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Ep. 144: How this former banker left her 9-5 to become an overseas teacher and social media manager with Courtney Brady

In this week’s episode, I speak with Courtney who is currently living overseas and teaching in Singapore. 

She has been working as a digital nomad on and off for the past several years and currently still building up her business as a social media manager. 

Listen on to find out how Courtney is able to travel the world as a remote worker. 

Listen Below:

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Transcription :

Debbie:

Hey everyone, thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to speak with Courtney. Hey Courtney, how are you?

Courtney:

Hey, I’m great. I’m so happy to be here.

Debbie:

Thank you so much for being here. Can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Courtney:

Yeah, so my name is Courtney and I was born and raised in Washington State in America and about five years ago I decided that I wanted to make a big change in my life. I had gotten tired of working the nine to five job. I really wanted to travel and see more of the world. And so at that point, I decided to sell everything and move across the world. And I haven’t really been back since.

Debbie:

Well, that was a huge change, right? Because you actually used to be a banker, which is completely different from what you are doing now. Can you tell us how that transition was like when you finished when you finally realized that this is not what you really wanted to do and you wanted to transition into something completely different and out of the norm?

Courtney:

Yeah. So I kind of known for a while that maybe banking wasn’t longterm for me. I wasn’t super happy sitting in an office all the time and just dealing with customers, I really kind of wanted to have something more fulfilling for myself. And then it was back in 2015 I took my first real trip anywhere and I went solo to Vietnam where for a few weeks I taught English. And so as soon as I came back from that, I just knew and I was inspired to do something different to make a change where I could go see the world more.

Debbie:

Wow. Well that’s a really great way to do it, right? Because not only are you seeing the world but you’re also making sure that you’re doing it in more of a longer-term and not just as a passer-by. So when you finally decided to make that change, let’s go back to when you were actually preparing for it. Can you tell us your steps on how you were able to do that, to make sure that you were feeling safe and secure about your decision? Because a lot of times we’re always in a panic, especially with you because you left everything, right? You had a house, you had this career and now you’re going to be doing something completely different.

Courtney:

Yeah, it was definitely a very scary transition. But there is a lot of information out there actually and a lot of people to reach out to, a lot of resources. The first thing that I did when I got back from Vietnam, my volunteer trip, I got certification for teaching English. It was just a three-month program that I did online and through that program, I actually learned a lot and there was a lot of resources on how to find a job teaching English overseas.

So I started doing a lot of research, finding out what like what country I wanted to go to. And then from there looking for jobs different companies. Interviewing through Skype mostly. And then I finally accepted one and then there’s the visa process that you have to go through before you can move to another country. And then selling all my stuff, selling the house that I had. So that whole time-frame was about nine to 12 months. We kind of, when I had this decision that I was gonna make a change ’til I actually did it,

Debbie:

It seems like you had a goal and you were really planning for it and it wasn’t something that just “spur of the moment. Obviously you have that idea and it took a lot of time to execute it. And then you also had to make sure that you are going to the right place, the right country to go to, the right company to work with. How did you choose the actual company that you’re working with? Because we see so many of them online and it can get really overwhelming to do that.

Courtney:

Yeah, for sure. It definitely is overwhelming. There are so many options and it’s hard to pick. Honestly, a lot of it, I just went with my gut – followed my instinct. It was one that I did make sure and kind of research that it’s fairly well known and had some good reviews from past employees so that I knew it was legitimate. There are, unfortunately, scams out there just like a lot of other things.

And especially moving overseas, you need to make sure that you’re taken care of. I went to China for example, which is a country where I don’t speak the language. So it’s really important that you have that right support and feel secure. So yeah, I just made sure I did a lot of research. And that they were providing what I needed to feel safe such as housing someone to pick me up the airports. They processed my visa – things like that. It just made me feel more comfortable.

Debbie:

Do you have any recommended companies that someone should look out for if they are wanting to go into the teaching abroad route?

Courtney:

There’s so many. I worked for a company called Education First or English First. They go with both of them and they’re kind of all around the world these days. I would say there’s quite a few large companies like that where you’re secure which is nice. And if you have a teaching license, international schools, of course, are always a great route to go. Obviously that’s not a company but different schools that you can find when you search by the location. I have also since then taught with VIPKid, it’s an online teaching company and then that way you can just work from your laptop as well. Which is awesome too.

Debbie:

So with both of them, whether you’re teaching at the location itself, at a different country or you’re working online, what would you say are the pros and cons for each and what have you seen that works better for you and in your lifestyle?

Courtney:

I’ve done a little bit of both. I’ve kind of gone back and forth. With the first company, it was still somewhat, not necessarily nine to five hours but where you do clock in and out and you do have to show up to certain hours that they request of you or that you’re required. The nice thing when I transitioned to online teaching for a while, I got to choose what hours I worked and what ones I didn’t. And I could also have location freedom, which is awesome.

