“Get going, already,” motioned the young couple who had purchased our house in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and were waiting, eagerly, for us to depart from what was now to be their new home.
In addition to our house, they had bought a good deal of our furniture … as well as my favorite toy, an all-wheel drive Jaguar.
We had disposed of most of our possessions and keepsakes.
Except for the contents of one 8 x 8 x 20 foot shipping container filled with an assortment of “household goods” and our beloved artwork, collected and curated together over 25+ years together (plus not too few U-Haul “wardrobe” boxes filled with blankets, comforters, bed linens, towels, and other household goods that we’d purchased for donation to the needy in Portugal–especially victims of the fires), everything else we owned, including Russ’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, had been sold, gifted to loved ones, or donated to nonprofit charities.
Turning back one last time to wave a final good-bye, I realized that we had divested much if not most of the content comprising our life in the United States, as we prepared to make the one-way journey to Portugal with our three dogs, three large suitcases, and two allotted carry-on bags containing computers, passports, and other essentials.
Over the past ten years, we had been fortunate and privileged to own “vacation bolts” in Spain and/or Portugal, and to travel there once or twice annually, enjoying a month to six weeks during each visit.
But, this time would be different.
It wasn’t a visit. We’d be staying, not returning.
One-way, not round-trip, tickets.
This was the first time we were traveling with our dogs, three miniature schnauzers, who’d accompany us in the cabin on the three flights taking us to our new home: Green Bay > Chicago, Chicago > Philadelphia, and Philadelphia > Madrid (where we would rent a car large enough to transport our family and assorted paraphernalia on the four-hour drive to our property in Lousa, a village of 600 on the outskirts of Castelo Branco).
Endlessly, we had talked about living in Europe alongside other the expats and immigrants – from the UK and the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Sweden and elsewhere – who had become part and parcel of our family and circle of friends in Spain and, later, in Portugal.
But they were European Union nationals. Different rules applied to them than applied to us. Even the Brits, though fearful of potential consequences their “Brexit” might cause, were convinced they would never be forced to leave the countries to which they had emigrated. Certainly, protections and provisions would be included in the terms and conditions negotiated during the UK’s exit from the EU.
For our part, we loved our lifestyle in Spain and Portugal. Life was easier (or easy-going) and slower there. Calmer and more tranquil. Far cheaper, too. And healthier. We walked rather than drove most days; typically, we ate less but healthier; and we drank far more red wine. As a “mañana mentality” took hold, we felt far less stressed and much more liberated. All in all, our quality of life greatly surpassed our cost of living.
Visits and vacations are different from full-time living and residence. So, we dawdled, too comfortable in our intimacies and surroundings to actually make such a major move.
Perhaps it was the regular, routine Social Security payments I had worked a lifetime to earn. More probably, however, the political changes – first subtle, then crassly overt – which had changed the climate of our country, provided the real motivation for us to get going and relocate.
Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.