A Love Affair With Lisbon: Earning Online From Portugal’s Stunning Capital
Karin van Mierlo’s love affair with Lisbon started the moment she set foot in it.
“It’s a beautiful place,” she says. “I love it all: the narrow, hilly, winding streets, wide-open riverbank vistas, breathtaking beaches, and landscapes. I live just outside the city center in a residential area with big apartment buildings. Some are beautifully tiled, others painted in cheerful colors, still others are old and a bit rundown. The sidewalks are made of white stone, adding to the marvelous light of the city.”
Karin has long had a bit of wanderlust in her veins. After living in various countries, she decided that committing to a permanent move was the next logical step. When she visited her daughter who was studying in Lisbon some years ago, Karin was hooked, and three years ago she made the Portuguese capital her home, a decision she’s never regretted.
Lisbon invites people to explore on foot. Miradouros (viewpoints), squares, shops, restaurants, parks, and her daughter’s house are all within walking distance of her apartment.
“Although it’s a big city, there’s room for the small-scale human element,” says Karin. “One of the first things I noticed was the friendliness of the Portuguese. The relaxed daily pace and time for ‘meaning of life’ conversations also drew me. And of course, there’s the wonderful weather.”
A professional photographer, Karin worked with magazines, artists, companies, entrepreneurs, and families for 30 years. Her focus has always been on people. “I love telling stories about the lives of humans all over the planet, whether in a single portrait or a series of images,” she explains. Donating her time and expertise for charity causes has always been part of her professional persona.
To work, travel, and live wherever she chose was a lifelong dream for Karin. But the tools to make that happen just didn’t exist when she started out in her career. “When I came into contact with people who were earning a living online, I immediately knew that was my path as well,” she says. “It allowed me to change fantasy into reality.”
In Lisbon, she founded an online photography course platform, Photography Playground. Aspiring photographers enjoy free content on her blog, but they can take it further with an online course or one-on-one mentoring. For blog content, Karin finds inspiration everywhere she goes in Lisbon.
“I love to roam the streets of Lisbon with my camera,” she says. “Recently I began a new series of photos around the theme of Lisbon waking up after lockdown. It’s called Lisbon Emerging, and consists of people coming out of the Baixa Chiado metro station, the metro being a metaphor for the underground lives we’ve been living the past months, all over the world. I stumbled on this by accident. When I saw the first images on my screen, they moved me. They represent a feeling of a current moment.”
Karin felt safe in Portugal when COVID-19 hit. “Even before the government announced restrictions, people were social distancing,” she says. “Also, Portugal has this Southern European reputation of not being well-organized. Sometimes that’s the case, but not in response to the pandemic. The government was on top of things, and tests were widely available.”
While in lockdown, Karin continued to work. “The ability to quickly react to world events is something I truly appreciate about my business. I set up a Stay Home at Photography Playground challenge in my Facebook group, with daily photo assignments. Running an online business makes it easy to adjust to the changing needs of my audience,” she says.
Karin suggests test-driving a country before making a move. “See if you can create an independent life for yourself,” she says. “And if you decide Portugal makes your heart sing, simply lean in and adapt to what’s different. The moment I realized I was OK being 20 minutes late for a meetup, I knew I was adapting just fine. Of course, I’m still always the first to arrive.”
By Tricia Pimental