The Algarve has moved from winter to summer with barely a nod to spring. By 9 am, the temperature is reading 63 degrees, but in the sun, it feels closer to 73. This afternoon the temperatures will hit 80 degrees, hotter in the sun. My apartment will stay cool which is a godsend in the summer, a curse in the winter.
The first mate was working on the little ferry this morning, getting it ready to start its summer runs to the beaches on Terra Estreita. Over the weekend, a friend and I popped over to Huelva and Isla Christina on the Spanish side of the Guadiana River that separates Portugal and Spain. The beaches weren’t crowded yet, but there were plenty of people out sunbathing and jumping into the [COLD!] surf. We were happy to watch them from under the umbrella of a restaurant/bar.
The tourist season starts next month but activity is already increasing. Traffic picks up. There are more strangers in town. I’ve already seen several walking and bicycle tours come through. Everything gets a bit louder, building to a peak in August when the Festa dos Pescadores takes place. The entire main street shuts down and white kiosk tents pop up. A huge soundstage is erected at one end and the bands play from 10 pm to 5 am. My little village is transformed into a carnival. I plan to be away that week.
I am fortunate that my town is merely a day trip from Tavira, which itself is not a huge tourist draw. Don’t get me wrong; Tavira has a steady tourist trade. But it’s a smaller city and less touristic than other spots. The summer months make or break the economy here so I don’t begrudge the activity and increased noise. It’s basically the opposite schedule of Florida’s “snowbird” season, with a younger mix of visitors.
I have the sliding doors wide open, allowing the ocean breeze to cool the apartment. I am barely conscious of the sound of my scooter battery charging. The people upstairs in the unlicensed Airbnb scrape chairs every now and then. It’s an annoyance just about everyone living in Portugal apartments knows. With luck, the family of four, crowded into a one-bedroom apartment, will be gone in a few days. Even with two young boys, they are quieter than the woman who leases the apartment. I hope they are enjoying themselves. I am fairly sure they will look for a larger apartment if they visit again.
People ask what are your days like? What do you do? Mostly I sit in my recliner and work on my computer. From time to time, I get up and stretch and look out at the water, noting if the tide is in or out. I don’t know what people expect me to do. Chase down handsome young Portuguese men? Lunch with the ladies several times a week? Travel the Med on a new friend’s mega-yacht?
I sit. I work. I enjoy the view and the air. I feel the cool breeze on my skin. I go out with friends once or twice a week. I go to school two nights a week. I live a normal life like most other people in most other countries.
Your life doesn’t suddenly become exciting and glamorous because you changed locations. You always bring yourself with you. There are realities of life to deal with: laundry, cleaning, shopping, rainy weather, traffic… the list stays the same no matter where you live.
But I also have a sense of contentment here that I didn’t have in the US. I don’t feel that sense of having to endlessly compare and compete, to keep striving even if you have all that you need. That’s the difference, really. Type As might sneer and say it’s a lack of ambition. I have ambition. Plenty of it, as a matter of fact. What I don’t have is the pressure to constantly perform like a trained seal to impress people who aren’t even paying attention. What impresses people in the States does not necessarily impress people in Portugal.
When you take away the need to let the world know how busy-busy-busy you are, you actually have time to get more things done—and still have time to enjoy the breeze.