The reason I love to travel is because it is fascinating. My initial advice in choosing a country where you want to teach English is to choose a place that fascinates you. Maybe you fancy warm weather and breath-taking beaches – so try the coast of Italy. Perhaps you prefer mountains and just want to ski your free time away – what about Switzerland? Some people go to countries where they have family history in order to fulfill some prodigal return to their roots. Really it is up to the traveler’s heart the world is her oyster and the flavor of the oyster depends on the traveler’s taste buds.
On a more practical level I think it is a good idea to travel with a friend. This may sound like a cop-out if you are going for the independent thing; but it is also the safe thing. Unfortunately for us, girls traveling alone can be challenging. The saying there is safety in numbers is a pretty timely statement. If something were to happen, say limb breakage, your pal would be there to find a map and locate the closest hospital. Plus it is just downright more fun to have someone to share your escapades with both good and bad ones. There aren’t many other things I can think of to break the surface in a friendship than traveling together in a foreign country. Walls fall down real fast.
So whether or not you have a friend by your side you need to have some preliminary funds before you start working. Gather enough to cover your plane ticket and a month or so of food and rent. It would be wise to contact someone who has lived and worked in the country you are moving to before you go, to give you an idea of how much you will need. Cities are generally more expensive, but with more people around and more to do on your off hours. However many small towns will provide things such as an apartment and more attention to you as a person if you choose to go that route.
The amount of money you want to make once you are teaching is another thing to factor in when choosing your location. You generally will be paid more in places like China, Korea and Japan than you will be paid in Europe. However the farther east you decide to go, the greater the difference in culture. This may seem obvious but is something to be aware of when making your decision.
My guess is that majority of ESL teachers in foreign countries do not speak the language native to that country. It is beneficial though, to go somewhere where you do know the language. I recommend trying to learn as much as you can of the country’s native language for a few reasons. You will be a better teacher if you have the option of explaining things in the student’s language. It can be a big handicap to not be able to communicate in a foreign country. People will respect you more if you speak their language it will give you better opportunity to make friends.
However if you are like me and never thought about taking random Czech classes in between soccer practice and horse back riding, maybe purchase a few online courses and learn the basics. You can work on the language when you get where you are going. The most important thing, I think, is to choose a place that you are curious about. When you have the luxury of choice make it a good one. All other things should fall into place once you make your decision.