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Are you fluent in English? Do you want to work within the comfort of your home away from home? Then tutoring English online is a sure-fire way to support yourself in most – if not all – digitally nomad developed destinations. At $10/hr, I recommend Cambly. First, because neither a teaching certificate nor an English degree is required. Second, because no lesson plan is required.

In fact, you could just have a 15-60min conversation with each student. Although, I would suggest developing a plan or style, especially if your goal is to have student consistency or receive the ever-elusive SuperTutor title – a current rating of 4.9 or higher.  

Over the past 4 months, I have had roughly 306 hours of talk-time. I have met 441 students and have had 898 total chats. With a 4.85 current rating, my goal is to earn the title of SuperTutor. This is what I have learned on my journey. I hope this helps and wish you luck on yours!

Tips and Tricks of a Cambly Tutor

Speak slowly. Slower than your usual pace.

The point here is that you will meet people of varying levels of fluency and it is best to ensure you speak to the lowest level. At least, do this until the student has shown themself to understand at a more natural speaking speed. Also, ensure you are enunciating the words. You’d be surprised how much lip reading there is! This is not to say mind the accent, rather to ensure you are pronouncing each syllable because mouth movement assists the student as well.

Verbally Mirroring the student is powerful!

It shows you are listening and encourages them to either re-word the sentence, often providing more context, or continue speaking. When you are first practicing this technique it is best just to repeat the last few words the speaker just said. Once you feel comfortable and have primed them – by repeating the last few words – at least once use any 3 to 5 words of their talking point.

 “Pictures are worth a thousand words.”

5-15mins of my class is about describing an image. Search for topics of varying difficulty on Google Images (ie ‘bike ride’, ‘cooking with the family’, or ‘interior’). Have the student describe what they see in full and complete sentences. Once they have satisfactorily described the image, ask open-ended questions about the topic (ie ‘How does the image make you feel’; ‘What do you think about X’; and ‘What do you think they were doing before – or are going to do after – the image’). Students love it because it is safe; challenging, yet engaging, and there is often a chance to learn new words or phrases. You will like it because there are many avenues for developing natural dialogue. Lastly, it is reusable! You can wait a week or month to reshow the same image and see if there are new ways the same student describes the image.

I find placing my index finger just below my lower lip, when I want a student to pay attention and/or parrot what I say, works very well.

So does cupping one of my ears when I want to hear them say it.

A light and warm smile will take you far.

Sometimes the best response to a student’s statement is a smile and a nod – if your goal is to get them to continue speaking especially.

Exaggerate your gestures.

When the student’s English is minimal, gesticulating can mean the difference between them understanding or not.

I like to ask the following questions to a recurring student.

“How are you doing”; “what did you do since the last time we spoke”; and “what are your plans for the weekend”. These three questions will get the student to speak in the present tense, past tense, and future tense. Feel free to explain why you are posing the questions (i.e. I wanted to hear you speak in past and future tense. Good Job! or here is where you need to improve)

Write out difficult words phonetically.

For instance, you may have a student who has trouble saying the word ‘usually’ so break the word down by syllable. say while typing “use-you-uh-lee is how you say usually”. This can be highly dependent on the student. If you notice it still doesn’t sound right then change up the syllables of the word until it does. Remember to make it clear that they will need to make that sound when they see or want to say that specific word.

  A great auditory method for pronouncing difficult words is to ‘clap out each syllable’.

When I was a child my teacher would have us break up multi-syllable words, thus likely difficult to say, by clapping. take “usually” for example: clap once for ‘use’, ‘you’, ‘uh’, and ‘lee’. Have the student repeat. then you say “once you feel comfortable with each sound, say it as quickly as possible”.  

‘That Reminds me of …’

Makes for a great transition from the planned lesson to natural dialogue. For example, you may be describing a picture of ‘children playing with toys’ and say this reminds me of when I was a kid. Then you can decide to talk about your childhood or have the student speak about their favorite toy as a child. Once you are practiced at this phrase, you can use it at any time – like when there is a lull in the conversation.

Open-ended questions are key to getting the student to open up and provide in-depth answers.

This means asking questions that begin with when, where, how, why, what, and who (i.e. ‘who is your favorite actor and why?’ or ‘When was the last time you went on an adventure and what did you do?’) Keep in mind that this method is difficult for beginners. But, if the reticence is because they are naturally shy then answering the question first will help. Sometimes the student doesn’t know what answer you are looking for, so you going first will provide a frame of reference.

I note the student’s mistakes by typing them out:

“You said: …”; “Correct way: …”; “Common Way: …”; and “Another way: …” is how I get the student to see the error. I ask the intermediate and advanced students to compare and contrast them (i.e. what are the differences between what ‘you said’ and the ‘common way’ it is said).

