Playing Twenty Questions: Life as Expats, Life as Travelers, Life in Lagos, Portugal – Part Two

 

There’s no getting around it: writing a blog is work. It takes time.  It takes discipline. It takes waiting around for a brilliant insight to hit you or an inspiring thought (a very rare event) and slogging ahead anyway when your muse is silent. However, the effort is well worth it when we hit the ‘publish’ button and add another page to our personal time capsule.  Because, by far, our favorite thing about blogging is the comments part where we get to interact with old friends and new readers, trade ideas, exchange experiences and share some of the things we’ve learned as full-time travelers, expats and now, residents in our adopted country of Portugal.

Occasionally, we have an outline that we follow for a post but often, we just kind of watch and see how our post evolves in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way as this post did.  In fact, it got away from us, growing into an unwieldy tome, which is why we broke it up into parts.  In case you missed reading Part One, you can find the link HERE.  And now, on with the countdown and our version of Twenty Questions.

 

 

LIFE AS TRAVELERS

13)  What are some of the upsides and the downsides of full-time travel?

The Ups.  For most of the three-plus years we were nomadic, we were slow travelers and spent an average of one to three months in each country.  This allowed us to immerse ourselves into a destination, get familiar with how to navigate our way around a village or city and find out where the ATMs, markets and restaurants were located.  Traveling slow also allowed us to settle into the not-so-exciting business of living our lives with the familiar routines of cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, correspondence and researching future places to visit.  Actually living in a place, however short the time, also gave us a chance to explore and discover the landmarks and landscape at our leisure: sightseeing at its best.  We chatted up the locals as best we could in our fractured Spanglish and exchanged a lot of smiles, nods and the occasional shrug. Whenever possible, we tapped into the local expat community to ask questions and meet people, many of whom we keep in touch with still. Our favorite thing about traveling full-time was the feeling of being more in the here and now, and slowing down to appreciate the unique quality of each countries’ similarities and differences.  And always, there was the anticipation of our next destination.

Tip – We traveled like the locals too, using the low-cost and well-developed bus systems of Mexico and Central America to slow travel from destination to destination.  In countries where we were more concerned about possible violence or danger like El Salvador and Honduras, we checked with local travel agencies about shuttles and would hire recommended taxi drivers to act as our personal guides.  Many times we used public boats and ferries to take us to more remote places like Placencia in Belize, Utila, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, and Bocas del Toro in Panama. Once we reached South America where the distances are much greater, we used local airlines which are less expensive than their international counterparts.

 

 

The Downs.  To be truthful, there were very few things that got us down for the first two-plus years.  Maybe we were in the ‘honeymoon phase’ but the sheer freedom of structuring our days (or not) as we wanted to, was exhilarating.  We loved unfolding our big wall maps of Mexico, Central and South America (something we were always glad to make room for in our limited suitcase space) and figuring out how to zig or zag our way to our next destination. Gradually though, the idea of packing and repacking, living out of a suitcase, schlepping it from bus to taxi and back, just got plain old. Deciding what clothing to pack was easy in the one-season tropical climates of Mexico, Central and South America and some of the island countries. However, once we decided to shift our travels to Europe, the clothing needs doubled for a two-season climate and our suitcases got a lot heavier.  Visa restrictions, especially the Schengen Visa (click HERE for more info) made traveling more complicated. Living in too-small rooms and making-do with just the basics in an AirBnB apartment (every traveler has experienced a dull knife or two) gradually became less enchanting. We felt a growing isolation in places where we met few people and patching together our health care needs also seemed to get incrementally harder. The glow of nomadic life gradually dimmed in year three and we knew it was time to set up a base and use it as a place to launch future travels.

LIFE AS EXPATRIATES AND LIVING IN PORTUGAL

12)  Why Portugal?

Honestly, we’d always pictured ourselves living somewhere in a beach community in Mexico or somewhere in Central America.  As we traveled, we’d say, “Sure this is a nice place to visit but … could we picture ourselves living here? ” We kept a list of places that might work (interestingly, none of these were on a beach) but gradually we realized that the draw of many of the towns and cities we’d visited was more about the people we’d met than the actual places.  And, the more we traveled, the more we recognized our preference for places with historical landmarks and histories that went back centuries.  We wanted to be close to old world culture and museums as well as country landscapes including beaches and seas that we could look at for hours. We wanted to be close also, to markets and grocery stores carrying a selection of good foods and inexpensive restaurants that offered a variety of choices.  In a nutshell, we wanted our version of paradise:  a place where the cost of living was affordable, a mild climate and close proximity to many destinations for future travels.  We knew within a week of our first visit to Portugal that it had everything we were looking for – plus that indefinable feeling of coming ‘home’.  In fact, Portugal is rated Number 1 on Forbes’s 2017 Best Places To Retire Abroad and Number 3 on the 2017 Global Peace Index (right behind Iceland and New Zealand), ahead of Canada at Number 8 and a light year away from the US standing at a dismal Number 114.

