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Traveling Solo Through Chile For Personal Growth – Part 2

After my three month visit to Chile in 2007, I returned to The States to find that in my hometown, there is a school which offers certification to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL).  It turns out there are many programs of this nature offered both on site and online.

The TEFL class I attended took place Monday – Friday from 9AM to 6PM for one month and includes both classroom learning and student teaching. Although the course takes only a month to complete, the work to complete it takes every waking moment of your life for the entire month.

Upon completing the course and obtaining certification, the school offers a lifetime job placement service. Most of the students in my class had a pretty good idea of where in the world they wanted to teach. Many of my classmates planned to teach in South Korea. My plan was to return to Chile, this time, to live and work for a while.

In March 2008, I returned to Chile having arranged to stay with one of my Spanish teachers for a week while finding a place to rent.  I got a job teaching English to business professionals, at one of the many language schools in Santiago.

There is a push for business professionals in Chile to know English and job promotions are often contingent upon learning English. Employers pay for their employees to attend class and as students, they are highly motivated.

I was hired by the language institute but quickly learned that most of my classes would not be held at the institute. Instead, most of my day was spent traveling throughout the city, from business to business, wearing a backpack filled with books, to teach my students in their offices, while eating empanadas on the run. Chilean food is for the most part bland, and they remove the peels from everything, even tomatoes, before eating.

Chilean Independence Day Celebration

I loved my students and teaching English but my day was often very long and tiring. You can earn a living doing this type of work if you stay busy.

Because it takes time for businesses to enroll their students and for classes to start, it is important to have money saved before embarking on the journey to this type of career.

In Chile, if you work for an institute under contract, you will receive a temporary resident’s visa, allowing you to stay in the country for one year.

My first job was not a contract position which means I had to leave the country every three months in order to renew my tourist visa. The fastest and least expensive way to do this is to take a seven hour bus ride from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina, a beautiful city with close proximity to vineyards, skiing, and thermal springs.

You can go through customs and immigration and return immediately on the next bus if you are inclined, but most folks spend at least one night in Argentina. These trips require careful planning during the winter months since it is possible to get snowed in for quite some time which is problematic if you are scheduled to teach classes.

In 2008, I taught English from March until November and then traveled through Peru on a tour and to the Antarctic Peninsula on a ship. Lima, Peru is a four hour flight from Santiago. Peru is a beautiful country with wonderful food although I don’t recommend the cuy (Peruvian Guinea pig.) Peru feels much more like South America to me than does Chile. It’s a place I definitely recommend visiting.

Peruvian woman selling hand woven scarves made from alpaca wool.

Peruvian woman (with her alpaca) selling handcrafted items









Summer in Antarctica



Antarctica has 24 hours of bright daylight all summer long. After a day, you lose all track of time. It is a magnificent place with lots of penguins. I even saw an Albatross fly over our ship.

We attended fascinating lectures with scientists who were stationed for one year on the peninsula to study global climate change.


In January 2009, I returned to The States for two months, to re-group, before planning my next work/travel adventure. So stay tuned…

35 Responses to Traveling Solo Through Chile For Personal Growth – Part 2

  • Pat Amsden says:

    Not only have you had a chance to travel in some interesting places but I suspect teaching English to non-English students would give you some interesting experiences and a different outlook on many of the countries you travelled in.

  • I admire your courage and adventurous spirit. It was very fascinating to read about your experience in Chile. I would love to be able to take the time one day to immerse myself in the culture of a different part of the world.

  • What a good way to travel and live in a different country. Sounds like such a good adventure. I encourage my kids to do things like this. Make a difference and see the world at the same time.

  • Jason B says:

    That sounds like a wonderful experience. I want to see the world, but I’m not sure if I want to teach english though.

  • Susan Cooper says:

    What a wonderful way to really get involved. Many foreign countries are investing in teachers to teach their employees English. You must have had an amazing, one of a time adventure. :–)

  • Wow, you went from Chile to Antarctica?! That must have been fascinating and freezing cold. Must have been amazing to see penguins in the wild, I’ve only seen them in zoos and they’re awesome little guys. You’re so clever to have found a way to work and travel at the same time!

  • What a great and fulfilling way to see the world and learn about other cultures!

  • What a great and fulfilling way to see the world!

  • Jeri says:

    In another life, I know I would have set off to teach English in a foreign land. EFL courses are fun to teach, and I ended up getting a minor teaching endorsement in that area.

  • Love the post, we are going traveling next year finally and Chile is on the list. You’ve offered some wonderful insight as to what we can expect, thank you

  • Donna Janke says:

    What a great way to see another continent. Working and teaching in another country would have allowed you to see and learn about the country in deeper ways than a tourist.

  • What a brilliant experience Michele. I am really jealous, I am dying to explore South America. Maybe a TEFL course could be the key to me going there, although I would have to save up to do it, and for the flights. Did you make enough money to travel around from teaching, or was that with money you had already saved?

