Living the dream… 3 years on

Can you believe, it’s three years this week since we sold our UK home and moved to the Algarve? Would I do it all over again? I honestly don’t know. When I walk down the stairs on a morning, to put the kettle on, it all feels quite normal and natural. And when I open the door onto my roof terrace I still beam at the sight that greets me. Pegging the washing out is interspersed with glances at the glittering sea on the horizon. It dazzles my eyes. Most days I walk through Tavira with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. I go to t’ai chi, or hop a train to nearby Cabanas to play croquet. And when I’m not doing that I’m almost invariably meeting friends, to walk and lunch together. The sun shines most days and I luxuriate in the warmth. Isn’t this the dream? The life I aspired to? I’d have to say yes – though the croquet did come as a surprise.

Can you feel a ‘but’ coming? I still find myself referring to England as ‘home’. Not so easy to shake off all those years. I liked stair carpet under my bare feet, and that comforting sound when the central heating clicked on. Temperature control is still an issue in a Portuguese house in the cooler months. And I’ve failed miserably to gain confidence in speaking the language. A simple task like booking a taxi fills me with dread. Fortunately, I rarely need one. Michael knows that part of his job description is chauffeur. I have a very nice French friend at t’ai chi, but our conversations are a muddle of misunderstanding. Switching between French and Portuguese is beyond me, and I stutter and stammer like an idiot. And then just smile hopelessly. I’m perfecting the Gallic shrug.

The chief regret, of course, is distance from family. I never tried to fool myself that this would be easy, but perhaps I was deluded into thinking that the benefits to my lifestyle would make it worthwhile. The past 2 years have tested that to the limit, and I was never so glad as when we could be together again this summer. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it also hurts. We have a fleeting visit to Leeds planned for Christmas, but already government restrictions are in place for next month. Who knows what might happen to jeopardise things? Friends here have a transient lifestyle, returning often to the UK, and that is unsettling in itself. We live for the day, as we should, for none of us are young. Each separation could be the last. I don’t want to be maudlin, but I try to be honest. We have a friend who is planning to make a permanent move out here next year. What should I tell her? I wish I knew.

I read back through Living the Dream before I posted this morning. What a saga of ups and downs! Memories trigger memories, don’t they? As I’m writing this I remember all the good times. Wave upon wave of hugs and smiles. No use to dwell on the lost 18 months. I have to move forward with hope. There is no other way.

101 thoughts on “Living the dream… 3 years on

  1. Algarve is a wonderful place from Sunrise to Sunset. Time flies when are having a great time living and discovering amazing things in community. Your post reminds me of how it felt loving to California 6 years ago. An exciting time. A grateful time.

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  2. These things are always tricky Jo and it has been unfortunate with the upside down events of the past couple of years. I’m hoping that this latest variant might actually be the ticket out of the pandemic if it proves more infectious (which it seems to be) but less pathogenic. Then it might just be good to get it, even if vaccinated, and get on with it but nothing is certain. We had a reminder of enjoying life in the moment this week when one of dearest friends here received a devastating diagnosis – it certainly shakes you up. We’ve never regretted our relocation Down Under and have no desire to return to the UK (even less in recent years….) but we did enjoy our annual visit to Europe, the ability to travel round and also have overseas visitors here too. Actually in truth we have not missed the travel as much as we thought we would. We now realise how much flying backwards and forwards across the globe took out of us and we have a lovely life here and feel incredibly thankful that Mlle made it back just before the borders closed in March 2020. However it is confronting to ponder when we can safely get over to see our elderly relatives in England again. I do hope your trip see your family at Christmas is possible and sending positive thoughts and love your way xx πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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    • I think the language issue is always going to make me feel like a foreigner here, Rosemay. How could it not? Perhaps I should have gone to Australia or an English speaking country, but then I’d be even further away. No good dwelling on the what ifs, is it? As you say, life can deal some very terrible blows. I’m trying to get into the festive spirit and just hoping it all ends well. Enjoy your family, hon.