 

 

11)  How do you get a Resident Visa in Portugal?

We wrote about how to get a 4-month resident visa HERE for US citizens with some explanations and links.  To give you a recap:  you need to apply in person or by mail to a Portuguese Consulate (information can be found HERE) or the Embassy in Washington, D.C.  Information listing the various types of visas and how to apply, including a list of supporting documents needed is available HERE.  Once your initial 4-month visa is approved and you arrive in Portugal, you’ll have time to settle in before you’ll need to renew it at the SEF (Service de Estrangeiros e Frontiers or, in plain English, the Immigration Office) and submit a few more documents.  Our post detailing our first experience at the SEF can be found HERE.  This visa renewal is good for one year. The next renewal will result in a two-year resident visa which is what we have now.

Tip 1–  If it sounds complicated, we’re not going to argue.  However, think about the bureaucracy in the US for a moment (or any ‘First’ world country for that matter) and you’ll realize how many years it took to assemble your paper life.  The ‘Great Document Roundup’ as we called it may seem daunting but only because you’re amassing all the required documents at once.  Just take a deep breath, muster your patience and break things down into steps.

Tip 2 – In our various posts, we talk about hiring a lawyer to help us through the visa process.  In hindsight, this expensive assistance really isn’t necessary although a little handholding is always nice. (However, we’d rather hold our own hands at this point and save some money.)  You can do everything yourself for the first step of the visa process when you’re gathering your documents to submit to the Portuguese consulate. Once in Portugal, there are a few times when you might need a lawyer but this is a pricey way to go.  A much less costly alternative can be found in the form of a Portuguese resident who can act as your fiscal representative in obtaining a couple of documents. Check with a local expat group when you arrive for recommendations.

 

 

10)   What is your Cost of Living?

This is the question that always interested us when we’d read about the lifestyle of other expats in various countries because, while it wasn’t our main reason for expatriating, it still played a major part in why Portugal appealed to us. We’ve kept track of our monthly expenses since September 2012, at first because we were curious as to how the countries we were traveling in would compare in terms of expenses, and as a way to monitor our own spending. We have an up-and-coming post where we’ll itemize our expenses but we have a quick and dirty estimate of our monthly costs for the last three months which includes rent, utilities, food, car maintenance and gas, health insurance, household goods and miscellaneous costs.  Excluded are travel and medical expenses.  Our monthly average is about USD $2500 – $2800 per month.  We probably eat out two to four times a month and our rent is about $900.  We’re mindful about how we spend our money but we like our comforts and splurge occasionally too.

Tip – Keep in mind that we live in the Algarve Region of Portugal which, along with the city of Lisbon, is the most expensive area of Portugal.  Your money will go farther if you opt to live in other areas.

9)   How do you find a rental apartment in Portugal?

There’s no such thing as multiple listing here in Portugal and finding a rental can be a slog, especially in the popular Algarve where you’ll find yourself working with multiple property managers.  Rents are all over the board with the area around Lagos one of the spendiest for a long-term rental.  Anywhere between €600 – €1200 is reasonable for a 1-2 bedroom/1-2 bath apartment.  To start your own research, check out the Facebook page called Long Term Rentals Algarve for listings or type Rentals in the Algarve region of Portugal into your browser for listings and property managers.

Tip – We tell people who are thinking about visiting the Algarve area and Lagos in particular to avoid the high season months June through August and maybe even the shoulder season months, May and September, when rents are at their highest and tourists crowd the streets.  AirBnB has listings for short-term rentals anywhere you want to visit and nothing beats the boots-on-the ground approach to finding a year-round rental you like.

8)  What about buying a house or condo?

We don’t know about the rest of the Algarve, but a common sight in Lagos are the cranes silhouetted against the sky and apartments and condos in various stages of building.  Signs saying ‘For Sale’ or ‘A venda’ can be seen wherever you look. It’s a hot market and the asking prices are still climbing way past anything we’d want to spend.  Having divested ourselves of our property back in the US, we much prefer the freedom of renting versus tying ourselves down anywhere. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be upside.  At the very least, wait until you’ve been here awhile and have had a chance to explore the variety of regions and the country to find what suits you best.  We happen to like the more rural, laid-back feel and climate of the Algarve but friends of ours prefer the central and northern coasts around Lisbon and Porto where there’s more of a cosmopolitan vibe.

Once again, this is a l-o-n-g post and many of you may be saying, ‘Enough already!’  Our fervent wish is to leave you hanging on the edge of your seats and wanting more (dare we hope?) rather than tuning out.  Part Three of Twenty Questions will conclude with our last seven frequently asked questions and start out with the lowdown on all things medical.