Ice Breaker Games

Beginner:

Categories (eg. colors, animals, foods) – An efficient way to get the student to say words they know and possibly learn new words. Great opportunity to transition into simple open-ended questions (eg what is your favorite food, what is your favorite animal, or what if your least favorite color) and using a simple sentence structure like subject + verb + complement (ie I like kapsa a lot, I love turtles the most, or I do not like the color green).

Intermediate:

Collaborative Story is an engaging icebreaker where the tutor will start with “once upon a time there was …”. From there, the student and the tutor will alternate control of the story by providing a sentence or two. After 4 or 5 rounds complete the story and go over any errors. I have found typing what both they and I said was the easiest way to go over any errors.

I think Mind Meld is an odd icebreaker, but it can lead to interesting conversations. ‘On the count of three,’ both the tutor and student will ‘say a single word’ (eg tutor says ‘animal’ and the student says ‘music’). Then they reset, try again, and will continue until both say the same word. I have yet to mind-meld with a student. The game will likely end in laughter or a topic both find interesting to discuss.

Advanced:

Questions are the Answer – Tutor: “Excuse me, can you give me directions to the movie theater”? Student: “Did you want the directions to the regular theater or IMAX”? Tutor: “Which one is closer”? Student: “Are you driving or walking”? You guessed it! The point of this icebreaker is to answer each question with a question. There may be some stumbling with the student when initially teaching the game. But once you get going it will be as fun as it is challenging.

Links that are great for daily use

Reading comprehension and discussion:

Free English books: 

Tongue-Twisters & Pronunciation:

Verb tenses & Grammar:

Transition/linking words:

Cambly Conversation:

Are you in or planning to visit Puerto Vallarta?

I’m sure you are soon to experience many activities in this burgeoning tourist destination. One of the understated beauties of Puerto Vallarta is that it is a hub for exploring nearby towns. So, if you are looking for a delightful day trip; I would suggest you seek El Tuito, Mayto, and Tehualmixtle (a.k.a Tehua).

El Tuito, Jalisco – “Beautiful Small Valley”

Drive 52km south of Puerto Vallarta – roughly a 90min drive and you will arrive in the quaint farming town of El Tuito. What can I say, this diamond is as rough as the cobblestone-road you will ride in on. However, that is its charm! The people, who embody the modern Vaquero (aka Cowboy) lifestyle, is what makes this place a gem.

Like most, if not all, Mexican towns the plaza is the heart. Here you will see the most activity, whether it is placed to eat; presentations and fiestas; or statues and murals commemorating important local figures and events.

As mentioned before, this is a cattle ranching town. So do not be surprised by the many fine purveyors of panela or jocoque – cheese similar to paneer and yogurt cheese respectively. They often travel to bigger markets like Puerto Vallarta’s Municipal Market of Colonia Emiliano Zapata to sell their wares. In fact, we learned of El Tuito while at this municipal market tour which is part of Gabby’s Restaurant cooking class.

Mayto, Jalisco – “Little beach of love” and Turtle Conservation

This drive is 90km (roughly 2hrs15min) south of Puerto Vallarta. If El Tuito is the appetizer, Mayto is the eye-catching main course. It is amazing!

Why? This place is secluded. The kind of place, not even local tourists visit, much less know about.

The trick? keep the roads unpaved and signs to a minimum. Literally, there is just a Hotel Mayto – a 10 or so room hotel – and a restaurant, both a stone’s throw from the sea. The 7km of beachside is an ecological reserve and turtle conservation – considered the largest and most important on Mexico’s pacific coast. You ought to come here for a weekend to be honest – especially if you are searching for a romantic couple’s retreat.

That said, this is still a great place to spend a few hours soaking up the sun, marking your territory on IG by capturing the perfect landscape photo, or taking a refreshing dip in the crystal blue! Just remember to pack your sunscreen and steer clear of the sand crabs.

Tehuamixtle, Jalisco – Seafood Feast

Last and certainly not least, Tehua Bay is 92km (roughly 2hrs30mins) south of PV. It is the reason why you are this far south and well worth the drive. This is true for two reasons: – Why Addison enjoyed it: A small fishing town known for its seafood. – Why Zahn enjoyed it: a rustic town with a helluva cliffside sunset. Tehuax is perfectly situated within a bay. This makes it a safe and enjoyable place for paddleboarding, kayaking, or swimming. There is also a sunken ship in which to go scuba diving!

Transport options

We were fortunate and found a reliable private driver – Jose – Xplore with Chamaco

He was courteous and is a conscientious driver. The trip cost us 4,200 pesos (just under $200 US) and was an 8hr trip. There are several ways you can take this trip, some of which is much cheaper than our method, and it is worth mentioning that COVID-19 was in full effect so public transport was not felt to be a viable option:-

Driving Own Car or Rental Car
At ~1,200 Pesos ($52.00 US) renting a car is the best option.

