The pace of life is slow in Portugal, at least in my little corner of it. As someone who has always been about the destination, not the journey, it’s been much less of an adjustment than I anticipated.
I am outwardly the same me I was in Florida—happy sitting on the sofa, working on my laptop. I’ve switched to a recliner, but yeah, my work days here are strikingly similar to when I lived in the States.
But inside, I’m different. I no longer feel the need to build an empire (it wasn’t exactly working out anyway), the need to be at the top, to be relevant, to be somebody. I listened to a lot of marketing gurus telling me I needed to do or be this, and I have often given out much of the same advice. Apologies.
Now as I scroll through social media and see the motivational memes, “humble brags” (no such thing, thank you very much), and people promising to “explode your pipeline and skyrocket your sales!” I think that’s good for the people who want to build an empire. Go get ‘em.
But I think a lot of people chase after that empire without considering what happens when they catch it, much less what they sacrifice to get there. I think about actors who have a hit TV show. They’ve made their money, the quality of the show may be going down, and they are ready to leave gracefully, move on to something new. But they’ve built an economy around themselves from their PA and agent/manager to the grips and writers on the show, to the background actors who get a line or two every few shows. If the star quits, hundreds of people lose their jobs.
Here I am, outside of that messaging—well, as long as I stay off social media. I walk a couple of miles each weekday morning. This month I’m doing a daily hour of Portuguese language review. When my head starts to get too filled and I find myself clicking back and forth between screens or doomscrolling through Facebook, I call a time out and go sit on my balcony with a beverage and a notepad, just in case I get a random idea. I allow myself to watch village life: the old men on the benches, the ferry churning back and forth to the beaches, the young servers taking orders, clearing tables. Three cars in a row is a parade here. People stroll the sidewalk along the seawall, getting in their steps, stopping to watch the crabs scatter or the gulls bob on the gentle wake from the ferry. There is always something going on if you know what to look for. Right now, one of my favorite couples is walking their Scottie dog. He looks just like the dog on the Walker’s Shortbread Cookie package. He loves attention and being told he is a good boy. (He doesn’t care what language you say it in; dogs understand “good doggie” in every language.)
I’ve yet to meet anyone here who expects or feels pressured to become a millionaire. They want to make a good life, do work they enjoy and are paid fairly for, enjoy their family. An American might urge them to raise their expectations. “Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you will land among the stars!”
Why shoot for the moon when you can easily get yourself to the beach? Why would you want to spend time among the stars when you could spend time with people you love?
The attitude is partly a recognition and appreciation of what they have. But they also haven’t been force fed a steady diet of “you have to be #1” and “you need to be a millionaire by the time you’re 30.” Out of all the people I went to school with, a graduating class of 525 kids, maybe one was a millionaire by the time he was 30. Maybe.
The country of Portugal is not rich in Euros. But it is rich in its culture, its people. It is rich in beauty and music and happiness. Stepping outside of that messaging, slowing down to a pace that makes sense for a human body, has helped me realign my goals in life. While yes, I still occasionally worry about paying the bills, my larger goal is to be happy, to do good work, to not let the world make me crazy(ier). I am learning to appreciate what I have and the people I am surrounded by instead of spending all my time and energy trying to get someplace else. I am finally enjoying the journey. Or maybe I have reached my destination.