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

 

72 comments

  • Another wonderful post! I, too, love a good climate, and a low cost of living 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dee. The climate in the Algarve Region was a big draw for us and, although we haven’t confirmed the claim, there are supposed to be 300 plus sunny days each year. We also like the fact that the climate is mild with a merging of the seasons and enough difference in the weather between the hot summer and winter chill to keep us looking forward to each change. And who can argue with a low cost of living! 🙂

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  • Another fantastic post:) I agree that blogging can be hard work, I have been neglecting my blog since most of my time now has been taken up by moving house. We are at the start of our journey into retirement and for now, we have decided to have a home base in the UK. It is great to be able to read about your experience and many others through the blogging community. I am so glad you are feeling so happy and settled in Portugal…it is a beautiful country:)

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    • Thanks, Gilda and Woo Hoo! – congratulations again on your retirement. It sounds like you’ve sold your home too which means you’re starting off your retirement with a bang. Doesn’t it feel good to make a fresh start and shed a portion of your old life like a butterfly? I agree that it’s fun to read about how so many in our blogging community have chosen to live their retirement lives. There are as many paths to take as there are people and it’s fun to follow through on some of the adventures and see where the paths lead. Looking forward to your blog posts (when you have time to sit down once again and focus on writing) about closing some doors and stepping through others. These really are the golden years!

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  • What a great post, I see so many parallels with our experience. Like you by the time we hit our 3rd year we felt like we had to get some roots somewhere. Not to stop travelling, but mostly to park our stuff – I totally relate to heavy bags (baggage fees on every darn flight). We felt we needed a base and like you we felt isolated: we met people but were then always moving on. That’s how we ended up having a home in Croatia.
    I always feel you guys are exactly at the same point we are, just in different places!

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    • Thanks so much Frank! You’re right about there being a lot of parallels, in both our travels and our expatriate lives. I find myself nodding my head a lot when I read your blog. As nice as it it to have a place to park our stuff and buy some of the extras that make life more comfortable (ah – new slippers for the colder months and a wok!) making friends has probably been the thing we’ve valued most about having our own home again. And a huge bonus has been that many of the people we met during our travels have visited us here in Portugal. But I agree, we still have a yearning for new places and more travels ahead. And isn’t it a huge relief not to have to worry about dragging everything with us!

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  • Anita and RIchard, as fellow “nomads” with an adopted home base, we resonated with this post and appreciate travelers post that address the dynamics behind living sequentially. Lagos and its surroundings, was for us also a viable living option and who knows it might still be one day. Our main differentiator with what you have written is in the frequency of eating out. And not surprisingly, by eating out a whole lot more, our cost of living is higher, so an Asian country answers that for us!

    Love the visuals of rolling out the large paper map of Mexico and Central America, the old fashioned way. Far more satisfying that popping up a map quest on a phone or a computer.

    Also we can really relate to the “work” part of having a blog and keeping it up and agree that while it does take a huge amount of time and effort, it really is worthwhile and represents a formidable “time capsule” as you so aptly wrote. Thanks for sharing your capsule with us……

    Peta & Ben

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    • Was just looking to see if I could find your email…which I could not. We were reading the Sri Lankan newspapers which had an article on senior travel. One of the photos, I am almost sure is of you two!! I have a photo of the article for you if you write me your email por favor …petakaplan@hotmail.com

      Too funny!!
      Peta

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s been interesting to hear responses from many of our baby-boomer, fellow nomads/slow-travelers/expats and compare our experiences. Perhaps most exciting of all is to realize that we all may be at the beginning of a growing movement of older travelers who are eschewing traditional lifestyles and participating in travel and living in foreign countries as a way to learn more about the world and themselves. What a community to be part of and it’s terrific to have such a widespread group of like-minded people like you two to trade stories, tips and advice with.
      However old school paper maps are, we realized early on in our travels that the computer sized maps just didn’t cut it for planning many of our travels. They’re great for the details but there’s nothing like a giant paper map to help you visualize the big picture. And I can’t tell you how much my geography knowledge has improved since we started traveling!
      I’ve sent you an email with our address and I have to admit, we’re very curious to see the photo. And yes, how funny that you should happen to see it in a Sri Lanken newspaper. Such a small world. Thanks Peta and Ben!

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  • Portugal sounds very nice, I have spent a lot of time in Europe, but never in Portugal. I have had some good friends from there over the years, they were very nice people. We hope you enjoy your new home. I really miss your post from Central America.

    Take care and as always, Happy travels!!

    Hugh & Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Hugh and Elizabeth and we hope that you are well and happily enjoying your lives in El Salvador. As one of our first followers, we’ve appreciated our back and forth comments with you over the years. We’re so glad you found our posts about Central America interesting and we have to say how much we loved the wonderful people we met and beautiful countrysides. Portugal has many of the same qualities but the climate is more agreeable to us and then, of course, there’s always the nearby magic of all the rest of Europe to explore whenever we want. Our best to you also!

