I bought this authentic Gabbeh (Turkey) rug on the Facebook Marketplace this week. I made a little adventure out of retrieving it. It’s a funny thing about a rug, I think you have to live with it awhile to learn to appreciate it. Paco liked it right from the start. It’s the green that has me concerned; fortunately it’s a muted green. Dark grey/charcoal would have been better, but I don’t think those colors were used 60 years ago. My Portuguese tutor looked at it Tuesday and she said, “It’s really old.” I do realize that I’m giving this rug too much attention.
Repeat after me: I like my new/used rug, I like my new/used rug . . .
Counting My Blessings
I cannot imagine what it must have been like to live overseas 20 or more years ago. Staying in touch with loved ones back home must have been very expensive and difficult. Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and other forms of social media have made communicating and keeping up with friends fairly easy. Meeting friends through expat sites and Meetup groups is also a terrific and easy way to connect — sometimes too easy (update).
When you’ve been around the block a few times, you become more discerning. Picking and choosing who I spend my time with and how I spend my time has been of greater importance since moving abroad. It’s easy to regress back to my old ways; I have to remind myself that “my truth” is ultimately all that matters. As your truth should be all that matters to you. I needed a constant reminder, so a few years ago I stopped into a tattoo shop in Soho (Manhattan) and asked for this:
Last year I had a palm tree tattooed on my ankle. It was done to mark my new life in Portugal.
Update: when I went back to buy this piece I noticed it was damaged so I didn’t get it. However, I did buy two others that are in the first photo above (over the sofa). The artist lives in Lisbon. I never get tired of them.
The decision to relocate abroad was an opportunity to take stock of how I was living my life; the food I am eating, the amount of alcohol I am drinking, and how I am spending my time. The mind, body and spirit; holistic approach to living, seems like a better way to live in the present and think about the future. A philosophy that would be difficult to argue; especially in my own mind.
What role does social media play in my life?
I love social media. I enjoy keeping up with friends near and far, I enjoy the posted photos, I like how upbeat most of the postings are, and I even enjoy the occasional not-so-positive back and forth disagreements. That being said, I think some people take it a bit too far. I have learned rather than getting all pissy about it, I have several options:
I can just quickly skim through postings and ignore the stuff that doesn’t speak to me.
I can follow certain people on Facebook. This is different from unfriending, which I have also done on occasion. I have to admit that it is a very empowering exercise.
I can stay away from social media for a few days and take a breather.
I can counter with overwhelmingly positive posts and impart guilt on others.
I can include my thoughts in my very subjective, highly personal blog.
One of the things I have always loved about Europe is that you can visit a small town and find fantastic food prepared by creative chefs. Carla’s Curve (A Curva) in Mexihoeria Grande is just that kind of place. Carla came out of the kitchen to describe what she had purchased that day and how she intended to prepare it. I did not take pictures of the food because sometimes I feel that it’s better to just be in the moment and fully enjoy everything that comes your way. Carla’s clams were prepared in olive oil with white wine, garlic and parsley and they were so fresh the simple ingredients did not over power the clams; incredible. Then I had beef ribs in a delicious barbecue sauce. I have not been very impressed with the beef since I arrived here, so I was anxious to try Carla’s ribs . . . they were tender and flavorful. People all around me were expressing their satisfaction and raving about Carla; she’s a warm, animated individual. It was a truly wonderful local dining experience and I cannot wait to return. The restaurant is literally located on a huge curve as you meander down the hill. The next time I will take pictures of the food.
There have been a couple of semi-lockdowns in the Algarve; mostly weekends. I have decided it is best to stick around Faro for a few months. I don’t want to expose myself to COVID-19 and I think it would be best to stay away from places that have a high rate of infection.
Faro has a new Italian restaurant and I’m becoming a regular. Forno Nero, excellent pizza and good pasta. Still need Thai, Korean, and BBQ. We have BBQ restaurants, but they’re not the same as our North Carolina or Texas BBQ in the U.S. I guess seeking out the food I love gives me a good reason to travel.
I’m focusing on learning Portuguese, making some home improvements, reading more, experimenting with some new dishes, and spending more time with Paco. He had a most unfortunate haircut in October, but his hair is fortunately growing back. How can you not love that face?
No doubt I miss the States; I miss friends and family, I miss the smell of fall and the changing of the leaves, I miss the food, and I miss the familiarity of it all. I know all this would be true COVID-19 or not. It’s holiday time and it’s all very strange. I also know that what I have discovered in Portugal is very special and extremely beautiful in so many ways. I cannot take it for granted and I will not spend my days lamenting about what I had back home. Yes, Brooklyn will always be my home.
I’ve made some great friends since I arrived here. Also happy to report that a close friend from New York City purchased an apartment in Faro. She won’t be here full time, but she’ll be here a lot and that is making me very happy.
Finally, one of the owners of my croquet club in Tavira, Portugal has been in hospital for a few weeks now. He contracted the COVID-19 virus and became very ill pretty quickly. Unfortunately, he is not likely to survive. My thoughts are with his wife, family and friends. Anyone who still believes the virus is a hoax and that governments all over the world are overreacting, is a risk to the rest of us who would like to remain healthy. Please wear a mask when asked to do so, wash your hands frequently, and remain socially distant. Thank you.
A few months ago I posted something on Facebook about possibly moving. I was intentionally vague, having no idea if I will stay-put or migrate somewhere else in the world at some time. Many people find a place they like and remain there for as long as possible. I have a close friend in her sixties, who lives in the house she grew up in. She seems extremely content and has never spoken of leaving (at least not to me). No judgment, but that’s just not me.
How Your Belief System Drives You
Religion plays a big part in decision making for many people. I respect that. I consider myself spiritual, introspective, and organized religion-averse. I think I’ve been an atheist since pre-school. What this means for me, is that the here and now is pretty much it. I can choose to embrace this journey and try to fulfill my hopes and dreams or I can choose to settle in and just be comfortable. It’s not in my nature to choose the latter. It is for this reason that I have decided to leave all of my options open.
I’ve said this before, however, it’s worth repeating: I am well aware that not all individuals have been afforded this kind of freedom. I know that marriage, family, career, etc., all play a role in the decisions we make in our lives. I have created a life where I am unencumbered by these restraints; I can live in many different places. To deny or ignore this magnificent gift would be unfortunate.
What Have You Got To Lose
I always play the worst case scenario game with myself. Many of my decisions have been based on the worst that could happen. In the case of a big move, the answer has always been that if it doesn’t work out, I’d move. I believe that there are opportunities to learn life lessons and experience magical moments just about anywhere. I did not love Portland, Maine, however, it was there that I found out who I am and what I want out of life; invaluable knowledge, reinforcing my beliefs and helping me choose my future goals. I met some people there that are friends for life; that’s about as good as it gets.
When Your Roots Strangle You
Many of our beliefs and values form early on in our lives. What our parents teach us, what we learn in school, what we see in our environment, and what the media tries to instil in us. Much of what we are taught or shown is for our own good and necessary, however, a good deal of it is an attempt to short circuit our ambition. A lot of people in our lives would prefer that we play it safe, keep the peace, color inside the lines. A bit of rebellious thinking is a good thing. Life is all about balance.
“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
— Dalai Lama XIV
Culture is not something we think or talk about very much. Having lived in several different places has helped me to realize that culture is a driving force in the way we behave and think. The culture of a community is developed over a long period of time. Many factors contribute to the culture of a place. There are community cultures that are so strong that it feels as if a physical force intended to keep you in your place, surrounds you. If you can, get to know what that culture is before you decide whether or not to live in a place.
My biggest pet peeve is being judged by others. Some people put you in a box before they have any idea of who you are. There are cities and towns where this could be a big issue. One of my favorite things about New York City, is that people who choose to live with 8.5 million people from all over the world, all races, all religions, all nationalities, every possible sexual orientation and gender choice, often choose New York because of those things — diversity and differences are celebrated. I’m not saying it’s a utopia; however, in my mind it’s a better choice for most than random town U.S.A. with one church, one race, and one biased mentality.
Group Speak is one of the scariest things I’ve ever encountered; when whole groups of people espouse the same jargon, the same lies, the same hate. I have found places in the world where followers flock to stand behind one individual or a group of individuals with almost cult-like devotion. These people choose to live in what they think is the “right” kind of place — a safe place to raise your children or retire. I believe these places are dangerous and sad. It’s best you know about a place like this before you accidentally end up there.
