Moving To Portugal

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Lots of people have been asking “what are you up to?” and “what have you been doing?” Like so many others we’ve spent the last year or so taking care of ourselves, figuring out ways to fill in the gaps of our travel writing income, and trying to stay positive amidst it all. Unlike many others in our country, we are lucky that we have had a comfortable home and food on our table whenever we wanted it during the pandemic.

Like many of you, we worried, we cried, we laughed, we did puzzles, and we worked from our home.

We wrote a book. What Should I Do Now? that shares all the tips Diana and I have used when trying to decide just that.

And we contemplated our place in the world. We even explored the possibility of moving to Portugal.

 

Sunset at The Edgewater Hotel in Madison wisconsin Food Travelist Food Travel

Wisconsin Is Beautiful

As many of you know we moved to Madison, Wisconsin three years ago to explore a new place and for me to try living somewhere else. After spending my entire life living in Chicago it was time for this traveler to experience living in a new place. It was to be the first stop in what we hoped would be the beginning of our journey to move around the world and experience different places for longer periods of time.

It was also our first swipe at downsizing. We moved from a two-level house with over 4,000 square feet to an apartment about 1,400 square feet. Getting rid of all the “stuff” we had inadvertently collected was an interesting, emotional, and unexpectedly freeing exercise.

When we first moved to Wisconsin we lingered at supper clubs, sipped Old Fashioneds, ate brats and cheese curds, and sampled many Friday night fish frys.

 

We explored the Ice Age Trail by walking 40 Miles in 40 Days in the Ice Age Challenge. Experiencing breathtaking views while maintaining social distancing in 2020. We hiked many trails enjoyed the lakes, streams, and beautiful scenery throughout Wisconsin.

 

Old Fashioned at Knob Hob Food in Kenosha Wisconsin
Old Fashioned at Knob Hob Kenosha Wisconsin

 

We experienced the small-town charm of Beloit, the Cheese Fest in Monroe, and it was like stepping into a Swiss wonderland in New Glarus. Kenosha provided a look at a town close to Illinois on Lake Michigan with friendly beaches and day charter fishing. We saw our first wiener dog races at the Wauktoberfest in Waunakee and celebrated Oktoberfest in Milwaukee and Germantown. We ate at the legendary Ishnala supper club in the Wisconsin Dells and watched the sunset on Lake Mendota.

Madison Capitol Building At Night
Madison Capitol Building At Night

 

Our home base here in Madison is exactly as advertised. A welcome spot for everyone. A community still growing and learning from each other. One that respects nature and spends a lot of time outdoors enjoying its lakes and countryside. Hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and ice skating make Madison and Wisconsin a year-round outdoor paradise.

Then The Pandemic Hit 

One of the things that we did toward the end of 2019 was decide that we were going to travel less and enjoy our home more. In 2019, we went on 16 press trips, most out of the country. While we love traveling we were exhausted. When we were home we were busy writing and always playing catch up. When Diana’s Mom passed away suddenly in October of 2019 we needed to travel to LA several times to help with family matters and close her home. We even stayed home for Christmas, a first for us in a long, long time.

When 2020 rolled around we passed on our annual trip to NYC in January 2020 for the IMM (International Media Marketplace) travel conference. This is a marquee event for travel writers to meet with destinations and travel brands to discuss potential partnerships and trips. Not wanting to be tempted to plan trips, we just weren’t ready to get back on the road. We didn’t know that any travel we thought we might take in 2020 would never happen.

We started to hear about this strange COVID-19 virus in mid-February from friends in Asia. It sounded scary but surely it wouldn’t come to the U.S. A few weeks later, like the rest of the world, we started planning how to stay in our home and protect ourselves as best we could.

Long-time readers will know that Diana has a set of lungs that went through September 11th in NYC. As someone who lived in nearby Battery Park City, she has what is commonly known as the “WTC cough.” Anytime she gets a cold or any respiratory infection it turns into a bronchial infection and the cough worsens. I made it my personal mission to protect Diana and myself. The first few weeks our apartment looked like a staging area of the movie “Silkwood.” Opening packages in the hallway with a mask on, scrubbing down packages before they could come into the house. Washing up like I was heading into surgery afterward. Our home was never this spotless from top to bottom. Bleach and sanitizers were our new best friends. You all know the drill. It was exhausting.

