The first day, and the night before…

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The day finally arrived. On Wednesday 4th November, my wife and I pulled up outside Gatwick airport, no longer in possession of a house, car or anything tying us to England. It marked the start of a very surreal period in our lives which is currently ongoing….

I loaded all of the cases and bags onto a trolley and my wife left me there to take the hire car back. I struggled across Gatwick with everything and checked into our hotel.

For the next couple of hours I explored the facilities Gatwick airport has to offer (surprisingly few to entertain you after an hour or so, as it happens, and I was almost glad of the frantic thirty minutes I wasted retrieving my mobile phone which I managed to drop in the amusement arcade!) By now, my other half should have arrived back and I made plans to go for a celebratory drink and take my wife shopping for beach attire at the few shops in the airport.

Unfortunately my wife, despite having lived in London for around ten years, is not a seasoned rail traveller – she usually drives, and the chaos of Clapham Junction had served to give her one last London story to tell. Whether she got on the wrong half of the train or fell asleep and missed Gatwick is still being debated, but she ended up zooming down to the South Coast to a place called Barnham, about 5 miles from Bognor Regis. She had to get off, wait for another train and then begin an hours journey back to Gatwick airport, during which she stood up to ensure she stayed awake. Sadly the shops were by now shut, so no beach-wear shopping. There was just time to have one last bit of junk food from Burger King before getting a few hours sleep ready for our early flight.

Tavira - our new homeThe morning came and it was time to start our new life. As a treat we had booked “speedy boarding” with Easyjet, which entitled us to a separate check-in desk and allowed us to board the plane first. I have to say that unless I run out of money, I will always do this in the future. The £16 it cost allowed us to feel like we were travelling with a civilised airline rather than a budget one and it avoided the whole “Boarding Group A or B” scrum that always ensues and highlights the very worst parts of human nature. We secured seats on the exit row with good legroom and had an uneventful flight into Faro.

It was an incredibly strange feeling, flying into Portugal on one-way tickets and I almost wish I could have been more aware of what was going on. It was surreal and overwhelming and all my wife and I managed to keep saying to each other was “this is so WIERD!”

We arrived in Faro and, after an interesting experience with the automated gates I can now use with my high tech biometric passport (I got trapped inside the gates alongside two other passengers – hurray for technology,) we retrieved our cases.

We were met by the car hire man, who we recognised from past trips and told him we were here to stay. He offered two pieces of advice to us; firstly he said that we would really struggle to slow to the pace of Portugese life and secondly that we would, in the coming months, keep doubting ourselves and our decision. Just ten days on, I have already come to see the huge wisdom in these pieces of advice, but more on that in future posts!

We drove into Tavira, and once again I wished I could take more in. We were almost silent, overwhelmed by the enormity of what we had done and at the same time, more excited and alive than I had felt in years. After some fun and games getting our head around Tavira’s one way system we got to the estate agents, and within an hour, we had the keys to our new home.

It is funny how things change in your memory, as the living room and kitchen were smaller than we remembered, and the roof and ground floor terraces were bigger – still, given our plans to spend a lot more time outside this was the right way around!

Our first takeaway mealWe went on a small expedition out to the town and came back with our first takeaway meal – piri-piri chicken, duck rice (arroz de pato,) chips, salad, 4 Sagres beers and 2 desserts – all for the bargain price of 11 euros. The general consensus was “yep, we are going to like it here.” The eating was good, and full of excitement and anticipation for the future.

The rest of the day was lost to excitedly exploring our new house, and we also visited our local bar. We introduced ourselves as having just moved in and were welcomed warmly by the owner of the bar who insisted on giving us our second drink on the house. We then had a rather stilted conversation, due to the fact that no one could understand each other, but this gave us the determination to learn something new to say to him each time we visited.

By the time the time came to turn in for the night, the fact we lived here had still far from sunk in, but we were here. A most exciting day.

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  1. My friends,

    I am still completely in awe of your decision to up sticks and expatriate yourselves, although I am sure it was the right decision. It’s so cool how you two follow your dream with such commitment. YOU made this happen! YOU allowed yourself to imagine this possibility, and where others hesitate and then falter and resign themselves to whatever track through life, fate seems to have put them on, you changed tracks and chose one of your own making. Congratulations, respect, and I look forward happily to visiting you in your new home, in your new country!

