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a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

I'm Stacy Ennis,

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Episode 114 | Portugal update: Life 4 years in

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I'm a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

Hi, I'm Stacy

In this week’s solo episode, I share what life is like after living in Portugal for four years. I talk about:

  • How I feel about living in the Algarve
  • Challenges we’re facing right now, including schools and medical care
  • What it’s like running a location independent business in Portugal
  • How our trip to the US impacted my feelings about living abroad
  • One thing I’m missing professionally—and how I’m trying to solve it
  • What the future holds for our family

This episode is highly personal and raw, and I hope it gives you insight into the beauty and challenges of living abroad.

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Transcripts for Episode 114

These transcripts were generated by robots, not writers.

Stacy: I don’t think I ever would have crossed my mind to move somewhere else, to go somewhere else because X, Y, or Z wasn’t working for me. And so again, there’s that, like the blessing and curse sometimes of having so much choice and then also weighing as a mom this stability. Like my husband and I are very happy here. We love it here. The kids love it here. The kids need stability. If were to move for these two reasons, those would be the only reason we would move. School and medical care. What if that move means less good and it ends up being a bad decision when we actually have a lot of good here?

Welcome, welcome. I’m really thrilled to be with you this week for one of my more personal episodes. I love having guests on the podcast and wow, have we had some amazing guests recently. And I really look forward to these more personal one on one episodes where just me and you and I get to share a little bit about a specific topic. And this week I’m going to be giving you an update on Portugal.

What do we love about it? What’s been challenging, how I’m feeling right now. So I’m going to give you an update on just all things our life here. Before I do, I want to read you a recent review. This is from Plenama. Plenama says, I strongly recommend beyond better to anyone who wishes to grow and learn. Stacy Ennis is one of the most compassionate, thoughtful and caring people I have ever met. Wow. She is also a brilliant entrepreneur who passes on nuggets of wisdom and shares lessons on how to achieve a bigger and better version of your goals. If you’re looking for some inspiration, this is definitely the right podcast for you. Wow. That is an incredible review. Thank you so much. And I just have to say that these reviews mean so much to me.

Not only on a practical sense do they help me reach more listeners with this message that I’m so passionate about of living a life that’s beyond better, but it’s also really meaningful. I do a lot of work every single week to record the podcast, to produce it with my team, to do all the things around it. And so your support via a review means the world to me. If you have a moment right now to rate and hopefully five star rate and leave a good review of the podcast, I would really appreciate it. So, with all that said, I’m going to move on to this week’s topic, which is everything Portugal. And here’s a bit of a rundown of what I’m going to talk about.

So I’m going to talk a little bit about our specific region of Portugal and how I’m feeling about living here right now. I’m going to talk about some of the challenges that we’re facing in this region. Specifically, I’m going to talk about what it’s like to run my location, independent business from Portugal. So, running a US based business, but living in Portugal, I’m going to talk a little bit about how our trip to the US impacted my feelings about living abroad. And I’m going to share one thing that I’m missing right now professionally and how I’m trying to solve it, and then share a little bit about what the future holds for our families. So, looking ahead 1510 years, what does that look like for our family and what are we considering right now as we think ahead? I’m a very long term thinker.

This is how I operate in the world. In fact, it’s hard for me sometimes to be present. That is actually something I have to work a lot at, just being very present, because I’m always thinking in the future. I’m always in one year, five year, ten years out. This vision that I have. And sometimes for me, being very present is a real challenge. It’s something I work on every single day, very intentionally. So, all of that said, not to take us on a tangent, I want to talk a little bit about how we’re feeling about the Algarve right now. So the Algarve, if you’re not familiar with Portugal, think about Portugal, is just this long country. So a lot of people don’t even really know where Portugal is. We’re next to Spain.

So if you know where Spain is, we’re right next door coastal to Spain, and it’s a very long country, and you can kind of think of it as being broken into roughly three regions. So there’s the north, and that’s where Porto is, and that’s where the Gerald wine Valley is. That’s where people think about when they think of Port wine. There’s then the middle region, which is where Lisbon is, but also there’s the coastal, and then there’s more the inland. I won’t go into all the geographic details there, but that’s kind of the middle region. And then there’s the southern region, which is the Algarve, which is where we are. And the Algarve is considered rural. It’s considered like the country for Portugal, because we really don’t have any major cities. The biggest city in the Algarve is Faro.