Religious Condemnation is more prevalent in parts of the world than we are often aware. There are communities of religious groups that will welcome and embrace you, but only if you abide by their beliefs. I’m afraid that if you do not go along with their dogma, you will be ostracized and punished. This is a whole other blog topic. For now, let’s just agree that this may not be the best choice for a place to call home.
It seems to me that more and more, some of our political leaders and influencers are giving us permission to:
impose our beliefs on others
criticize and scrutinize those who do not think the way we do
make others uncomfortable and unsafe in their chosen space
be toxic and publicly vocal in social media and in an open forum
This makes living in a place where your values may not line up difficult. Changing the way people think and behave is nearly impossible; therefore, it may be best to avoid these places and settle elsewhere. I may have written something very different when I was in my 20s; young, rebellious, and intent on changing the world. I would have said fight the establishment and make a difference. I’m afraid that once you’ve been around for awhile, you realize some things are greater than yourself.
The subtitle of this piece was, “Or Having a Home Choose you.” Sometimes it feels as if all the stars are lining up in order to tell us something. I recall walking up for flights of stairs in a 1890 brownstown in Brooklyn and feeling as if I was home. It was almost surreal.
Before we even stepped foot in the building my broker said, “Now Chris, I’m not showing you this apartment because I think you should buy it; I want to hear what you think about brownstone living, the layout, finishes, stairs, etc. It doesn’t have a fireplace which is your number one requirement (true).”
The owner opened the door and I immediately noticed a beautiful large fireplace in the corner of the living room. I’m not sure how exactly I ended up there that day, but I am quite sure that this apartment was meant to be my home. Of all the places I have owned in my life, this will always be my favorite. This was the first apartment I saw, the first apartment I purchased, it was a dump. I had a great time turning into a comfortable, beautiful home. You just never know when your next place will present itself to you. Just be open to the possibility.
I believe that the absolute best thing about my life right now is not knowing what the future holds. Big questions like: will I remain healthy? Will my savings hold out? Will I meet someone who will become my partner? All a big mystery and that’s the way I like it. I’m a fairly realistic and practical person, however, when it comes to life’s big questions about the future, it’s the not knowing that I find exciting and intriguing. I Know that I can determine some of what happens to me tomorrow and the day after that, beyond that who knows. What I have learned is that fear can and will prevent you from fully embracing whatever is yet to come. I am not fearless; what I fear is that others will attempt to interfere with my happiness and for that I am prepared to guard and defend what is yet to come.
“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”
― George Harrison
I am convinced that I have spent the better part of my life creating stuff to do, experiences, lists, expectations, worries, and so on, in order to pass time. If I give myself enough to do, then I won’t have time to think about the “real” questions:
How can I make a difference?
Am I the best version of myself?
Am I happy with the choices I’ve made?
Do I spend time doing the things that matter to me?
What aspects of my life are a waste of my time?
What is stopping me from being impulsive?
Do I make too many lists?
As I consider these questions, I know that this is not a definitive list. Answers sometimes come easy enough; however, acceptance of the answer is often elusive. For example, if I break away from my normal routine and decide to do something unpredictable, what will happen? Other things come up for me: Will I spend money I shouldn’t spend? Will I be neglecting my responsibilities? Will the lack of planning make for a less fruitful experience? The questions are endless; this is what gets in the way of spontaneity. When I have thrown caution to the wind, I have often been pleasantly surprised; the unexpected happens and I’m happy with the outcome. One would think that this alone would help push me past my comfort zone. But alas, I get in my own way and way too often I take the conservative route and remain at home.
I have asked friends to help and in some cases, they have. Letting go of control and allowing someone else to do the planning and decision-making, can be a wonderfully freeing feeling. It’s often a win-win. I wish it happened more often. I find myself in the position to just let go, now more than ever. I’m hopeful that more friends will trust my intentions and take me up on this offer. Everyone knows me as a detailed planner, making it difficult to convince certain individuals, that I would truly like to give up control. I’m screaming it from a mountaintop, I’m okay with you driving!
Allow me to ponder another of my annoying questions: Am I happy with the choices I’ve made? Wow, this being honest with myself business isn’t easy. I’ve made so many bad choices; however, most of them were with good intention. I’m not talking about the nights that I stayed out dancing until noon the following day with the help of recreational drugs or deciding to play hooky from work so that I could see a matinée Broadway show. I’m talking about marrying a woman or deciding not to father children — big decisions which informed the better part of my life. To be angry at myself for making these decisions would be pointless and a waste of time. Having regrets doesn’t reverse the bad decisions or erase the memories. What I do hope is that I have made amends and learned from my mistakes. Reviewing your personal history can help you to know what not to do in the future. Dwelling on that history for a long time and lamenting about what could have been, is futile.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have been working on being present. Breaking old habits is difficult, however, what I am noticing is less worry and more overall happiness. Thoughts of being grateful have replaced regret and anger about the past. In truth, it’s easier when you are in a beautiful place with great weather and less chaos, but I remind myself that it was me who made the move; it was me who said to myself life can be better if you choose to make it so. And so, I am trying to just enjoy what I have created for myself.
There is a push and pull, the yin and the yang I guess. It’s called balance; the weighing out of the things I need to consider: money, obligations, insurance, goals, language, and so on. I cannot just overlook or discard all of that. I need to stay focused and balance living in the moment with insuring that there are more moments in the future. Easily done? I’m not so sure. This exercise is a reminder to me that time is precious and cannot be wasted; every moment counts in so many ways, for so many reasons.
A friend of mine recently lost her husband unexpectedly; no warning, no preparation. When these things happen to people we know, it’s like the proverbial slap in the face or as Cher said in Moonstruck, “Snap out of it!” We cannot ignore the fact that at any given moment time might be swept out from under us. When I rest my head on my pillow at night before I close my eyes, I like to think about the day and what occurred. I no longer say accomplished because I no longer feel that everything I do has to be the fulfillment of a goal. There was a point when I was so driven I had to do lists that were broken down according to subject matters and often, I would lose track of where my lists were stored: computer, journal, desktop notepad, under the refrigerator magnet?
Future Mother-in-law Story
It was New Year’s eve and my partner and I had just hosted a 90 person party in our Brooklyn apartment. It was 1:30 a.m., most of our guests had already said good-bye and the few guests that remained were lapping up the spoils. Most of them were unaware of a conversation taking place in our living room. My future mother-in-law had been staying with us for several weeks. She had travelled from Spain on an extended holiday; a bit longer than I would have preferred I’m afraid. She spoke no English so my partner had to interpret everything she said to me.
Let’s call her Sofia. Sofia looks over at me across the room and says, “Chris, si supieras que solo tienes 24 horas de vida, ¿cómo quieres pasar ese tiempo?”
I looked over at my partner who translated, “She wants to know how you would spend your last 24 hours on earth.”
I had just spent a week preparing for a huge party and I was about four cocktails in. I wasn’t sure why Sofia was asking this question, but I was always polite with her and decided to play along.
“I would want to spend it in your son’s arms,” I replied.
“Entonces, ¿por qué no te comportas como si fuera tu última noche en la tierra?”
My partner chuckled (he too was feeling pretty happy at this point) and said, “She wants to know why you don’t act like it’s your last night on earth.”
The lady could be intense, but this was way too heavy for this particular hour, on this particular night. I shrugged it off.
I awoke a few hours later troubled by this conversation. Why did Sofia say this to me? She obviously had an agenda. I didn’t want to ask her because I was certain it would open Pandora’s Box and I didn’t want to go there with her. We were approaching the end of her stay and I thought it best to say goodbye on good terms. I kept it to myself for the next 48 hours. We put Sofia on the plane and I brought up the conversation on the way home from the airport.
My partner rolled his eyes and said, “I was wondering when you were going to ask me about what my mother said.”
At this point in our relationship there was a good deal of tension between us and any little thing would create an argument. This disagreement was a doozy. He essentially told me that his mother felt that I was taking him for granted and that if I wasn’t careful I would end up with regret and loss. In other words, he would leave me. I, indeed, was guilty of taking him and time for granted. I was assuming that we would be together forever and that we had an endless amount of time left.
In fact, we only remained together for a month or so after the new Year. I was immature and unworthy of his love and affection and it ended. What I learned from my mother-in-law that was not to be so named, is that I went about living life as if my time on earth was endless. I needed to pay more attention to the gifts around me. I needed to be more aware of the finite amount of time I have. And, I needed to live life as if every moment might be my last.
