In Faro, Portugal
[Pics from home and travel]
The Past, Present & Future
Much of the blog below was written at my one year milestone in Portugal. I thought after three years, a pandemic, a great deal of reflection, and trips to many places, I should provide new insights.
A Brief Overview (I’ll note updates)
I have pondered living outside of the United States my entire adult life. Until a couple of years ago, the opportunity had not presented itself. I moved to Maine, but it never felt like the right fit. When I’m unhappy I usually consider something I might do to change things up; leaving the country was my best option. I love America and will never give-up my citizenship. You just never know what the future has in store for you. Update: If anything, my decision to keep my U.S. citizenship is even stronger, without any doubt.
I think the best part of leaving the States has been the ability to gain some perspective. A big move, such as the one I made, forces you to take inventory of your life. I left most of my material belongings behind. I didn’t put my things in storage, I got rid of them. I brought five suitcases full of memories I did not want to part with and clothing I hoped would fit for a long time. The purging of most of my material belongings was a good exercise for me. It made me realize that I can live without so much of what I have accumulated. It was also nice to start fresh. Update: I’ve always enjoyed buying new clothing as the seasons changed and my wardrobe wore out; not sure why, but when I left the U.S. I imagined myself wearing the same thing and buying very few new articles of clothing. After a short period of time I started feeling better about myself and I decided it would be good to wear comfortable, but stylish clothing. I came to Portugal and I found a style that I’m completely comfortable with: casual, smart and mostly cotton. The warmer climate is perfect for cotton fabric and I find the brighter colors and comfortable fit perfect for travel and local outings.
Having my little Paco (see photo above) in my life has been a wonderful and pleasant surprise. Giorgio is forever in my heart and I am forever grateful that he got me to Portugal and stayed with me until I was all tucked in.
The people in Portugal are gracious and welcoming. I have never felt like an outsider. I had dinner in a restaurant last week and when the owner learned that I was living in Faro, she gave me her cell number and said that I should call her if I ever needed anything. That’s just one example of the reception I have received. Update: I only went back to that restaurant once. I loved the coconut milk Thai soup and they took it off the menu — damn! It’s still true that Portuguese people are by and large, gracious and warm. I’ve made several close Portuguese friends (Swedish, British, Canadian, Brazilian, French, and German as well).
Taxes on property are much lower in Portugal. Condo maintenance is one-fourth the cost in Maine and one-tenth of what I paid in New York. Groceries are about 30% less. Insurance costs are a lot lower. There are bargain airlines that allow you to fly for less than 30 euros each way (if you carry a small bag onto the plane — I’ve learned how to pack more efficiently). Sometimes I wonder why things cost so much more in the States.
I know this is odd, but I had no idea that I would be only a little over two hours away from Seville, Spain and that it was an easy bus ride. It’s been a huge bonus to take two or three-day trips to one of my favorite cities. I love everything about Seville. Spanish culture is very different from Portuguese culture and there’s a whole lot to discover. Update: I actually spend a lot of time in Monte Gordo/Vila Real de Santo Antonio (VRSO)on the Portuguese side of the Spanish border. From there I can take a quick ferry over to Ayamonte, Spain. It’s about an hour by train, very reasonable, and a nice, easy respite. I have also been able to see parts of Spain I had not visited when I travelled with Alejandro.
The weather in the Algarve is amazing all year-round. With an average 300 days of sunshine, no humidity most of the year, and the temperature never dipping below 45 degrees, I have to say it’s hard to beat. There is often a beautiful breeze in Faro during the summer months because of where we are on the south side of the Atlantic. The beautiful and diverse beaches here are also more than I could have hoped for. Update: I rarely go to the beach, but it sure is nice to have it nearby. My skin doesn’t like the sun anymore.
The Little things that make a big difference:
- Because there is very little humidity here, things like sponges and clothes never get that damp, musty odor.
- No snow . . . ever! I loved snow until I couldn’t ski anymore (knee issues).
- The Portuguese government has regulations prohibiting the use of pesticides in farming, no hormones, no food additives, etc. Eggs are bright orange and delicious and do not have to be labeled organic — all food is grown naturally.
- Very little crime. I feel very safe. Update: a bit more since COVID.
- Public transportation is cheap and efficient. City buses are less than a euro a ride and run frequently. Going outside the city is also easy and only a few euros. Buses and trains are never overcrowded. Not owning a car has been freeing and has saved me a good deal of money. My commitment to lessen my carbon footprint has been rewarding. It took me a while to figure out the system, but once I did, it was fairly easy. Update: I take the train rather than fly when possible. It’s that balance between doing what you love and doing what’s right.
- Because we have an abundance of sunshine and great weather, I can cycle all year-round.
- I have discovered many European healthcare products that are inexpensive and work well (i.e., face cream, toothpaste, pimple cream). I have a French grocery store a few blocks away and a fresh food market right above it. The outdoor farmer’s market travels from town to town and it’s in Faro on Sundays.
