Um. That would be me.
I’m doing some client work with the sliding door open because it is finally warm enough to leave it open for an extended length of time and let in some fresh air. My laptop is exactly where it was meant to be—on my lap. My feet are up on the arm of the loveseat and I’m writing.
I can hear the drone of workers, some closer than others. But there’s also another sound. The sound of acoustic guitar and a man singing in Portuguese is drifting through the open door and it takes some time, a good ten minutes in fact, before I go from “so glad that’s not the loud obnoxious music my neighbor is usually playing” to “Oh my God. I’m living the dream.”
You know the dream. It’s a stereotype. Warm, lazy afternoons with gentle breezes and mellow music playing in the background while you work on your magnum opus.
I’m here to tell you it exists. Mostly.
Seriously, if you take out the noise of whatever power tool some gardener is using in the distance, I am working while listening to the sound of gulls, waves hitting the shore, and peaceful, acoustic music. THIS is why I came to Portugal. THIS.
Moving to a new country in the middle of a pandemic would not go down—on paper at least—as the smartest move one could make. Portugal locked down about three days after I arrived here and these people take the pandemic seriously, something I appreciate after the deadly clown show of Florida.
But lockdown also means that I can’t explore the way I want to. We are allowed trips for necessities, which for me is the grocery store. We’re allowed walks for exercise. Runs, I suppose, too, but running is not a thing with me.
Restaurants are closed with a few open for delivery and takeaway. The bustling town of Albufeira is quiet, so much so that I can often hear the surf from my perch high above and set back from the beach. There is little traffic in this part of town.
I think if I had come here as a tourist with a limited amount of time, I would have been bitterly disappointed. But I’ve come here to live. Not necessarily in Albufeira, but somewhere in Portugal and most likely in the southern Algarve region. I still work. My company is US based and my clients are, too. So I did not come here expecting to hit the beaches and tourist spots, dine out every night, and shop til I drop.
Lockdown has allowed me to gently ease into this country. I can greet people with a mask-muffled “boa tarde” so I don’t have to be too embarrassed by my accent or mispronounciation. It has given me time to realize that there are a lot of things to learn besides the language. Things like residency certificates and finance numbers, and national health cards.
But there’s no rush because all of these things have slowed to a crawl with the pandemic. My residency appointment was set for three months into my stay. That gives me time to figure out what I need to have in place and bring with me to the appointment. I am learning the order that you can get things here. Do you get the finance number first, then a driver’s license or the other way around?
When you are faced with so many new things, not being hurried is a gift. My anxiety level would have been cranked to the max if I had had to figure all this out in a month or six weeks time.
I have time to do my work, to establish routines, and yes, to stop working to enjoy the sounds of life in my new country.
Would I recommend moving to a new country in the middle of a pandemic? Probably not. But more people are working remotely and more employers are learning that yes, remote workers can be productive. People are exploring side hustles, figuring out if they can make enough money doing what they love, building those dream businesses into something real. Being stuck at home gives you more time to research where you might want to live, what you will need to have in place to do so. You can start learning a new language either on your own or through online classes.
A new normal is coming. It’s a reset after a long pause. Some of us are being forced to a new way of life. Others are lucky enough to get to choose. Either way, it’s a time of change for all of us. If you’ve been thinking of moving someplace new or following a long-held dream, now’s the time to make real plans. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that life is short, tenuous, fragile. But the possibilities are endless.