From Disaster to a Dream Life in Portugal

From Disaster to a Dream Life in Portugal

It was 2017 when a devastating category four hurricane named Harvey made landfall in Houston, Texas. More than two feet of rain fell in 24-hours submerging one-third of the city of two million. Close to 40,000 people were forced out of their homes.

Rhonda Edminster Pearce, now 61 and husband Ben Pearce, age 63 were one of many who lost it all. "Our home and everything in it was destroyed. We had nothing left except for each other and our dreams of living in Europe, someday," Rhonda explains.

Rhonda and Ben lost everything in Hurricane Harvey, but they found a new and better life in Portugal.
Rhonda and Ben lost everything in Hurricane Harvey, but they found a new and better life in Portugal.

A native of Houston, Rhonda worked as an accountant for most of her career. Ben, who grew up south of Houston in Corpus Christi excelled in the field of software sales.

For 10 years or more, the couple enjoyed flipping through the pages of International Living magazine contemplating where they might go once they left the working world. They continued their research by attending an International Living conference in Las Vegas to learn all they could from the experts.

"We had visited several countries in Europe and always thought that Portugal would be a fun place to explore the next time around," Rhonda adds.

To save on construction costs after their home was destroyed, Ben took on many of the renovation projects himself. Soon after renovations began Ben started to develop neurological problems so severe that he was no longer able to perform at work. Doctors in Houston diagnosed him with mold toxicity, and told him to go home and have a glass of wine every night as there was nothing they could do for him. Ben was forced into an early retirement.

"Then one day we looked at each other and said, let's do it. Let's move to Europe now instead of waiting until we reach retirement age," Rhonda explains. "Ben could no longer work and had to retire so what were we waiting for?"

Rhonda took a solo trip to Portugal to explore the country on a real estate tour offered by Ronan McMahon's Real Estate Trend Alert and Ideal Homes. It was love at first sight when she laid eyes on Tavira, in Portugal's sunny Algarve region.

"Tavira ticked all of my boxes," Rhonda says. "I wanted a large, well-established expat community so that I could communicate without knowing the language, be within a 30-minute drive to an international airport and, since we are aging, being close to excellent healthcare was also a must."

Rhonda's tour was during the holiday season so the quaint, cobbled town of Tavira glistened with seasonal charm. Christmas trees, twinkling lights and the smell of chestnuts roasting from vendors on every corner gave the town that homey feel.

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Back in Texas Rhonda and Ben met with a financial planner to see if they had enough resources to make their dream of moving abroad a reality. "We sold what was left of our house and belongings in Houston and started the process to apply for a resident visa in Portugal," Rhonda added.

In March 2021 Ben and Rhonda boarded a plane to Portugal to begin their new lives in Tavira. The couple bought a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo with a wraparound terrace that offers spectacular ocean views from every corner. Since they bought during the pre-construction phase of development, they paid just €245,000 ($249,000). "Our condo is so well insulated that we hardly ever need to use heat or air conditioning," Rhonda says.

Healthcare in Portugal is some of the best in the world, rated number twelve by the World Health Organization. "We choose Allianz as our private healthcare insurance at a cost of less than $3,000 per year with no deductibles," Rhonda explains. "In Texas, our health insurance cost us $2,000 a month for our family and had a deductible of $6,000 a year so we never used it."

Once Ben and Rhonda settled into their new lives it was time to get Ben established with a good neurologist to evaluate his condition even further. Campus Neurológico Sénior (CNS) is situated in the city of Torres Vedras, close to the capital city of Lisbon, and offers some of the best neurological care in the world. Once established with a doctor, Ben was able to continue his doctor's visits and therapy online from the privacy of their home in Tavira.

"CNS has been amazing for Ben," Rhonda says. "His doctor calls me personally or sends an email asking how he's doing. He gives us hope that even though Ben has neurological issues there is always more that can be done."

Ben and Rhonda spend about one third less in Portugal than they did in Houston. "We can afford to do more here and really enjoy life. Most mornings for us start out on the terrace enjoying the ocean views or reading," she says. "We love to take long walks together, play dominos or just hang out with friends."

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