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  3. I appreciate the honesty here, Jo. We also moved three years ago, also to a beautiful place. About ten years ago we moved away from family, to the west coast. My son followed a few years alter but all the rest of both our families are back east. We aren’t dealing with a new country but like you, we weren’t able to travel for a while. When we did, it wasn’t easy (that was in May, when things were just getting back on track). For me it’s not just family, it’s also the familiarity you speak of – the plants, the climate, the culture – all are different from what I grew up with. Missing things I grew up with brings regrets but I think I can deal with that. The move three years ago to a more isolated place was supposed to be balanced by regular travel – who would have dreamed a pandemic would stop us in our tracks? I keep waiting for travel to be possible again! I guess we have to be patient and wait this out. It seems endless. It’s true, these are First World problems but they are real nonetheless and again, I appreciate your thoughtful post.

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    • Hi, Lynn! I don’t miss travel as much as I thought I would, so long as we can walk in some varied and different places. Routine sometimes gets me down, but the big issue is my son and family. Our Christmas visit is still full of uncertainty and plans for next year not easy to make. But I’m trying to go into the New Year with a positive attitude. Nothing else helps, does it? Thanks for sharing your thoughts, hon.

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      • With the latest variant, I can understand that trying to plan travel to another country is really a fraught enterprise right now. I was just beginning to think about long-distance travel possibilities next year, and now, ugh. Well, it’s a good thing you had the family visit earlier this year. For now, wait and see. And try to be positive. πŸ™‚

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  4. Our ability to travel, relocate, and make new lives for ourselves in today’s world is both a blessing and a curse. I look at my friends who still live in our old community and feel envy sometimes – their parents are there, their children have resettled there, and their grandchildren are starting to arrive there. It feels like my own childhood where I was surrounded by family and traditions. But having ventured away from my roots as a young adult, now watching my children do the same, and relocating ourselves to a completely different climate and geography almost five years ago, I try to appreciate the sense of adventure that comes with such moves and remind myself of the stagnation I was starting to feel in our old place even as I sometimes pine to return and suffer from painful bouts of nostalgia! Covid certainly exacerbated the sense of isolation at times, and for you having to travel cross-border has made your move feel much more restrictive, I am sure. I hope as this aspect improves, you can feel more at peace with your decision.

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  5. This post really touches me.I love this attitude” moving forward with hope”.
    A friend from the past country we’ve lived sent me a chat saying β€œ Oh you are living a good life there…I envy you”…i thought was it really a compliment or what…?I dunno how should I respond.
    She probably doesn’t have an idea because she never moved.
    Do I still think of myself as an Expat here in Germany after more than 5 years living here? I speak the language and i pay my taxes…but somehow ,in between shifting seasons and overwhelming daily fiasco,I also feel the hurt.But…indeed so many buts!
    Totally can relate esp with the family issues but then you are right,we all should move forward with hope.
    I just wish I could see that beautiful sunrise photo above…so lovely.

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    • People live the expat life for lots of reasons, don’t they? Often work related and that’s a different cup of tea than when you’ve chosen a place. You kind of want it to choose you , as well and language is a barrier to that. I need to make more effort, but yes, I am ‘living the good life’ and sometimes feel guilty for that. But it’s not for everyone, and many of my friends back home wouldn’t think of making the leap. The family is the real hurt for me, but I know I wouldn’t see them so very often if I were in the UK. But I could, if I wanted, and that’s the difference. Many thanks for talking to me about this. Wish you well.

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  6. I know the feeling. It takes some time to get used to it…definitely way, way more than 3 years. I cried almost everyday when I left the Philippines in my first 2 years. Melbourne definitely is home to me now and I agree with you that there is always a β€˜BUT’… Take care, it gets easier in time.

