200 Days of a Midlife Dream

Today is day 200 as a solo midlife retiree and immigrant in Portugal. The 200th day of living a dreamed-of life by the ocean. The 200th day of learning to live alone in a new country.

There is still so much to learn as a relatively new expat, but I’m making progress. I’ve learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of how to get important things done, where to go, and how to get there in my new home country. I’ve learned how to speak, read, and write new words in a new language. I’ve learned what the symbols mean on the appliances in my home, and how to dry a load of clothes without a dryer on a rainy winter day. I’ve learned how to use only a tiny Allen wrench to assemble all 7,238 pieces of an outdoor sectional sofa by myself. I’ve learned how to alter a utility company contract, and how to problem-solve with the postal service. I wrote last year about my initial learning when I arrived here. Now, 200 days in, here are four more unexpected lessons learned.

1 Money

I learned not to be seduced by affordability. It can be tempting to lose discipline with money and spending when you move to a more affordable country. April is National Financial Literacy Month in the U.S., and also tax time. I consider myself budget-savvy, and my commitment to saving and frugal living allowed me to retire solo four years ago at 59 and travel solo around the world. My living expenses here in my new home country total less than $2,000 a month, so it’s been tempting to splurge and spend more than I budgeted on extras like travel, dining out/entertainment, clothing, home decor and furnishings, electronics, and salon services. It seems as if my wallet warms up with the weather. I easily went 500 euros ($550) over my discretionary “Extras” budget last month.

I learned I can afford to “splurge,” but I need to remain careful and focused on the long-term. I revised my travel budget and added a separate budget item for “Services” to keep me from straying off target. I still have zero debt and am living off savings, without having to touch retirement investment funds or work even part-time, four years into solo retirement. My goal is to go another four years, to 67, without having to take a stock fund distribution. If I continue spending $550 over budget every month for “little extras,” I won’t make that goal.

2 Real Estate

I learned I missed my opportunity to snap up bargain oceanfront real estate for sale in Portugal. Those days are now gone. As recently as two or three years ago, there were low-priced coastal homes here. Now, most coastal homes I’ve seen are priced at 500,000 euros ($550,000) and up, and are often wedged in areas that offer a sea view only from a rooftop viewing area. Yes, half a million bucks is cheap to many American immigrant buyers when compared with coastal homes in the U.S., but it is not a low price for my budget as a solo retiree.

My plan was to rent for one to two years while I checked out locations and properties for purchase along Portugal’s Atlantic coast. I’ve learned that buying isn’t always better than renting. I ran the numbers on various buy vs. rent calculators and, surprisingly, the results recommended renting as the best financial outcome for me right now as a 63-year-old solo retiree and traveler in this current market. When factoring in the equivalent of at least 25 years of monthly rent payments that I’d need to pay upfront to purchase an oceanfront home, plus taxes, monthly mortgage, HOA fees, and ongoing maintenance and repair costs of owning a home, the numbers come out in favor of renting now. There are bargains to be had for inland properties for sale outside of major cities, though. I just don’t want to live inland. Purchasing an inland property near a demand area, as an investment/rental property, is an option for me.

These are some random properties of various types for sale in my area, listed on idealista.com.

3 Senior Citizen Dating

I learned that dating is the same all over the world. People are human, and we’re all complex. There is a wonderful diversity of nationalities here, which I love, but the dating process here is no different from the U.S.

As much as I try not to, I admit I’ve made some generalizations in my head about men from various countries, based on my first-hand experiences. Not cool, I know, and I’m not going to share them. I will just say this: super-tight skinny jeans seem to be an uber popular thing with grandfathers in Europe. I’m not hating. No way I’m giving up my skinny jeans, either.

Source: Unknown

Also, profile-bragging with irritating superiority about a “nomad,” “free spirit,” “untethered,” or “off-grid” lifestyle appears to be a thing among expats from Europe who are living in sedans with the seats ripped out. Online dating scams, catfishing, and dishonesty exist everywhere, of course, and over-60 expat retiree gals thinking they’re going to Eat-Pray-Love themselves a new life can be appealing targets.

I learned I need to keep notes in a dating notebook. My aging brain is full, and retention of information is low. I’ve forgotten names, mixed up personal details, and texted the wrong thing to the wrong people. To be fair, men my age are doing the same thing.

4 Mental Health

I learned Portugal is good for my mental health. The slower pace of Portugal and the calmness of beach living invite a sense of inner peace that promotes greater introspection and self-awareness. Gratitude and joy are abundant. Curiosity and new learning are stimulating and confidence-boosting. Portugal has helped me become a better version of myself, and the journey continues in baby — but more self-assured — steps. Living a dream life here for 200 days has affected the way I talk to myself when facing a challenge, and the stories I tell myself when things don’t go the way I’d hoped. I am nicer to myself now. I’m more accepting of others. More than before. Usually. Baby steps.