When things started to settle down a bit in the summer we could a least feel comfortable leaving the house and going for daily walks. Our mood and sanity improved vastly. We still watched the numbers and stayed away from everyone but we felt like things would eventually get better, there was hope.

During that time we started to talk about other places we might want to move to. We fantasized about warmer climates and ocean waves.

Dreaming of Portugal

Since we started Food Travelist we have had the privilege of traveling to many places in this country and around the world. Every destination is unique and special in its own way.

Sometimes when you visit a place you feel a special connection with it. This typically happens immediately. Like the first time, I went to Paris. I had dreamed of going to France since I did a report on Paris in 6th grade. I remember cutting out little pictures and carefully pasting them in my binder (no fancy Powerpoint presentations back in the ’70s!). Just the excitement of the possibility of traveling there someday sent me over the moon. When I first arrived in Paris it was like meeting an old friend. So many familiar places and yet so many new ones to explore.

There have been other places that have felt this way to me. Germany reminds me of my family and I love it there, too. But when I first traveled to Portugal on a press trip by myself I fell in love immediately with the place, the people, and of course all the wonderful food.

The Literary Man Hotel Obidos Portugal
The Literary Man Hotel Óbidos Portugal

 

I vividly remember calling Diana when I arrived at our hotel that first evening. We were at The Literary Man Hotel in Óbidos, Portugal. Óbidos is a World Heritage literary site. In other words, it’s a mecca for readers and writers alike. There are libraries everywhere in town. The grocery stores, the churches, and yes the hotel had little nooks with bookshelves full of books to curl up with.

I couldn’t wait to tell Diana about the magical place I was lucky enough to be in. Lucky because a friend of mine had been invited on the trip and couldn’t make it. She mentioned to the organizer that I wrote about food & travel and would be a great addition in her place (I’m forever grateful, Barbara!). I know that Diana must have been surprised because frankly, I’m not a gusher. I love to travel but I don’t typically get that excited about a place. Especially a new place. I usually take my time making a judgment. Getting the lay of the land and sussing out the situation. Definitely not the case on this trip.

Every place we went from the beaches to the cathedrals with huge lemon trees in the courtyards drew me in even further.

Lemon Trees in the Courtyard of Convento of Cristo Tomar moving to portugal
Lemon Trees in the Courtyard of Convento of Cristo Tomar

 

After spending four days in Portugal I returned and told Diana that we needed to travel there together. I said the magic words, “I think I can live there” and we should consider moving to Portugal. That certainly made Diana’s head spin. As most have figured out by now, Diana is way more adventurous than me. She’s lived in many cities both in the U.S. and abroad. So when she saw my excitement she couldn’t wait to travel to Portugal with me to see if Portugal could become our next home.

Should I Move to Portugal?

To make a long story, well, longer… After a long while, we were finally able to get back to Portugal together in 2019. We went on a press trip to Madeira (which is spectacular, highly recommend a visit). By extending our trip and travel around Portugal  Diana could see what had turned me into a Portugal lover.

Santana Madeira What To Do In Madeira
Santana Madeira

 

Thankfully, she fell in love with Portugal and its people immediately. As we drove from Lisbon to Porto and back we stopped at many lovely towns and villages as we thought about the possibility of moving to Portugal.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2020. We started doing some serious research (by we I mean Diana) on what it would take to move to Portugal. We joined Facebook Groups, like Woman Over 50 Moving to Portugal, we talked to our ex-pat friends who lived in other countries.  When COVID hit we didn’t know what that would mean for our business, for travel in general, and for the possibility of moving abroad.

 

Platter of Limpets in Madeira
Platter of Limpets in Madeira

 

We slowed down our research and focused on staying safe and taking care of each other. Portugal never left our minds or our conversations. Anyone who regularly participates in our weekly Twitter chat #FoodTravelChat on Wednesdays became used to our many answers that were favorites from Portugal. Photos of pasteis de natas, limpets, octopus, and beaches filled our social media feeds.

Lunch at Fajã dos Padres Madeira Portugal moving to portugal
Lunch at Fajã dos Padres Madeira Portugal

 

By the fall, we were hopeful that COVID would be in control, or at least a vaccine would be available soon so we decided to start the paperwork to obtain a D7 visa. This would allow us to go to Portugal for four months and then meet with the immigration department to register for a two-year visa. It’s typically known as a retirement visa but we can continue work. Since all of our work can be done virtually (thank you, technology) we will continue to work. I’ll still be teaching at Roosevelt University in the Communications department and we’ll both be writing and pursuing our consulting businesses.