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  7. I did read this the other day, but unable to comment via the phone. I think you know what I’m going to say already. As someone who lived abroad for around 14 years I always considered England to be home and often felt homesick, but I was young then and had different priorities in life. If I could have gotten into Australia when I wanted to (20 years ago now) I am sure I would have been happy enough, but then I wouldn’t have met the OH and I would not have known my daughter’s children or have been able to help her with them when they were born. Life is full of crossroads. We take one turning not knowing if it will be the right one, or the best one and perhaps sometimes we need to go back to a crossroad and change direction. Would I move abroad now? Probably not. I wouldn’t cope with the heat in summer even though I would like the milder temperatures of winter. I like having the 4 seasons, even though I detest the short days of winter, but I don’t mind hunkering indoors with a good book. I also wouldn’t want to be ill abroad and not having family near enough to visit me / support me. A’s illness has made me realise how important that aspect is. I still think you had the best of both worlds when you lived in England and could visit Portugal as and when you wanted to. You were an active person in England and have many friends here too, and you could explore Portugal / walk in the hills etc on your visits so what difference has moving permanently to Portugal made to your life? Other than the weather?

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    • Yes, I do, Jude,and although in many ways I agree, I think I’d struggle to settle back into English life now. There were 2 of us making this decision and part of it was financial. Mick had no desire to be an absentee landlord or to maintain 2 homes. Unless you can afford to do that without rental you’re not really free to come and go as you please. The house was always bought with the intention to move here and we were mindful of the consequences. We hadn’t anticipated that coming and going would be so difficult, but Mick was asked this week if he had any regrets and was adamant he didn’t. He hated the politics in England, not that politicians here are any better. Goes with the territory it seems.. Weather is just weather and you dress accordinly. I can be pretty cold here at times, but I’d be a hermit and a slave to the central heating in the UK.

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  8. Retiring to another country cannot be easy. I find myself forgetting the languages I once could get by on, leave alone trying to pick up a new one. Given that though, Portugal just might be one of the more pleasant places to retire to, people seemed to be very open. But will all that, distance from loved ones is a major factor.

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    • Life is becoming complicated all over again by government restrictions, I. J. I know they feel they have to control this somehow but I can’t see that it’s working. Of course, everyone’s perspective is different and it’s easy to be selfish. Hard to keep the positive feelings going sometimes. Thanks for your thoughts, hon.

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  9. OMG I just found you again! How will I ever catch up?
    At east I’ll be back following you from here on.
    You both are brave. It’s a huge plunge retiring to another country. I think without the pandemic this post would have been quite different.
    Hugs πŸ€—
    Alison xo

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    • I think you’re probably right, Alison. Our Christmas plans have just been thrown into disarray by new government regulations. It’s hard to know what to think or do. Many thanks for following again. It’s been a bit chaotic since I started Still. My own fault, I guess, aided and abetted by WP.

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  10. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Spain on retirement, but after ten years, and upon reaching their seventies, they returned home because the heat had become too much for them. They were fortunate that their family visited often, and they were able to fly back here regularly during the winter months.

    It occurs to me that IF at the time of your move, there had been a few grandchildren that you loved dearly and spent a lot of time with, you may not have made that move after all.

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  11. Such difficult considerations made much harder by the unusual trying times we live in currently. Family makes the equation that much harder. I don’t have kids and have not regretted the move from England to the USA, and from Washington State to Hawaii. Hawaii, of course, is the ‘paradise’ destination. I remember reading a blog about moving to Hawaii and the blogger was saying the biggest drawback for many was they thought family would visit them regularly. But it’s a long way for families with young kids and doesn’t happen like people think it will. Ironically, the blogger moved back to the mainland for the exact reasons he’d written about. In the end, you’ll figure out what’s right for you. And I can guarantee, whatever it is, it won’t be perfect!

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    • It’s true about visiting families. They have busy working lives and have to adhere to school holidays if they have children and they probably don’t always want to go to the same place when they do have free time. I am finding it difficult to even meet up with my children here in England!

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  12. Thanks for this honest post, Jo, (and for that beautiful sunrise photo on the top left.) Although we’re still in the same country, I feel somewhat the same about our move to Arizona from Illinois. People assume we’re thrilled to be here where we don’t have real winter, but I quite liked winter. We’re closer to one daughter but much farther from the other and our friends and because of Covid haven’t made any friends here although we have family. We moved here to help with my aging parents but I didn’t know how quickly it would be time spent there every day. As with you, there are pros and cons and for now, this is where we need to be. Do I want to be here for the rest of our lives? I’m not at all sure but we’ll see what happens.