Obviously I could kind of take it as I went to different countries, so that’s a big plus. But you can’t necessarily work as many hours as you would. It’s a little bit more limited. So that’s the bigger con, I guess, with the online teaching. It’s not always going to be just full-time income that way.

And then I’m currently teaching at an international school. So I’ve kind of gone on all different routes through these five years. But yeah, they all have great opportunities to have some security but still have the opportunity to experience other cultures. And typically with all the ones I’ve worked at, I have a lot more time off than I would in, my nine to five job back home before. So I have the opportunity to travel and see other places too.

Debbie:

Can you tell us more about the payment system and the salary that you can get with either or the teaching abroad work and also the working online?

Courtney:

The teaching abroad really varies because it depends on what country you’re in and the cost of living there. And also the type of institution, whether it’s a private training center or an international school. If you do already have like a state teaching degree. In my experience, you can get a lot of higher-paying jobs with maybe better benefits. But they’re all great opportunities and they’re always enough to, at least in Asia is where I have my experience, make enough money to live well and also save money.

With the teaching online, it’s kind of depends on how many hours you can work with your time difference that you are that it can work for you. But you can make anywhere from just having it as a side hustle. I mean, you could just work a couple of hours a week if you want to, and make an extra hundred dollars a month up to about $2,000 US dollars, working through online teaching.

Debbie:

It’s really great that you can have that flexibility and also to choose from that. And also one of the biggest things that people think is that you need a teaching degree in order to start this but you don’t, right? So if you don’t have a teaching degree, what is it that is required from you in order to be a teacher online or abroad?

Courtney:

This also varies a lot by each country. Typically you just have to be from a native English speaking country and they recognize. Obviously, America is one of those – one of the top ones. And then some countries do require a bachelor’s degree but it can be in any field. For example, my bachelor’s degree is in business and yes, you do not necessarily have to have an actual teaching license.

Getting a TEFL certification, which is teaching English as a foreign language that I have is a nice asset. It’s not necessarily required for a lot of places but it can help you kind of get a foot if it’s with a job that’s competitive or to maybe get a little bit higher pay.

Debbie:

Now let’s talk about when you actually moved into these different countries, right? What was the biggest setback that you encountered because you went from living in the U.S. now to Asia, so different from where you came from, what was that like?

Courtney:

I went to China, which is completely opposite from anything that I know and I’d never obviously been there, I didn’t really know much about it. So there’s definitely a big culture shock and not just traveling there but when you have to like live somewhere and learn how to pay your bills in another country to go grocery shopping in another country. Just get around every day. That definitely took some time but it makes you kind of realize how capable you are. And it was really an incredible, incredible experience. I ended up staying there for about two years, so I really enjoyed it.

Debbie:

It’s really interesting how you do learn so many things about yourself when you’re placed in these situations. Sometimes you didn’t do it on purpose and sometimes you do kind of just leap into it. Were there any setbacks that you encountered in the beginning or even now that you learned from?

Courtney:

Yeah, for sure. I mean, that transition is hard being away from family and so it can be difficult at times, especially like holidays and things like that. But I was lucky to have met really amazing people, friends for life, that helped pick me up. And then, kind of after that is those transitions even out of there. In these last five years, it’s been kind of, I’ve been back from being on my computer to doing teaching jobs and just kind of figuring out where I’m going next.

It’s not necessarily a setback but it’s hard to kind of choose the next place to go and like, “Do I want to keep going and traveling or do I want to work a little bit more remote from home and just do short travels. So just kind of having to make those decisions. And it’s big changes, a lot more big changes that come since you’re not just moving from job to job in one city.

Debbie:

So what would you say is your secret sauce to making your work, travel, and life balance successful?

Courtney:

I think it’s important to definitely take care of yourself – the big thing is like self-care but it’s really true. You really have to make sure that you are doing things that you really enjoy. I mean, obviously even though I’m traveling and I love traveling, it’s not always easy. It can be really difficult, especially if you’re on your own a lot of the time. So just making sure I take time for me. And also I would say I’m thinking of good advice. I lost my train of thought. Can you ask me the question again?

Debbie:

What would you say is your secret sauce to making your work and life and travel become more balanced.

Courtney:

Okay. Yes. So yeah, taking care of myself and also making sure that I keep in contact with family and friends back home. And also I’ve gone home obviously sometime in between there. So just letting myself do things that I need to do.

If I’m missing people get on the phone with some family or something or people that pick me up to make me feel better. I think when you do transition like this, you kind of realize how important those people are in your life and you see the people who really stick it out even though you’re not around all the time.

Debbie:

Now, how do you deal with loneliness when you’re at a different country and you are missing the people that you love? You miss birthdays and celebrations and all of those important milestones in all of our lives.

