When we moved from Thailand to Portugal back in 2019, we weren’t sure what to expect. My husband and I had lived in two countries prior to having kids, the Dominican Republic and Vietnam, and we’d only lived ten months in Thailand after realizing it wasn’t for us. Living in Thailand was hard—and also wonderful and challenging and meaningful and even a bit traumatic—but we weren’t ready to go home to Idaho. We knew that living a full life meant following our desire to explore the wide world. And we wanted to raise brave, global citizens who felt at home no matter where they lived, while also feeling anchored in our family.
People are often surprised to know we didn’t take a scouting trip to Portugal before moving here. We hadn’t even been to Europe! We watched endless hours of YouTube videos, read blogs and government websites, consulted with an attorney, and checked in with our family vision and personal values. So while we had an idea of what we might experience coming here, we had never actually been here, so when I say “we weren’t sure what to expect,” I mean it. Videos and articles can only do so much.
Now, two and a half years later, I’m so grateful we took this leap into the mostly unknown. Portugal has surpassed our expectations in nearly every aspect of our everyday, from quality of family life to schools to culture to access to nature. And importantly, not only have we loved living here, but we’ve found a level of contentment and presence I wasn’t expecting.
So with all that said, here’s why Portugal makes us better humans.
#1 You can’t feel sad in the sunshine.
You can’t be sad with all this sunshine. The Algarve gets around 300 days of sunshine per year, and while the winters can be unpleasant indoors due to the lack of insulation, even in modern homes, the discomfort is short-lived. There are only a couple of winter weeks a year when it’s too rainy to adventure outdoors. Good weather equals active bodies and good moods, which make us all happier.
#2 Nature, nature, everywhere and so much to explore.
Nature is centering and healing. Even though the pandemic has mostly kept us in our region of the Algarve—the southernmost region of the country—we haven’t gotten bored of the natural landscapes to explore. There is always another beach to visit, trails to hike, or view to experience. Because of the microclimates in the Algarve, there is also natural diversity, so even a short drive takes us to new, enriching landscapes.
#3 Affordability makes a good life accessible.
As the sole earner for my family, I had to include this one. Portugal is one of the most affordable places to live in Europe, and while it was a bit more expensive than my hometown before we moved, now it’s about on par. To be fair, we pay about twice as much for everything here as compared with Thailand, but we are also multiples happier, so that pricing seems fair to me.
#4 New experiences equal creative enrichment.
As a writer and business owner, creativity is everything. If I can’t focus and create, I’m in trouble. Here, I feel a level of presence and creative connection that was harder to come by back in Idaho. Why? I think it’s because of the richness of my everyday and the fact that I’m living a life anchored in my vision and values. Scientific research shows the brain is more active when in places that feel different—such as new cities or landscapes—and especially when one is traveling. Because we are foreigners and don’t speak the language yet, even everyday experiences still feel like a travel experience, which increases my sense of presence.
#5 Living in alignment with one’s values and vision contributes to presence and focus.
Back when we were living in Idaho, I drew a picture of the life I wanted. It was a simple sketch of my family in an airplane, half of a clock, and me talking with people. At the time, I was a slave to my desk, trading hours at my computer for dollars as a book editor. The airplane represented my family exploring the world; the half clock represented making twice as much money in half the time; and me talking with people represented making money without having to be alone with a manuscript.
Don’t get me wrong—my life wasn’t bad at the time. But I also know it’s so easy to fall into the “I should be grateful” trap when you’re not really happy. It’s hard to do hourly work as a service-based business owner, because when you become more efficient at what you do, you get penalized for it. I envisioned shifting to value-based work that included actually talking with people. Imagine that!
There’s no tiptoeing around it: I accomplished what I set out to do. Today, I am 100% living my dream, earning many times what I did back then—much more than 2x—and getting to interact with amazing humans through my client work, team, and accelerated author program.
I believe that’s because my husband and I took the bold leap to write our own story and live a life we designed. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been meaningful. And I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.
What is one thing that improves your life, whether it’s a location you live in or a small shift you made, such as investing in a proper office or getting up earlier each day? Share with me! I love learning from you.
That is so cool you guys just took off for the great unknown. Good for you guys. You must have a great hubby! Came across your blog from a Reedsy blurb and just wanted to say hello. Love Portugal and actually was learning the language for a few years there. Out of practice but Duolingo is a good place to start. Looking forward to next week’s webinar. Ariel Paz
Thank you, Ariel! It’s been a journey—one I’m grateful to be on. Hello back, and I’ll see you at the webinar next week. 🙂