Traveling. Teaching Yoga. Living the dream. The glamorization of traveling and teaching yoga abroad ignores the challenges and hardships that many yoga teachers face. Sure, teaching yoga and living abroad has many benefits. But acting like yoga teaching abroad is a whimsical vacation retracts from what it really is: work! Let’s explore a few challenges that yoga teachers teaching abroad may face.
1) Living in another culture is AWESOME. It is also really hard.
Culture shock isn’t made-up. It is a well-studied phenomenon that all people experience in varying levels when they enter a new culture. It is uncomfortable, confusing, and frustrating. Of course this challenge will likely be over come with time, but it varies for each individual. Teaching yoga in a new culture also involves learning and adhering to cultural norms, adjusting to new foods, and learning a new language. Be prepared to make mistakes, be embarrassed, humble, and willing to learn.
2) You live in a paradise. Away from your community, family and friends.
Admittedly, this is subjective and relative to each yoga teacher. Generally speaking, the majority of yoga resorts and retreats occur in places people like to go on vacation: tropical, beautiful, sunny, warm. The keyword here is vacation. Most people come to these places to visit, not to move permanently. The result? Your community is transient. Yoga teachers have to work hard and invest in others to create a stable community. Doing this requires time and investment. Yoga teachers are also transient themselves- any community they build, they may have to leave behind.
3) Teaching Yoga is great. It is also hard work.
When I say I’m a yoga teacher, people often react in a way that says “you are lucky”. Of course anyone is lucky to do something they enjoy and get paid for it. However, just because you enjoy something does not mean it is not work. Teaching yoga requires incredible dedication, many hours studying, and the ability to communicate your passion to students. Yoga teachers are passionate, but they work hard.
Doing what you love, where you love, is great! But it doesn’t mean it isn’t work worthy of respect.
4) You get paid to do what you love! That payment may not actually be money!
As noted above, anyone is lucky to do what he or she loves. However, in the era of unpaid internships and voluntourism, many traveling yoga teachers are not compensated with money or even a living wage. Yogis may work in exchange for room and board, or may make a local wage dependent on the country they are teaching in. Some even teach completely for free. This is a large sacrifice to make for any person (regardless of your personal view of money, every human needs at least some to operate in out globalized world).
5) You put on a positive vibe for yoga marketing. You may not always feel this vibe.
Let’s be real here. Yoga teachers have to market themselves/their company/yoga school etc. Social media is a great tool for this- but it can be exhausting. Humans are complex animals with complex emotions- we can work toward being positive, but it is natural to not always feel that way. Compound human imperfection with a competitive yoga world- hustling to get students and clients is hard work. Yoga teachers that make themselves marketable have to dedicate a lot of time and effort for their image and teaching curriculum. An added challenge? Having limited or unreliable Internet.
So there you have it – a concise list of the often-ignored challenges of the traveling yoga teacher. Have you experienced any of these challenges? Do you have funny stories or advice on how to handle challenging situations you experienced abroad? Let us know! And finally, a shout out to all traveling, abroad-living yoga teachers: I respect the challenges you face and overcome, and everything you do! Keep traveling, connecting, exploring and growing!