In the beginning, we kept our plans to ourselves. Only the few people we worked with on getting the necessary paperwork and some other ex-pat friends knew what we were doing. Because we didn’t know if it would all come together, or if COVID would keep us in the U.S. we thought it better to hold off until we were sure we would be going.

We’re Going!

As we always say, we’d rather be lucky than smart and typically we are very lucky. Our paperwork went through quickly. Faster than usual. There were a few minor glitches and surprises along the way but all in all with a lot of assistance from experts and our guardian angels we received our visas.

We were also lucky to get our COVID -19 vaccines too. Like everyone else who waited and wanted to get the vaccine, we were overcome with relief and gratefulness when we finally got them. Our gratitude to the scientists and healthcare workers during this time cannot be understated.

With our visas and our shots, we were ready to go. What once seemed like a dream was becoming reality. Our journey will begin as a road trip in a few days. A road trip with two little anxious cats, Jake and Amelia, who have no clue why we keep getting rid of comfy chairs and couches they have become so accustomed to.

When we leave Madison, we’ll head to Chicago to kiss and hug my family, then travel to Cleveland for a night before we get to Newark where we will leave for Lisbon, ultimately arriving at our apartment in Cascais about 25 minutes west of Lisbon.

 

Cascais moving to portugal
Cascais, Portugal

 

Follow Along Our Move To Portugal

Excited. Anxious. Scared. Happy. Yep, we’re all of the above. We’re not going to candy coat the experience. There will be ups and downs, we know that. You will get the facts on why we did it, how we did it, and what it’s like to move to Portugal and live there. We’ll be honest, we’ll be transparent because that’s what we do. We hope that you’ll follow along with us on this exciting journey.

We’ll be talking about learning Portuguese, checking out international moving companies, the cost of living in Portugal, and how many people retire in Portugal.

We’ll be posting here on the site and on social media and through articles on Travel Awaits and Getting on Travel. We’ve already written many articles on Portugal. Check them out and you’ll get a good idea of why we chose Portugal as our next home.

How Portugal Stole Our Hearts

What Happens When You Visit The Beautiful Center of Portugal

Porto vs. Lisbon: 7 Key Differences to Know

Driving Tour of Portugal: 8 Destinations to Visit

A Visit To the Fairy-Tale Town of Obidos, Portugal 

Why Aveiro, The Venice of Portugal, And Costa Nova Are Must-Visit Destinations

Eating Local In Portugal: The Best Food and Drinks to Try

Tantalizing Tastes in the Beautiful Center of Portugal

Why Madeira is Portugal’s Best Kept Secret

Madeira: Portugal’s Hidden Luxury Gem

Exploring Wine From Portugal

If you have any questions along the way please let us know. If you come and visit, and we hope you do, the first pastel de nata is on us. Obrigada!

 

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Portugal pin

37 thoughts on “Moving To Portugal

  1. I can’t wait to be able to travel into Portugal! I’m currently in southern Spain so only a couple of hours from the border. Your love of Portugal has really shone through and made me want to visit it even more!

    1. Thanks, Krista! I looks like the Spain/Portugal borders are now open. I hope you get to visit Portugal soon.

  2. Sue: It’s so great to read this exciting update! Congratulations on your BIG MOVE TOO! My wife and I will have to visit you there someday! Enjoy! Reggie

    1. Awww! Thanks so much Reggie. So good to hear from you. Please do come and visit.

  3. Welcome to Portugal…so happy to have you two here! Tom and I send our very best wishes on your settling into life in Portugal, and look forward to comparing notes. So far, from octopus and seafood binge to pasteis de nata, it looks deliciously familiar!

  4. This is terrific news! So wonderful to follow your adventures. Portugal has been on our travel list – we look forward to hearing all about the move and your new experiences!

  5. It’s been so fun and inspiring to follow your journey! What an amazing adventure awaits you and I will be looking forward to each post and sharing a drink or two with you this fall in Portugal!

  6. Hi Sue,
    My husband and I have decided on Portugal for our first slow European travel..3 months! Where should I dcwe base ourselves?

