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The Beginnings of Moving to Portugal
Starting From the Middle
I can’t find a way to start at the beginning. And it’s impossible to start at the ending of a story that has yet to conclude. Therefore I will start smack-dab in the middle.
Hi, I’m Kimberly Anne and I’m a traveler. I travel through life, just like you, fast upon the wings of change. These writings are about my experience as a solo American expat over fifty, moving to Portugal.
I did it sight unseen, knowing no one. That’s right, I’d never set foot in Portugal before I moved here and I did it without a support group. I also did it while everyone in my life tried to talk me out of following my dream.
I hope that whatever your dreams are, I can be your cheerleader from afar because I truly believe it’s never too late to achieve them.
Foremost, I identify as a traveler, but I’m not talking only of travel in the strictest sense of the word. I am talking about moving from one place to the next, even within the confines of one’s own town. I’m also referring to moving from one idea to another, one creative impulse to another, one passion to the next.
I’ve gone through life with a fluidity in all these areas. I used to look at the negative aspect of all this and tell myself it was because I lost interest in things quickly. And no, I do not have ADHD, though I was misdiagnosed with that at six years old and put on ritalin—another story for another time, perhaps.
My passions are varied from the mundane to the eclectic, the only constant being my love of literal travel. That too began young, as we were a traveling family. And no, not with the circus, though I still hold out for that fantasy.
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After college, I saved enough money to do a month long European backpacking stint but it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. And thus began my search for full time travel, specifically ways to live in another country. And barring that, I placated myself with the never-ending and exhaustive chase of the next vacation in-between. I worked, as most people do, two jobs. I worked sixty hours a week or more, seven days a week, for forty years.
But when Covid hit, working around the clock became impossible. That’s when I was finally forced to slow down and re-assess. I decided I’d had enough of the sixty-hour work week and finally took the leap off my incredibly comfortable couch (psst; it was a Joybird!).
I sold or gave away everything I owned, even my beloved couch, and yes, I shed a tear as the new owners hauled it away.
Here it’s important to interject that yes I am a planner. Here are some examples: it took me a full year of planning to move into a van (we’ll get to that later, and no, I don’t live in a van in Portugal). It took me two full years to plan my move to Portugal. It took me five years to get my Masters degree and become an acupuncturist. It took me fifteen years to write my first novel and I’ve just completed my twenty-fifth. And so on.
But... once I decide I’m going to do something, I do it. And later I always say, “if I had known how hard it was going to be I never would have...” And so in that respect it feels, from my vantage point, like I just jump in with both feet.
When I knew I could no longer go on living a life of perpetual motion, a life that was passing me by, a life where one day bled into the next and each one was exactly the same—I realized if I wanted to live, really live, I would have to change my life completely.
And to do what I truly wanted to do, I had to start by minimizing my expenses. Plus, I had to shed the thick layer of stuff that clung to me like a second skin.
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There’s the famous quote from Fight Club that minimalists talk about, “the things you own, end up owning you”. And while yes, this is true from a minimalist viewpoint, it’s also true in a bigger picture sense.
Replace the word “things” in the quote with something else in your life that you feel like a slave to and you’ll see what I mean. Here are a few examples:
1. The worry you own, ends up owning you.
2. The pain you own, ends up owning you.
3. The comfort you own, ends up owning you.
I have a rant, diatribe really, about comfort but as it’s one of my favorite topics, I’ll save it for a future installment. Still, you can see how that quote works for comfort too, even without delving too deep into a philosophical bend.
So how did I bridge the gap? How does one go from knowing what the problem is, the first step is identification, even in a 12-step program; to moving toward a solution—also borrowed from recovery speak.
For me, the answer begins with list making. For you, it may be something different. One thing I beg you not to do at this crucial phase is tell other people unless you know beyond a shadow of a doubt (idioms are fun: how does doubt cast a shadow anyway?) that the person you tell will completely support your choices. If you have such a person in your life, you are ahead of the curve. Or maybe I’m just behind it. It’s not that I don’t have a few encouragers in my life, I do, but at the time I took this leap, my life was filled with far more naysayers.
At this juncture of my story, I told my significant other. I told them after I made the lists because I thought it could be a conversation. I wanted to include them, as one usually does with a significant other.
I said, “I have to make a drastic life change and I’ve made a list.” My voice teemed with excitement and hope.
“What kind of change?” Their eyes narrowed to slits while their pupils slid from side to side, silently assessing.
“If I quit my day job, I’ll have $2,000 to live on per month, which means I will have to move out of my apartment.”
“Why would you quit your job?” they asked.
Apparently, they had tuned out my years of complaining. And so the conversation went. Eventually, I got to the juicy bits. Where I explained I could do A, B or C.
A) was renting a studio apartment or buying a mobile home closer to them. It was my first choice really. They lived forty minutes away from me and I wanted to be closer. I thought they did too. Spoiler, I was wrong.
But since they kept their mouth shut after I told them about plan A I forged on. They knew I wanted to move to Europe, it’s something we had talked about often during our years together. And they knew I had my eye on Portugal. We even had purchased plane tickets to go visit before Covid which of course, we had to cancel. They had kids who lived at home and I was willing to wait eight years for the youngest to leave the house, before moving so my partner could come with me.
Option B was to buy a van, convert it into a camper and live in it. I liked this option best because it sounded the most affordable to me and I could travel during Covid, driving around to out of the way places and spending a weekend here or a week there both with and without my partner. I could also see if there may be anywhere less expensive in the United States I may want to eventually move to.
Option C was moving into a tiny home, which I also liked but it wasn’t workable. Living in California makes it near impossible to live in a tiny home as it’s not legal to park them anywhere.
When I clarified that I was rooting for option A and even went so far as to get approved for a home loan, my partner dumped me. They told me that my current vulnerable state of the unknown and flux was too much for them to handle and it would better if I moved forward alone, without any emotional support.
And after a lot of anger, heartbreak and sadness; that’s what I did.
Obviously, option A was out at that point and option C was unfeasible, so I chose option B.
I’m also dramatizing the breakup because “they dumped me in my time of need” sounds really good and properly sad. But they didn’t actually dump me. They asked for a six-month break during which I was supposed to “go and figure out my life” and then come back to them and we’d be “stronger than ever before”. To which I responded, “f -you, I’m done.”
See? The truth granted me agency.
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