Jessica Watson

No work, all play!

vacation time as an English teacher

There are many perks to teaching English abroad and my absolute favorite is the amount of paid vacation alloted to foreign teachers. 

I'm being spoiled early on in my career and I didn't think I would be able to adjust to a job where I was only given 2-4 weeks of paid vacation a year. What could be better than having two full months, fifteen days at Christmas and a long weekend at least every month?

People in Western countries may consider this lazy, but I think living life by the "all work, no play" mantra is miserable! 

All I had to do was fly to the other side of the world and now I have a job that doesn't require me to work slavishly for all but a few weeks out of the year. Anyone who thinks working non-stop for a two week vacation a year is a sustainable lifestyle hasn't experienced a two month paid vacation backpacking through Southeast Asia or not feeling like you are wasting precious free-time by hanging out in your pajamas all day.

In my one year of teaching English in Thailand, I have had almost a total of three months paid vacation. Two of those months I was only given a reduced pay, but I have heard of many jobs that give full pay, and even with my reduced pay my lifestyle and traveling has not suffered. This is certainly one big reason why I enjoy teaching abroad because it allows me to fulfill my insatiable desire to travel in a way that no job available to me back home could.

Since this is my first time in Asia, I have spent a lot of time exploring my current country of residence Thailand and the nearby countries of Cambodia and Vietnam. Long weekends are a great opportunity for me to get out of Bangkok and visit more rural areas off the beaten track and my fifteen break at Christmas was spent first on the tropical paradise of Koh Samet and then driving around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces in the mountainous North. 

And my big two and a half month break was spent exploring every corner of Cambodia from North to South and traveling up the entire length of Vietnam from Saigon to Ha Noi. Traveling is how I like to spend most of my vacations, but I also spent some of my vacation in my apartment in Bangkok relaxing and relishing the freedom of having no work schedule.

There is no reason to break your back working at a job that you don't enjoy and that gives you an appalling amount of vacation time! Find a job that doesn't rule your life and squanders your precious time! I've given teaching abroad a go and I've found it to be a very gratifying experience in more ways than one: it's a job I like and feel fulfilled doing and I still have plenty of "me" time where I can enjoy my life doing the things I love without the constant barrage of children shouting, "TEACHER, TEACHER!!!!!"


Is this standard? I know here in the states summer is about 2-2.5 months, and holiday times vary.

What is the standard school year and vacations?


By george, usa (28th August 2011)

Another great article by Jessica. I don't think it's misleading at all, but rather more of her own personal experience and job. I have worked 4-years in 3- different government schools and all those contracts were the same. I negotiated my first one, then used it for the second and third schools because the Thai principal, teachers and staff never heard of a contract, then the principal would ask me if I could show them the contract from my former school and with a smile on my face I took it out of my pocket and told him to please get 2 witnesses and let's sign it, I already had the new one made up for them with their details. All of this ended up with 60-days paid vacation between mid Feb. to after the Songkran festival, all of October off, all weekends off (worked maybe 3-4 weekends by polite request to meet student's parents), all Thai national holidays off, all school holidays off and 7 personal/sick days off all with my full monthly salary. Also I had the school pay my taxes in full for me (many teachers get screwed here) and I would then be given the original yellow-brown receipt to keep and show to the very sweet and kind (I'm being sarcastic about this) immigration officer. If you know math well then you should easily figure out that I had more than 6-months off with pay for a 1-year contract. So it is really the art of negotiations that matters here.

By Donald Patnaude, Bangkok, Thailand (22nd August 2011)

Well, it may appear misleading, but it's the truth...for 2 months I was only paid 10,000/month and I was able to travel and pay my rent. I suppose I should have mentioned I had saved money from my previous paychecks for the travel too, but regardless how little that reduced salary appears, it did support my security of knowing you are getting money from your job while off playing and not working is very comforting, no matter how much you are getting! :)

By Gerald, Bangkok (19th August 2011)

You get 10,000 Baht only per month for "reduced salary" That's approx. 300 Baht only per day NOT counting rent (which is likely at least 1/2 the reduced salary) I find your article well-written but a little mis-leading.

By Gerald, Bang Na (19th August 2011)

Thanks for your insight! You are right that it is good to save money and these trips to ultimately still cost a lot despite the paid vacation time and the cost of families, ect...but I'm still young, so I guess I wrote that article with people my age in mind who don't have commitments like a family.

Like you said too, location is a big factor. Thailand, especially Bangkok, is a major travel hub for a lot different places in Asia that are only a couple hours away by plane...and that short travel time makes a big difference if you have a limited holiday!

By Jessica, Bangkok (19th August 2011)

The article mainly focuses on paid vacation time. I agree that this is one of the perks (if you are lucky to work for a school that will pay you for holiday time). A lot of TESOL jobs, however, do not pay for holiday time, especially if you are working through an agency.

I also get a lot of paid time off; probably somewhere in the region of 3.5 months. It's awesome to have this much time off, but there are drawbacks. Going on vacation costs money. If you have a family to support, this becomes a big consideration. For me, I usually end up teaching summer camp to make extra money. This still leaves me with more than a month off, so in my mind it's still pretty awesome.

I agree that working all year to get 2 weeks off is depressing. Those of us in Asia are lucky, in that, great travel destinations are not very far away. If you're in NA and planning a holiday in Thailand, the flight alone will set you back quite a bit. Add on to that hotel, transportation, entertainment, etc...and you're looking at a fair chunk of money.

In the end I think it's all a balancing act. Enjoy your holiday time, but also try to be responsible and think about the future (working summer camps can help with retirement, for example).

Just my observations.

By Mike, USA (17th August 2011)

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