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  • I’m loving reading these! My husband and I will be starting this expat journey when he retires in about 5 years. It’s helpful to hear how you went through the decision-making process. Looking forward to the next installments!

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    • I’m so glad you’re finding these posts interesting, as your good opinion means a lot, Rachel and I know that you’ve gone down the same road of traveling and expating. I remember the anticipation we both felt when we started putting together our ideas and plans for our retirement and how amazing it’s been to watch our journey evolve over the years. It sounds to me like you are really looking forward to your retirement (and why not? 🙂) as well as the freedom to set off on whatever road you decide. It’s an amazing feeling to have the gift of time to spend as you want and follow your interests and dreams!

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  • Portugal is my favourite place in the whole world. I would say it’s the people who make it so special. Once we forgot our camera on a bench in Tavira station and we returned an hr later and it was still there! My dream is to retire in the triangle Bournemouth, Tavira and colourful Seville! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You won’t get any arguments from us as we completely agree with your feelings about Portugal and the people who live here! There’s a sense of stepping back in time when people go out of their way to smile and greet strangers, linger over meals with friends and respect other people’s space and possessions. I know exactly what you mean about forgetting your camera and returning later to find it safe and waiting for you. That’s happened to both of us and we still find it unbelievable. Something like that goes a long way to restoring our faith in people. Thanks for your comment and we’re so glad that you enjoyed our post.

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  • Oh my goodness, we LOVED this post – and its “prequel!” The more we read about you two, the more we sense that we are really kindred spirits. So much of your experience has resonated with us – the process of getting rid of “stuff,” the need for a more adventurous experience than just the rat race and the acquisition of “stuff,” the feeling that life is so darned short. Your approach to money management (the Schwab card, etc) and health insurance is really similar to ours. And I loved your comment about the dull knives in the Air BnB – that’s the first thing we look at when we check into one, and they’re ALL dull!

    We’ve recently decided we won’t be in Panama for the long term, and we’re taking a hard look at Portugal. It seems to have everything we’re looking for in a home base for exploring Europe (Panama is serving that role perfectly for exploring South America). We will refer to your blog again and again as that goal starts to take shape. And hopefully, we’ll get to meet you two in the flesh one of these days 🙂

    All the best,
    Susan and John

    Liked by 1 person

    • We also agree with your feeling of finding kindred spirits, Susan and John! What’s really striking for us is that we felt rather alone when we set off on our adventure in 2012 and now, 5 years later, we find many other couples (and especially boomer retirees) who were/are looking for the same adventures and new experiences that we were/are in search of. Kind of a special club, huh? It may not be a mainstream lifestyle (yet) but the long term traveling and expating lifestyle is appealing to many people echoing the ‘life is short’ mantra and seeking to make the most of it. We’ll be very interested in how your plans evolve as you figure out the next iteration of your retirement. So looking forward to our paths crossing and here’s hoping it will be in the near future!

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  • My only “slow travel” stints were a 5 month study in Colombia period in 1974 (gulp), and maybe I should count living in, Mexico for a year as a 9-10 year old and in England for a year as a 15-16 year old although clearly I was not “in charge” for those. In 2014, my husband did a 3 month sabbatical in Honolulu, Hawaii which whetted my appetite for adult slow travel. However, my husband still loves his day job, so it doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for the foreseeable future. (At my age, I am more than quite aware that “foreseeable future” is an oxymoron). So, for me, your posts are more of a voyeuristic pleasure than a road map.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We had to laugh, Suzanne because you could say that the ‘foreseeable future’ for all of us Baby Boomers is indeed an oxymoron. And I’d love to read about your impressions as an American student in 1974 Colombia and earlier in Mexico and England! We all have a different rhythm to our travels and, while we prefer slow travel, we can quicken our pace occasionally too. So, here’s to voyeuristic slow traveling for now with vacations near and far but I have a feeling Mr. Excitement might be agreeing to some longer travels in the ‘foreseeable future!’ 🙂

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  • Fascinating – I’m one who read it all, and no, didn’t get tired of it! Of course, you’re doing what we hope to do in our South of France home in the future, so it was all quite interesting to me!

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    • Great – Your response is exactly what we were hoping for! We can both talk up a storm and are very well aware of how long this post was but, to someone wanting to change their lifestyle and travel full-time or visit and even live in a new country, we know how difficult it can be to find answers or learn about other peoples’ experiences. We’ll be wishing you well in your quest to make your home in the South of France your official residence in the future!

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  • That’s very interesting. Like you, I love travelling but get fed up with all the packing and unpacking, so the idea of spending a few months in each place appeals enormously. Perhaps one day!