    1. That depends on what you want to do and see. The two major cities Lisbon and Porto are great starting points. But if you want to stay one place and explore from there you should look at the center of Portugal. It’s full of wonderful towns like Obidos, Tomar and Fatima.

  7. Big congratulations to you, Diana, Jake and Amelia! How exciting, I’m surely going to follow along and can’t wait for all your adventures, especially everything you eat! Also, very curious how the babies will like Portugal. We have 2 cats too! So excited for you all!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Brenda. So far the cats have been making the transition pretty well. They miss some of their things in the US but they are coming and we’ll be getting a few new things two. Jake has his favorite toy so he’s pretty happy.

  8. Congratulations!!!! I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading this post. I am so excited for you two and your next adventure! The way you describe first falling in love with Portugal – that’s how I felt visiting Seville and I know I will end up back there. Can’t wait to follow along on your Portuguese adventure and hopefully live abroad again myself one day!

  9. Oh, this is a great story of the transition, and I’m so excited for you. I’ll follow along…and hope to look you up in Portugal some day.

    1. Thank you, Kristin! We hope to see you in Portugal one day.

  10. Great article! I have to read the others! Can’t wait for you two to get here and we can meet in person (after you have a chance to decompress)!

  11. This is so exciting! I can totally understand your attraction to Portugal. Wonderful country and people. Your story rings very familiar to me. A relatively recent move to a new place and experiencing it to the fullest, surviving 2020, and thoughts of moving abroad. We just haven’t made a firm decision to make a move. Whether we do or not, I always like to have options. I’ll be following along with your story.

    1. Thanks so much, Cathy. Come and visit us in Portugal.

  12. What a wonderful chapter of your life you are entering with the move to Portugal. We know you will love the sights and sounds, but it will be Wisconsin’s loss. Stay safe and keep us up to date on all of the amazing adventures you find in your new locale.

    1. Thanks so much Jeff and Crystal. We’ll always hold our time in WI close to our hearts.

  13. You are joining our growing list of friends and associates moving to Portugal and Europe. Well thought out. Follow your heart and safe travels.

  14. I’m so excited for you and Diana. I can see why you love Portugal. I can’t wait to follow along. And maybe I’ll come and visit some day. I loved Portugal too when I was there several years ago. This pandemic has made me think about relocating to a warmer climate as well. So I went south this past winter and plan to do it again in 2022. Happy travels!

    1. Thanks so much, Judy! Hope to see you in Portugal.

  15. Sue and Diana, I am so proud of you ladies following your heart and your dreams together. This is amazing news and I am so very exicted for your journey together to continue! My sister-in-law’s folks are from Portgual and still visit each Summer! (well- besides this year with Covid). I am excited to see your adventures and wish you all the luck and love in the world!

    1. Thanks so much, Candace. It means the world to us to have your support.

  16. I am so excited for you. I have only been to Portugal once but I also feel in love at first sight. My introduction to the country was in staying with an old college friend at his apartment in Cascais, so my head is full of images of your first home there. I definitely want to take you up on that Pasteis de Nata.

    1. Thanks so much, Donna. Yes!! Please come back to Cascais and continue your exploration of Portugal.

  17. I’m so happy for you! Congratulations on this exciting new adventure! I have always been curious about Portugal and I’ll be following along.

    1. Thank you so much!! We hope you enjoy learning more about Portugal as we begin our new journey.

  18. Congrats, Sue and Diana! Your post gave my goosebumps, as you are making a life move that I have long wanted to do: move to an exciting place that doesn’t have snow! I have enjoyed your posts about Portugal and they (and the writings of others) have put Portugal on my radar. I’ve learned of a chocolate-themed hotel and spa in a small town with nearby chocolate factory in the Porto area. It’s on the top of my post-COVID travel wish list. Now that you and Diana will be in Portugal, I shall try and manifest a visit as soon as I’ve had my second COVID shot (I get my first next week and the second may take up to 4 months.) Here’s to a great future!

    1. Thanks so much Doreen. You’ll need to check out the Chocolate Festival in the adorable town of Obidos. You’ll love it!

  19. Congratulations! I know exactly how you feel as it was how we felt when we gleaned our Portuguese residency. All of the hoop jumping is more than worth it. Porto is our home-away-from-home. Maybe we’ll see you there!

    Viagens seguras!

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