On my walk this morning, that feeling of absolute joy washed over me as I turned the corner and saw the Portuguese Riviera through the trees. After years of planning and dreaming, I no longer have to ask, “are we there yet?” Instead, my new phrase is “I can’t believe we get to live in Portugal and live a dream!”
Live a Dream: The Hint of a Dream
For years. I stared longingly at the European photo calendars on my gray cubicle wall. But day-to-day life has a way of dulling dreams.
Blink, and decades have passed. While the bank account might be decent, the overall experience is kind of gray, like those dang cubicle walls.
How many times have you been in such a hurry that you eat in your car? Do you skip dinner with friends because of a deadline? Or you try to sit down with your family to play a game, but you’re not really present because you’re trying to solve a work problem?
It was my parents’ move to Mexico that helped reawaken my expat dreams. As it turned out, my parents and I ended up moving to Ecuador a few years later. However, all three of us had trouble living at a high altitude. Another move was necessary. Here’s how Portugal came into focus.
Live a Dream: Research
Both Portugal and Spain had been on my radar for many years. It was the cost-of-living comparisons and residency requirements that put Portugal in the lead. Next up was narrowing in on a region of the country—the Algarve in the south of Portugal, known for its relaxed, coastal life; the north of Portugal, known for its architecture and wine country; or the greater Lisbon area. Access to the States was important for the first year, so I focused my research on Lisbon.
- Housing: Idealista was a great resource for understanding the various housing options, prices and neighborhoods.
- Transportation: The Lisbon/Cascais metro, train and bus system fit the bill for remaining car-free.
- Culture: Some online sources generally described the culture as filled with heavy smokers who aren’t very happy. This was concerning, but the only sure way to find out would be to visit in person.
- Food/Drink: superb wine, fish, olive oil, safe water—that’s all I needed to read. It also helped to watch the Lisbon episode of “Somebody Feed Phil” on Netflix.
- Language: Portuguese, with a substantial side of English. Something fascinating was discovering that the government decided decades ago to NOT dub foreign television programs. That means residents watched “Friends” and “MasterChef Australia” (among many other programs) in English and became exposed to the various English accents and humor.
Live a Dream: Site Inspection
No matter how much you read, nothing beats visiting the place you’re considering making home.
We booked three weeks in Portugal to see if it was going to be a good fit.
We stayed in Lisbon for a week, visited with as many locals and expats as possible. We traveled up to Mafra and Peniche to see some of the northern parts of the country. It was cold and foggy for most of the time.
Still, Portugal just felt right. It was beautiful, easy to get around, the food was delicious and we loved having such easy access to the beaches and ocean.
As for what we read about the culture—smoking was more prevalent than we were accustomed to, but we found the people pleasant and relaxed.
By the end of the trip, we knew we would make this our new home and engaged with a residency facilitation company.
Live a Dream: The Realization
Each move has always cost more, taken more time, and been more exhausting than I planned. But it’s totally worth it. I no longer grab lunch from a drive-thru and eat in my car. Ha! I don’t even have a car. I get to sit at a beachside café while I write. I have arrived. You can, too!
What’s your expat dream? What’s preventing you from taking the leap and live a dream? Let me know in the comments below.
by: Carmen Melseth