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    • We’re so glad you enjoyed this Karen! We love slow travel which gives you a chance to unpack for several days, weeks or months and settle in to experience life like a local. Packing and unpacking has to be one of the things we hate most and it can be (a little? a lot?) frustrating to find out where to shop for groceries, the nearby ATM’s, etc. Setting up a temporary base can give you a place to come home to after sight-seeing and a place to use a starting point to see other sights and places within a comfortable radius. It also gives you a chance to see and learn more at your leisure. I hate the feeling when you’ve seen so much that it all blurs together!

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  • What a great post, chock full of information! Another benefit of blogging is that it seems to capture memories, some of which might otherwise be forgotten. Thanks for sharing yours (plus the beautiful photography).

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    • Thanks for your kind words, Irene. We have fun sharing our experiences and are often amazed at what we’ve learned over the years. (If constant learning keeps you mentally alert and young, then we’ve definitely found a great way to do it!) And I like your observation that blogging is another way to capture memories. We occasionally go back to read a certain post and it’s fun to take a trip down memory lane and remember certain places and our time there. Our own personal time capsule!

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  • I know what you mean about the satisfaction of finally hitting the publish button. This is a great post and Portugal looks absolutely gorgeous. How have you found making friends/socializing/connecting at your home in Portugal?

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    • Hitting that publish button is great, isn’t it Caroline? (But then we’re like, ‘Quick one more proof-reading!) And yes, Portugal with it’s lovely cities and villages, rolling hills and fields and glorious beaches really is beautiful. As for making friends, we have a terrific mix of people we’ve met over the months through the blog (it’s surprising the number of people we’ve met in Lagos who have read our blog), in cafes during chance meetings and through friends of friends. Since you’ve traveled so much yourself, you’ll be aware of the travel phenomenon of how easy it is to meet people when you’re in a new place. When we lived in the US we were caught up between work and home projects and, like a lot of people we know, felt too ‘busy’ to nourish our friendships. That’s one of the things we vowed to change when we set off on our new lives and the rewards have well surpassed our hopes!

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  • What a great post. I can’t wait to get to Portugal to meet you guys. We’re settled back in Vancouver now, but looking forward to traveling again next year. At or near the top of our list is 2 months in Portugal/Spain/Morocco.
    Oh and I know all about how much time and effort it takes to maintain a blog, especially when you’re also travelling at the same time!
    Alison

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    • Travel days, sightseeing and writing are so difficult/impossible to juggle at the same time. I have to confess that I’m quite envious of those who make it look so effortless as I find myself easily distracted until I finally get going. And yes! I’m really looking forward to a meet-up too, after so many years of following your posts and exchanging thoughts. I have a definite feeling that we’re way past the introduction stage, Alison. 🙂 I know, too that you can fully identify with the ups and downs of full-time travel as nomads as well as the joy of having a place to call home again. I think, of all the many things we’ve learned in choosing the lifestyle of travelers and expats, is that not much can beat the appreciation we feel for the gift to decide what direction our paths will take as well as the sheer enjoyment of small things and comforts we once took for granted. Enjoy your nest for now and we’ll look forward to the time when you fly once again and make your way to our side of the world.

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  • Yes, it takes discipline and time to blog! Sometimes it is hard for me to remember life without a blog. When we meet new people and Ron tells them a little about our life in Nicaragua, they usually say, “Oh, we read all about that in Debbie’s blog.” Lol
    But, I prefer to call my blog a personal time capsule, too. With so many posts, when I wonder where we were or what we did last Month or last year, the information is at my fingertips.
    Throughout the years, I have learned so much from your posts. I look forward to each new post. Your philosophy, humor, historical and practical information is timely, elequently written, and oh so enjoyable to read. Thanks mi Amiga. ❤️

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    • Thank you Debbie and I can return the compliment right back to you as I find myself nodding many times over your posts about life as a traveler, life as an expat, life caring for those around you and life as a person who values both her home country of birth and her adopted country. You make writing look effortless with your flow of words and what a time capsule you have in your stories of life on Ometepe Island. When I think of the online blogging community of friends we’ve developed over the years, you always come to mind, mi Amiga! 🙂

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  • I am enjoying reading about your journey as travellers and expats. I like to travel and enjoy staying for long periods of time in one place, but I don’t think I be happy as a full-time traveller. I can understand the glow of nomadic life fading in the third year.

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    • Nomadic traveling was a life all its own, Donna and we loved the anticipation of new places, new people and learning new things as well as making a temporary home in so many different locations. Slowing our pace of travel helped a lot but yes, there’s a certain sense of well-being in having a familiar place to return to with a few creature comforts that belong to us. And oh, do we appreciate the luxury of having all the little things (sharp knives, a favorite cup, nice bath towels, coffee and tea pots) that make life a little easier and infinitely more enjoyable!

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  • Loved your insights and although I have never been to Mexico Portugal is (so much more) beautiful! Maybe because it’s Europe. I agree that renting gives you much more freedom. If I ever decide to become an expat I’ll definitely refer back to your post. Lots of great info/tips.

