Pro tip: if you have to endure a global pandemic, move somewhere cool a few months beforehand. Because I’ll be real with you: I can’t imagine being anywhere but Portugal right now.
We moved to Portugal in August of 2019 and spent the first three weeks exploring the country. Armed with a spreadsheet detailing potential schools for our daughter, we drove all over Lisbon, up to Porto (in the north of the country), and down to the Algarve. Finally, we decided on a school in the western Algarve, rented an Airbnb for a month, and looked for a place to live. We moved into our current home in October 2019.
Just a few months later, the pandemic hit. (In fact, I still suspect we had the virus in February, but I digress . . .)
When we moved to Portugal, we had grand plans for summer 2020. We talked of renting an RV like all the European families seem to do each summer or at least doing a driving trip around the region. Since we live 1.5 hours from Spain, we talked about weekend trips “whenever we feel like it!” In our vision of living in Portugal, we were going to be leaving the country a lot.
Then the pandemic hit, and we were faced with the reality of staying put. And to be honest, it was extraordinarily hard at first. We were still in the middle of our family residency process, and our appointments on April 1 of 2020 were postponed. Online grocery ordering wasn’t working well (“appointments” were weeks out!) and we didn’t have any family nearby. Even as the country opened up, we were still figuring out basic life things a person has to learn when settling into a new city, let alone country: What’s the least busy post office? Where do we get our hair cut? Where can I find toiletries I like? Is there anywhere other than Staples (which is 30 minutes away) to get reasonable office supplies? Why are sticky notes so expensive here?!
But as we found our way through new-country stuff, and restrictions lightened, we began exploring. We hiked trails near our house and far, keeping the kids far from the edge as we gaped at the view below and around us.
We got to know the beaches near our home, visiting praia after praia, until we finally found our favorite one.
My daughter did socially distanced surf lessons in Lagos (and stood for a couple of waves!).
We took driving trips around the region. This place is breathtaking!
I did a (COVID-safe) sunrise SUP tour with a friend. You can’t get more socially distanced than being on your own SUP!
As restaurants opened up, we visited outdoor spaces, dining on farm-to-table fare and enjoying a glass of local wine with dinner.
We read. A LOT. My daughter has been feeding her interests in science, Egyptian history, and Junie B. Jones.
We went on walks, lots of walks, starting at our front door or a short drive from our home. The kids, often bored of the walks and hikes, started a wilderness game. Now, with every hike, we stop and they “build a fire” and collect materials for their campsite. It’s really too cute.
Even after more than a year here in Portugal’s Algarve, and for me, not leaving the country since February, we are astounded at all this region has to offer. And really, we have stayed in our corner: the western Algarve. And it is so much more than beaches. It is nature and food and wine and cliffs and sunshine and rain and all the things that make up paradise for me. We love it here.
Don’t get me wrong. The pandemic has been hard. It has tried my husband, kids, and me, and we have felt just as worried and uncertain as you. But I am deeply grateful for this place and the ability to venture out into the great unknown—to us.
But next summer, we’re going to Spain!
How about you? What are you grateful for in the midst of one of the hardest periods in modern history? What have you explored, learned, embraced, or felt deep gratitude for in your life? Share with me in the comments. We all need some goodness and gratefulness in our lives right now.