to be earning while you travel, you have to save up all that money beforehand and then head back home at the end of it all – full of unforgettable memories but definitely a lot poorer.

Travelling is undoubtedly a brilliant thing to do – but I may have an alternative!

Let me first take you back in time to 2019 when I was a teacher in Shanghai, China. What a city it is! The food, culture, people, social life and general buzz of the place is very special. But after five months of hard work and the January weather doing its best to kill my spirits, the Spring Festival holiday came around at the right time and I jumped on a plane to Phuket, Thailand. After a few weeks of beach hopping around the south I headed back up to beautiful Bangkok and got a night bus to Myanmar. The state of the country at the moment is so incredibly sad, because without a doubt – it is the best place I have ever been. Riding a moped through the mountain roads at sunset, marveling at extraordinary temples, getting lost in ancient caves and eating delicious food with the incredibly friendly locals – wow. Untouched by tourism and like stepping into the past, it was ‘real’ travelling.

But then … COVID happened.

teacher and students in ThailandFast forward to 2022 and I’m back in Thailand, teaching this time after a very difficult year or so back in the UK. The long school holiday in March and April offered me a chance to escape the intense inland heat and head to the beach. In my trusty old car, with my six month old puppy, we headed south. Our round trip from Phetchabun to Koh Lanta was well over 2,000 miles with plenty of unforgettable stops along the way – we spent over two months as ‘proper’ travelers experiencing an authentic side of Thailand, and witnessed an obscene amount of jaw dropping sunsets on beaches that don’t feel real. Of course, we did stop at a few tourist hotspots along the way, but don’t hold it against us!

Dog in front of a river in ThailandThe point I am trying to make here is that I was able to have all of these life changing travelling experiences as a TEFL teacher abroad. I didn’t have to buy a pricey flight from the UK – I was already here. Of course, I had to save for my trips, but I was able to do so whilst already being in spectacular places full of culture and unknown delights. Shanghai and Phetchabun, incredibly different but equally amazing, are both places I would want to visit on my travels! Instead – they were home. I got to know them in a way that you simply cannot when you’re just passing through. I lived my travels on a far deeper level whilst saving money for my ‘official’ travels. Not to mention the numerous long weekends and short holidays that I embraced to the full, travelling to the areas around and discovering new places.

And arguably the biggest difference between choosing to travel or teach abroad is the end result. You can finish with an empty bank balance but plenty of memories, or enjoy the same result that has lasted for a lot longer – and get paid throughout. I think you can guess which is which. These are just my opinions and I have absolutely nothing against travelling for travelling’s sake, but I personally think that teaching abroad offers a far more attractive opportunity where you can not only travel – but also earn, develop life skills and bolster your CV.

Just some food for thought – what do you think? Let us know by getting in touch here, and ask any questions you have about teaching abroad.

We have programs in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Poland and Hungary. Something for everyone – something for you!

Don’t be a tourist – live like a local – where will you make your impact?