Easier said than done as we all know. However, it is important to keep our mortality and the delicacy of life in our thoughts as we carelessly go about our lives.
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay
I know fear is normal. We all fear many things and fear keeps us alive. At this time of self-reflection, I think it’s important to address some of my fears and question why I do not possess some of the fears I see in others.
What I am hoping this process will accomplish:
Coming to terms with what is real and what is irrational
Celebrating fears I have conquered and learning more about how I did it
Addressing the fears I avoid and learning more about why I avoid them
Developing a process for overcoming fears
Learning more about the connection between fear and human nature
My fears seem to be deeply rooted in my childhood experiences. Without getting too analytical, many of my fears are connected to my mother and how I was raised. My mother had seven children before she was thirty. Her own complicated parenting made it difficult for her to show love and properly nurture her children; therefore, we were all shortchanged in one way or another. As a result, what I fear most is rejection. This is a common fear; however, it does unfortunately interfere with healthy relationship building. I find myself apologizing for just about everything; more often than not, for things that are either beyond my control or unworthy of an apology. What this self-flagellation does is create doubt in people’s minds. This behavior is misinterpreted as a lack of self-confidence and strength. Being aware of how this fear impacts my everyday life is helpful, but it is an uphill climb; fifty years of apologizing is a tough habit to break.
Another big fear is also a fairly common one, the fear of failure. You might say that no one wants to fail and that would be true. However, all fears are attached to levels of intensity; how deep and strong is this fear. For me, the fear of failure has prevented me from interviewing for positions I was interested in, playing sports I enjoyed, taking courses I wished to take, pursuing romantic relationships, and the list goes on. When I did put aside my fear, I gained much from the experience. For example, when I completed my master’s degree, I hoped to further my studies. I dreamed of becoming a Dean of Students as a result of exceptional mentors in college; deans I admired and revered. I was in a fairly secure and comfortable position at Hofstra University and heard about an opportunity at New York University. The desire to live and work in Manhattan was so strong, I decided to pursue the NYU position and the university’s Ph.D. in Higher Education program, throwing caution to the wind. At that time, failure to acquire this dream was stronger than the possibility of failure to obtain the NYU position. Looking back, I recall many sleepless nights of self-doubt and fear. The outcome was a job at NYU and completion of my Ph.D.
What helped me to conquer this fear, was an overwhelming desire to improve my station in life. Many of us are told that we will never be what we aspire to me. You know the verbiage, “You’re not smart enough; you don’t have the money to pay for that; they’ll never choose you.” People say these things to save you from pain and embarrassment. What is does is hold you back — it keeps you from pursuing your dreams and goals. At this point, your dreams have to be stronger than your fears. The only way to be successful is to concentrate on your dreams and push away your fears. There is a reason the old adage, one step at a time, holds up. Small successes lead to big ones. Land an interview and celebrate that success; it puts in the right frame of mind. Next, you get a second interview and finally you claim your prize. In may cases it’s a fight to overcome your fear of failure. I have played the worst case scenario game with myself throughout my life. I find that reminding myself that the worst thing that could happen, would not be the end of the world, made in easier to move forward. Sometimes, going forward rather than remaining stagnant is all that you can ask of yourself. We’re all dreamers; it’s more a question of how badly you want it and what you’re willing to do to get it. Remaining in your comfort zone is rarely the answer.
The last fear I will mention is the fear of being incapacitated. I never want anyone to have to take care of me on a long-term basis (more than a couple of days). This fear is linked to my inability to ask for help when I need it. Friends have forced me to be better about reaching out. Family and friends have shared that it makes them feel good to help and that I should be better about accepting their help. I’m doing everything — or almost everything, I can do to remain healthy, but life can throw you a curve ball and this fear is real. I am currently in the process of coming up with a game plan so that I can rely on a “facility” to care for me if this were to happen. Leaving it to chance is not in the cards. I cope with this fear by taking control of my options and the outcome.
I don’t fear death; I never have. I have always felt that when it happens, it will probably be fast and painless. Rational or not, it’s how I feel. I was in a bad bicycle accident a couple of years ago and I’m certain that when my body hit the pavement, there must have been intense pain. I couldn’t tell you what that pain felt like because my brain has completely erased it. Studies show that our brain protects us from severe trauma — shock shuts down certain body functions and we are not fully aware of the pain we are experiencing. I know there are many ways in which one can die; however, I’m banking on a painless death. The fear of dying keeps people from pursuing many dreams in life. I’ve been fortunate not to possess this fear. As a result I have jumped out of a plane, gone hang gliding, done some rock climbing, worked as a bicycle messenger in New York City, experimented with psychedelic and other mind opening drugs, and so on. To be clear, this is not to say I welcome death.
What have I learned from this exercise?
Plainly speaking, it is clear that I have a fair number of fears. Some have been conquered, some I’m working on, and still others are an ongoing challenge. I am okay with accepting that some fears will never go away. I told myself I wouldn’t say or think never prior to relocating overseas. I am willing to accept that some of my fears may remain with me until I die.
I realize that I am revealing a good deal about myself in my blogs. Several individuals have written to me to tell me that it is helping them to be more honest with themselves. Seems like a win-win to me.
Lagos with Friends from Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Jim and Gillian Britt visiting from Maine. A beautiful November day at Ponta da Piedade. The sky really was THAT blue.
Difficult to capture the true beauty of the place.
Whenever I think of purpose, I am reminded of Steve Martin who plays Navin in The Jerk, where he goes on and on about his “special purpose.” The purpose I’ll be discussing is not quite the same; my purpose is less sexual in nature. I’m certain that’s a better way to go.
A person’s sense of resolve or determination; that’s seems essential to me. So I ask myself, do I have purpose? Considering that I am a planner and that I need to have future goals or plans to look forward to, I would say that I have purpose. However, now that I am no longer a pet owner — I hate the word owner when referring to a pet, it seems to me that a pet is a member of your family and ownership isn’t really the right word, so I’m going to change that to having a pet — that is a huge obligation that I longer need to consider. I don’t plan to acquire another pet anytime soon; losing Giorgio has provided an opportunity to explore the world without being tied down. This was Giorgio’s final gift to me. I miss the little guy.
When you have a career, a sense of purpose comes easily. For over 30 years I focused on education; first on my Ph.D. and then educating others. I truly felt that I was making a difference. Then I focused on creating a consulting business and when I achieved a certain amount of success (over 20 clients in two years) I decided consulting was not fulfilling and that I needed to move on. There were parts of consulting that I enjoyed immensely; however, convincing potential clients that they needed my help or any help, was tough on the ego. And that brings me to now . . .
I did some professional writing in Portland, Maine and discovered how much I enjoy it. The question I need to ask myself is do I want to take it further than a blog? I thought perhaps putting together a memoir (a collection of all of the personal stories from my blog) might be worth pursuing. I’m frankly concerned about those that might not like what they see in print and I’m not sure the purging is worth the pain. The other option might be an Expat How To book. Either of these two considerations would be fulfilling and perhaps helpful to others.
There are many things I do on a daily basis which provide purpose. For example, I am motivated to rise in the morning for two big reasons: 1) I love the quiet. It’s usually dark and the city is still sleeping. I make coffee and either work on my blog or read. Sometimes I watch the news, but with all the negative things going on in Trump world, I’ve been attempting to avoid this trap, and 2) I have always had more energy at the start of the day. That is after a good night’s sleep and sleep has been elusive lately.
Going to the gym is a big part of my physical drive. I enjoy the community I have at the gym and I like how it makes me feel. I usually do my market shopping after the gym. I’m freshly showered, shaved and raring to go.
I have always looked forward to lunch and dinner. I don’t think about breakfast much, but I do mix it up in the morning. I eat whatever I feel like that day (ex., eggs, toast, cereal, avocado, fresh juice, granola). I don’t eat all of those items on the same day. I start thinking about lunch at around 10:00 a.m. and I usually have a salad, sandwich, or leftovers by 12:30/1:00 p.m. I’m inspired by the food at the market and that’s when and where my dinner decision is made. The Algarve is a great place for fresh fish, beautiful vegetables, fruit (amazing oranges and melon), organic chicken and charcuterie. I like to make enough so that I have leftovers for the next day. In the summer, I freeze homemade tomato sauce and pesto (basil and parsley from my terrace garden) , so that I can have summer dishes during the winter. I’m no Martha Stewart, but using my freezer to store food is something I learned from my father.
