New Chapter: Living as an Expat in Portugal

Last month I moved to Portugal with my residency visa in tow. That means I’m free to stay as long as I want! (As long as I pay taxes and attend obligatory government appointments.) It was no small feat. I had wanted to make Lisbon my permanent home in 2019, but life had other plans for me.

In fall of 2019, I abruptly left Portugal when I discovered my Thai business partner was stealing from our company. Stealing my designs, my marketing content, and using our seamstresses for her own personal gain.

I was devastated. I had poured my heart, my soul, and all of my savings into the business. But moreover, I had worked side by side along this woman for 3 years and thought that we had a genuine friendship. I was wrong.

After months of heavy stress and consulting with lawyers, I was able to save my business from this train wreck and carry on with a new shop manager. But my love for the work had vanished. I realized that as long as I had the business, I had to watch over things rather constantly. That meant no living in Portugal.

Then Covid happened. I was on the beautiful island of Koh Phangan celebrating my 40th birthday when it did, so I had little relunctance in being “stuck” there, waiting out the end of the world.

Pics from my 40th birthday celebration on Koh Phangan island

Chaloklum Beach, Koh Phangan

As you well know, the end of the world never came. But changes did. In my life and no doubt in yours. I started to take stock of the things that really matter. Developed a deeper appreciation for my time and how I spent it. Alas, I did not want to spend it peddling women’s pants on Amazon. While I do know that my business, Tropic Bliss, was more than that deep down, I also knew I was finished. It was time for the next chapter.

I returned home to Missouri to be closer to my family and see if I could make living in America great again. But I was kidding myself. Seven years in San Francisco followed by 7 years in Thailand had made me 5 levels more liberal than I already was. There was no readjusting to the life of a midwesterner! Still it was more than that. Travel is my high. New cities are my drug.

It took several months of preparation and legal consultation to put together all of my documents for the D7 residency visa here in Portugal. The process was slow and the bureaucracy was often annoying, but I managed it. In January, I was told my visa had been approved.

Returning to Lisbon

Park next to Time Out Market in Lisbon

Whatever naive part of me that thought Lisbon would be the same as when I left it in 2019 was quickly slaughtered. My friends were older now, as was I. Some got engaged, some married, some had children. You know the stages… There was a boat to advance to the next stage of life and I didn’t get on it. So now it was like waving across from my little island to those on the coast who did.

Shamelessly, I’m glad I didn’t take the boat. But a monthly scheduled lunch with friends I once sat up all night talking, laughing and getting drunk with is a shitty consolation prize. Now I realize it’s time to make new friends and find new adventures.

Lisbon has changed to. All those visa handed out have led to double costs on housing in the city center. One bedroom apartments that once went for 750 euros/ month a few years ago are now 1500. And there are bidding wars on them when they become available. Leading the richest folk to get what is available.

After leaving a relaxed life in Thailand and saving so much money I only needed to work part-time, suddenly all the fuss to live in Lisbon eludes me. Don’t get me wrong – the culture here is still fabulous, as are the beaches and the food and the weather. It’s just a little too crowded for comfort at the moment.

Porto or No?

In a few weeks I’m headed to Porto to see if I can nest there for a while. I’ve been there a couple times on vacations and enjoyed it very much. The architecture is exquisite, and it’s full of green spaces. The people seem more laid back – if restaurant staff and Uber drivers are enough indication! It’s a bit colder, but I think I can handle it if the vibe is right. More to come on that… Wish me luck 😉

Ponte Dom Luis Bridge, Porto
Church of Saint Ildefonso, Porto

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