I didn’t set out to become a part time expat. Like many travelers I dreamed about moving to another country someday, thought about what it would be like to soak in another culture on a full time basis.
In 2005 I received a small advance on a writing project. While there were many practical things I could do with it, I instead decided to fulfill a lifelong desire to spend an entire month in Europe.
A few decades earlier I would have grabbed a backpack and moved around from country to country for a month. However, over time my travel approach had changed to wanting to become a part of the communities that I visited, whether for a few days or a month.
I had spent a week at a timeshare in Portugal the previous year. During that week I had gone into the village of Praia da Luz, an old fishing village, now somewhat modernized with a mix of full and part time residents and vacationers.
On a whim I decided that is where I would spend my month in May 2005. I did an online search for rentals in Praia da Luz with views of the water. The second place that I looked at online seemed perfect. I contacted the owners and agreed to a one month rental in their condo.
I arrived expectant but also nervous about having committed to one month in living quarters I had never seen, in a village that I had viewed briefly. My first glimpse of this rental by owner exceeded all of my expectations and I settled in for a luxurious month of reading, walking, writing and self-exploration. All things that I had little time for in my then very full schedule at home of consulting, writing and working full time.
Within a week I found myself planning how I could come back and spend more time in this village that already felt like home. The owners where I was staying do not normally rent out their place for long term stays, so I started looking for other possible places to stay if I were to return for a month or longer.
I found many possibilities where I could stay at a very reasonable rate in the months of November through March, if I was able to stay a minimum of two months (in some cases one month).
My May 2005 trip went by much too quickly. I left with the names of property owners and property management companies in my suitcase and was dreaming of returning before I even boarded my flight home.
Almost immediately upon returning to my everyday life I was researching and planning how I could return for a longer period.
I went back sixteen months later for another one month stay, this time bringing some consulting projects along so that I was earning some money while gone. I worked three to four hours every morning and read, walked and explored the area when I was not working.
I also spent some time looking at other rentals (I was in a very small studio with minimal kitchen equipment for this stay). I left at the end of the month even more eager to return than I was after my first trip.
Fourteen months later I was back for a three month stay, armed with consulting work and a teaching assignment with Northern Arizona University for online courses.
I wondered if this would be too long to be there. Would working half days and being exposed to the same scenery and restaurants for three months make it all seem mundane?
The answer was, no, it did not become mundane. Was it too long? A little, only because my grandchildren were young and I missed seeing them and their parents.
This three months in Praia da Luz confirmed for me that I wanted to return for long periods every year and that this was now my home away from home.
What were the next steps in going from feeling like a visitor to a community member and a part time expat? More to follow in next week’s article, Becoming a Part Time Expat.
Read more about traveling in Portugal or Living Abroad.