Affording Travel Interview With Ruth: Teaching English in China as Retirement

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Teach English in China in RetirementSleep in. Join a book club. Golf. Garden. Spoil the grandkids. And, of course, travel. These are the things that probably come to mind when you think of retirement.

But with the economy being the way it is, traditional notions of retirement are becoming less and less realistic. It’s unlikely that many retirees will be able to travel as much as they want to, for example.

The good news is you don’t need a traditional retirement to travel.

I’d be the first one to admit that “retirement travel” makes me think of expensive package holidays, cruises and all-inclusive resorts. But some retirees approach travel creatively, living large on a small budget.

(Remember my interview with the lady who did 50+ home exchanges so she could travel in retirement?)

Today, Ruth talks about how she took an early retirement and moved to China. But retirement is not about doing nothing for Ruth; she works as an English teacher there, which provides her with an income and some serious perks. Read on to find out more!


Tell me about yourself and your travels so far.

I’m originally from London and moved to Israel in 1980, where I met my husband. I was a high school teacher in Israel for 30 years.

I am a compulsive traveler. I thought I could get cured but I couldn’t. I used to make do with two or three weeks a year or a two-week summer trip and then a couple of winter weekends, but I just got worse, so my husband and I took early retirement. I was 55 and was supposed to continue till 67 — I felt that 30 years teaching High School kids in the West was as much as I could take!

Travel and Teach English in ChinaWe travel pretty continuously. Our whole life is a trip. This year we were in Taiwan, and many places in China and last year South Korea. We may move to Spain next.


Where do you live now?

We are living in a rent-free apartment in China right now. We are in our third year here. The salary pays our travel around Asia till we think about what to do next.

We have a home in Jerusalem, Israel, where my dad and our kids live. Even though our kids are away from home most of the time, it’s still the place we return to and where we are permanent residents. We get state pensions and we actually go back every six months to see family. (The school pays us one airline ticket a year. We finance the second one.)


How did you plan for your early retirement?

We prepared by saving and it was a gradual thing. Every year, when my husband asked me if I prefer to renovate our house or travel, it was a “no contest” decision.


I also did a lot of online research before we came to China and discovered that there were a ton of jobs here for me and every place I applied accepted us. Our job is only two days a week in the university so we have lots of travel time.

There are a lot of freelance opportunities here for English speakers. Tuition, preparing kids for speech competitions and many other things.


How do you manage your expenses when you travel?

We use Couchsurfing, Servas and so on for places to sleep sometimes, or stay in budget places.We are not big spenders and we hate luxury hotels.


What online resources would you recommend for people who want to work in China?

Online resources to find jobs are many and I don’t recommend all of them at all. In fact, I do urge people to beware of recruiters. I didn’t find my job online at all. What I did was learn up on the different types of job and the places in China, then I approached the universities directly and got my job that way.

I did hook up with other teachers to check that the job was what I wanted. The best resources are other teachers who can share information and tips so I do recommend and other forums where you can check out local information such as expats sites for the different cities. Our city, for example, Xiamen has where you can ask questions about anything to do with living in the city. Some people also use Dave’s ESL Cafe, although not all the info there is 100% reliable, in my opinion.

Teach English at a Chinese University

It is really important to read all you can about the place you intend to live,where it is located, how far to the shops, what kind of products are available there versus what to bring, climate, etc. It is also advisable to ask the school to provide names and emails of past teachers so you can get reliable first hand information. This helps to prevent shock and disappointment on arrival.


(End of interview)

To connect with Ruth, check out her blog at She has lots of stories about teaching English in China!


Images: 1, 2, 4. Ruth. 3. 401(K) 2013 (CC BY-SA 2.o License).

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  1. My thoughts on Dave’s ESL is that it can be best to just post who you are and exactly what you want (province, pay, hours and what-not) You’ll still a bunch of junk messages but you’ll also get a lot of schools directly contacting you. I was very specific that I wanted to go to Sichuan.

  2. Love this story! I hope to be living similar adventures if I ever experience a “retirement.” The China specific links are helpful, too. Sometimes, it seems there is just too much to sift through on Dave’s ESL Cafe.

    • Retirement doesn’t have to be boring! ;) Dave’s ESL Cafe is always mentioned whenever there’s a discussion about teaching English abroad, but maybe there are better places to look at if you want something more specific.

  3. My wife and I have actually discussed doing this same thing (except swap in Japan) if we were able to create enough passive income in the next few years. It is inspiring to read about people out there doing this already.

    • That sounds like a great plan! Based on stories from other ESL teachers, it seems you can easily live on the teaching income alone, so you might not even have to touch your passive income. You can choose to reinvest it instead to grow your passive income.

  4. What an interesting and apparently profitable way to see the world. I’m going to try it , one day.

  5. Very interesting. It is so important to have a partner as enthusiastic as you.

    • That’s true. If you’re married or have a serious partner, it would be tough to do this without both on board.

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