I have a terrace garden (see as much as I could get in the two frames below). My terrace is very long and narrow and has lots of room for potted plants. I’m growing flowers, succulents and herbs. Tending to my garden brings me a great deal of pleasure and purpose. I am proud of what I grow and enjoy sitting out on the terrace, either by myself or with friends. It got started in June so I have aways to go.
I’m a film buff, so I go to the cinema at least once a week. I prefer a matinée because I’m less likely to fall asleep. And for you snarky folks, it’s not because I’m getting old; movies are more likely to make me sleepy in the evening, probably because film allows me to take mind off of other things that may be troubling, thus I become more relaxed and sleepy. Theatre has the same effect on me, but alas, there is little or no theatre in English in Faro. We do have live ballet and opera at the cinema; a big plus.
Now that I’m living in Portugal, I believe it would be in my best interest to learn to speak Portuguese. I started with an on-line tutor about four months prior to relocating. Frederico who lives in London, but he is from Lisbon, was a great help; however, I knew that what I was learning would “stick” once I moved to Portugal and started hearing the language daily. In theory, this is true. The problem lies in the number of Portuguese people who speak English. Anyone aged 40 or younger (older people as well) has a pretty good grasp on the English language. They learned English in school, they watch non-dubbed American film and television, and I believe they enjoy speaking English. Many Portuguese people need to know how to speak English for work. This can make an English-speaking person in Portugal very lazy. I’m dedicating time to learning the language, but not enough time. I’d like to be able to converse in Portuguese sometime in the next two years. I plan to take classes and spend more time practicing. This is a necessary goal and a great way to keep my aging brain active.
It is also important for me to practice my driving here. I’ve rented a car a couple of times and I feel a certain level of confidence; however, I want to improve. The roundabouts that are everywhere in Europe, are very efficient, but tricky and they’re so much better than traffic lights. European drivers tend to be faster, take more risk, and they are not very tolerant of beginners. I know this is a huge generalization, but even Europeans would agree with this assessment. I’ll have a car for a few days in November, so I plan to practice.
A few weeks ago I was complaining (to myself) that many of my new friends here in Portugal live 45 to 90 minutes away. Then it occurred to me that when I lived in Brooklyn, many of my friends were either outside of Brooklyn or over an hour away by subway. So what am I complaining about? The only issue has been coordinating the train or bus schedule with visits outside of Faro. It’s a minor inconvenience, therefore, I’m going to heretofore just be grateful to have wonderful people in my life no matter where I live. I have more time in my schedule for socializing and that’s a good thing. I’m trying not to fill my dance card so that I can be more spontaneous. I know several of you who know me are reading this and laughing out loud. People can change you know.
I need to work with animals, it’s non-negotiable. I have discovered that there is a pet shelter in both Olhão and Loulé. Neither city is far away, so I will be looking into spending some time at one of these shelters. I have been volunteering since I was in my early twenties; few things in my life have been as satisfying. I cannot adopt or foster right now; therefore, this will be the next best thing.
I struggle with travel. I love routine, I love my own bed, and I love cooking my own food. When I travel, I sacrifice a great deal; poor me right?. Having stated this, I truly do want to see the world and I don’t mean by watching the travel channel. I now have the time to be more methodical and smarter about travel. I can take longer trips and combine multiple locations, thus making travel more economical and less of a hassle. The last thing I want is more time in airports and the shuffling of my luggage from one hotel to another. I want to spend more time in one place, I want to see people I care about who live in other countries; and I want to be able to boast about the deals I garner.
Possible Citizenship in Portugal
Keeping up with the red tape of full-time residency in a foreign country is a full-time job. I am obviously exaggerating, but seriously, there is a lot of paperwork. It seems at times that policy and law surrounding living in Portugal is intentionally ambiguous or confusing. I had some recent issues with attaining a Portuguese driver’s license. Several expats have warned me about the process. It was clear, that if I did not complete the process for acquiring a Portuguese driver’s license within the allotted 90 days from becoming a legal resident, I would have to go through the process as if I were attaining my very first driver’s license and I would have to take the written and physical driving test in Portuguese. Clearly, that was enough to motivate me to get this done ASAP. Except that there was a huge obstacle. Apparently I should have known that the Portuguese Consulate in Boston needed to verify my Maine driver’s license prior to relocating to Portugal. How could I have not known this? I won’t go into details about how I managed to get a temporary Portuguese driver’s license, however, what I will say is that I believe in my heart, it would have been easier to compete in Hawaii’s Iron Man competition and place.
After a few years of renewing my temporary residence, I will be eligible for dual citizenship (I will never give up my U.S. citizenship). This will not be an easy process, but if it mean shorter lines at passport control in airports all over the world, I am willing to at least try.
I highly recommend the exercise of laying it all out. If like me, you are sitting around wondering what you are going to do with your life, it will certainly help you to see and realize, that you have a lot going on.
I won’t lie, I miss the feeling I got when considering that the school I worked for would shut down if I missed a day at the office. I miss the routine of Giorgio jumping into my bed in the morning for a one hour cuddle (that was always the best hour of my day), I miss my weekly poker game, I miss southern barbecue, I miss hopping into my car to see friends and family, I miss English being spoken all around me, I miss the thrill of anticipating my annual raise and bonus, and I miss using work as an excuse to decline social engagements. I can go on, but I ‘m afraid if I do, I will begin to regret early retirement. So where does this leave me when considering purpose?
What I have in my life today, is that opportunity to relax without guilt, take care of my spiritual, physical and mental health, and the ability to see the world. None of these are minor commitments. If I accomplish half of what I have planned for the next ten years, I will be successful, happy and satisfied or at the very least, I can tell myself that I am all of these things. I can also look forward to change. Change is a constant we can count on. Okay, I am motivated.
Who are your true friends and why are these friendships so important?
Friendships come in all shapes and sizes and it would be difficult to share my thoughts on all of them; therefore I will focus on just a few for this blog. I will cover these five:
Friendship with a life partner
A close friend
A sibling who is also a friend
Your parent as friend (I do not feel equipped to write about this matter from the parent’s point of view)
A co-worker who is a friend
My friends are extremely important to me. I hold my true friends near and dear and would do just about anything for them. The friendships I cherish the most were established many years ago, but having said that, I do have several friends that I only met recently. Six months ago I left a city I resided in for less than five years; yet several of my close friends live in Maine. You can gauge some friendships by communication (although some friends are better than others at this). When I moved overseas, there were individuals I expected to never hear from again and some that I thought would communicate regularly. As with many things in life, what I expected, has not panned out. Several people I thought would reach out, never have and others I that I thought were acquaintances have been great about staying in touch. Some people work hard at developing friendships and their persistence can pay off. These days you have to factor in social media, because it doesn’t take much effort to drop a line or two. I truly miss the days of letter writing; writing a letter took time and thought.
To be clear I am not writing about acquaintances (see 2.2 below):
knowledge or experience of something.
“the pupils had little acquaintance with the language”
familiarity, conversance, conversancy, contact, acquaintanceship; More
a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend.
“a wide circle of friends and acquaintances”
contact, associate, connection, ally, colleague;
“Mr Barnet was no more than a business acquaintance”
I am certain you all have many acquaintances; if you had an expectation that they would all be friends, you’d be in big trouble and extremely disappointed.
Friendship with a Life Partner
This type of friend is quite unique due to the intimacy factor. Once you have been intimate with someone (and I don’t mean sex), it’s a game changer. I’m talking about a deeper emotional commitment where there is love and affection. Hopefully, because it matters if it’s true or not, you and your partner have shared moments, where at the time, you cannot imagine a deeper connection. Whether it’s a secret or a thought or a revelation, this kind of sharing creates a bond that can and often does, last a lifetime.
Even when there is a breakup, this close bond will ensure a lasting friendship — if you allow it to happen. Unfortunately, new partners are often intimidated by this kind of friendship and will not allow it. If you’re able to see past the jealousy, permitting your partner to be friends with ex-partners can enhance a current relationship. Your partner will see you as open and caring and trusting — all wonderful beliefs about your partner.
Keep in mind that none of us can be all things to all people. Your partner has limitations and expecting this individual to meet all of your needs is unfair and impossible. This is why it is dangerous not to have close friends outside of your relationship. Lean on others occasionally, it will make your relationship lighter, freer, and healthier.
Keep in mind that if you are outside of a relationship looking in, what you see from the outside is not always a complete picture. Couples have their own way of loving one another. Aside from physical and emotional abuse, which is never good, disagreeing and gentle prodding can be the sign of a healthy partnership.
