Over the years I’ve lived in Portugal, I have returned to the U.S. an average of two or three times a year. Each time I hear Thomas Wolfe whispering to me about not going home again. Visiting family and friends is enriching, time well-spent. But the feel of it all—New York City, where I was born, Los Angeles, where I lived for almost three decades, and other destinations I travel to for work—that’s a different matter. To continue with literary allusions, I get the sense more of being a stranger in a strange land than a native son.
To explain, I’ll tell you why we moved overseas. By the time I finish, I hope you will understand why I feel more at home in my adopted country than anywhere else.
First, and probably most important, my husband, Keith, and I moved overseas because we wanted to experience European culture. Castles and cathedrals, roundabouts with majestic statues and flowing fountains, art galleries, and museums of every type offer limitless opportunities to experience and revel in history.
Second, we found a more relaxed lifestyle in Portugal than anywhere we lived in the States. Parks everywhere burst with fragrant, colorful flowers, and it seems there’s a café on every corner in cities, towns, and villages. To sit outdoors and linger over coffee and pastry or a glass of wine without the slightest pressure to pay the check and move on is an emotional breath of fresh air.
Also contributing to a more tranquil existence is the sheer natural beauty of the country. Rolling green hills, stretches of farmland with grazing sheep, rugged mountains, and breathtaking beaches are both inspiring and comforting.
Affordability was a third decisive factor for us in relocating. We found it all too easy in the States to get into and stay in debt, with hefty loan payments, high property taxes, rising utility rates, and day-to-day living expenses.
We try to eat organic foods as much as possible, and weekly trips to specialty grocery stores were beginning to equal our monthly mortgage, while here our expenses are approximately one-quarter to one-third of what they were in the U.S.
We stay for all these reasons and more, including the professional, affordable healthcare available here. But perhaps the main reason is the number and quality of friendships we have developed. From the very beginning Portuguese locals were warm and welcoming, and as a result, we have been happily adopted into a number of families. Add to that the people we’ve met through expat groups, churches, and local businesses, and the result is a solid network of great friends.
Remaining here for years means we’ve had time to explore all the country, from the grandest city sights to the most remote villages. The same goes for our neighbor to the east, Spain, and most of Western, Eastern, and Northern Europe as well. In fact, soon we’ll be on a road trip to Italy to attend a wedding in Puglia. We’ve never been to San Marino, so added that to our itinerary. Just another perk of living in this affordable, convenient European country.