And for your awareness, just as you think about this region, you can drive from the east to the west coast. So if you fly into Faro, that’s almost as east as you can go in the Algarve. And if you drive from Faro all the way to the other side of the Algarve, it’s probably an hour and 15 minutes, somewhere in that range. Hour 20, it’s not big. And driving from even from the bottom of the country to the top, or vice versa, I want to say it’s like seven and a half hours, something like that. It’s not very long. It’s a really small country. So we live in the western Algarve. Remember, Faro is the biggest city.

It’s in the eastern part and we’re in the western part, so it takes us roughly an hour or so to get to the airport, to get to major shopping, to get to the best hospitals. We’re pretty far away from all of that. I will say, I love living here. We love our lifestyle. I love going to the ocean. I just, before recording this, went on a beautiful hike in the trails overlooking the ocean and the cliffs. I mean, it’s gorgeous. What more could you ask for from a just lifestyle standpoint? We eat amazing food. On Saturdays, we pick up our produce and eggs from an organic farmer that we know personally, that we go to him at the Farmers market, get all of our stuff, we come home we wash everything. We put it away. It’s beautiful. It’s a lovely life.

It’s very low environmental impact. It’s very clean. And I love so many things about it. I love the quietness here. Sometimes I really miss having access to things. Let’s be real. I miss Target big time. I could have a target here 100%. I miss having access to ingredients that I want. Like, I wanted to make marshmallows. And I went to three organic stores. Well, I didn’t go to. I went to one called another, and then went to a regular grocery store. None of them had gelatin. I had to. Then we happened to be in another town that was, like 30 minutes away that has a nice, kind of whole foods ish type grocery store. And I was able to find it there, but it was, like, a lot of time to find this one ingredient. So some of those things are really frustrating.

And the other thing that it’s not just about the little things, like finding items, I can kind of live with that. I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve gotten used to the fact that if I want something, I can’t always get it. In fact, I probably can’t get it. I really have to plan ahead for things. I need to keep things in stock, even finding things like organic milk. We have a hard time finding that. So some of that kind of stuff, food wise, Halloween costumes, I have to order those really early things like that, because it’s just not guaranteed that I’m going to find what I want here. All of that I can be fine with.

What is really frustrating for me is that we, and I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, is that we have such little access to quality medical care and quality schools. The school situation in Portugal as a whole, and certainly in the Algarve, is a real problem. It’s really bad, in my opinion. It doesn’t mean that there are not good schools. There absolutely are great schools. My kids go to a good school, but it’s way overcrowded. Waitlists for private schools are crazy long. The public schools are overburdened. And so for families that want to come, you can’t just show up and get into a private school. It does not work that way. You have to get on lists. You have to know how to navigate the system. And so for that reason, it can be really tough, especially for new families.

For us, we’re really established now. We know people, so when we want to get things done, we know who to talk to, or we know how to get what we need. And so it’s a little bit easier on the school side, and I feel like we’re in a really good place. Just talking about my own life right now. We’re in such a good place with schools. My kids are super happy. They’re learning. They look forward to going to school every day. We really trust the school, so we’re in a good situation there. But as I promised at the top, I’m going to talk long term, too. I’m really struggling with what does secondary school look like for my children? Because there are some options. They don’t look anything like what I had expected them to look like. ANd so I’m kind of choosing.

I’m having to choose between a very small school that’s a lovely little school and another school that is just not quite aligning for me from what I value, an education perspective. And so I’m feeling a little bit stuck at this moment. But my kids are still young, so I feel like I have a little bit of time to figure this out. I’m just not sure an option is not going to probably magically appear in the next one to three years. So this is a huge concern for my family right now. On the other side is the medical piece, which I mentioned. This is not just for people who have medical problems. This is for everyone. As an example, dental care.

We have to do some things for the kids, normal stuff that kids need when they get older, they start to get into braces zone and things like that. And we really like their orthodontist. Dentist orthodontist in this area. But it’s so overcrowded that we couldn’t get an appointment. So we ended up having to move to a new dental clinic, who I also really like. They’re very good, but I had also taken them to Lisbon in the interim. Just like, I need some information, like, I need to get in to see somebody. So we took a trip to Lisbon. We stayed overnight. We did all of this stuff just to see a dentist. And I think that’s ridiculous. I think that the Western Algarve and other areas of Portugal, we’re not alone in this. Smaller areas are way underfunded. They’re very expensive to live in.

