Living Remotely on a Farm in Portugal: The Cambly Expat Diaries

Hi! I’m Kim, and in 2014 my hubby and I made our long-time dream of living on the land come true. We bought a small farm in a very remote and affordable part of Portugal.

Our land is a veritable paradise. We have olive trees, various fruit trees, a well for water, solar panels for electricity, a veggie garden, and chickens.

All of this is absolutely lovely, but we still needed to find a way to make money. How we were going to make that money was the burning question.

The nearest town and supermarket is an hour’s drive away. There are no major roads, no big industry, no commercial centres. The people living here are mainly subsistence farmers and micro-business owners. Manual labourers work for less than $3 an hour.

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Bread & Butter Income

We were hesitant to the idea of one or both of us working periodically in other, more affluent European countries.

We could have done this, of course, but it just didn’t feel right, and neither of us could imagine returning to The Big Smoke just to earn money. No.

Many years ago, in what now seems like a previous life, I had studied and practised as a Swedish massage therapist.

Out here, I just couldn’t imagine a clientele. But in desperation, I started advertising on the local social media page and, lo and behold, people began to come.

Of course, my massages were ridiculously cheap by urban standards, but soon the massage was generating enough income to pay for our daily expenses.

Life was pretty stable with our land feeding us and the massage paying for other small expenses. But we needed more. 

My Mom lives in South Africa, and I want and need to visit her at least once a year. 

By our micro-economic standards, that’s a significant outlay. And how will we afford to replace our solar system when it comes to the end of its lifespan?

Plus, what if the car breaks down? Or even worse, gives up the ghost completely? Farming manually, low tech, was very gratifying and, being newly reborn as farmers, we were motivated and enthusiastic. 

But after a few years, the hard slog was starting to take its toll. Plus, we weren’t getting any younger. We needed help. We needed some equipment, some hand-held machines, a water pump, and maybe even a fridge.

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Cambly Came Into My Life at The Perfect Time

One day, reading a post on Facebook by a neighbour who had returned temporarily to the UK to earn some money, I noticed one of the comments on her post. “Why are you slaving away over there when you could be living here, teaching online, and earning pretty much the same income?”

I had met the woman who made this comment once or twice before, so I contacted her and asked what she meant and if she would mind sharing information with me.

She was super friendly and open. The kind lady told me that she had been with the company for over a year and briefly mentioned the pay. She said all I needed was a laptop, a good internet connection, and a Paypal account.

I was almost beside myself with joy! Could it be true? Was it possible to earn that much money without even leaving the farm? She sent me a link to apply, and I got down to it immediately.

I was accepted as a tutor by Cambly within 36 hours.

As a Cambly Newbie, I was Completely Nervous

I couldn’t believe my luck. I read the tutor guide a couple of times, watched several Cambly sessions on Youtube, but I felt very nervous to start. 

Then I came across the advice: Don’t worry, the student is always more nervous than you are.

I took a deep breath and booked some priority hours for the following day. The next day, sweaty palms, palpitating heart, I sat in front of the screen, logged in, the camera on, and waited.

A student called. I answered, smiled inanely, stammered a welcome, and started the session.

The student loved it. I loved it. I was hooked!

I had read in the tutor guide that new tutors who tutor for 15 hours a week for their first three weeks experience the best results. I committed myself to this.

Soon I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I had been in the beginning, although the ring-tone of an incoming call still spiked my pulse! 

And miracle of miracles, I even had a couple of bookings.

I compulsively checked the HISTORY tab, watching my earnings slowly clock up, and waited for that first Monday with bated breath. 

Payday! As if by magic! There, as promised, in my Paypal account sat my newly earned US$.

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Then The World Turned Upside Down

One month after joining Cambly, the world began tumbling down. 


One country after another was getting hit with crippling infections. Economies started to close, and governments imposed lock-downs. We were all told to stay at home except for emergencies.