However, it’s 90km of winding, often cliffside, two-lane road.

Public Transport
By far the least expensive option. The downside, of course, is the added trip-time. You will have to get to El Tuito – likely by bus – because there are no direct trips from Puerto Vallarta to Tehuax. You would then have to walk to Mayto (roughly 30mins).

Private Driver
The most expensive option and not without its benefits. The driver will likely be Bilingual which makes him/her a great guide, great for local knowledge of things to do and places worth seeing, and hassle-free driving experience. Not to mention a safer option than public transport in terms of COVID-19.

What makes a restaurant great, tell me. Good food, attentive service, and a lively ambiance? Now, let me tell you why Gaby’s Restaurant; in the heart of downtown Puerto Vallarta, is great! 

Food!

Gaby’s Restaurant has developed a menu that will leave your mouth watering, whether you crave seafood delights such as lobster enchiladas and coconut shrimp; Authentic cuisine like Mole chicken and  Chile Relleno (cheese-stuffed pepper); or traditional and simple desserts like Flan. In other words, the food – From portion size to presentation – will make you hope your stomach is bigger than your eyes. 

There is also an extensive drink menu! 

We have had two great experiences, one by delivery (Ubereats) and the other was by dining in:

  • The delivery: Addison ordered the mole chicken and Zahn ordered the chicken fajitas. The food was piping hot, packaged well, and delicious. 
  • The Dine-in: Zahn had the burrito Gigante. Addison had coconut shrimp and lobster enchiladas! 

Apparently, burritos are not as commonplace – in Mexico – as one might think. In fact, they are considered TexMex. Gaby’s burrito is unique because it is not filled with beans, cheese or rice. If you are looking for a burrito that has been turned on its head I would highly recommend the giant burrito. Fantastic and simply unlike any burrito you will get abroad. 

What else can I say? The enchiladas were a slam dunk and the shrimp was the alley-oop. 

Service!

We were treated well from the moment we entered. weaponized with courteous nods and kind smiles, the wait-staff was welcoming, knowledgeable, and attentive. They were just out of line-of-sight standing at parade rest in a way that would remind you of a beef-eater; until of course, you looked in their direction. They would then jump into action ready to provide a service – most likely a refill.

Ambiance!

I recommend that you request to be seated on the balcony or rooftop. The view is outstanding. Prefer indoors? Although you will miss out on the wonderful view, the decor and music is immersive! We ate on the balcony at night. Here you get the best of both worlds; the view of the sea and, thanks to a nearby building, a 10m projection of old movies or romantic images. When on the rooftop you get an unrestricted view of the bay. 

The. Gaby’s Restaurant Je Ne Sais Quoi!

The most important aspect of the restaurant is its history. Gaby, restaurant owner, and Chef Julio, a lawyer turned lauded Puerto Vallarta chef, sit on the shoulders of giants! Their Grandfather left El Tuito to start a new life in Puerto Vallarta. Being one of the first to establish himself in this fisherman’s town turned sprawling city, he quickly acquired land and renown to eventually become its respected mayor! Their Grandmother and Mother turned the home – that is now Gaby’s Restaurant – into a luncheria (a mom and pop shop). 

Long story short – they are welcoming you into their family & home when you enter Chef Julio and Gaby’s restaurant; the waiter invites you to sit, and they present your meal. As you enjoy the first bite and savor the last, you are tasting this family’s 30-year history. So; sit back, take in the sea, a nod to the waiter/waitress, and order that third drink because you are at Gaby’s casa.

Learn to Cook at Gaby’s Restaurant!

Lastly, Gaby’s Restaurant offers a 5-hour cooking class. You will learn how to make five different salsas, mole chicken, and Chile Relleno. The best part of the whole experience was the walk to the local market (Mercado Municipal Emiliano Zapata) to see how the locals get their flour/corn tortillas and shop for meat, veggies, and fruits. 

In light of the recent events in America, we wanted to share some resources for anyone that would like to educate themselves on racism, inequality, and white privilege.

If you feel saddened by what’s going on in our world and want to help we believe the best way to do that is by educating yourself, use these resources, and find your own, there is so much good stuff out there.

I have received a lot of questions from my English students about what is going on, why the protests are happening, and a plethora of other well-meaning questions about being black. And while it is great to see so many people taking an interest and the time to ask questions, I am only one person and I’d encourage you to do your own research. Talking to people is a perfectly legitimate option but don’t make it your only option

Here are some resources and social media accounts you might find helpful.

First off if you don’t believe white privilege is real or don’t understand what it means, watch this video.

Be the Bridge

“Be the Bridge places a lot of the focus on listening to and learning from people of color. But there’s also some important internal work that white people need to do as well. When white people don’t understand some of the basic tenets of whiteness, it’s hard to fully engage in the work of racial reconciliation.”