    • Thanks Christine. I was able to travel because of money saved prior to teaching in Chile. I recommend a TEFL course if you like to teach and would enjoy working abroad.

  • Mukul Nandi. says:

    I read this so great so wonderful post about teaching in Chile. I feel so happy reading this great story, Michele. This is such a great and wonderful experience.

  • Carl says:

    Whoops, I forgot to check the box to notify me of follow-up comments. Would you please reply here if so? Thanks and once again, great post! Definitely sharing this with my ESL friends.

    • Hi Carl, Chile is an economically and politically stable country compared with other countries in South America. It’s a safe place. You can save money while living in Chile but not easily. Chile is more expensive than most South American countries. Unlike South Korea, in Chile when you teach, you are responsible for your own airfare, rent, and all living expenses. They only give you the teaching job. That’s it. If you have a full-time contracted position, it may include health insurance, otherwise, you need to purchase it on your own.

  • Carl says:

    Wow, sounds like a beautiful and opportunity-opening place. My wife and I have researched Chile a bit and it seems like one of the better spots in SA. We’re currently in Korea and I’ve taken the online TEFL. Did you find that you could save money while living in Chile? That’s one of our main reasons for staying here at the moment.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed this post. Hopefully you share more in the future!

  • Carolyn Field says:

    Wow Michele! This is so exciting to read. There must have been a fantastic feeling of freedom.

  • Mina Joshi says:

    What an adventurous way to work. You manage to teach English and learn about the culture of the place you are working.

  • Lenie says:

    Hi Michele – I love your posts. They make me want to be there with you sharing your experiences. Your way of traveling makes so much sense because you aren’t just a tourist but actually getting the feel for their way of life. I really enjoyed the picture of the Peruvian woman with her alpaca – what a peaceful scene.
    thanks for letting me see a little bit of a world I know I will never see in person.

    • Thank you Lenie. One of my main reasons for traveling, whenever I travel, is to have an authentic experience of how the people in the country actually live. I’ve been much more successful at this when I travel alone. I did not experience this much when I traveled through Peru because I was on a tour.

  • Bindu says:

    Great tips to renew the tourist visa in Chile. Also, love the job information to work and visit Chile. Enjoy!

  • Arleen says:

    What a great way to travel, through Chile. I enjoyed visiting Peru. We visited Cuzco and Machu Picchu. I am glad I did saw Machu Picchu when I was younger because I don’t know if I could do it today. It was a wonderful memory. Traveling the way you are is giving you the opportunity not only to see the sights but to really enjoy the culture.

  • I am completely awed by your courage! This was some adventure and what a fascinating way to become immersed in the culture. I love your blogs…they really teach me so many things and I love your spirit!

  • Catarina says:

    Teaching is a great way of seeing the world. Have come across a lot of teachers world wide who love getting to know new cultures. Peru, Chile and many other Latin American countries are beautiful. Have never been there although I have worked with most of their governments.

  • I enjoy reading your blogs so much. The fascinating places you get to see; it is remarkable.

  • Hi Michele,
    One thing I enjoy about travel is learning about other cultures.
    What a wonderful way to experience life. We have never traveled to Chile.
    The closest we’ve been is working at 3 orphanages in Brazil, another country requiring a visa. Love the pictures too.

  • Welli says:

    I believe you were so fortunate to have this lovely way of not only seeing different lifestyles and cultures but also growing personally through that experience. There is nothing like learning diversity and embracing people different from your comfort zone. You always come out a better person.

  • Leora says:

    All sounds so interesting! Peru looks beautiful, and Antartica sounds … out of this world.

  • maxwell ivey says:

    Hi Michele; what an amazing trip you went on and you were able to work while visiting some incredible sounding places. can’t wait to hear about your next adventure. take care out there, max

  • Michelle says:

    24hours of bright daylight? Wow. That’s just awesome. I’ve never been a fan of travelling from one place to another but now I’m tempted. I’ll rather travel with a friend than go solo though

  • Paul Graham says:

    Hi Michele, great way to travel, seeing the world while using and developing your skills. Many of my friends in Chile and Argentine are very excited about their World Cup prospects right now. For Peru, I have only see Lima but would love to see some of the country. Great post and very informative on the permit issues.

  • Tim says:

    I have met many folks seeing the world while teaching a variety of subjects; mostly in Asia. It is definitely a great way to experience a culture and kudos for you for doing it. I totally agree with you regarding Peru as being the quintessentially South American.

  • Christina says:

    What an amazing experience and how brave of you. I thought about TEFL, but like you said, the unknown of when a job would come along was a bit too scary for me.

  • Wow what a way to – see the world. You get to give of your talent in those countries and it seems, you received much more in return. Alaska has a season (I think it is a season) when there is 24 hours daylight, all day long too. It wasn’t for me!

    Over from LinkedIn group, BHB

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