I moved to Portugal almost ten years to the week after I moved to France. This was a total coincidence time-wise, but it’s made me realise that I have a habit of moving around every 8-10 years. A pattern that’s existed my whole life. I digress…
I’d initially lived in Les Gets for two years (a fantastic place to be a mountain biker) and after that, spent the rest of my time in Chamonix, at the foot of Mont Blanc. It was great for quite some time, but I started to feel like I was stagnating, that I needed a change.
I’d been miserable for a few years (you probably couldn’t tell if you didn’t know me that well) but I was feeling the impact of high living costs and the same-iness that you get when you live in the same place for too long. I started drinking too much, not eating very well (partly because of the cost of feeding myself, my cat and paying for his meds). I felt trapped. I often barely had enough money to last the month and was living on a shoe-string. Tourist town wages tend to be pretty crap and in Chamonix they were pants. Added to the fact that I lived by myself and the cost of living was akin to living in London or some other big city, my spare cash was almost non existent. I used up any savings I had years ago and was constantly living off my overdraft. At first I couldn’t see how I was going to make a change and it was literally driving me nuts.
As fortune would have it, I struck up a conversation with a guest who was staying at a chalet rented out by the place I was working at the time. He told me about a great tax system in Portugal that him and his wife were going to take advantage of, and promised to send me all the details. Thankfully he did. It’s called the NHR scheme and it’s been running since 2009, with a view to encouraging people from overseas to move to Portugal and help bolster up its economy. If you work in selected industries or jobs (mine’s on the list) you can live there tax free for at least 10 years. Yep, sounds great doesn’t it… look it up! Having a remote job also massively helps.
Needless to say, I got stuck into all the tax details (yeah I know tax is dull but this was a must-do), started investigating the cost of living in Portugal, the healthcare system and started looking for somewhere to live. It took me a good 6 months to find the place I wanted, in a quiet part of central Portugal. I lucked out, there’s a bike park 30 minutes drive away from the house (although I only found this out later), lots of walking trails and forests and a good local vet.
To give you an example of the difference in living costs between Chamonix & central Portugal – the cruddy (bottom floor of an old chalet) apartment that I’d been living in was around 40m square and cost me €750 a month with bills. The house (yes a whole house!) I found in Portugal costs €350 per month with bills on top, the house is 100m squared with lots of land surrounding it. No more noisy neighbours and their kids / dogs creating a racket and stressing me out.. hooray to that! I would have a spare bedroom for the first time in 10 years, a log fire, more freedom from having spare money and (triple bonus) I’d be able to explore a new country… SOLD! 🙂
Once I had the place to live sorted, I had to start thinking about how to get me, my cat and all my stuff down there. I booked a shipping company (what an expensive palaver!) to send all the stuff I couldn’t fit in my car. I sold or gave away rugs, furniture, gear, clothes and kitchen stuff and binned lots of stuff too. I’d started to plan the two and a half day road trip that I was about to embark on.
The naysayer and the supporters
At this point it’s worth mentioning what my friends were saying about my big move. A woman I worked with said very bluntly and dismissively “You won’t leave.” But she was so wrong! She clearly didn’t know me very well.
My closest friends were incredibly supportive. They knew I’d been feeling shitty for some time and have all said they are looking forward to a visit once I get settled. Two of them even gave me details of mountain bike guides to get in touch with when I arrived. My best friend and another friend bought me a cowbell , a whistling marmot (which hangs like fluffy dice in my car) and a beach bag. I love my friends 🙂
Other people I knew said things like “Oh you’re so brave”, or “you’re an inspiration” or “you’ll come back for visits though, right?” Nah…not really.
I broke up the road trip into two days of around 8 hours driving with 4 hours on the last day. My first stop was on the outskirts of Bordeaux and I arrived much, much later than I planned, due to an enormous amount of faff trying to strap some boxes on the roof rack of the car. This involved enlisting the help (and spare ratchet straps) of a friend’s boyfriend, plus me, my best friend, said other friend and her fella all debating on the best and safest way to not have the boxes fly off on the motorway. I stayed in a cheap roadside hotel that night, and was pleased to find the boxes were still on the car roof when I got up the next morning.
Day two on the road (with Treacle, my cat, safely stowed in a rabbit cage on the passenger seat) took us from Bordeaux to a beautiful little medieval town not far from the Spanish border. It was a welcome respite for spending so much time concentrating on driving.
Day three took us across the border into Portugal, where I celebrated with an obligatory selfie.
There were no tolls to pay, we just sailed through in my trusty, rusty Renault. We met the rental agents in a nearby town and then carried on the final few kilometres to the house, my (our) new home.
The journey ~2000 Kilometres (~ 1243 miles) = 2.5 days on the road.
Reasons I moved to Portugal
No, I wasn’t having “man trouble”. No I wasn’t running away from anything, nothing sinister happened (I’ve heard all of these!) I just needed a change. And yeah, us women can do stuff like this on their own. They do, all the time, and I’m not the only one…. rant over.
The main things driving this change for me were to get financial freedom back, to save some money and potentially buy a place (maybe in Portugal, maybe somewhere new). To learn new things (of course) to broaden my experiences and knowledge, to explore a new country, to meet new people, to exercise my brain cells and generally start a happier, more healthy and better life for myself.
I’d never been to Portugal before and I didn’t know anyone there.
Oh yeah, and it doesn’t snow in Portugal 😉
After all, I like a challenge, and “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”. Life is too frickin short to stay in one place for too long!
ABC – Always be Curious.