How A Minimum Wage Salary Funded My New Life Abroad

September 15, 2016
How A Minimum Wage Salary Funded My New Life Abroad

I don’t know how many times I’ve told someone about a trip and they’ve responded with, “I wish I could do that!” Or how many times I’ve shown pictures of a new city I’ve visited or exotic food that I’ve eaten and people say, “Lucky!” or “So jealous!” Of course, these could just be nice comments from observers, not saying anything more than “Congratulations on having fun” in a less formal way.

But I’ve also come across people who really mean it. They really are jealous. They really do wish they could do it, and somehow separate things I’m capable of from things they’re capable of.

How My Minimum Wage Salary Funded My New Life Abroad
Lauren made it out of Oklahoma, all the way to Prague.

This is how I saw things when I was 22: basically, you can start your career, or you can travel. One is “safe” and one is adventurous. One is responsible and the other a way to have fun before you get too old/start working for your retirement/get married/have babies/accumulate so many obligations, material goods, and debt that you’re tied to your life as it is today for as long as you can imagine.

This is how I saw things when I was 22: basically, you can start your career, or you can travel.

You can chase money, or you can live your life. There’s a certain amount that you need to eat and sleep in a bed and live. Whether you live comfortably or safely or just adequately is up to you and your needs. But you don’t need much. You just have to decide what you really want.

Anyway, here’s how I did it, saving on minimum wage — or close to it. I couldn’t find a job after I graduated college. So I worked at a summer camp, just to get out of my home state of Oklahoma for the summer. It was temporary and it was in Idaho and it was at a Lutheran camp (I know nothing about Lutheranism and had only recently learned how to pronounce the word “vicar,” though I still couldn’t tell you what it is). I think I made less than $2,000 that summer and I worked 18-hour days most of the time. None of that money went to my travels.

I came back to Oklahoma with as many prospects as I had left with: none. So I took my aunt up on what was probably just an empty, albeit polite, offer to house me in her basement in Denver while I looked for jobs there. For three months, I worked at Ann Taylor Loft and saved what I could. Then I moved back home.

I continued working at Ann Taylor Loft in Tulsa for $9.50 an hour. I also got a job at a liquor store for $8 an hour. And with those jobs, living with my parents and not paying for housing or food, I was able to save to go to Prague to teach English. The only expenses I had were car insurance and gas, which probably totaled around $250 a month.

I get that I was lucky to live with my parents after college. But at the time it was a real blow to my ego. I still could have saved the money to go, even if I was paying rent. It just would have taken me a lot longer working two part-time jobs and getting paid less than $10 an hour, but I was also living in a city with one of the lowest — if not the lowest — costs of living.

I was scared out of my mind when I thought about leaving with no real plan.

I chose Prague because it was also a cheap city. They had a legitimate school (TEFL Worldwide Prague) where I could get TEFL certified in a month and gain teaching experience, and I felt comfortable with the idea of committing to a few months — one, at least — in the city.

I had no idea what I was doing. I was scared out of my mind when I thought about leaving with no real plan. But I also didn’t want to stay in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the rest of my life and start working for my retirement at 22. So I just went.



How Minimum Wage Salary Funded My New Life Abroad top photo by Rodrigo Ardilha on Unsplash

About Lauren Krzyzostaniak

Lauren Krzyzostaniak lives in New York, where she works as a freelance writer. Find her online and follow her on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “How A Minimum Wage Salary Funded My New Life Abroad

  1. Erika Placek
    March 12, 2015

    Hi Lauren, My name is Erika and I was looking to move to Prague to teach english as well. I was always fond of the city and Ive even met some locals that were doing an exchange year here in Wisconsin. I just fell in love with it. But I am scared. No one supports me and they keep telling me i havent thought anything through and I am just running away. They tell me I have no guarentee of a life there and that theres too much getting in my way of doing it. Like I am too young, no one is going to want me for a job and I have no reason for the country to give me a visa. I want to get out there and expirience the world and I want to teach but I feel like maybe they are right. I feel sure on my decision but I also feel that maybe I might be missing something? I have no one to back me up, I have no one too look up to. I read your article and was hoping you might understand. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and I wish you safe travels 🙂

    • Lauren Krzyzostaniak
      March 12, 2015

      Hey Erika, thanks for your comment! My advice is to do what you want to do, but go into it knowing the reality of the situation.

      First of all, to get a teaching job, or even get into most TEFL programs, you’ll need a college degree.

      You need to have money saved up to live there, unemployed, for a few months (at least 3 — that’s about $3,500-5,000), because that’s probably what’s going to happen. As an American, it will be harder to get teaching jobs there, because your TEFL-certified friends from the UK won’t need a work visa, and that makes them much more attractive to schools and employers. You’ll either work “under the table” and get paid in cash from a school (illegal, but common), or you’ll have to pay a lawyer quite a bit to help you get a visa. The likelihood of you finding a school that will sponsor you, especially if you’re young with no education experience, is slim.

      BUT, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. I would advise at least going to a TEFL course there. I received my certificate at TEFL Worldwide Prague, and I would recommend that school. My class was full of people in a similar situation as the one I had found myself in, who didn’t know where to start or wanted a break or just wanted to travel the world, and a TEFL certificate is a great way to do that — but a course abroad is an even better way to meet like-minded people who you can travel or live with if you stay in Prague. I met great people there who I’m still friends with today, and they were my lifeline abroad.

      It’s not easy getting a teaching job, but it will happen, just probably not right away, so be prepared for that. But Prague is a great city to live in, especially if you don’t want to spend a lot! You can live relatively well in Prague on very little. Prague is safe, beautiful, and a LOT of fun. My advice: GO! And go in the spring, like now, and stay through the summer at least. You’ll have a blast.

      And if you want to read about what it’s like, check out posts on my blog from 2011.

      Good luck!

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