So people choose not to live here. If you can make more money. I think that the salaries are actually higher in the north of Portugal, from what I understand, and you can pay less money to live there. Why would you choose to live here? Well, we chose to live here because it’s gorgeous and the weather’s amazing, and we love it. But that doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to make that decision, especially when salaries in Portugal, for Portuguese people in Portugal, are very low. So that’s been a big challenge. And then imagine that not just with your dental care, your pediatrician, all the things.

But then what if you have an emergency and this has happened to us where we had an emergency, and I believe I talked about this on a previous episode, so I don’t want to repeat myself, but er or emergency services, whole hot mess finally got here after, like, 20 minutes plus. Closest pediatrician was an hour away, and we had a life threatening situation. So not acceptable, in my opinion. That’s just, like, really a problem. So it’s tough, because this is something that I’ve really struggled with in that we have so much choice around where we live that sometimes it’s almost like, too much. I’m very grateful for the choice, but when you can choose where to live, sometimes you have all these things in the back of your head going, oh, but this, but that. You could move and you could have these things.

But when we’ve considered moving to, for example, around Lisbon, one of the suburbs, around Lisbon, Porto area, we feel like we would give up so much good here to move to somewhere that we’re not sure that we’re going to love as much. But then we, of course, have these very real things that we’re navigating. The medical care. The medical care is getting worse, not better here. It has receded. The pediatric care has slowly been disappearing since we moved here, and it’s really bad right now. There is not access for emergent cases, for pediatrics and even physicians. I know, say, like, if your kid has a serious medical issue, go to Lisbon, which is two and a half hours away. So it’s a real concern.

I think about it a lot, and we have roots here now, so we’ve been here for four years, and so it’s something that we’re really thinking about as we consider what our life looks like and where we want to be long term and all of the things that one thinks about. It’s different, though, because if were in our hometown, I lived in Boise still, I don’t think it ever would have crossed my mind to move somewhere else, to go somewhere else, because X, Y or Z wasn’t working for me. And so again, there’s that. The blessing and curse sometimes, of having so much choice and then also weighing as a mom, this stability. Like, my husband and I are very happy here. We love it. Here, the kids love it here, the kids need stability.

If were to move for these two reasons, those would be the only reason we would move school and medical care. What if that move means less good and it ends up being a bad decision when we actually have a lot of good here? So all the things that I’m thinking through and we’re weighing, we’re not making any major decisions right now, will be in the Algarve for the foreseeable future. My desire would be to live here long term and to spend more time in Idaho. I do really miss home, and I’ll talk about that a little bit more in a few minutes. On to what it’s like to run a location independent business in Portugal. So it’s interesting because I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot, especially as our team has grown. We added a new team member, we moved some team members.

We’re kind of really trying to get really solid in each of our roles and focusing on systems and client experience and all these things. And one of the things that I have noticed as we’ve been going through this is that I’m really loving having some team that’s here local. So now we have two team members that are in the area. One’s in the Algarve, not in my city, but close, and then one’s in Porto. So I get to see her pretty regularly because she comes back pretty frequently. And then we have a couple few team members in the US and the Northwest, and most of my clients are also in the United States.

So it’s interesting, I have these little hotspot cities where I will often have multiple clients in one specific city, and sometimes they’re not big cities either, and they’re not always even referred. So it’s not like I knew somebody from this city and they referred a friend. It’s just kind of funny. So I have quite a lot of people that I work with in California, and I have a number that are kind of along the East Coast. East CoAST is a lot easier when you are navigating the European time zone between Europe and East Coast London Lisbon time and East coast is only 5 hours. But it can be really tricky when I have somebody that’s in Pacific time, which I actually have a lot of people on Pacific time California.

And so that’s my only challenge right now, is just like trying to make time for everyone. I am really super protective Mama bear about my calendar, and so that means that I am only opening typically three afternoons a week for calls. What that means is that my calls get booked. Really. First of all, clients all get their calls on the calendar immediately because otherwise, who knows when we will find time. But also, this means that sometimes it can be tricky finding times to connect with people because of the time zone change. At the same time, it’s really helpful for me because I need my mornings. My mornings are like my focus time. I have to have that space and that time to be really laser focused.

