How to Teach English While Traveling the World (Beth Johnstone’s Story)

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This is the latest interview in a series featuring digital nomads talking about their lives and lessons (click here if you want to be interviewed). The goal is to help demystify the process of making money online, wandering the world, and living an unconventional life!

Beth has been a digital nomad since 2014 when she thought she was taking just a trip to New Zealand, but fell in love with the lifestyle. She took the pandemic in stride and built out a van she’s using to continue exploring the world.

Thanks for hanging out with us, Beth!

Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?

Hi, I’m Beth. I am from the UK and I’ve been travelling full time since November 2014. It all started when I was a child, I was always fascinated by pictures of different places and different people around the world. I was lucky enough to take yearly holidays around the UK with my family when I was young, I had never spent any time abroad apart from an adventurous hiking holiday in Austria. But I loved it so much I knew I wanted to have a big adventure one day.

When I was 16 I decided to leave school and start working full-time. I worked in a bakery and played guitar/ sang in bars, restaurants, and hotels. I spent my summers in a little van traveling around music festivals making hair wraps, beads and playing music on stage. After a few years of this, it was finally time for a big adventure.

In November 2014, I left to go to New Zealand with a friend. Although we didn’t travel together for long, it was nice to have someone to make the initial leap with. I traveled to New Zealand over and over whilst working in different locations around the country. 

While I was in New Zealand, the eccentric town of Queenstown, I met Jake. We had everything in common and ended up going on a road trip, where we slept in the boot of a station wagon as we traveled around. We loved every minute of it and decided to do the same in Australia.

We worked on a farm when we arrived to save some money, then we bought a tiny car and traveled just over 20,000km around the country over 4 months. We faced poisonous snakes, massive spiders and were rewarded with the most magnificent sights.

After spending a year in Australia we decided to start looking for online work. We had never worked online before so we did a lot of research. 

We managed to get jobs teaching English online, this allowed us to continue to travel whilst saving and making money at the same time. We began traveling very slowly and spending some time in each place, partly because we needed time to work and time to explore and partly just because we had grown to love this way of traveling. When traveling long term for many years, it can be exhausting to keep moving every day, so to make it a sustainable lifestyle, we took our time. 

We traveled like this all through Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

That brings us up to the global pandemic. We didn’t have a fixed place to live, that’s when we decided to build the van. We bought a cheap van on eBay and built everything from scratch on a very small budget. As soon as the van was finished we hit the road, still with the same online teaching jobs. That brings us to today. We love our tiny home on wheels.

What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?

It might be weird to hear this but, I was never really inspired to start travelling full time. It just kind of happened. I hadn’t been abroad as a child so I didn’t know what it would be like. It just so happened that I decided to go away to New Zealand, I planned to be away traveling for three months, but it’s now been over six years and I’m addicted to it. I’m addicted to new places, new foods, new smells, and new experiences. 

It made me realize that there are so many ways to live a life. Seeing all these different cultures has made me realize that everybody does have such a complex and incredibly unique life. 

What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?

This is such a difficult question because every place is so different. New Zealand will always have my heart. The people overflow with kindness and the scenery is beyond anything I could have imagined.

Thailand has to come pretty close to the top of the list, the food, and the people make it. I feel so at home in Thailand, I rented an apartment in Chiang Mai for a while during the Chinese school holidays so I could focus on working as much as I could. I got to know the local area and it makes me feel safe.

Vietnam can’t be overlooked. It’s stunning! I recommend it to any first-time backpacker, it’s so cheap and the food is amazing, I loved the hustling cities during monsoon season and I loved the humid mountains and endless rice fields. 

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?

Just go for it!! It’s really hard work when you’re saving, especially if you have a hard time picturing yourself in all of these amazing places. But I promise it will be so worth it. Everything you’ve worked for will be so worth it. 

Also, don’t be afraid of going alone because you’re never really alone. You will meet so many people and they will probably become your best friend instantly because you’ll have at least one thing in common: The love of travel. 

I was so nervous before I left, but as soon as the plane landed that all went away, honestly, sometimes you simply have no time to be nervous, you just have to get on with it. 

Probably the biggest tip is to pack light! It’s better to have too little than too much. When your backpack is your whole life, you need to make sure it’s not going to hurt you. I’ve seen so many people give up backpacking because they couldn’t carry their backpacks. 

Please tell us your detailed story of how you got into your line of work and how you turned it into a remote career.

I wish there was more of an exciting story about how I got into this line of work. I must start by saying it’s not my dream job, I do like it and I love that it enables me to travel full-time. My dream job is to create content, photography, YouTube videos, that’s what I love. I’ve been teaching online for almost two years now and I’m so glad I’ve been able to do it. 

What does a day in your work life look like? Paint a picture for us :).

My day looks very chilled in the morning, I check through my Instagram messages and emails then get out of bed. Jake and I try to get some things done like making sure we have enough water and all of those basic van life admin things.

My boyfriend Jake works for the same online teaching company as I do, as we can’t teach at the same time, he teaches first for a few hours then we swap. Thankfully we don’t need to create lesson plans, we just log on 5 minutes before and start teaching. Each class is 25 mins long so we have a few minutes in-between to have a drink and a snack. When we’ve finished teaching we spend about 5/10 minutes filling out class reports and then it’s time to relax or do some exploring.

What digital tools do you use for your work?

The tools I use for work are either my phone or my iPad and the teaching app I use. For more information about the platform I use to teach click here: 

For someone interested in getting into your field of work, what’s the best advice that you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders or other learning resources do you recommend?

Many people assume that you need a degree to work as an online teacher but that isn’t true. You just need to be a native English speaker with a TEFL certificate. I got my certificate from wowcher for £19. 

Please share some details about your content creation journey on social media and on your website (if you haven’t already!). 

I love my students but, one day I would love to go full time into content creation. My Instagram and TikTok are @sheisthelostgirl, and my YouTube which I run alongside my boyfriend Jake is ‘Our Wild Horizons.’

If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons that you would share with the world?

Live every day like it’s your last and when you say goodbye to somebody, always end on a good note. 

What’s the best purchase you’ve made under $100 in the last 12 months?

The thick blanket on my bed in the van. We don’t have a heater in the van yet and we have been parked next to snow. A thick blanket is essential in a van and it can make your experience so much better.

How can people learn more about you and your work?


Lauren is a freelance journalist from Seattle. She travels the globe in search of the best grocery stores, bouldering gyms, and snorkeling locations. Her mission at Freedom Is Everything is to help others make the transition into location-independent lifestyles.