A Close Friend
Your best friends (yes I believe you can have more than one) deserve a category all their own. Because we all know that if you have a life partner, that individual cannot and should not be able to fulfill all of your needs, emotional or otherwise. A close friend can provide an outlet for sharing and a different kind of important intimacy. It can be someone to talk to about your life partner or boyfriend/girlfriend (finding the right pronouns isn’t easy). With a close friend, no topic is out-of-bounds.
We all go through difficult periods in our lives (having just lost a dear pet, I’m feeling deep loss right now). A close friend will sometimes know you are in distress even before you know it. This person will be there to help you get through whatever difficulty you are experiencing. Refusing the help of a friend or pushing a friend away is never a good thing. A true friend is a beautiful gift and you can be sure that this person sincerely wants to help. Let this individual know that you appreciate that they are there for you and that you need them and want their love.
I like my privacy and I tend to grieve when I am by myself. A good friend will always allow you “alone” time. If you gently let your friend know that you just need a little time, they will give you what you need.
Caution: Be careful to make sure that sharing is reciprocated. There is nothing more annoying than a friend who only wants to discuss his or her own woes. Ask questions; show genuine interest and it will elevate the friendship.
Also, do not abuse the generosity of a close friend. Leaning on someone in a time of need is fine, but pick and choose when to lean. Being a constant burden will make a friend second guess the sincerity and value of the relationship. We are only human and all of us has a threshold. Keep your relationships strong by being considerate, nurturing and compassionate. Communicate your needs; assuming your friend knows, is an unfair assumption.
Who knows and understands you better than a brother or sister? Unless you were raised in a different household or there are many years between you and your sibling, this person can be a very close friend. I should not rule out a half-brother or sister who is a great deal older or younger. I had a half-brother who was 20 years older and before he passed away, we became very close. He was actually as much a mentor as a friend. I could share anything with him and he “got” me. The relationship was different from that of a parent because he didn’t feel the need to discipline or direct my behavior; it was all about the freedom to be who we were.
A sibling who doesn’t judge you, who accepts you for who you are and who provides a level of trust that is achieved in no other relationship, is a treasure to hold dear. I’m a lucky guy because I have a number of siblings I consider close friends. Unfortunately, I have also lost several siblings; these individuals have provided strength and love well beyond their passing.
Your Parent as Friend
It’s not easy being friends with a parent. Very few people I know are friends with their mother or father. When you are young, your parents are disciplinarians and when you get older they want what’s best for you and that often causes conflict. Being friends with your parents can be fulfilling. Practicing patience and forgiveness is key. If you keep in mind that your parents want what is best for you because their love for you is strong, you can be very close friends. You can confide in your parents, you can lean on your parents and you can usually trust your parents. Having a sit down after a disagreement can help both parties achieve a higher level of trust and understanding.
Of course there are always exceptions. My mother always told me that everything was her fault. She’d say this with a half-smile,
“Chris, save yourself money on therapy. I am to blame for all of your issues. Yell at me, lash out, be mad; then think about how much I love you and move on.”
She was a smart lady, my mom.
Friendship with a parent can go through stages of strength and at times this strength may waiver and that’s okay. Keep in mind that your parents won’t always be around. Bringing you into this world and keeping you safe are not easy tasks to manage. They want your friendship and they deserve it.
“My childhood was very colorful, and I am close friends with both my parents. We have no secrets.”
A Co-Worker who is a Friend
This can be an incredibly satisfying relationship because you often share so much in common with a co-worker. When you’re together socially it can be fun to gripe about your hours or your boss or your salary or your work environment or your benefits or your co-workers or all of the above.
Careful what you say and to whom at work; a true friend will be discreet and he or she will keep what you tell them to themselves. Such a friend is not easy to find; when you do, try your best to hold on to them.
There are those who believe you should not become friendly or be friends with someone who is higher up or subordinate. I have never felt that way. I think as with most things in life, it depends on the person. If your friend is mature and trustworthy, you’ll have nothing to worry about. If others at work have an issue with who your friends are, let them know (in a kind way of course), that it is not really their business. Still, perception and appearance are both important considerations. Managing all of this at work can be challenging. I believe it all boils down to personal integrity. You know who you are. If you are honest, thoughtful and appropriate, you should have nothing to worry about. Always remember that at the end of the day, the only person you truly have to answer to is yourself.
Separation from a Friend
As it goes with relationships, sometimes they go south. Of course it’s always better if you can repair the damage; however, that is not always possible. Some friendships grow toxic and if that becomes the case, I think it’s better to walk away. If you make that decision for yourself, it’s best to come clean with the individual. This business of just disappearing isn’t very fair to the other person and often, closure is necessary. Otherwise, you have this unpleasant, unfinished business hanging over you.
Call me a coward, but I often put my thoughts into writing and send an email or letter. This way I can be clear and provide the other person an opportunity to think about what I shared and respond. You can tell a great deal about a person by the way they reply. If they become very defensive, angry, and lash out at you, it validates your decision. If the person sincerely apologizes or asks to see you, it shows that they value your relationship and that they would like to patch things up. I find that the other person often feels the way you do and the friendship will come to an end. If you can work through it as mature adults, you’ll be happy you did the work.
For some, my desire to shed toxic individuals will come across as cold and dismissive. I have decided that I only have time for friends who are loving, forgiving, true, and real. I value my time on our planet and I’d prefer that my relationships be authentic and fulfilling. Divorce, partner or friend, is never easy, but sometimes it’s the only healthy solution. Don’t judge others or yourself, judging makes life burdensome.
I could do an entire blog on friendship and today’s political climate, but if I were to dwell on the topic for more than a few minutes, I’d have to make myself a double.
When Trump was elected president, I was angry, upset, terrified, and disappointed, and I still am. I let family members know how I felt and some of them said a version of this:
“Family always comes first and you should never let politics come between you and family.”
And that’s where we disagree. If I know for a fact that you hated Obama as president because he is African-American, and that you consequently voted for a conservative man because he was going to undo everything the last administration did or that you don’t believe a woman can hold our highest office, then I do not want to be your friend and it is has undoubtedly come between us. Does that mean that I love immigrants and medicare recipients more than I love my family and friends? It does not; however, what it does mean is that I love my fellow human being and when I think about the one percent wealthiest Americans, the biased, the racist and the greed of some politicians, I am always going to be sympathetic to the poor, the minority, the immigrant, the unemployed, the drug addict, and the LGBT community (not an exhaustive list).
Acknowledging the doors that were opened for you or the opportunities you have had that others have not had, will help you to be a more empathetic and giving person.
If family know how I feel and still want me in their lives, well then they’re stuck with me.
Sometimes years go by and you do not hear anything at all from an old friend and then suddenly, there they are sending you an email or calling you on the phone (a call is less likely these days; texting is safer). You wonder of course: 1) why you are hearing from them now? 2) should you respond? and 3) if you don’t respond will you wonder what it was he or she wanted?
People lose touch with one another for all sorts of reasons. Often, time goes by and one feels reaching out would be awkward and often it is. Be open-minded; reconnecting may be the best thing that ever happened to you. I have had former friends I was upset with contact me and frankly, I couldn’t recall why I was angry with them in the first place. That tells me something: it might have been something very small and petty and perhaps it’s time to get past it. Forgiveness has enhanced my life in so many ways.
I am not claiming to be a “friendship expert.” What I do know is that I have had a lifetime of meaningful friendships and without my friends, I would be a lesser person.
“No better relation than a prudent and faithful friend.”
“The best mirror is an old friend.”
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
Do you have a story to tell or would you like to share some advice? Please add your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you.
Much has been written and battles have been fought around Airbnb and because so many are hosting or booking these days, I must say up front, that I am fearful I will offend one of my “host” readers. Having worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years, I feel compelled to share some of my experiences and thoughts about Airbnb with you. It is my hope that the Airbnb experience will soon be elevated and booking will be less of a shot in the dark.
There are several different ways to view the host experience. Unfortunately, I believe that too many see it as a way to make quick and easy money. This pattern of thinking is too easily conveyed to your guests. Those who are trying to create a unique and memorable experience for their guests are more likely to reap financial rewards. Good reviews will come if you treat your guests as you might treat a friend or relative who will be staying with you in your home or using your home on a temporary basis. There are some inexpensive and simple things you can do to make your space welcoming and comfortable.
As with most matters in life, good communication is essential. The following are numbered according to their importance to me as a guest:
When you describe the space on your home page, be clear about what you’re offering. If it’s bedroom and a sleeping alcove, don’t call it a two bedroom.