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    • A lot of our info and tips should be useful wherever you decide to expat, Jan (now why does France come to mind? 🙂 ) and we’re glad that you found it interesting. We loved our time in Mexico which has many amazing places including the jungles, mountains and Caribbean Sea but, we have to confess that Europe, in all its centuries-old splendor, totally bowled us over. As for renting, after buying and selling 9 homes over the years, we really like the freedom of not being responsible for either a house or tethered to a place. It gets addictive after a while!

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  • Lagos seems like an awesome place to visit and experience! This is a truly amazing interview and a very enlightening one!

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  • Anita and Richard – what a treat this was to read. Some of it, a fun reminder of things I remember reading the first-time-around, and others quite new. I continue to be enthralled in the adventure of life, however you chose to live it, and am so glad to have found you two online. Here’s to many more shared adventures – Susan

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  • Thank you for such useful and thorough information. Tapping into the expat community for recommendations and referrals – as well as kindred spirit friendships – is a great tip for anyone planning to stay in a foreign country for any length of time.

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    • We’re so glad you enjoyed this post. Over the years, we’ve had great luck with reaching out to various expat groups to meet new people, join in various social activities and find out more about the cities and countries we were traveling through. It was quite interesting to realize that, many times, the friends we made were what drew us back to a place rather than the location itself. There’s so much we love about Portugal but one thing we really appreciate about the Algarve Region is that, while there are some American expat groups, there’s an intermixing of many nationalities (including the Portuguese) which gives us a much richer experience than if we stayed with just our American compatriots!

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  • Once I decided to retire early some 15 years ago I initially went for half a year to Spain. I was planning to stay longer, to enjoy leisure life on the beach and socializing with other expats from different countries( since I happened to be fluent in several languages) , joining various national clubs: American (great parties), Scandinavian (great several days long excursions to other parts of Andalusia, Spain and Mediterranean Africa, and a good library of books in Scandinavian languages) and German (great short, half and one day treks on foot in the mountains between Nerja/Almunecar cost and Granada. But after a while I realized that I am still too young for that kind of lifestyle and changed the retirement concept to doing semi volunteer development consulting for NGOs, mostly in Central America. staying as long in one place as I was needed (being careful to always train a local or a younger volunteer from another country, so I would not be bound to one place, one organization for longer than a year.) It also allowed me tp have my cats with me and by now those rascals have visited more countries than most people.

    This lifestyle allowed me to satisfy both of my curiosity of the world and and contributing my knowledge and experience for the benefit of underserved populations, which, however, made already first successful steps to help themselves. It also gave me – a widow with cats, a built in local network to deal with any disadvantages of living like a local in underdeveloped countries.

    Now, in my 70s I am finally old and frail enough (diabetes, heart disease etc etc. to again enjoy a typical lazy stationary expat life. Since I have double citizenship (US and EU) I have no problem with Schengen, don’t need to apply for a residence permit, enjoy practically free healthcare all over Europe (what do you say about an angiography for less than $ 100 all included?) and practically free medicines in Spain, as my (much richer ) EU country of citizenship pays Spain an agreed upon amount per year.

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    • I had to laugh Maria, at your comment that your cats have visited more countries that most people! (And we also feel a certain amount of envy regarding your fluency in several languages as we struggle with our Spanglish and beginner Portuguese.) We love how you have approached each stage in your retirement and continued to learn and grow as well as make many contributions to other communities. You must feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment at turning your golden years into something even more priceless. You may say you’re ‘old’ and somewhat frail but it sounds like you have many more interests and things left to do in the years ahead and that a lazy, stationary expat life is still far off on the horizon!

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  • Great information! We understand about the work that goes into a blog post. But it is rewarding as you say!

    cheers,
    John and Susan

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    • Only other bloggers can understand how much work and time go into each post and the satisfaction that comes when what we write resonates in the great blog-o-sphere! (We always marvel at other bloggers who seem to spin their tales effortlessly.) For sure, the effort is for ourselves and the rewards of interacting with other writers and readers is well worth it. And look at the amazing online friends we make as well, John and Susan! 😁

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  • This is such a timely series of blog posts for us, particularly in light of what is happening in our country right now. I am quite frankly alarmed at what may happen next to health care costs, thanks to the subsidies being pulled by the madman at the helm. What next? It is looking more and more like we might need to find a haven outside of the US. I look forward to your next post Anita.

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    • So glad that you’re finding our info and these posts useful, LuAnn, as you try to figure out the great “What’s next?” conundrum. Since November, 2016, we can’t help but think of how many more US emigrants will be coming this way, seeking a distance from the chaos, hatred, lies, etc. that seems to be the new status quo in our own country. We follow the news zealously with a mix of horrified fascination as we watch a group of old white men (again) imposing their belief systems on women and a multitude of minorities and try to punish those who question their actions and rip away our right to protest. The new up is down, words that fall from # 45’s lips are truth and alternative facts rule. We started our travel and expating life because we wanted an adventure and to find out more about ourselves and the world but I have a feeling that our home in Portugal will prove to be a haven for us as well.

