It’s been two months since we bought a one-way ticket to Portugal. A lot has happened since then: we visited many properties, seen different regions, experienced all kinds of ups and downs and it feels like one big adventure. Today I want to share with you some of the challenges and encounters we had so far. Have you ever moved to different country? Then you probably remember that there is a lot to learn and discover at the beginning. I must say, when I moved to the Netherlands many years ago, it felt so easy because the company I was working for was helping me a lot to arrange everything. Now we are by ourselves, no job and no company to help us. But we have determination, courage and joy with us on this journey, and so here we are.
When we arrived in Portugal we were convinced that we wanted to live in the north, close to the mountains. We had been there in the summer and it was very beautiful with amazing landscapes. Now we arrived in the north to visit a property and it was raining heavily. Fortunately the real estate agent was well prepared and brought umbrellas for everyone. When visiting a property in the countryside, it means to visit the land too. Often the land is large and that means marching through mud, climbing over rocks, hiking up a hill and walking along fruit trees and veggie gardens. After this particular visit we were totally soaked and then arrived at our apartment only to find out it had no heating. I didn’t know that houses in this area could be without heating. But we quickly learned, that it is very common. It was raining for days on end and we had a moment when we were wondering what we were doing here…
And then we remembered our Portuguese friend telling us: “it rains a lot in the north”. You might think we are spoiled, and maybe we are, after spending last winter on Gran Canaria. Anyhow, we decided to move more to the south immediately. Our next stop was at the beach near Mira where we stayed at a lovely place run by family from Belgium.
Of course we were not only enjoying the beach and the sunshine. We’ve spend so many hours online searching for interesting properties, contacting agents to get more information, debating whether or not to visit a property and wondering what to do next. Before you can buy a house and live here there are several others things you need to acquire. To begin with, the NIF, a highly important number, which is needed for absolutely everything.
Therefore the next goal was to get the NIF, which is comparable to the BSN number in the Netherlands. Everyone told us it is really easy if you come from a European country, you just need to go to the office and they will give it to you. Well, it turned out it was not that easy. On our first attempt, we were told we could not get the number unless we bring a Portuguese citizen who would guarantee for us. Even when we called our Portuguese lawyer and he talked to them for a while, they still said we could not get the number. Anyway, long story short. We found a lovely person who is assisting expats. She made an appointment for us, she went with us and still we needed to negotiate, show all kinds of official documents and call the lawyer again before we finally received this essential piece of paper. With this document in our pocket we went house hunting again.
One property we visited was my favorite from the very minute we arrived. The location was perfect, the land beautiful, the house on top of a little hill with lots of trees, even a swimming pool. The owner was very kind and showed us everything and I was already imagining us living there. Then we entered the house and we were shocked by the enormous cracks in the walls and floors. The foundation of the house was collapsing. Needless to say that my dreams scattered.
The next visit was a special one as we went to see a couple of beautiful old ruins. Boris was interested in a new renovation project. When we arrived we almost got stuck with the car, the road was so tiny and steep and our little rental car was not prepared for such off road adventures. Standing in front of the ruins, which is really just a few decaying stone walls, we realized this might be too ambitious and too difficult to get here anyway.
Another day we got super excited because I found a property on a German website that looked amazing. We were both enthusiastic and made an appointment right away. And while we were planning how to get there and already imaging how it would be like to live there, we receive an email. It was the day before the visit and the owner was telling us that they just sold the property. This moment was frustrating. We took a break, went for a walk, enjoyed a good meal and then we continued.
Our next destination was at the coast again, near Baleal. The first evening we went for a walk at the beach and although I felt super tired, I didn’t sleep well in the tiny bed of our latest apartment, I also felt super happy and relaxed to be at this place. It turned out to be a surf hotspot and the next day Boris was renting a board to surf the waves. Of course we had houses to visit in this area too. And we were surprised how something can feel so different when you see it in real life versus the advertisement online. And so one day we drove for 1,5 hours to see a property, which was our newest favorite. The moment we arrived we immediately knew that this is not what we are looking for. And then we drove 1,5 hours back.
We had been moving from one place to the next every couple of days. I never actually unpacked my suitcase as we were always ready to go again. This was certainly helpful to visit the properties and different regions. But it was also tiring. Here at the coast it felt really good from the first moment we arrived and so we decided to stay a bit longer. Luckily we found a beautiful apartment for long-term rent in Peniche and we moved in right away. It feels great to have a place to stay and to continue house hunting from here. And while searching for our yoga retreat centre we also have time to enjoy the ocean, the sunshine, go surfing and learn the language. Since we arrived here everything was going surprisingly smooth, we got a bank account, an apartment, water, electricity and even managed to subscribe Boris as Portuguese resident. Everyone we’ve met is super friendly, supportive and kind. I feel a bit at home already and I’m looking forward to spending the winter at this beautiful place.
Sending you love and sunshine from Portugal,
Sophie & Boris
P.S. This was probably the longest blog post ever. Congratulations if you made it until here and I can totally understand if you skipped some parts. So much has happened in these two months and I only wrote down a fraction of it. I’m really glad we are taking it slow now and having more time to find the right property.