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    • Your move was for unselfish reasons, Janet, and though you might enjoy trying a different climate I’m not sure that it suits. Thinking about the cold spell that’s hitting the UK now I would dread going back to that on a permanent basis. If we make it ‘home’ to a white Christmas, that’s ok- so long as I don’t slip and break something- but I couldn’t live with it. I’d become a recluse. And we have made so many lovely friends here. That makes a big difference too. Isn’t that part of why we keep blogging, after all? I just wanted to give an honest update. And the taxi did turn up last night- hoorah! We had a great night. Wonder why my head hurts this morning?

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  13. My first thought was how could it be three years already, but then it’s more than five years since we shared that wonderful day with you and Mick in Yorkshire. So much has happened since then. You could never have foreseen what covid would do and the impact it would have on everyone everywhere. The biggest effect has been not being able to see family and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had that happen. There have been nine babies born in our extended family since the start of 2020 and the only one we’ve met is our beautiful grandson. And thank goodness we’ve been able to do that, although there have been restrictions here too and we haven’t spent as much time as we would like with him. Daily videos and photos on our phones have been a blessing. Take it one day at a time Jo, and when this pandemic is behind us you will be able to enjoy the best of both your wonderful worlds.

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  14. I think Margaret21 captures the issues so well. Yes, First World Problems indeed. I can’t help but wonder if my ‘reward’ for never having a close connection to family is that I can so fully appreciate where I am today. (If that makes any sense?) I know I would have huge difficulties coping with a different language though.
    But if you were back in the UK would you then be yearning for the Algarve?

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  15. You took a leap of faith, Jo, and you are among thousands who make this choice to move away from family to another country, or even thousands of miles away within the same country. It’s impossible to predict our world and what the next disaster will be. Strange times for us all these days. When we moved to Washington State, it was to be closer to Hans’ brothers and their families, but that meant leaving California away from both sets of our adult children. We vowed never to chase our kids because I know too many who moved to be closer, then the kids moved! Too hard on retirement incomes and not worth it. Your current lifestyle sounds amazing, but I would be stressed about the language barrier too. At the end of the day, Jo, it’s your life and your choice. Put your feet up and enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friend!

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    • Terri, your post was very similar to what I was about to write. So, I won’t repeat it. Those challenging language barriers, are keeping your brain active. By the way, Les got into croquet before we left for Auckland, he is looking forward to returning to playing. A strategic game plan and the social aspect is what he enjoys. Jo, enjoy that sunshine πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks, Terri. I love my youngsters to bits but I never want to feel we are trailing in their footsteps. They have their own lives to build. But I so want to be there for the stumbles, as my parents were for me. πŸ€—πŸ’•πŸ’•

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  16. I feel for you Jo. Nowhere’s perfect. The grass is never (always) greener. You’d probably not be thinking these thoughts if COVID hadn’t struck, which you could never have taken into consideration in your plans. But yes, we all have to look forward in hope and optimism. Take care.

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  17. I feel for you, Jo. I can’t imagine living in another country, especially if I struggled with the language…which I know I would. Perhaps the talk of more restrictions is adding to your movers remorse. I do think that in time you’ll figure out what’s best for you. I’m finding it hard to believe it’s been three years!

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  18. This post makes me wonder about our dream of retiring to southern Spain. The Visa application alone is so daunting and like you mention, it’s far away from loved ones. For me, it would be even farther. My latest plan is to spend 2-3 months during the winter there. That way we avoid the Visa process and can spend the majority of our frigid winter in a warm place. I also think that anywhere one lives presents challenges as you have described. Like you say, live for the day. Hopefully the coming months will see the pandemic getting closer to the end and you can visit more frequently with your family.

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  19. Oh Jo, I feel you so. It is just like this over here too. I just finished an online chat with my parents and told them we won’t be coming to Slovenia this December. Mom was especially sad to hear it. 😦 Father told her there was a virus on the loose. She said: “Oh no, another one!”