And so it’s naturally enabled me to protect my mornings being here in Portugal and working with people that are in the United States, because I can only meet with them in the mornings, or, sorry, in the afternoons, which is in their mornings. So that has worked out really well. One thing I am noticing, though, as I just grow my business, it changes. I change. There’s so much that moves and changes about a business, especially one like mine, when I’ve been in business for 14 years. At this point, I’m just noticing that I am craving a little bit more connection. And I mentioned that with the team, but I’m also craving professional connection, just being around other people. And I’m trying to solve this through being a part of groups.

So I am a member and now on the board of the Entrepreneurs organization Accelerator program. I joined a mentorship group recently. I talked about that in a previous episode and went to New York for that, got some time with other women and got to meet some really wonderful people. But it’s a little tough to have to make these big trips to have that connection with other people. So I’m navigating that. I’m really grateful that I have some friends in Europe that we can connect, that we’re professional friends, but we also really care about each other’s people. And so in the next month, in fact, in a couple of weeks, I’m going to Lisbon, some friends from London are coming in. We’re going to a conference together. Actually, about the time when you listen to this, actually, I will be there.

So I’m going to be spending time with these women. So that’s really important. But I’m navigating this because for a lot of my career, I actually really liked being alone. And I never really felt like I needed to be around other people. But I think part of that is that I was in Idaho for a lot of it, for eight years of my business, or Ohio or in Idaho. And in Ohio I was in a graduate program, so I was seeing people all the time in Idaho. I co founded and was on the board of a organization for editors and writers. And I was speaking and I was out. I was doing this, I was doing that. And so professionally, I was so engaged, so connected. I felt like I knew everybody in the professional community.

And now my world is so much wider and I’m being really intentional about my friendships locally and really investing in those and leaning into the people that add value to my life and that I feel add value to their life. But professionally, too, I’m thinking about how do I nurture that part of my, how do I meet that need that I am feeling to be with other people, to be in community with other people, to learn from other people, to help other people grow? There’s that piece that I actually am feeling very nurtured in that way. Right now. I feel like my cup is full, but I know my cup is full because I have done a lot of things to fill that. And I’m mindful of the fact that if I don’t think about this intentionally, that cup could become depleted.

So that’s something I’m very cognizant of right now and thoughtfully crafting my travel schedule and all of that. At the same time, I have been really a lot better about taking some time off work to be with my family. Tomorrow is a public holiday here. Maybe never, maybe once or twice in the four years that we’ve been here, taken off a public holiday to spend with my family. I’m not taking off the whole day, but I am taking off a half day. We’re going to go to the beach with friends. So some of those things just to me, it’s being really thoughtful about in the business. I’m asking this question of do I need to be the one to do this thing? And if not, who on the team, now that I have the team, can own that fully.

And then in my personal life, with my family, with my friends, I am really making sure that I am trying. Well, I’m doing my best to be present and to plan time with them and to be intentional. So all of that is just something that I think maybe I’m noticing more because we spent that month in the United States and I got so much time with my deep friends, my people that I’ve known most of my life. And that was very fulfilling for me. And so it’s been something on my mind. Which brings me to the topic of how our trip to the US impacted my feelings about moving abroad or living abroad, I should say. I loved our time at home. I loved being with my family, my mom and dad. I loved being with my friends who are like family.

I have some of the best friends in the world. They’re amazing. I’ve known them since I was young. I have one friend I’ve known since I was six. And a lot of my closest friends I’ve had since I was between eleven and 14 years old. Being home, there were two sides to it. One was feeling so nourished and loved, just feeling wrapped in the love of the people that I love. And then the other side of that was just having to leave. That. That was really hard. I saw one of my friends when I went to see her. The first. I think it was maybe like the. It was the first week were there. Maybe like the second or third day. I went to her house in the morning before both of our families were up so we could go on a walk.

And I just started crying when I saw her. I mean, it was like all of this loneliness. Not lonely in the sense of, I have so many friends, we’ve stayed connected. I’m not a lonely person, but loneliness for that person. It had been four years, well, not quite close to four years since I had gotten to give her a hug. So that part of it is very hard. And it was very painful to leave. And I think it really rerouted this sense of both and that I’ve carried since we moved abroad. I never left the United States, thinking I wouldn’t come back. Like, I always had this idea that we would go, we’d have this experience, and then we’d move home. I never intended to be here for four years. Never. I was open to it. But it was not our plan.

