Teaching English Online & Traveling The World: My Cambly Story

So before I begin telling you about how I started teaching English online, I’ll let you know that this isn’t your typical blog post. It’s somewhat personal and very much about me. 

Well, at least the version of me that’s an online English tutor with Cambly.

I’d always been interested in online & remote work

My interest in remote work has existed ever since I can remember. In my final year of high school, I’d spend hours looking at different online work possibilities when I should’ve been studying. 

Therefore, I wanted to travel and needed a way to fund this obsessive yearning in me to seek and explore the globe. I’d always been interested in different cultures and psychology, so I hoped to find something that would satisfy my curiosity in people and diversity. 

Fast forward a few months after graduating, I’d decided to take a gap year and was working in a few less than pleasant jobs that would allow me to save and travel for the next half of the year. 

And that’s precisely what I did.

It all began with my Gap Year Au Pair experience

Teaching English online as an expat in Portugal.

I flew from Africa (Capetown, to be exact) to Lisbon, Portugal, where my adventure really began, my adventure as a first-time female solo traveller. 

I spoke no Portuguese and assumed that English would be enough to get by. In most cases, it was, but there were a few moments where I wished I could understand and speak a bit of the local language. 

While in Lisbon, I Au Paired for a Portuguese-Spanish family where my primary responsibility was to speak and play (in English) with gorgeous 2-year old twins. 

Having lived in a monolingual context most of my life, I never quite knew how much “value” my Native language, English, had in other parts of the world. 

I spent three glorious immersed months with the family experiencing multilingualism at its best. The father spoke to the twins in Portuguese, the mother in Spanish and me, English. 

At two years old, these kids were already grasping three languages. I was in awe. Upon this immersive experience, I accidentally began studying Portuguese and let’s say it quickly became an adoration. 

The host mother, an online Spanish teacher, planted a seed that I, too, would and could make a great online English language teacher. 

My first time teaching English online

When back in Cape Town, with no formal experience or qualifications, I applied to an online English teaching gig and, to my surprise, was accepted. 

By now, I studied Portuguese for a few months, so I transferred strategies from my language learning journey to my students and helped guide them. 

Teaching English online may require some certifications and qualifications.

My next step as a teacher was to get some TEFL/TESOL qualifications. Like any new language teacher or tutor, I realized HOW LITTLE I knew about my native language. 

In each class, students would raise questions to me that I had never thought of before. (This is always very uncomfortable for a new teacher, but it’s completely NORMAL).

If you teach your native language, you’ve never had to study specific grammar rules as you acquired them as a child. 

In the cases where I didn’t know how to explain something, I’d politely respond that I’d never thought about that grammar point and would look into it after class. 

This is how I learned more about grammar and the difficulties non-native English speakers have when studying English. 

After completing my TESOL training, I felt more prepared than before, but there were still many grey areas. I’d refreshed some basic grammar knowledge, taught a few classes, been given feedback by trained teachers and learnt more about lesson prep. 

All skills I could take with me to my online classroom.

I needed a job that I enjoyed, and that would sustain my life abroad

Somewhere in between, I moved to Portugal to pursue a BA degree in Modern languages. My language obsession continued growing as I learnt and taught languages. 

Midway through my degree, I became terribly unhappy. 

Teaching English online and working/living in Bali.

I missed travelling, and I missed freedom, I missed home. I decided to spend my 3-month summer vacation in Bali. 

A good friend had visited and told me that it was a magical place. I took her advice, and without any hesitation or prior research, I booked my ticket, intending to stay two months. 

While there, I can say it was a surprisingly magical place. There is something about the way of life, the “Bali air”, the friendly and humbling locals. It all stole my heart. 

So, what did I decide to do? 

Yes, you thought right. 


& that’s when Cambly came into my life

I extended my trip for an additional few months but had only enough savings to get by for a shorter while. 

My other teaching job wasn’t giving me the student traffic I needed, and then one day, I was speaking to a dear friend I met in Bali who told me I should try teaching on Cambly. 

Before her mentioning it to me, I didn’t know what Cambly was. She raved about how flexible it was and how it didn’t require any particular teaching qualifications. 

I was intrigued. 

I applied within a week of hearing about Cambly and was accepted to teach soon after. I began teaching mainly priority hours which allowed me to enjoy the island as I pleased without committing to a fixed schedule

That was two years ago. 

Since then, I’ve lived in a handful of places – Portugal, Turkey, Germany and South Africa – while still working on Cambly. I know that my colleagues at Cambly have done the same.

I do have some other jobs that I do to help sustain my travels but let’s say that Cambly has granted me incredible flexibility and freedom as a language teacher, and I’m eternally grateful!

I hope that my story inspires you to get out o your comfort zone, move away, try something new, or even give online English teaching a try. Thank you for reading my Cambly story.

About the Writer
Diana is currently living between Istanbul, Cape Town and Portugal while juggling part-time studies and working online as an ESL teacher. When she’s not working or studying, you can find her learning languages, practising yoga or spending time in nature.
Check out Diana’s Cambly profile here.

2 thoughts on “Teaching English Online & Traveling The World: My Cambly Story

  1. Brilliant story, thanks for sharing. I feel the emotion and despite being a brave bit older, this is what I do with my partner. She is a travel writer and committed to slow/immersive travel. Her being able to speak 7 languages is certainly an advantage!
    We both work online and housesit. At the moment we are looking after animals and holiday cottages. There have been many challenges of course, especially with Covid and so far we have only managed continental Europe. Bali is on our list, though we had expected to have wintered in South America.
    It’s good to find that it is possible to look on life in a different way and to travel without a home, but still feel settled.

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