About a year ago, my wife and I made the leap…
We moved halfway around the world, to Portugal.
Maybe we were a little crazy, but we haven’t looked back and we couldn’t be happier.
We’d lived in Hawaii for 40 years, and my wife Ann had just retired from her career as an emergency room nurse. It was time for our next phase in life, and we wanted to make the most of it. We’d saved enough, but we didn’t want to just settle into a “comfortable” retirement. We wanted new, different, and exciting.
Both of us are active and healthy, and we love traveling. We thought a simpler life, where less could be more, sounded very appealing.
Live and Invest Overseas soon became our guide as we explored the idea of living outside the United States. We acquired country reports and did the recommended research into what expat living might entail.
When Portugal popped up on Live and Invest Overseas’ list as the best place to live in the Old World, we really became interested. We’d traveled internationally for years but never to Portugal.
We knew our criteria for the right place for us. A mild climate was important, as was living near the ocean, good health care, safe environment, interesting culture and history, good food, and a reasonable cost of living and of establishing residency. We were also looking for a place where we could get by speaking English.
We learned that Portugal had it all.
Our friends asked why we were going to live in a place we’d never seen. Ann would simply reply, “Why not?” She was ready for adventure! We were both ready. We sold our house, most of our possessions, packed our suitcases and cameras, and headed into an unknown future where going back was not an option. We decided we were all in.
Portugal’s Algarve region looked interesting, but we wanted to be near Lisbon, at least initially. Once again we turned to Live and Invest Overseas and their contact in Lisbon, Luis da Silva. We felt like we hit the jackpot with Luis. He found us a beautiful fully furnished two-bedroom apartment in Costa da Caparica, with an ocean view and just a short walk to the beach, just outside Lisbon south of the Rio Tejo.
The beaches in Costa da Caparica are enormous, with miles of sand and so many exquisite seashells, some of which are now displayed on a shelf in our home. Surfing is a big deal here, we were surprised and happy to discover. The surf is world-class and so are the surfers. Although we don’t surf, we love watching. It helps us feel close to our former home in Hawaii.
Life without a car is something neither Ann nor I have experienced since we were in high school. Now we walk wherever we can and use the bus, train, and Uber to get around to places too far for walking. Back in Hawaii, I’d never take the bus, always driving everywhere, never realizing how it can be isolating. Using public transportation, I feel more a part of the community, meet new people, and have a better sense of place. At some point we may get a car, because there are a lot of remote places we want to explore, but for now using our feet and public transportation suits us just fine.
After three months, when the lease on our initial rental was expiring, we decided to move closer to Lisbon. This time Luis found us another two-bedroom apartment with an ocean view in Caxias, midway between downtown Lisbon and Cascais. It was a small community with quiet neighborhoods and friendly people. Next door was a large house with lots of trees and shrubs. Living on that property was one of the most beautiful peacocks we’d ever seen. Each morning we watched him stretch his feathers and prance around. You never know what you’ll find in Portuguese neighborhoods!
Caxias turned out to be too quiet for us. With only a couple of small neighborhood grocery stores, we frequently took the train to Cascais for supplies. It didn’t take long to realize that we’d be much happier in Cascais… meaning it was time to move again.
Cascais seemed to have everything we were looking for, and we loved that it is just a 40-minute train ride to the center of Lisbon. Luis again helped us find a great apartment with a sweeping ocean view on one side and a spectacular view of the Sintra Mountains on the other. This is, without a doubt, our favorite apartment and place in this country. Now we feel like we’re home. We love Cascais.
There’s so much to see and do here that we feel like we are only beginning to discover the true nature of Cascais and its surrounding areas. Our favorite discovery so far has been the enormous Cascais market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with fishmongers, bakers, butcher shops, and the freshest seasonal produce you can find at prices easy on the wallet. This is a happening place with a strong sense of community.
Cascais is also spectacularly beautiful with clean ocean waters, a rugged coastline, white sandy beaches, stone buildings, cobblestone sidewalks, and several parks. When the sun or moon rises over the bay, you can feel the romance in the air. My wife and I feel like we’re falling in love all over again. Our favorite pastime is strolling along the bay holding hands.
The people here are marvelous… friendly, welcoming, and helpful beyond expectation. Although we get by with English, we’re trying to learn Portuguese. It’s a challenge but worth the effort. People I meet are willing to help me learn, and the smiles are priceless when I actually pronounce a word correctly.
We love to walk, it keeps us from getting rusty. One of our favorite walks, 15 minutes from our apartment, is to one of the oldest active lighthouses in Portugal, the Farol da Guia. From there we follow an excellent walking/bike path along the coastline of rugged seaside cliffs into downtown Cascais.
In the center of Cascais outdoor cafés, restaurants with seaside dining, and interesting shops abound. In addition to the parks, there are forts, museums, flowers year-round, palm trees, and statues everywhere. We often stroll around with no destination or time constraints, just enjoying the sites and taking photos.
Summer in Cascais is all about getting outside and enjoying the beaches. This time of year we share the city with a vibrant tourist crowd from all over the world. The winter months are much quieter with mostly just local Portuguese folks to keep us company. We like both seasons and the differences each brings.
One thing that helps to create the strong sense of community here is the annual events calendar. All year long we have outdoor concerts and fireworks by the bay. Then there’s a Festival of Light when light artists from around the world project their art on city structures… international sailing races… equestrian events… and each summer cervejas (beer) and sardinhas (sardine) festivals.
Magnificent Lisbon is on our doorstep. This city reminds us of San Francisco with its red 25th of April suspension bridge, trams (cable cars), and steep, narrow streets. We’ve traveled to Lisbon for concerts, a bull fight, and great dinners out. Recently we found a Chinese restaurant that serves respectable Peking duck and an excellent Italian restaurant perched on a cliff over the ocean. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
We’ve always felt safe in Portugal, including walking the streets of Lisbon after midnight. Never have we felt threatened. We could just be lucky, but we think it’s more than that. This is a truly safe place and a great place to raise a family. Kids and dogs are everywhere, at all times of day and night. And we are so enjoying being able to get out and be part of it all.
Are we happy with our move? No question. We’re here to stay… and still smiling every day at our audacious move and our unknown future.
Full-Time Portugal Expat
This article was originally published on February 12, 2018