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  • Hi Nita and Dick, Another great post. Do things required for residency change frequently in Portugal? In Panama, our experience is that things get outdated frequently because requirements are constantly changing so it’s very hard to guide folks through the process. We may have done nomadic life longer had we spent three months at a time in places. For the year or two we lived out of suitcases, we moved every month and it got wearing quickly. The only down side to having a home base is paying double rent while traveling. We still love to travel though and still have much to see. We love your life in Lagos and it was awesome visiting you last month.
    Suzi and Bob

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    • Thanks Suzi. And you’ve asked a great question about how often the residency requirements change in Portugal. We’ve updated a couple things in the posts that we included links for but the biggest thing seems to be the uptick in interest about Portugal. We hear the immigration offices are really jammed up with applications and interviews so the wait time might be longer than what we experienced.
      We quickly found out that slow travel was the best way to go for us as the 1,2,and 3 day stays (packing, travel time, unpacking, finding our way around a new city, etc.) were exhausting and the places tended to blur. And hey, we’re retired. What’s the point if we’re not enjoying it!
      We had an awesome time with you guys too, Suzi, and showing you what we loved best about Lagos and the area. Here’s hoping our paths cross again on either your continent or ours!

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  • This is a wonderful post and l am really enjoying the series. Tons of great information for anyone looking to move to Portugal. There is a lot of paperwork involved but nothing compared to trying to get your green card in the U.S :-). I’m looking forward to the last 7 questions. When we first moved to Malta, it was hard to find any information about moving there to stay. It’s always nice to have boots on the ground experience rather than the “you can live on 600$ a month bullshit” :-). Yeah..right!

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    • So glad you’re enjoying this series, Kemi as I know you’ve had your share of travels and working your way through several visa applications. 🙂 You and I have talked before about online publications that only write about the rosy side of travel and expat life and agree that it’s especially misleading to write about how cheap it is to live someplace. Sure, we can all tighten our belts and live a lot cheaper but that begs the question of ‘Why?’ It does no one any favors when a newcomer arrives with only part of the truth and expectations that in no way resemble the real picture. That said, we love where we’re at and are having fun writing about what we’ve learned. They say that learning keeps you young which is what we’re counting on!

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  • I owe you two a nice meal, because you save me a lot of typing… I send so many Americans to your website for information about the logistics of a move to Portugal by U.S. residents! I fully appreciate how much work it is to write it all out, especially because your posts are very detailed. You’ve managed to cover the major questions people have about the paperwork at both ends, which is so valuable because the USA residency makes it more complicated re: tax filing, health insurance, criminal record checks, etc.

    I’m an expat Canadian who lives in the Porto area, I just passed my 4-year anniversary. I’m married to a Portuguese citizen, which has made my integration much easier in almost every way: deciphering documents/laws/procedures, negotiation (because dealing with government workers sometimes requires language facility, nerves of steel, confidence, and most of all knowledge of the law), setting up a home and accounts (I didn’t have to deal with rental contracts or utility companies or furniture delivery), a direct connection to the culture to demystify it, and I qualified for citizenship at the 3-year mark.

    While that might sound like incredible luck and an easy track, this is my fourth (and final!) expat country, and my previous three (Australia, UK, USA) should’ve been a relative “breeze” because the native language is English but I can tell you they were not, and I did it alone, starting with Australia in 1991. Out of the four countries, the USA was the most expensive and difficult immigration process (even as a Canadian) and nearly 12 years later, I still have assets in limbo there because as a former-resident-foreigner, nobody knows how to deal with me.

    All that to say, I’m in a unique position with regards to immigration from different perspectives. When I meet people from those nationalities who are in the process of immigrating to Portugal (especially if they’ve never immigrated before) and — I’m sure you are familiar with this part — fall into the easy trap of complaining about it, I quickly remind people that immigration to their countries is extremely difficult, and I guarantee MORE difficult than moving to Portugal (even without the language barrier). I can say this firsthand.

    Also, I immigrated to Canada with my family from the Philippines, so even the one passport I have came at a high price that my parents paid and I witnessed but didn’t fully appreciate as a child, i.e., starting all over again, from scratch: toil and sacrifice, unrecognized education, cultural isolation, extreme weather… thus, I’m exercising this “passport freedom” that they bought for us — they didn’t suffer through all that for us only to live a static, unfulfilled life that we could have had in the Philippines.