    I love it how you describe your mornings and the view of the sea and all the perks. Think about it. It could be really, really worse. You’ve got so much company!! I got nobody except amore and bestia. And the donkey. And the birds. An occasional bullfrog. For nutrias I need to go a bit further. Right now it’s rainy and murky and I don’t feeling like going anywhere at all. So I’ll watch another part of that Scottish detective…

    All well to you. A beautiful post.

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    • Thanks, sweetheart! I know I have a lovely life and am the envy of many friends in the UK. We were out walking with friends this morning in sparkling sunshine and I have a concert to attend this evening. I’m actually tired and feel like putting my feet up for the rest of the weekend. Perhaps I will!

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  20. Moving is a difficult situation. Two weeks back we took the flight to Toronto on children’s’ insistence. They wanted us near them. As of present with new COVID variants resurfacing it seems a good move.

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  21. The language barrier and missing family are hard ones. These past two years a lot of us have not seen much of family. My brother and sister are a few hours away but they and their families all refuse to get vaccinated. I’m invited there this weekend. I’m boostered but I still have reservations about going. I miss my family too, and they are not so far 😦

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    • I feel your pain. I haven’t seen my sister in over two years and her son and his wife had a baby July 2020 who I have not met yet. I was going to go visit them…..until I learned that nephew and his wife are not vaccinated and aren’t planning to be vaccinated. They just don’t want to. What???? So the most recent plan is to meet my sister in Chicago in the spring. Guess we’ll see if that happens. But I still won’t meet my great niece 😦

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      • I’m kind of in the same boat. The gathering this weekend was to celebrate my sister’s newest grandchild’s first birthday. I haven’t met her and would really love too but all of them refuse to vaccinate and the thought f being in a closed room with hugging and stuff with a dozen people or more makes me cringe. I’ve decided to stay home 😦

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  22. My heart goes out to you, Jo. I too spend time every single day, no matter where I am, thinking of loved ones who are far away, often fond but sometimes fearful, almost panicky thoughts. Rules that prevent loved ones being together seem very cruel, no matter whether they are sorely needed or not. I try hard to accept being wherever I am and to be happy with it, but lots of self-talk is involved and it doesn’t mean seeing a bluebell in Mississippi won’t bring tears to my eyes.
    We are living in unusual times and as you wisely say have to hope things will get better. I admire you because you made a decision and went for it. You’re not here thinking ‘what if?’ And if it helps, the central heating clicking on is not what it once was: most of our power suppliers have failed or are in trouble as fuel prices are going through the roof.

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    • Oh bless! There’s always a bright side, hon. Or a dark side in the case of power failure. πŸ€£πŸ’•I do try to maintain a sense of humour and I also know that my situation is much better than that of many others. Thank you πŸ€—πŸ’•πŸ’•

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  23. Your post clearly shows the conflicts between the possibilities of different lifestyle choices. As I see it, none of them are completely perfect, and dissatisfaction creeps in when we expect them to be so, when we have too high expectations. You seem very realistic about the pros and cons of your decision to move out there. It’s a balancing act and only you can decide in the end which way the scales tip. You do seem to have plenty of pros πŸ™‚ I know of people who moved away for a better life and didn’t find it – maybe they chose the wrong place, maybe they were looking for something that wasn’t there. Of course the pandemic has made the tug of home worse as you’ve not been able to visit. When, eventually, things settle down and you can come over here more often you may find that you have that perfect balance!

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  24. I feel for you, Jo, I really do. As you know, when we moved to France, it was going to be forever. And we were truly happy there, integrated into our community, and lucky enough to have got to grips with the language. But. It was the ‘but’ that got us in the end. And a lot of that ‘but’ was connected with family, and worrying about extreme old age in a different culture. There’s not a week goes by without our thinking about our time in France without a level of ‘homesickness’, and of course we have one daughter who was nearer to us there than here. But we have, I think, made the right decision for us. That’s the important bit though. ‘For us’. We all have to come to our own conclusions, and it’s hard. First World Problems, eh?

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