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Accessible Algarve

Goodbye America…How Are You?

First Published September 11th 2010 by Constance 

In the words of my favorite overdosed blues rocker, Janis Joplin, “Tomorrow man, there ain’t no tomorrow…it’s just all one day…ya know man” then she slurred her way into the epic “Try” and into my personal herstory books.

My “one long day” is rising and setting on the western coast of Portugal.  With three pieces of luggage weighing 70 pounds each, a laptop and my Euros, my passport and fiscal number, my one way ticket in hand, I boarded the one plane a day into Lisbon.  “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”, an inspirational earworm singing in my head, thanks Janis and of course Kris.

Now here I am, north of Lisbon, in a tiny village on the Atlantic.  The only U.S. citizen around as far as I can tell. OK by me!  After a month of taking all this in, this is what I have learned and am sharing in case you are thinking of selling everything and fleeing to a new land: 

  • ANY PLANS YOU MADE BEFORE YOU LEFT WILL CHANGE. (But that is the adventure part)
  • Bring your favorite pillow(s).  They cannot be replaced.
  • Small home décor is essential; I brought a travel Buddha, small piece of art, all my CDs, my bamboo sheets, a lovely brightly designed spread, works for bed or a couch and my trusty leatherman tool. If you take Xanax or anything like that at home, you will take it where you move to, at least at first, don’t kid yourself.  Get a good supply and then you can find a MD when you are settled.
  • Extra sunglasses, mine broke…can’t seem to find them as easily here.  No CVS in villages.
  • Phrasebook in the language of the country.  Seems like a no brainer.  Well, I will be off to see the wizard in the am.
  • A watch, they use military time here, so after 12 noon who know what the hell the time is!
  • Flash drives for your laptop.  You may not have a printer and need to make copies.  Any tech stuff seems more expensive.  I can’t believe I didn’t take those little things!
  • Upon arrival get a pay as you go cell phone, very inexpensive and you will meet people and want to be able to keep in touch.  You can’t be by your Skype all the time; you want to have a life!
  • Learn to double kiss on the cheek, only use for friends.
  • Be very nice to the elderly, always smile and greet them in their language.
  • Learn how to count the money; the shop keepers will be very friendly to you if you do.
  • Don’t worry about how you look in a bathing suit, no one else does.  Just put it on and have a blast.  The beaches are amazing!  Swim with ruins of castles!
  • Naps are good.  Snacks are good.  Eat late and party like a local.  You will not gain weight…trust me, I am healthier than I have been in years.
  • Be very, very careful with the real estate agents who “specialize” in foreigners…translation…they know I am stupid and believe everything.  Wait!  Don’t be charmed by the dream.  EVERYBODY TOLD ME TO RENT FOR A WHILE, did I listen? No.  Did I make a bad mistake? No, just a small to medium one. .
  • Open a bank account in a local bank if you are going to stay in the area for a length of time.  Develop a relationship with your representative at the bank. It isn’t play money, it’s real it’s just looks really pretty.
  • Find an all purpose lawyer who speaks English…refer to real estate agent tip.
  • If a local asks you dinner, they may not mean it.  They may want to have you to their home for dinner, but really can’t afford it, at least in rural areas.  Don’t make a big deal of it, just go along with it and be friends. If you hang out with other ex-pats, you will be learning two languages instead of the one you want to learn.  I am living among many British ex-pats.  So, instead of Portuguese, my brain is soaking in British.  I am saying things like;   lift, tidy up, spot on…I can’t help myself.  I will never make fun of Madonna again!  Where my partner, who comes from England, is making much better progress because he already knows British.  He only has to learn one language.
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