    For the past two years, I’ve been volunteering 4-6 times per month at Portugal’s only migrant detention centre. I see a wide variety of cases of individuals and families, and try to help people with the psychological difficulties of being at the wrong end of the immigration system by engaging them in art, sport, and conversation. I see a lot of unfairness and unfortunate circumstances, and it puts living here in relative comfort into perspective. It can be jarring some days to receive such different reactions from people at both ends of the economic equation, detainees who think I’m crazy to leave Canada for Portugal, and tourists who think I’m lucky to live in such a beautiful place.

    I have a 15-year old blog that makes mention of the immigration experiences (the USA period is the most documented), but I write in general terms rather than as a guide. I’ve moved around my whole life, and you write what you know. But I’ve had so many questions about Portugal that I created specific pages that point people to online resources for people to do their own research. I’ve got one specifically for living in Portugal, and a separate one about my own experiences. I’m the ‘fiscal representative’ you mentioned here as an alternative to hiring a lawyer in Porto, but I have kind of a digital Rolodex (remember those?) of contacts for the other things that people need — lawyers, real estate agents, language teachers, etc. I’m sort of the northern version of what you’ve ended up doing, but rather by accident since photography and blogging about tourism in Portugal is really what brings people to my website in the first place, not necessarily information. All that to say, if you know of people heading to the north, feel free to pass on my website for info!

    { end of ramble }

    This may be the longest comment I’ve ever written!

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    • We do indeed remember the Rolodex years and we loved, loved, loved your comment! So great to ‘meet’ you online, Gail. This is one of our favorite things about having a blog and the interaction of an online community makes us feel connected wherever we are. As for immigrating to Portugal from the US or Canada – it seems a complicated process to go through but, in retrospect, it’s quite straightforward. And you’ve confirmed for us what we’ve long suspected: that there are many other countries, including the US, where the bureaucracy is even more tangled and convoluted. (And we’re glad that you mention that fact to people that you’re steering through the process because perspective is a useful thing to have!) As a volunteer in a migrant detention center, I’m sure you’ve heard many fascinating as well as heartbreaking stories and I imagine that you feel (like we do) so fortunate to have the many options available for a welcoming country. Gail, we’ll pass along your info ( I already know one couple I’ll be contacting) and stay in touch with you. We’ll definitely make it a point to meet up with you when we visit Porto!

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  • Good post, I enjoyed reading it!

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  • Thank you for taking me along on your travels. When we met in Nicaragua, I never realized what an eye opening life style you lead. You both look vibrantly healthy and alive. Enjoy!

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    • Thank you Maida. The nomadic lifestyle and full-time travel was really fun for us in so many ways. One of our favorite things was meeting so many people along the way who have become friends like you. There’s nothing like new adventures to make you feel alive and we both feel especially fortunate to have the time to explore our newly adopted country and the opportunities to travel to other countries nearby. Makes the future look bright!

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  • Anita and Richard, enjoyed reading “why Portugal” and I had no idea Portugal was rated as the number one country for retirees.
    I know Portugal is a bureaucratic country, but I thought Australia is worse when it comes to the visa process (but not with other things).
    Even though you can find great places to visit in Portugal, I have to agree that the Algarve is the best place! And now I just want to retire there…just have another 9 years to go.

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    • We’re afraid that Portugal is no longer a hidden gem and that its star is indeed on the rise and splashed across the media pages. As much as we can understand why it’s becoming such a favorite since we, too fell for its charms, we wish that it could remain undiscovered for just a little bit longer. And we agree with you, the Algarve has our hearts too. Luckily for you, Australia is an amazing place to live. The years seem to pass by so quickly, your retirement date will be here before you know it!

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  • Dear Anita and Richard,

    My husband and I have been following your lovely blog for a while now and you have really inspired us to check out Portugal for retirement.  We’ve lived overseas in many different places in the world for work, maintaining a home in Portland, Oregon for investment and summer residence.  As we begin to more toward retirement, though, we more seriously think about remaining overseas.

    We currently live in Beirut, Lebanon for work, and will be visiting Portugal for winter break.  Our trip will take us to Lagos from December December 29-January 2.  If you will be around, we’d love to take you out for coffee or a meal to hear more about your lives in Portugal, your travels.  

    Thanks again for your blog.  Yes, I can imagine how much work it is, but your insights are experiences are very inspirational to those of us following along with your international life.

    Kind regards,

    Diann Osterlund osterlund@me.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Diann and thanks so much for your very kind comment. THIS is indeed the reason we keep writing and posting! We’re so glad that you’re finding our information useful and that our stories about Portugal have piqued your interest in this beautiful country. At this time, we have no plans to go anywhere for the holidays and would love to meet you and your husband while you’re in Lagos. It sounds like you also have many travel tales and insights to share so I’m thinking we’ll have plenty to talk about! I’ll make use of your email address that you’ve so thoughtfully provided and send along our contact info. Looking forward to meeting you and your husband!

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