Laidback, Affordable Living in Portugal’s Stunning Capital
In March 2018, I moved to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon with my three cats. The first nine weeks were challenging as my household goods made the slow trek across the Atlantic Ocean in a shipping container. I spent that time in an empty shell of an apartment with only a bed, a folding chair, and a television.
If those initial nights in the apartment were less than ideal, the beautiful city of Lisbon more than made up for it. During those early days, I walked its hills and explored its various neighborhoods, each as captivating as the next with their tiled buildings and lavender-colored Jacaranda trees that bloom in the spring. I relished the smell of fresh-baked bread wafting from the doorways of the padarias (bakeries) all over town, and the special glow of the city just after dawn and before dusk from the light reflecting off the Tagus River.
As an interpreter-translator specializing in legal and medical matters, I had lived a digital nomad lifestyle on and off for decades. Laptop in hand, I would gallivant off to Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, or Santiago, Chile, or a medieval village in the south of Italy, where I would find a café with free WiFi and get to work.
However, in all the years I traveled, I kept returning to Portugal. There were many reasons for this: the people, the great food and wine, the safety, the history, and the architectural and natural beauty. And I find it easy to make friends here in Portugal because the people are so genuinely welcoming.
Once I’d made the permanent move to Lisbon, I bought a car so I could explore more extensively beyond the capital. Before the coronavirus pandemic, you could find me on the road nearly every weekend, headed north to Porto, Coimbra, or Aveiro; east to the Alentejo region; or south to the Algarve. I’ve also visited the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, one of two tropical archipelagos that are part of Portugal (the other being Madeira). There are so many incredibly beautiful places to explore in this country that I had to get more cloud storage space to store all the photographs I’d taken on my phone.
Lisbon is also a great jumping-off point to visit the rest of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Last year alone, I traveled to Israel, Morocco, Italy, and Spain.
When the pandemic hit and the borders closed, one of the first things the Portuguese government did was to extend health services to those who had applied but not yet been accepted as residents, because healthcare truly is a human right here. They also extended the time tourists could remain in the country on a Schengen visa because the borders were still closed. This empathy is part and parcel of the Portuguese culture. People here are respectful of others. Nobody is arguing about their right to not wear a mask. They listen to the science and the experts.
I am truly honored to call Portugal home and the only regret I have is that I didn’t make the move sooner. Life here is less stressful, with more opportunities to have a coffee with a friend, take a walk, share a scrumptious meal of fresh seafood at an open-air café, listen to live music, explore the vibrant art scene, or simply sit and watch the sailboats go by on the river. When you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you come see for yourself.
By T. Jacira Paolino