In August, we head to Portugal, and we start over. New city. New school for our kids. New friendships. New doctor, dentist, ophthalmologist, massage therapist. New trails to run, new routes to cycle. New yoga studio. New grocery store, pharmacy, bank, airport. New car and public transit. New house. New favorite restaurants and coffeeshops.
Everything new, new, new, and that’s when I start to crave the old, old, old.
I wrote about the isolation I felt in Thailand, and the hardest moment we had ever faced as a family. I also wrote about the memories and experiences that shifted our family culture and grew us as people.
Last year, we made trips as a family to Vietnam and Singapore, as well as explored our area of southern Thailand. I traveled independently to China and the U.S., plus two solo trips to Vietnam.
Our daughter, who is six, loved all of the travel—but I think especially Singapore. Shortly after our short drive from the airport to our Airbnb—which we later learned was government-issued housing—we went on a walk. “Look, mom!” she said. “There’s no rubbish!” (She’s adopted some British words, which I find exceedingly cute.)
A little while later, “The cars don’t have rust on them!” She chattered on, pointing out the lack of stray dogs, the cleanliness of the restaurants and Uber rides, the manicured parks, and everything else quintessential Singapore. The cable car to Sentosa island and night safari were highlights, as well as the Gardens by the Bay Supertrees Grove and light show—truly one of my all-time favorite travel experiences, in spite of our sleep-deprived kids whining through most of it. Magnificent.
Singapore is ridiculous, in the best way. One evening, we were walking from the Jacob Ballas Children’s Gardens (phenomenal), and the path took us into a sprawling park. It seriously looked staged, straight out of a movie: nicely dressed people playing Frisbee; a family enjoying a picnic, complete with a blanket and basket; a couple strolling, chatting easily; a mother pushing a gurgling baby in a tram. As much as I loved the wildness of Thailand, this scene was almost euphoric, like being transported into perfection for a brief moment.
Shortly after, we had a tantrum-y dinner and exhausted babies, but you know, I take what I can get.
In Vietnam, I think our daughter felt the same fondness for the grittiness and soul as she had for the tidiness of Singapore, but she wasn’t been able to articulate it. We took the kids to a vegetarian restaurant (which I ate at about a million times during my three trips to Saigon), and she ooed and awed over the charming quietness of the place and serene Asian atmosphere (and then refused to eat her dinner). At the Binh Thanh Market, she asked to buy everything in sight, and Max did his standard celebrity selfie with all the Vietnamese shopkeepers who grabbed him for a pose. We wandered around the Saigon Central Post Office, took the kids to our old apartment complex, and ate at the best Indian food restaurant in the world (seriously). So much good food, so many memories, so many hours of hot, whiny children, so little sleep, such full hearts. That was Vietnam.
So with these adventures under our belts, we head soon to Portugal. This will be our fourth country (Dominican Republic and Vietnam pre-kids; Thailand post-kids), and the first developed country we’ve lived in outside of the U.S.
It might surprise you to learn that we have never visited Portugal, and neither of us have set foot on European soil. We have done most of our travel in the Caribbean, Asia, and North America. For the first time, we’ll get to experience what it’s like to live in a safer country with better, more affordable health care than the U.S. In the past, safety and health care has been a compromise. Even at the fancy international hospital in Thailand, for example, the nurse did not wear gloves—and I didn’t see her sanitize her hands—when removing an IV line and pressing on a cotton ball to soak up blood. That’s just one example of many.
This time, we’ve hired a company to help with the move and visa process. I already have my Portuguese health insurance and bank account, and we’ll set up Doug and the kids as soon as my visa is approved around July 4th (fingers crossed). We hope we love Portugal, and that it brings so many positive memories and experiences, and less hardships than Thailand. We hope this is a soul place for us, much like I felt and still feel for Thailand and Vietnam, without the increase in danger and disease. We hope this experience solidifies our resolve for the location independent life, because while there have sure been moments we’ve doubted ourselves over the past year, I still feel on fire for this life we’re choosing.
Life, as you know, is short. It’s fleeting. Parenthood puts into perspective just how quickly time moves. Life can either feel like a long adventure or a painful march to the finish line (a.k.a. death). I choose adventure. We, as a family, choose adventure. I can’t wait for the next one.