In many ways, living so remotely, we were remarkably unaffected by the life-changing events that were sweeping the globe.

While I was starting to earn through Cambly, I was spending a lot of unpaid time online just waiting for students to call. We were still relying on my massage treatments to support us. But total lock-down and the risk of infection put a halt to my massage practice.

With my massage income down to zero, my Cambly earnings became our lifeline. But as a new tutor, I started to worry, doubt myself, and believe that I was a bad tutor.

Having a full schedule seemed like an impossible dream. I needed to build up a core of regulars but didn’t know how. It became clear that some days were very quiet and others were much busier, so I opened more priority hours on the busy days and dropped the slow days. 

That helped immensely.

Still having a lot of downtime, though, was undermining my self-confidence. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a tutor after all? Were students just not getting what they needed from me?

The Light at The End of The Tunnel

Out of desperation, I turned to the Cambly angel who had first turned me on to Cambly. What am I doing wrong? I asked her. She was very reassuring. 

Don’t worry, she said. It’s normal and takes a few months to get into the swing of things, and then reassured me that I’m a great tutor.

Just keep at it; it’ll pick up, you’ll see.

I plodded on. I kept a regular schedule. I smiled, asked questions, gave corrections in the chat. I messaged every student after each session—even the free trial students. I sent them links to free online resources to help with pronunciation. I kept the faith.

And slowly I started to get more bookings. My rating inched upwards, and I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

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And then one day it happened. I signed up for my weekly priority hours, and BOOM, they were all reserved. I can’t exaggerate the effect that this had on our lives. A steady income in our area and during the pandemic truly was a minor miracle.

I’m In a Great Place Right Now

It is now more than a year that I have been tutoring on Cambly. We have been able to buy all the equipment we needed for our little farm. 

We replaced our whole solar system, and we now have savings in case of emergencies.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet visited my Mom because of travel restrictions, but I hope to go at the end of the year. 

I already have enough money saved for the ticket. 

In addition to the monetary benefit, I am also interacting with students from all over the world. Several of them have become virtual friends. It’s like travelling without having to leave our paradise

At the end of each day of tutoring, I regale my husband with stories, anecdotes, and new cultural insights I’ve had during the day. 

He is as fascinated as I am.

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A New Paradigm

Cambly has become a window on the world for me. I learn so much that, during a session, I often wonder just who the teacher is and who the student is!

And tutoring with Cambly is more than just about the money. I marvel that technology has given us the ability to communicate with and help each other wherever we are in the world.

I mean, here I am, sitting in my own house, helping someone else, in their home, learn my language. We go into each other’s living rooms, exchange cultures, share dreams, ideas, funny moments, and connect person to person in a deep and meaningful way across so many thousands of miles.

Thanks to Cambly for being, and thus enabling me to be, part of this beautiful bridging of distance and culture. 

In a time where division, war, and suspicion are rife, being able to meet so many people from so many different cultures makes me aware that we all have so much in common. That what the news and media portray is not always the whole picture. 

Strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet. And with so many beautiful people in the world, I feel that the future is bright.

About the Writer
Kim is an attentive, supportive, enthusiastic tutor who thrives on her students’ international perspective. Born in Zimbabwe, she has lived in many different countries, choosing finally to settle in Portugal, the warm heart of Europe. A former accountant in London, Kim has led around 2500 sessions on Cambly. She loves engaging her students on topics they feel passionate about, diving into the details, and having deep cultural exchanges. In her opinion, the best sessions are ones in which it’s hard to tell who learnt more: the tutor or the student!

3 thoughts on “Living Remotely on a Farm in Portugal: The Cambly Expat Diaries

  1. well done, Kim! You are an inspiration. As a New Zealander, I share with you the joy of being to connect with people in remote parts of the world. May you go from strength to strength! Julie

  2. This says it all! I totally agree! What an amazing experience Cambly gives us to enter other people’s world. It is a mutual learning for sure. Wonderful article ☺️

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