If there are several flights of stairs to navigate, be upfront about that in your description and don’t bury it at the bottom or as an addendum.
If it’s a small kitchen or a kitchenette, make that clear.
If your place is hard to find, provide explicit instructions on how to get there. There is nothing worse than being lost in a foreign cities while you’re dragging two suitcases.
Create a list of grocery stores, restaurants, and attractions in your area. It doesn’t have to be a book; two or three pages should suffice. Videos work nicely these days as well.
What a good host MUST provide:
It is all about comfort and value. Too often a host will try to cut corners in order to save money. This practice will come back to bite you in the rear quickly and end up costing you a whole lot more than what you might have saved.
A good mattress is non-negotiable. It is your responsibility to provide a comfortable and well made mattress. It does not have to be plush or super expensive. Be clear about the size of the mattress in your description. If it’s a high-end mattress, say so.
If you’re renting your entire apartment, be sure to have decent, clean, and comfortable furniture.
Be sure your kitchen is stocked with pots, pans, dishes, glassware (wine glasses), small equipment (coffee maker, etc.) and a corkscrew.
Towels that you cannot see through would be nice and good linen is important.
Outlets for electronic devices are necessary these days.
If you do not have air conditioning, it would be good to provide a fan or fans. I once stayed with a host couple at an Airbnb in the Cayman Islands. It was 100 degrees and the wife wouldn’t allow me to turn on the AC because she said the electricity cost too much. My thinking was, “Why don’t you just charge more?”
Either show your guests how to use appliances at check-in or provide instructions.
Provide a contact telephone number. If you are not going to be available, find someone who can respond to an emergency. I once had a guest stuck in my building’s elevator at 1:00 a.m. and she had idea who to contact.
If you have rugs they should be clean and not sliding all over your floor. Make sure your space is super safe.
You should have soap and shampoo in your bathroom. Little extras such as razors, cotton swabs, and air fresheners are a big plus.
Provide extra toilet paper and trash bags. Some guests like to tidy up before they leave and there is nothing bad about that.
Remember the difference between booking a hotel room and your place is convenience, the ability for the guest to prepare meals, tips from a local, non-cookie cutter interior (your personal touch), location and cost. Your guests should feel good about having made the right choice. The more you share in the description and communication, the happier they will be with their choice.
People are looking for experiences they cannot find at a hotel or resort. Airbnb in most big cities provides a variety of experiences such as concerts in people’s homes, cooking classes, food tours, sailing trips, and so much more. You can share your recommendations on these experiences with your guests and therefore, help shape the ultimate vacation.
Being a Super Host on Airbnb is a tremendous plus. It will give you better placement in a very crowded market — that’s not changing any time soon; if anything it will get worse. You can become a Super Host by being responsive and securing outstanding reviews. Airbnb has some good tips on their site.
Tips for being an exceptional host:
a small gift upon arrival, such as a bottle of wine or a package of sea salts or bath salts, will make your guests very happy.
share your knowledge without pushing your thoughts on your guests
let your guest know that you are not too far away if they need anything. I had a bad experience in Lisbon recently; my host lived in Australia. I had to make a toll call halfway around the world — not good. No apologies were given and it was reflected in my review.
offer to show your guest around the neighborhood if you have the time.
Being an exceptional host is a lot of work and personally, I have no desire to do it again. I have to say when I did do it, I enjoyed it. I was meeting wonderful people from all over the world and the extra cash came in handy. Keep in mind that there will be wear and tear on your home and by the time you pay taxes on your earned income, you may not be making as much money as you hoped or expected.
As a guest you have several considerations that will help ensure you choose the right accommodation and pay the right price. So may just look at the photos and book. There are a few problems with that. As you know, if you point your camera at the right angle, you can make a trash site look good. The other consideration is that a photo will tell you little or nothing about the location. Here are a few things you should consider before booking:
What are your priorities? Location, price, space, authenticity, good reviews, air conditioning, big kitchen/small kitchen, water view, mountain view, near restaurants; you get the picture.
Read the reviews! People will usually convey a problem even if there is a lot of praise and fluff.
Is the host a Super Host?
Do they respond quickly to your inquiry.
Do you have to climb a lot of stairs?
Is it in a noisy, touristy area. Some travellers like that (I don not).
Look at the fee breakdown. Some shrewd hosts make the base price reasonable and then charge crazy amounts for additional guests or cleaning. If you are asked to pay more than $50 to clean a one bedroom, your being charged too much. If your being charged a cleaning fee for a bedroom in someone’s home, well, I’d rethink that one.
There will sometimes be added taxes and that’s fair. Anything else besides taxes, cleaning or additional guests seems unreasonable to me.
If a host offers to pick you up at the airport for a set amount, do some comparison shopping. I once paid a host 50 Euros and later learned I could have taken a taxi for 20. A small mark-up is acceptable, but 30 Euros?
There are other sites out there (VRBO, Homestay.com, House Sitters, etc.). Comparison shop.
The truth is sometimes hotels are a better option. You might find more flexible check-ins, you might like to have a concierge, it may mean more privacy, sometimes there is an excellent restaurant in the hotel, and frankly, the whole guest review process on Airbnb can be unnerving. And because hotels now have loads of competition, you might get a great rate at a beautiful resort with lots of amenities. This why I believe there is plenty of room for both in the accommodation space.
Be a gracious guest. If you had a wonderful experience, repay your host with an excellent review. A small thank you gift is also a nice way to show your appreciation. In many cases you’ve saved a lot of money and got to live like the locals.
A friend contacted me about Airbnb travel for women traveling alone. In short she doesn’t feel safe traveling this way and I completely understand her concern — another consideration. She likes being able to call to the front desk and getting an immediate response/help. If you think of anything I have not included, please let me know.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF GIORGIO, WHO GAVE ME NOTHING BUT LOVE & JOY
I thought this might be a good time to step back and consider my decision to relocate overseas. I’m going to ask myself some tough questions:
Is Faro everything I hoped it would be?
Did the move cost me more than expected?
Have I made friends?
Do I miss the States?
Are there things I did not consider?
Have I learned anything about myself?
Would I do it again and would I choose the same place?
Where do I go from here?
When I left New York City and moved to Maine a little over five years ago, I was fairly certain it would be the last time I was to move in my life. I’m still not sure why I felt that way, perhaps I was just tired. One of the biggest lessons this recent move has taught me is this:
Most decisions are not etched in stone and you’re allowed to change your mind.
When I make a decision now, it’s for today, tomorrow, and maybe next month. I no longer think about years from now. I’ve learned that living in the moment is much more satisfying and that whatever lies ahead, will somehow sort itself out. All the great philosophers talk about being present; experiencing the moment you are in. Until now, it seemed rather trite and esoteric. These words were meant for others, not for me. I knew what I was doing, where I was going and how I was going to get there, no? The truth is I spent much too much time in the future — planning, always planning. And it’s not that I don’t plan now; I plan, but I plan a lot less. When you’re enjoying the moment, thoughts pass through your mind with less urgency. What you find interesting and worthwhile will stick and the rest will fade.
Now is as good a time as any to look back and learn from the past so that the present will be that much more fulfilling.
Is Faro what I hoped it would be? In a word, no; Faro is far more than I ever imagined. My mind did not have the capacity to extend that far; the unknown was frightening. I had never lived outside of the States, so in truth, I could not imagine what it would be like. I had an idea, I had hopes, and I had people telling me, but none of it was a true picture of reality and that’s a good thing. Why is it so important for us to know the future? Why can’t we just let the future unfold before us? Some of what I could not have anticipated:
The light: I loved the light in Maine, the sky was often so blue, I didn’t know a blue so deep existed. The light in Portugal is different; it’s very bright and your skin reacts to it differently. I realize this probably has more to do with my own growth and awareness. Still, I am dazzled by and grateful for the light.
The environment: taking care of Earth is paramount. It seems to be a consideration for nearly every decision.
The youth of Faro: I’m seeing a lot of cigarette smoking and rudeness. Older people get on the bus and the young people on the bus rarely, if ever, get up to allow them to be seated. I see young people sitting at cafés drinking coffee and smoking — they’re mimicking their role models and that’s not good. This concerns me.