Two years was our plan. And then were like, okay, we’ll be open. We’ll see how we feel. Here we are over four years later, and I’m really happy. I want to stay. I like it here. I’m happy. But I don’t see myself living a life where I only visit home every few years. My hometown is great. I love Boise. And my people are, like, amazing. They’re truly the best people. So it’s really anchored for me for what the future holds for us. I’m hopeful that with COVID being in kind of like a post COVID era, acknowledging it still exists, not saying it doesn’t, but we’re not in those restrictive times. That in the future, I’m hoping we can spend about a month in Idaho. One trip a year feels doable, reasonable, and it feels important to me that we do.

Not just a week, but we go for like a month, roughly, maybe even a little longer, maybe like, five weeks. And then in the long term, we really can’t do this now because the kids are in school. But I envision Doug, my husband, and me having a place in Idaho and a place in Portugal and really kind of going between the, you know, back and forth a lot. But maybe we spend three or four months in Portugal, and then we go back to Idaho for a couple of months and then back to Portugal, and then this year, we’re like, okay, we want to spend Christmas in Idaho. Let’s go to Idaho. So I envision a very both and life.

As much as I can’t really envision right now moving fully back to the US, I’m not letting go of that part of my life by any stretch. And I still very much am an Idaho girl. I still want to spend time there, and I still want to be connected to my community. I really love my hometown and my community, much in the same way that I’ve grown to love my new town and my new community here in the Algarve. So. So many complicated feelings in this episode. I got a little choked up there when I was talking, know, missing my people. But I think, overall, these are real and raw and complicated feelings that a person has when you leave a place that you love and people that you love. And there’s always. At least.

Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but it’s certainly been true for me across all of the countries that we’ve lived in, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Thailand, even in the state of Ohio, that even as much as I am in the place that I am and enjoying the experiences that it’s never. I will never be able to let go of this part of myself and this piece of my heart that’s always going to be in Idaho. So, yeah, it’s complicated, but that’s how I’m feeling right now. That’s my Portugal update. I hope this was interesting. I don’t know what the word is to say, but maybe at least gives you some insight into me. Stacy, as a person outside, know all the things that I talk about on this podcast. Location independence, book writing.

Since that’s what I do professionally, I coach people who are writing powerful nonfiction books. There is this whole other side to me. Stacy the mom. Stacy, the sister. I got to see my sister recently, and that was so beautiful and painful, too. Stacy, the daughter, the friend. There’s all these other sides to me outside of all of the things that I get to share with you on all the different platforms. And I really appreciate you spending your time with me. And listening to my heart for these 30 or so minutes. On a little side note, speaking of all of the social places, did you know that this podcast is now on YouTube? Yes, I have like a whopping 74 followers. I think as of this recording on YouTube, it’s a growing, burgeoning channel.

But if you like things in visual format, head over there, you might be able to see. I’m going to check my little video here. Oh, yes, you can see today I’m in casual mode. My hair was actually slightly wet when I started. Oh no, it still is slightly wet. But I’m wearing a custom. Well, yeah, it is a custom shirt, but a print from a local artist. And it’s just nice to see. Also, personally, I like to see people’s facial expressions. So the guests that come on, you can see how we play off each other and all those expressions and how they impact the flow of the conversation. I’m also on Instagram at Stacy Ennis. If you’re not following me there, what are you doing with your life? I’m just kidding. But come follow me.

My profile has really kind of exploded from my teeny little, I think, 1600 followers that I had just a few weeks ago and now has really grown significantly. So there’s a lot of fun things going on there. That’s what I want to believe is that’s why you all are showing up. So I hope to see you in those different places. And of course, if you’re not on my email list again, what are you doing with your life? You can head to Join I send a really thoughtful email every single week. I usually send two. And I get a lot of replies from you all saying that these really impact you in a meaningful way. And that’s why I keep writing them. I pour my heart into the emails that I send to you. So that’s it for me today.

I hope you really enjoyed this episode and I will be back with you before you know it. You can always access show notes, including any links mentioned in this episode at Podcast and you can connect with me at Stacynis on Instagram at Stacy Ennis or on Facebook at Stacy Ennis Creative. Thank you so much for joining me this week. Here’s to building lives that are beyond better.

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