    Much love,

  2. Benny – Think Esben summed it up really well, YOU did all of this and should be proud – life’s for living and taking that chance when it comes along. WIll be out to see you soon. (via train)


  3. Hi, I read your blog from the very beginning. Your move made me absolutely excited 🙂 I wonder what I’m going to feel on that day, on that plane – one way. It’s still 1.5 years for me to go, although we decided to go for it already over a year ago. 🙂 I’m goin to follow your entries with pleasure! Congratulations, all the best and enjoy your new home to it’s fullest! 🙂

  4. Thank you for your good wishes! I have lots of notes on the time since we arrived so there should be plenty more posts coming up in days to come. Thank you for reading my blog 🙂

  5. Hi

    I am no longer on expats as i am banned but i am glad i looked in for a look around. On the 24th i fly over to sign and pay my deposit on my house in Gois. I am looking forward to the excitement that you have shown in you Blog. I will later read your Past posts. I wish your all the luck in the world and hope all goes well for now and in the future.

  6. Hi there, I found you via escape the 9-5 and I’m really interested in your story. We gave up our old life nearly two years ago to go off travelling around France, Spain, Portugal to see if we could find a new way of life. A lot of the things you talk about prior to leaving I totally connect with and I’m excited to see how your new life goes. We didn’t find what we were looking for and decided to come back to England (a more rural part) for a year to kind of consolidate all that we did and think about the next step… we currently have no TV and don’t really buy papers and find that by being a little ignorant to the x-factor generation is kind of good. However, we still pine for the things we loved about all the other countries we lived in… I will be reading your story with interest – it might help us with our pros and cons list 😉 Good luck and enjoy!

  7. Hi Alice,

    Thank you for visiting! You may find the post I am about to add interesting for your pros and cons list as well – a few negative points to balance things out. I too am really enjoying a break from “media” – one English language newspaper per week is enough for me – it is strangely liberating to not know what is going on in the world. My father in law visited recently and brought a couple of UK papers and I found them thoroughly depressing and, yep, still full of Jordan and the X Factor!

    Best wishes, Ben

  8. It seems we beat you to it by just two months…! We had to catch a ferry from Rosyth to Zeebrugge as Brittany Ferries were full until mid November! This was due to the ‘hanging about’ of the solicitors to actually sign our contracts of house sale in the UK…we then drove… from Zeebrugge to Gent and stayed in a hotel, visited long lost friends, on to Poiters… another hotel, on to Vittoria-Gasteiz and yet another hotel, and then… on…. HOME to Portugal!! This was all with our medium sized white dog who had never travelled any distance before… but loved it!

    I love … no newspapers at all! The slower pace, the politeness of people – always the handshake and how are you …the better quality food… and I miss very little!

    Good luck in your new life, we know JUST how … weird it is .. to know that you have left the UK for good… and just started again! Would I do it again [she says as she remembers the nearly two years of terrible hassles to actually sell up ….] YES …. in half a heartbeat!!!

  9. I have just come across your blog outlining your experiences and just had to reply. We sold up and moved to Portugal almost a year ago and absolutely love it here. We are living in the eastern Alentejo region in a little village near the beautiful and historic town of Mertola. Of course we have had our ‘not so good’ and ‘challenging’ days, particularly during the winter months when we were living in an outbuilding whilst renovating our house (and yes, I agree the Portuguese winter can be very cold!) but not once have we doubted our decision to make this move. The warmth and kindness of our Portuguese neighbours continue to amaze us and we are still bowled over by the incredible landscape of this area even though we have been coming here for many years. My only regret is that we didn’t make the move sooner!

  10. Hi Sandra

    Welcome to the blog and thanks for reading. I’m glad you are happy with your move and are settling into live in the Alentejo

    Best wishes

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  11. Encouraging! Thanks, I am coming in a year’s time. I am selling out and.studying Portugese in the meantime.

  12. I stumbled upon your blog while researching “moving to Portugal”. Enjoying the posts and all the useful information. We already have a holiday apartment which we spend a lot of time at, but rent it out during the summer months. We have been talking about moving for a while now, and have given ourselves a deadline of November 2014. We are hoping to rent out our home here in the UK and rent somewhere there initially. Like you say holidaying there and living there are 2.different things. I have ordered your book from Amazon and very much look forward to its arrival. Well done guys for taking that gigantic step! Look forward to reading more posts.

  13. Hi Sandra,

    I’m glad you have found the blog useful and I hope you enjoy the book.

    It sounds like you have an exciting year or so of preparation and planning ahead of you. No doubt there will be some stressful moments too, but it will all be worth it when you finally arrive in Portugal knowing that you are not just on holiday but instead here for good!

    Best of luck with it all 🙂


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