Food: I’m just beginning to see a change in the food scene here. Most of the restaurants are either small bistro style restaurants that are very plain and unappealing (but cheap) or a lot of very traditional Portuguese food. Don’t get me wrong, the Portuguese food is delicious and except for at festivals and fairs, you unfortunately, don’t see street food or food trucks. I admittedly loved the food scene in the States and I miss the variety. The upside is that my diet is more stable and healthier — not a bad thing.
The absence of crime: you do not see drug addicts passed out on the street, police cars everywhere and there is no talk of crime. This is a very pleasant surprise. I’ve written about the decriminalization of drugs here and very low crime rates. Makes you wonder why this is not the case elsewhere.
Money: your money goes a lot further. Whether it’s the grocery store, restaurants, public transportation, etc. your Euro goes a lot further than your dollar did in the States. I’m sure it has a lot to do with annual salaries and government regulations. I saw a bit of this in Maine as well: when an item is overpriced, people will not buy it.
The weather: it is absolutely perfect nearly every day. I had to get used to the dry heat, but it’s a small price to pay for paradise. Keeping in mind I have only been here for five months. I did visit in October and February and it was beautiful then as well.
2. Did the move cost me more than expected? Not at all. I did a good deal of research on what my expenses would be and I would say that I ended up spending exactly what I anticipated I’d spend. I couldn’t bring a whole lot of my things with me and I’ve been careful not to buy things I don’t need. When I was selling and giving away stuff in Portland, I realized I often had two or three sets of certain household things. We buy more than we need these days and I’m trying my best to avoid doing that. I like being a minimalist; it feels less burdensome and it will make life simpler if I move again.
3. Have I made friends? Friendship is something that happens over a period of time. You can know someone for a very long time and never consider them a friend and you can know someone a very short period of time and call them a good friend. I have met a handful of people who will be lifelong friends. Portuguese people are very private and not easy to get to know; however, the woman who runs my gym is social, funny, and very warm. She has welcomed me to Faro and introduced me to several wonderful potential friends. I’ve also met a few people through friends in the States. In addition, I have had a few people reach out to me through my blog. I have to say I didn’t expect that to happen. I have been very fortunate about having rich friendships my entire life; it’s been pretty much the same here.
I’ve been dating more than I did in Portland or New York. I think there is a simple explanation for that: I am open to meeting someone.
4. Do I miss the States? I miss my family, my friends and the food. I do not miss the politics, the cost of living, and/or the climate.
5. Are there things I didn’t consider? I did not consider how the change in environment would affect Giorgio’s health. The new bacteria and the climate change, did a number on Giorgio. We’ve had to visit the vet several times. I have also had allergies resurface. I have learned that all of this is normal and I guess I just didn’t think about it or anticipate it.
6. Have I learned anything about myself? If you stop to think about it and you are willing to access your life, you come to realize that there is always something to learn about yourself. Maine revealed things related to ego and the leaving of New York City, my career and birthplace. In Portugal, I rarely if ever talk about the past. I’m writing about it in my blog, but what I discuss more than anything these days is the present; the now.
7. Would I do it again and would I choose the same place? Yes and definitely. The same country, the same city and the same condominium.
8. Where do I go from here? Well . . . I’m going to just wait and see (that’s the new me). Two moves ago I said, “This is my last move.” I don’t say this or think this anymore. Property value is going up, up, up in Faro. Maybe in a few years I’ll buy an Italian villa on the Amalfi coast or a place right on the ocean in the Algarve. Or maybe I’ll just use Faro as my home-base and go to all the places I’ve dreamed about visiting.
A side note: It’s not necessarily better here, it’s just a welcome change. Change is good, right?
Blogging has been an excellent way to let family and friends know how I’m doing. I’ve been keeping a journal for 35 years and blogging has sort of taken the place of journaling. It’s very intimate and freeing. I highly recommend either or both.
Since giving up my consulting business in Maine and moving to Faro, I’m finding I have more time to think about how I want to spend my time . . . and money. I have also been noticing that more is being written on how to spend your money — probably because I’m living on a set budget.
Also see several good Ted Talks on Money & Happiness (Ted Talks does not allow me to copy link; Google it) — love Ted Talks.
What I am hearing and reading is that it is wiser to spend less on things and more on life experiences. You can read (see above) what the experts are saying so I won’t go into the “why.” Having just shed 98% of my material things to move overseas, I have to say, I like that advice. I’m also at an age where I believe I have lived over half my life. I’m 59 years old and I like red meat, alcohol and ice cream — you do the math.
I learned in marketing seminars, that people will spend more money on experiences that they cannot create for themselves. For example, when I worked at the French Culinary Institute, I learned that people were willing to spend a boat load of money to cook with Jacques Pépin or other celebrity chefs. I get it, it would be a difficult experience to arrange on your own. I’ve decided to create more experiences based on what I have desired, dreamed or thought about in the past.
Portimão Sailboat Experience: My Big Adventure
I know this will sound crazy, but I love sleeping on boats and I don’t mind if they’re not moving. I know that unless boats are dry docked, they’re always moving; but you know what I mean. One of my favorite vacations was a tall ship cruise off of the coast of Maine. We stayed anchored near to the coast in the evening and that slow and steady rocking would put me to sleep. We sailed and docked at different towns during the day. So I planned a big adventure aboard a 34 foot, classic Swedish yacht, docked in the marina in Portimão, Portugal.
Yes, that’s my Macbook baking in the sun. And that’s the bed I had to crawl in and out of.
I visited Portimão briefly a few months ago. It is in the Algarve; therefore, very easily accessible by train or bus, there are many restaurants, beautiful beaches, and they have a casino. I figured now that I have a wonderful woman named Sandra to take care of Giorgio, I could enjoy a few of days of sun and fun; doing something I’ve never done before.
I’m still having trouble managing the train and bus schedules here. I waited on the train platform for an hour and realized my train schedule was outdated. I walked home — it was 100 degrees; by far the warmest day since I arrived in Portugal. I thought if I could sit in my cool apartment, I’d come up with an alternative plan. The next train was a few hours away, so I looked at the bus schedule. Great, a bus in 90 minutes that would get be there by 4:15 p.m. I lost a big part of the day, but my host was willing to pick me up at the bus stop. Honestly, the heat was extremely oppressive and I never drink enough water, therefore, my brain was fuzzy. I arrived at the bus terminal at about 4:30 p.m.
I settled onto my yacht (I like the sound of that), showered and headed for a nearby watering hole. I had a frozen daiquiri because I was very thirsty and I have to say, it was probably the best daiquiri I’ve ever had — fresh strawberries and as I said, it was extremely hot outside. When I finished my cocktail, the sun had gone down and the heat was more bearable. I walked to the casino (everything was in walking distance from the marina), and discovered the blackjack table wouldn’t open until 8:30 p.m. I played some slots (hate slots) and of course, regretted it immediately. By this time I was hungry and I thought that 7:30 p.m. was a safe bet for getting a table at a restaurant. The great thing about eating early in Portugal, is that you almost always get a table. Avoiding the smokers wasn’t easy; however, I managed to get a corner table at a nice tapas wine bar with a great view of the ocean and lots of people watching. I had a nice dinner and I’ll leave it at that.
After dinner it was time for some blackjack at the Casino. I’m not a big gambler; but I do enjoy an hour or two of gaming. There was only one blackjack table, so I had no choice concerning where to play. I observed the table for a bit before diving in. There was a crazy Frenchman chastising this poor newcomer to the world of gambling at the table. The bewildered chap had no idea what he was being yelled at for and I could tell he wouldn’t last. In blackjack, the last seat at the table leaves one open to the scrutiny of the other players. Making the wrong decision could prevent the dealer from busting and nobody at the table likes that. The chap left shortly after my arrival. Anyway, I wasn’t there very long and a woman visiting from China sat down beside me. We were both enjoying the crazy Frenchman’s antics and started chatting it up. Well Frenchie didn’t appreciate that we were talking and started giving me a hard time. Had he known I was from Brooklyn he might have thought twice about confronting me. Long story short, I gave him a piece of my mind and the pit boss came over to tell him that if he didn’t behave he’d be thrown out. That made him even angrier and he lost his concentration, made some stupid moves (like sitting on 12 when the dealer had a jack showing) and started losing big money. I admit I was secretly pleased. After awhile I got bored watching my Chinese friend rake it in while I lost almost every hand and I left. I did put 20 Euros into a slot machine because I’m a glutton for punishment.
Time to go back to the boat to enjoy the “experience” I paid for. Here’s are some thoughts before you run to purchase a boat:
Buy or rent a sailboat that is large enough or fancy enough to have air conditioning.