I wrote here about becoming your own work of art.

What if we saw ourselves as works of art in the making? Canvas that we stretch and transform, bringing it to new life with brush strokes and colors and textures of our own choosing. A reimagined image that depicts joy, courage, and confidence as it continues to develop through our own eyes. The only eyes that truly matter. Once we give ourselves permission to choose, we can become a blank canvas, ready for creating our own picture of what we want the life we’re living to look like. The canvas may be stained, torn, or frayed around the edges, but we can choose to transform it into a masterpiece. It will take time, and may remain unfinished for a long while. It may never be finished. But all we have to do is choose to begin, one brushstroke at a time.

The Hot Goddess

Thank you, Portugal, for helping me learn to re-create my masterpiece.

Cheers (Saúde) to 200 days in Portugal!

The Hot Goddess

Instagram: retired_rewired_inspired

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  1. Thank you for this inspiring, informative and engaging post. I’m moving over in the fall and appreciate the wisdom you’ve shared here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What wonderful lessons. Thanks for sharing them. I get the need to maintain tight control on the budget. I know from one of my previous jobs, that can be a huge challenge. It sounds like you’re doing quite well with it though. Good for you. I keep coming back to your fourth lesson. “I learned Portugal is good for my mental health.” That is a really neat to hear and I suspect a big reason why you made the move. Congratulations!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are many “ruins” and abandoned properties throughout Portugal and Europe. People die, families can’t agree what to do with the property, so it just sits and decays. These abandoned properties used to go for practically nothing. Not anymore. Immigrants/expats, investors, and developers are buying them for the land to build a new home or to completely renovate the existing one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful post. I love your metaphor of us as a piece of art – that’s so profound and brave! I’m laughing about the skinny jeans and text and I love that the pace of life promotes inner peace. What wonderful lessons and I feel so grateful that I get to learn from you!! Boa noite Maria. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations, Natalie! Kudos for noting the milestones too (I tend to be bad at that).

    Are you where you thought you’d be (figuratively speaking) at this time in your ex-pat journey…or somewhere else (ahead/behind in terms of adjusting)? Or did you even think about that. I know I expected to take much longer to adjust to my new locale than I actually did.

    I decided to rent when I moved to Vancouver Island. After years of looking after a house as an owner, I have learned there is an awful lot to love about renting. I have much more time and money for fun stuff! Loving not being responsible for a house.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Deb, you totally get it! (You know I thought about you when that sofa sectional arrived in two boxes, with an instruction manual that said 2+ people were required for assembly 🙄. )

      I did expect to take much longer to adjust to moving to a foreign country with a foreign language and nobody I know. I didn’t expect the outpouring of kindness and support I’ve received here, which has helped make these 200 days fly by.

      And I feel you on the home-buying thing. I was just telling someone here how much I love the freedom of not being responsible for a property now, after owning homes since I was 28. There is lots to love about renting! Cheers to more time, money, and fun stuff! Thank you so much for sharing, Deb 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m impressed that you dared to go for it. Many people sit back and think about the what if’s in their lives instead of acting upon their dreams. Here’s to the next 200 days!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What’s not to enjoy here, Natalie! You entertain, inform, educate, and inspire and you have a million-dollar smile! 😁 You offer great information, regardless of where one lives. Thank you! Oh, I love the photos too! 🌅 Has it really been 200 days?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. If you continue to budget responsibly, I find that the splurge formula becomes very favorable to you after age 75! But I am not splurging on the skinny tight jeans no matter that I can afford it. And stay away from those fixer-upper properties!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Congratulations on 200 days! Here are my thoughts: Budgeting – Keep up the good work. Control your money so it will last longer. Go to the library more often. Real Estate – Your insights seemed to make a lot of sense to me! Although the fixer-uppers may require a bit more elbow grease than you have – although with your experience with 7,000 pieces with an allen wrench – you have built up your muscles! Senior Citizen Dating – This is where I cracked up!!! I totally get the “list” thing and keeping track of names, names of kids, etc. BUT – I was in my late 40’s and I had to do that. I was juggling so much!! BTW – I met my hubby online dating and we have been together for a little more than 10 years now! Love your canvas quote.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your insight, Ruth! 💜 I am done with fixer-uppers (real estate and people 😁), and hope I never have to see any kind of wrench again. I love your story of meeting your husband online. There are good people out there. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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