- Labor is inexpensive. I have been able to do some very nice renovations to my apartment that did not cost me a fortune (i.e., french doors in my kitchen, tile work, painting).
- Furniture is well-made here.
- Update: Restaurants are increasing in number and quality in Faro. More ethnic food and close to home.
- Incredible new friends
- I love my gym and I try to get there six days a week. Annual membership, 245 Euros!
- I have joined a croquet club: The Pink Flamingos. I usually play on Wednesdays; sometimes on Sunday as well. I also play Mah Jongg on Fridays and Mexican Train on occasion on Tuesday. My official retirement schedule and activities. I do all of this outside of a retirement community.
Losing Giorgio to heart disease has been the worst thing that has happened in Portugal thus far. In truth, he would have had to be put down in the U.S. at some point; however, knowing that the climate change adversely affected his heart, made his death more difficult. The wide sidewalks were great because I could walk him without a leash. He loved our new home (parks and beaches) and that gives me great comfort.
I indeed miss my friends and family and that can be tough at times. I fortunately chose a place people want to visit and so, I’ve had more friends and family come to see me than I ever anticipated. It’s been quite a treat to show the people I love, my new home.
I’ve gained some weight and I’m not happy about that. Delicious pastries are everywhere and they’re so cheap. I think the novelty will soon wear off; either that or I’ll get tired of buying new pants. I’ve always had to work hard to keep the weight off, but aging makes this even more difficult. Update: I’ve been the same weight for a few years now. I keep active and I have accepted the fact that I will always be a bit overweight. I refuse to give up the food and drink that bring me happiness. All things in moderation.
Also, I hate my condo association and I will not go into why.
Flying back to the States is expensive. Currently, airfare back to the U.S. is 900 euros during the high season, April to July. I won’t be returning very often. There are bargain fares; however, you have to accept long layovers and not-so-great airlines. I like TAP — Air Portugal.
Update: A Canadian airline has a new route to Toronto from Faro. I will not recommend them until I’ve tried them. It looks like I can get there and back for 650 Euros. I’ll probably fly to a U.S. city from Toronto. I hate flying into Newark, JFK or Miami.
Did I Make the Right Choice?
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I chose the right country at the right time. Portugal is becoming more attractive to expats because real estate prices are reasonable; however, in the year since I purchased my condo, the value has risen by 20 percent. It will soon be just as expensive as everywhere else. I saw this happening with Spain 20 years ago. More importantly, I love it here. I love the people, I love the food, I love the weather, the quality of life, my location in Faro, my healthcare, and I love how it all makes me feel. I’ve mentioned this before, but I am 45 minutes to Spain by car and I can fly or take a train to several other European countries very easily. The time difference in other countries is only an hour or two and that’s manageable.
Update: I believe that I found my place.
Access to Travel
Faro is not a very large city; however, it is the capital of the Algarve and the airport is a fairly large hub. Multiple airlines fly direct to many cities throughout Europe. The rail system in Europe is also quite extensive and efficient. I can see the world more easily from my new home. I know that as I get older I will want to stay closer to home where I get to enjoy all the creature comforts. I sleep better in my own bed than anywhere else. Still I know it’s best to travel as much as possible; while I still can. Update: I have fully embraced the notion that I will someday (soon) be an old fuddy duddy that likes to stay home.
From Original Blog. Photos: I took these photos in Sagres, Portugal, a couple of days ago. Sagres is the furthest south and west you can go on the Iberian continent. It’s difficult to capture how truly peaceful and spectacular this part of the world is. It was an easy two and a half hour drive from my home. Update: I’ve returned numerous times. I have also fallen in love with Alvor (off-season).
What Lies Ahead?
The best is yet to come . . .
I have decided to stop thinking long-term. I am open to possibilities I might not have ever considered before. I have two big trips coming up in 2019. After I return, perhaps a rescue dog? A pet would probably force me to stay put for a while, but that’s not a bad thing. I’m going to go the organic route on this decision and see where the future takes me. Getting older means aches and pains I did not anticipate and other small medical issues that I have to be dealt with. Staying on top of these things is important for long-term good health. When you get older, health becomes a priority. Update: all remains true. I did rescue Paco and I’m still “fairly” healthy. I thought I’d stop planning way ahead, however, I’ve given up trying, it’s what I do.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Soren Kierkegaard
“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”
― Beryl Markham, West with the Night
“We don’t have to be defined by the things we did or didn’t do in our past. Some people allow themselves to be controlled by regret. Maybe it’s a regret, maybe it’s not. It’s merely something that happened. Get over it.”
― Pittacus Lore, I Am Number Four
Liverpool at the end of this coming week. Other travel will be mentioned in my Liverpool post. I’ve cancelled Asia in 2023. Due to COVID-19, there are too many considerations and changes to worry about. It will happen someday. The long flight to and from Cuba did me in, keeping me closer to Europe for a while.