If you have to pump the toilet and sink to get water, wear shoes. I wasn’t permitted to (boat rules).
People who sleep on boats like to party, so if you’re docked in a marina, you’re probably not going to get any sleep.
Showering on a 34 foot sailboat is not really feasible.
Getting up to use the bathroom is not an easy task. By the time you shimmy your way out of bed, you’re wide awake.
The bathroom is sort of stinky and there is no way around that.
If you have a glamorous notion of what it’s like to sleep on a sailboat, don’t do it. Doing it will destroy that notion forever.
Always rent first.
Exhausted from no sleep, I made myself some breakfast. The owners left me some delicious oranges to squeeze and some other healthy breakfast treats. I ate on the deck and watched the sunrise. I decided that it would be nice to spend the day at a pool club on the ocean. I had no interest in doing any group tours and I have a cave trip coming up in Lagos in a few weeks. Don’t worry, these are shallow caves.
When I got to club, the receptionist politely asked if I had a reservation and of course, I did not. She looked down at this massive chart and every beach chair had an X over it. I spotted one that was sort of half rubbed out and asked her about that one. She said, “Um, I don’t know,” and called over a colleague. Her colleague informed us that the party who had that pair of chairs had just cancelled. Well, there you go then, one of those two chairs was meant to be mine. I was fortunate that they didn’t have a “you had to rent two” policy. The beach club wasn’t cheap, but I honestly loved the people watching and the club was beautiful. I decided that they were probably not well-known for their food, so I decided to eat at an authentic Portuguese restaurant right next door. I made the correct choice, the food and the view were the highlight of my weekend (I’m not endorsing any businesses in this particular blog). A beautiful green-eyed black cat joined me for lunch. He was affectionate, sweet and very hungry. This always seems to happen when I’m missing Giorgio — animals sense everything.
I was pretty certain I’d have lunch and then nap all afternoon, but for some reason, sleep was elusive. Instead I drank frozen daiquiri and ogled the pretty people by the pool. I was struck by how many lovers there were enjoying a day at the club; lots of PDA (public display of affection for my older readers).
Daiquiri is a family of cocktails whose main ingredients are rum, citrus juice, and sugar or other sweetener. Wikipedia
At about 6:00 p.m., I headed back to the sail boat. I thought I’d have a gin & tonic (like the Brits) and read Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes — the perfect novel for this occasion. I took a sponge bath and it didn’t help, it was too darned hot. There was smoke in the distance and you could feel the intense heat from the fires in the hills. Soon after I cracked my book open, the wind started howling and the boat starting rocking fiercely. Not long after, it started raining. It’s been weeks and weeks since I felt a rain drop and this made me happy. You would think wind and rain would bring relief, fat chance.
I slept a little better, but there was a massive “Back to the 90s” concert in the distance and falling asleep to Cher is like sleeping while standing; it ain’t gonna happen.
Again I watched the sunrise and had a healthy breakfast. The oranges in the Algarve are unbelievably sweet and tart and even a little salty; I had fresh squeezed juice again. My dad squeezed fresh oranges every morning when he retired in Florida.
I knew the heat was coming and I wanted off that freakin’ boat before it arrived. Now that I had learned to read the bus schedule, I knew when and were to catch the one that would drop me off a few feet away from my apartment. I was home by 11:00 a.m. and Giorgio was back in my arms by 12:30 p.m.
Looking back on my adventure, it’s safe to say I have no regrets. If I had known what I was in for, I would have chosen to book it in September or October. But honestly, life doesn’t happen unless we make it happen. This past weekend, life happened.
When you make a big and unexpected decision in your life, people are curious about why you went in a particular direction; it’s a reasonable curiosity. I’ve spent a bit of time on why I moved to Portugal in previous blogs; however, I thought since I am frequently asked this question, I would answer it thoroughly.
One of the most important things I learned throughout my career is to question “why” before you do anything. You want to start a business? Why? You want to get married? Why? You want to move overseas? Why? Asking this important question and answering it thoroughly and honestly, will help to insure that you are doing whatever you are doing for the right reasons — well most of the time.
So when I started to feel that U.S. politics were the cause of a good deal of my anxiety, I asked myself why I was wallowing in pity rather than working to change my situation. I had done some letter writing and personal campaigning for Hilary and then of course, I blamed myself for not doing enough. After a lot of soul-searching, it occurred to me that it wasn’t just that Hilary lost the election, it is the direction politics in general is going in, in the States. I’m not going to do a deep dive into politics; however, the big issues for me are gun control, healthcare, taxation, greed in Washington, and the negative perception Americans have of democratic socialism, www.dsausa.org/what_is_democratic_socialism. The conclusion that I came to was that I had to move to a country where the values of the government and the people more closely matched my own. In other words, why stay in a country where values will not be changing anytime soon.
Some “Why” Questions:
Why am I leaning in this direction?
Why is now the right time?
Why is my heart telling me to do this?
Why am I struggling with this decision?
Why am I questioning the status quo?
Politics in the U.S. has become more conservative over the past few years. Some say it happens whenever you have a power base in office that leans in a particular direction (surprise, I lean left), the majority will tend to swing in the opposite direction the next election — that certainly is what happened in November 2016. This is likely to occur in any democratic society; however, in many European countries liberal policies and attitudes have a strong foundation, therefore, the bar is set higher.
The other reason I decided to move overseas is that I have never resided outside of the United States. I tend to agree with those who believe that life is not a dress rehearsal; this was an opportunity I may not have had again.
I have considered many other countries over the past few years. At one point I was certain I’d end up in Concon, Chile. I had been there a couple of times and fell in love with the coast and the lifestyle. Well then they had a big earthquake and read that there would be others. Sure enough, a short time later they were hit with a second large earthquake. I thought I had tempted fate far too many times to buy a condo in a high-rise there. I’ve thought about Italy because it is my father’s birthplace. I love visiting Italy; however, the instability of Italy’s government and economy concerns me. The Caribbean is too humid and has those pesky, life-threatening hurricanes; Norway, Sweden, and Denmark make it very difficult to reside there; and frankly other places were too expensive or too risky.
I had read a good deal about Portugal and decided to check it out. I’ve been told that it is dangerous to decide on relocating to a place having only visited once. Knowing that some advice is sound advice, I decided to do my homework. I read articles about retiring in Portugal, I joined a couple of expat groups on Facebook, I had several conversations with individuals who have made the move, and I returned to spend more time here.
Most expats who decide to live in the Algarve DO NOT choose Faro. I discovered on several trips prior to moving to Faro that there are expat communities in many towns all along the coast; however, most people see Faro as a place to land or switch trains. I do not mean this in a disparaging way, so I hope no one takes it that way: I did not want to be in the center of a tourist destination. Don’t get me wrong, tourists visit Faro; however, compared to other towns in the Algarve, Faro is not overrun. In fact, there are very few Americans in Faro.
The following are some of the wonderful things that drew me to this beautiful city:
Culture — music (Fado), theatre, festivals, food, ceramic tiles, history and art.
Portuguese — A majority of the people living in Faro are Portuguese or immigrants from struggling countries. I recently learned that when the European Union decided how many migrants each country should take based on their population, Portugal said, “We’ll take double that number.”
Faro is not as much a tourist city as say Lisbon, Porto or other parts of the Algarve. I’m happy about that.
Restaurants — I can find traditional Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Indian and several other ethnic foods and the quality and value is outstanding.
The Market (Mercado Municipal) — in a huge open space (indoor) close to my apartment, it is probably the gift I will never take for granted.
Walking city — I can walk to just about every place I need to go.
Access to everywhere else — Faro is the capital of the Algarve; therefore, the airport, trains, buses, and highways, can get you just about everywhere and quickly.
Architecture — Preserved, historic, eclectic, and beautiful. Everything is understated.
Government offices — all of the Portuguese government offices I need to deal with are here in Faro.
What more can I ask of a city?
I took these photos when I was walking to the ferry yesterday — beside Faro Castle. This is Old Town, Faro and it dates back centuries. It’s a 15 minute walk from my apartment. I come here often to read, walk and eat. Some of the remains are from the 9th century.
And by the way . . . that blue sky is real (no touching up or color added). There is no smog to speak of here.
For the first time in my life, I am not thinking about what’s next. I’m going to enjoy the here and now and see where it takes me.
Às vezes não consigo deixar de pensar se escolhi Portugal ou Portugal me escolheu.
Translation: Sometimes I can’t help wondering if I chose Portugal or Portugal chose me.