They have a range of links and tools available, some that we found particularly useful were:

Rachel Cargle and the Great Unlearn 

Rachel offers a monthly self-paced, pay what you want syllabi.

She has also created a free document to guide readers through gaining knowledge of various heartbreaking cases of police brutality and murder in the United States. You can find that here.

“This document is to be used like a syllabi — an introduction to the work but not the work its self. 

Value to the black community is not simply in the knowledge you gain but the action you take to ensure black bodies are protected. “

@ohhappydani

Follow @ohhappydani on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ohhappydani/?hl=en 

She creates the most amazing illustrations breaking down thoughts and ideas for the more visual learner.

If you have found something particularly helpful we’d love for you to share it in the comments.

As a US citizen regardless of if you are in the country to not or paying taxes to another country, you need to file your US taxes while you are overseas.

After neglecting my US tax obligations for years while in New Zealand before we left New Zealand and hit the road I knew I had to take my head out of the sand and get it sorted.

I had been in New Zealand for over 5 years without filing. Luckily there is a process for Americans in this situation – the Streamlined Process so I’m guessing it’s not uncommon. It doesn’t come cheap but it allows you to catch up with your US tax filings without facing any penalties nor any undue scrutiny by the IRS.

How much does it cost?

I’m sure it’s possible to do it yourself and save some coin but I chose to have an accountant do it which set me back $1,276 for the Streamlined Process plus the current years return.

Wondering if you qualify for the Streamlines Process?

To qualify for this amnesty program you must

  • File your last 3 federal tax returns
  • File your last 6 FBARS (Foreign Bank Account Reports), required in years when you had over $10,000 in foreign accounts
  • Pay any taxes due (often nil, once you claim one or more expat exclusions)
  • Self-certify that your previous failure to file was non-willful  (conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.

How does it work?

I filled out a quick form online at BrightTax! and scheduled a call with my assigned CPA to give them the lowdown on my situation, they confirmed I’d be eligible for the process and once I paid the 30% deposit (balance due on filing) we got underway.

I had to supply information for the past 5 years including:

  • Employer name and address
  • Dates of employment 
  • Income
  • Taxes paid
  • Deductions and expenses

I was a little bamboozled at first and reminded why I had put this off for so long but eventually figured out it was actually pretty simple and I could get all of my records from the NZ Tax service IRD and I was away laughing.

I happened to submit return during peak tax season in the states so it took close to six weeks for BrightTax! to complete but off-peak you’re looking at only 2 – 4 weeks to wrap it all up.

I was relieved to find out I didn’t own anything to IRS, phew!

What happens next?

The completed Streamlined paperwork needed to be mailed to the IRS in Austin, Texas. Being in Sayulita, Mexico where there is no post office and in the middle of a pandemic, this was the most difficult part. We ordered a DHL to collect the package for $33 on a 3-day delivery service. The next day we received a call from a lost driver, he couldn’t find our casa and didn’t speak English so we had fun trying to direct him to our location. Once he arrived we handed over the envelope and the waybill and he asked for some pesos, umm but we paid online? We showed him the receipt and whipped out Google translate to explain we’d already paid but he insisted that it hadn’t been. The transaction was showing as pending on our bank statement (in transit between our account and DHL’s) so we gave the driver the benefit of the doubt and paid, again to send the taxes to the IRS.

We’ve contacted DHL twice and not even an acknowledgment of the email so we aren’t holding our breath to get that money back.

  1. Find a way to make money online
    You can do pretty much anything online, think about what skills you have now and how you can apply those to the digital world, for example, Zahn is graphic and web designer taking clients remotely from all over the world and Addison is using the skills and knowledge at his “normal job” to help people in New Zealand to navigate ACC and get their claims reviewed. Also, see our post here on teaching English online here.

  2. Save, save, save
    While ideally, you’ll constantly be making money online while you travel it is always advisable to take a healthy savings fund for any unexpected issues that may come up.

    Don’t think you can save with your current income? See numbers 1 & 3!

  3. Sell all non-essential items 
    We were pretty certain we didn’t want to store our belongings while we were on the road, a) because we plan to be away for at least a year and b) because storage units are expensive and we didn’t want to burden our friends and family so we sold everything that didn’t have sentimental value and made some extra funds to top up our savings account. 

    Regardless of if you decide to go the whole hog or not, it’s a good opportunity to get rid of anything you don’t need.

    See our post here on selling everything you own.

  4. Find your first destination and research the heck out of it!
    For us, it had to be cheap, warm, be close to the beach, has good food and decent WIFI so we decided our first stop would be Mexico. Consider – the cost of living, weather, community, visa restrictions, and any other factors that are important to you.

  5. Sort out your banking
    We use TransferWise, a money transfer service, and an online bank. They offer service to several countries and currencies and reasonable, transparent fees and a debit card at no cost. They also have business banking options so we can keep track of our business income and expenses for tax time.
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