Courtney:

Yeah. Well, thank goodness today technology makes it so much easier ’cause you’re just a phone call and Skype away which makes it not quite so hard to see ’cause you can still see the people and interact but it’s important to find also people that are in your same situation especially in China.

I was very lucky to meet a group of teachers that were also from other countries around the world that we became like a family and we even celebrated holidays and things like that together when we weren’t able to be with our families. So that was huge. And then I’ve done a lot of solo traveling outside of just like on work vacations and stuff and I’ve been lucky to meet amazing people that way too.

Staying in hostels, I highly recommend for people. It’s a great way to meet other travelers and connect with them. I just went on trips with Myanmar by myself about last month thinking that I would be alone. But I met two girls the second I landed and I stayed at a hostel and I ended up being with them actually the whole time.

So, it doesn’t have to be as lonely as you think. I think it’s also good to embrace that time with yourself and get to know yourself. It’s important to not be afraid to sit and have dinner alone and do things that you really enjoy. So I think there’s, it’s good to have a little bit of that balance.

Debbie:

Yeah. Don’t you love technology now so much with it?

Courtney:

Yeah.

Debbie:

I’m sure years ago it was so hard to do that. I mean you had snail mail and that was it.

Courtney:

Yeah. I can’t imagine. I don’t know if I could have done it then.

Debbie:

Yeah, that would’ve been really hard. Now, hat about when you were preparing again, you had to save your money. How much did you actually save before setting off to go abroad and how were you able to budget the money to last?

Courtney:

That’s a good question. I’m trying to remember ’cause it was about five years ago. I want to say I had, ’cause I sold my house so I had a little bit from that, about 5 to 10,000 on that first move. So that really helped me get settled. But a lot of companies, especially you’re coming to teach, they help you with a lot of that stuff.

Like with a place to stay when you initially get there or a flight reimbursement or a settlement housing to help you get started with your housing. Stuff like that. So, you can definitely do it without having huge savings ready to go if you just make sure and check first with what they provide for you.

Debbie:

Yeah, that’s a really good idea. And there’s so much that you can do to prepare for that transition and budgeting and saving is a huge part of it, of course.

Courtney:

Yeah.

Debbie:

So now let’s fast forward to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life. What legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?

Courtney:

Yeah, I think my biggest thing that I like to share, do blogging, and stuff too, is to encourage other people not to be afraid to make a change in their life. I hear it so often, especially when I go back home from friends, they’re like, “I wish I could do what you’re doing. I wish I could do that. I want to travel more.”

And I think what I hope to do is just to inspire people that it’s possible. It doesn’t matter what part of life you’re in or does not too late – you know what I mean? So I hope to just help other people, especially women, not be afraid to travel alone for one, and also to walk away from something and possibly maybe fail or have it not work out. But that shouldn’t stop people from trying.

Debbie:

I think that’s one of the biggest things that really stop us is that fear of failure. And even though you want it so much, it really stops you in your tracks and you’ve made a huge change in your life. You sold everything, you went somewhere you didn’t know anybody, and you did it as a solo female. And that’s a huge message for you.

Courtney:

Yeah. I hope other people are inspired by that for sure.

Debbie:

Did you have a “what now?” moment after you sold everything and now you’re stepping foot in a new country and what was that like for you Courtney?

Courtney:

Oh, for sure. My gosh, it was just kind of like, “What did I get myself into?” I mean if you’ve ever really experienced, it’s hard to explain the feeling of like culture shock. It’s like the excitement of seeing all this new stuff with your eyes but at the same time very overwhelming too. So there’s a lot of different emotions that definitely came along with that like, “Is this the right thing? Can I really do this?” A lot of thoughts go through but it’s just about having that fear and being able to just still do it anyway.

Debbie:

Yeah. And then five years later here you are living the life that you really want to live in. And if you didn’t do that, you’d still be back home being miserable and looking at everything else that you could have done – the what-ifs. Now, what are you working on currently that is really exciting to you?

Courtney:

Well, I’ve really enjoyed teaching and it’s something I’m super happy to have like in my pocket for the rest of my life really. But my ultimate goal is to just be fully remotely working. And I’ve been kind of building my own business through blogging. I do a few like brand collaborations as well through my Instagram and I do social media management. So that’s kind of my next goal is to get where I’m just completely location independent and can make my own time and it’s starting, it’s getting there. So I’m really excited about that.

Debbie:

Yeah, that’s so exciting and you have so many things that are happening and I can’t wait to see where it all goes. If our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you?

Courtney:

The best place maybe is my Instagram which is @journeywith.court and my blog which is NourishTheFreeLife.com.

Debbie:

Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Courtney, for speaking with us today. I really appreciate all the insights that you gave us.

Courtney:

Thank you so much for having me. I’m happy to be here.

 

GET THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WHERE COURTNEY SHARES HOW TO START LIVING AND WORKING ABROAD LONG TERM. 


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith


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