Adjusting to the expat life in Portugal happens gradually and then… just like that.
I have very much settled into my expat life in Portugal. I have my residency permit, I have my health insurance and my doctor, I have a long term apartment. I have decided to forego a car for another year or so but I am getting my driver’s license changed over to Portugal in the next few days. In short, I am officially living in Portugal.
I have established new routines—my morning walk, a stop at the bakery, a weekly trip into Tavira for groceries. I am meeting people, having coffee and lunches. I know how to pay my gas and water bills online. My work is getting done.
I Feel Good. Something Must Be Wrong.
So why did I feel so unsettled? If everything was getting done, why did I feel like I should be doing more?
My goal was to live in Europe as a resident, not a tourist. And that is what I am doing. But up until last week, I felt like something was missing, like I was doing something wrong.
Over the weekend, it occurred to me.
I am living and working in Europe and it feels too normal.
I am doing what people do everywhere: living my life. I am working, doing my chores, socializing with friends, watching TV at night.
I’m just doing it in another country.
THIS is exactly what I wanted! I had no idea normal would feel so strange.
I have adapted so completely to my new normal that I felt like I must be missing something.
I’m not retired. I’m not a jetsetter. Moving to Portugal was not going to suddenly relieve me of my obligations and land me with a pile of money. I did not think I was going to spend my days going to lunch and touring castles.
And I don’t. Well, not EVERY day…
I still have to take care of my consulting clients. I am still writing books for myself and short works for others. I still have plenty of bills to pay. But…
I Have Arrived.
Things have settled in and I am now, really for the first time since moving here, realizing that it doesn’t matter where I live—I still have to do all the things I had to do before. (Of course now I can do it with affordable health care.)
For a long time, I felt like I had one foot in each country. That’s partly because I run my business on US East Coast time. My clients are in the US; I have to work mostly on US time and, while it took some getting used to, I’m good with that. Stock brokers in California are up early for the open. Friends who have clients around the world are very used to scheduling calls and meetings at odd hours. I am fortunate that the time difference is not huge and my clients are happy to meet with me before noon their time. I try to shut my office down by 6:00 pm here (1:00 pm on the East Coast) and for the most part, I do.
What I realized this past weekend is that living and working here in Portugal is not much different than living and working in Florida. I lived in Hawaii for a couple of years. Getting back to the East Coast from there was a much longer trip than from Portugal.
More than that, because most of my family and friends were already long distance, it didn’t really matter where I landed on the planet. As long as there’s decent wifi (and flush toilets—that’s non-negotiable), I can live and work anywhere. Since moving here, I actually keep in touch with my friends better than when I lived in the States.
The Other Shoe
And so this past weekend, it hit me. That feeling of something being wrong was me waiting for the other shoe to drop. So I dropped it. I’d been mentally straddling the Atlantic Ocean. I am finally bringing my other foot over and planting both feet firmly in Portugal. I will probably not go back to the US as a resident. Never say never, but there’s really no reason to. There is nothing that anchors me there. If I need to go back for a visit, I can jump on a plane and be there within a day. The drive to Faro Airport is no longer than the drive to Tampa International.
In the space of one year, I have built a life that is part new, part old. It’s a good mix. I am finally home.