It was a hugely defining moment when I came to Madrid from New York to study my TEFL certificate with TtMadrid. Overnight, my NYC clutches and stilettos turned to Madrid flats and a carry-on piece of luggage! One of the most liberating and exciting aspects of being a TEFL teacher is the flexibility in designing your ideal work schedule, or in my case the ideal travel schedule. In NYC it was so easy to get lost in the overtime hours. Working on the weekends and skipping lunch left me exhausted in the evenings and hibernating on the weekends. I had no time to myself for long weekend trips nor the budget to do so. When I moved to Madrid to teach English, I designed a schedule that allowed me to travel freely around Europe and Africa easily and affordably. When I made the leap over the Atlantic to Madrid, I made one commitment to myself: “I’m going to work to live, not live to work.” How did I do this? Easily: I had 3-day-weekends and learnt to budget and strategically book trips.
One of the most liberating and exciting aspects of being a TEFL teacher is the flexibility in designing your ideal work schedule, or in my case the ideal travel schedule. In NYC it was so easy to get lost in overtime hours. Working on the weekends and skipping lunch left me exhausted in the evenings and hibernating on the weekends. I had no time to myself for long weekend trips nor the budget to do so. When I moved to Madrid to teach English, I designed a schedule that allowed me to travel freely around Europe and Africa easily and affordably. When I made the leap over the Atlantic to Madrid, I made one commitment to myself: “I’m going to work to live, not live to work.” I decided to have 3-day-weekends and learn to budget and strategically book trips.
Here are a couple of ways I managed it:
- Getting up a bit earlier and working a tad later in order to not work Fridays was the best part of my schedule. I worked hard Monday through Thursday to enjoy the freedom of spending my 3-day weekend traveling!
- Removing some glam—not eating out regularly with friends to save euros. However, we made up for this with potluck dinners or finding special eatery deals throughout the week.
- Booking hostels over hotels. As long as I had a bed and shower I was happy because I planned on being out and about most of the time.
My new Spanish budget allowed me to live the life of a free, jet-setting woman! I spent my first year traveling to a new country every month, where I was exposed to new languages, customs, food and made new international friends. Whether I was in the buzzing piazzas of Italy, the white sandy beaches of Portugal, the loud pubs of Ireland, the ancient caves of Morocco, the royal streets of England, or the fashionable avenues of France, I used each 3-day weekend to explore countries and cities inside and outside of Spain.
Spain is centrally located and well-connected to other large cities in Europe, making travel readily available. There are also low budget air carriers, like Ryanair and EasyJet, that make booking as reasonably priced a flight as possible. I remember the first of many trips to Italy landed me in Rome. I paid 50€ for a 2-hour round-trip flight—GASP! Was I reading this correctly? If I wanted a weekend getaway from NY, I often flew to Miami, which was about 2.5 hours away and cost me about $300 at best. Whereas a ticket for Italy, where they spoke one of the most romantic languages and had some of my favorite food dishes, only cost 50€—well, sign me up!
Awesome transport didn’t stop there. There are so any amazing travel companies in Madrid that offer ridiculously cheap prices for all-inclusive packages. For example, my trip to stunning Portugal. I went through European Vibe who planned everything: transportation, accommodation and activities for only 149€! We took an overnight bus to Lagos in the Algarve of Portugal, spent a beautiful day on a drink-flowing boat cruise with cave tours, and enjoyed a group dinner and memorable night out at a local bar. The next day, we took the bus up to Lisbon and went on a culturally filled day of castles and cathedrals.
To travel from Madrid by bus or plane is really cost-efficient, and on top of this once you land in another country their train and bus transportation is also often well-connected. When I landed in Liverpool, UK, I got to spend the day in The Beatles’ hometown enjoying some great fish and chips with a pint of beer for only 5 pounds. Later I hopped a train, and in 2.5 hours I was in King’s Cross Station in London. I walked off the platform to be greeted by a line of people looking to take a picture of Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾. London brought back wonderful NYC memories, as each street was filled with tourists or locals off to their next appointment. Luckily for me, all I had planned for was to sip delicious Pimms in Borough Market and head to high tea with close friends. Italy was the same. The trip from Verona to Padua took about 1 hour, costing less than 5€ by train. I spent the day in the home of Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet, and later I was sitting in a piazza in Padua sipping on the local drink, Spritz, talking to local university students. The following day I went from Padua to the gondola-filled canals of Venice, which took another hour by train, and again cost less than 5€. Was this my life? Pinch me! It all was too good to be true . . . but it was my reality!
Accommodation is also cheap around Europe. You can couch surf for free! Couch Surfing is a community built from expats who open their homes to travelers and provide an extra bed or couch free of charge. There are also many hostels that cost 15€-30€ a night and often include free breakfasts and tours. Later I started to use Airbnb, which is similar to Couch Surfing in that it’s very popular in the expat community, except you can rent out a room or an entire flat for a reasonable price. I rented a charming 1-bedroom flat in Venice, Italy where I would walk out the front door to be greeted by a singing gondolier rowing by, as he tipped his hat and threw me a cheeky wink.
Teaching English in Madrid not only has allowed me to develop professional and personal skills, but it has afforded me the opportunity to see more of the world and to be more culturally aware and knowledgeable.
Want to know more about your passport to a new life in Spain? Check out our TEFL course.