We will look back at 2016 as a year of change and new beginnings. We have both been through some major changes in our lives, some good and some that were pretty tumultuous. In many ways however the leap that we finally took last year was one of the very biggest. If you have been following along this was the year that we actually did sell everything and head out to experience more of the world.
Anne retired in April and we left Nova Scotia to spend three months in the beach town of Playas del Coco, Costa Rica. After over three decades of working lives and the attendant stresses we were ready for a break. In reality that is what the time in Costa Rica turned out to be. We still had our house in Nova Scotia to sell and it seemed that we were still tied to our old way of life.
We’ve written a lot about Costa Rica and still love many aspects of that beautiful country. The natural beauty, ecological diversity, tropical climate, laid back lifestyle and wonderful fresh foods are very appealing.
However the increasing cost of living, cultural divide between the local and expat community and logistical challenges will in all likelihood preclude us from ever living there on a permanent basis. We can see ourselves spending more time there in the future and are going back this year for three months.
When we returned to Nova Scotia we realized for the first time the changes that our way of life had wrought in our relationships. We looked at life differently than most others around us and it was hard to settle into any sort of routine that we felt comfortable with. We had mentally committed to our new lifestyle and were anxious to start living it. Everything was complete except for the house which to this day remains a source of anxiety for us.
So when we set off in September for England for two weeks of sightseeing in London and our first house sit, we felt as if we had really begun. And in many ways it was the first time that we began to comprehend the reality – and we loved it.
In London we played the tourist but with our own spin. Extended hotel stays and restaurants are expensive and get tiring, so our first Airbnb experience provided us with a home base for two weeks. Very slow travel is our preferred way to go and we reconfirmed that after two weeks of rushing to see as many sights as possible, but it was a great visit.
Our first house sit in Swindon was a good introduction to this great way to meet people, travel slowly, help others out and spend time in a local community. We learned a lot about German Shepherds, met a lot of friendly people and gained a better understanding of life in the English suburbs.
You can read all about our train trip from London to Lisbon which speaks for itself but we can reiterate that it was a terrific way to see the vast countryside of France and Spain – plus we got to spend a night in Paris!
Lisbon was our introduction to Portugal and what a great place to start! This was our first extended city stay but in many ways it felt like we were living in a smaller community. The atmosphere throughout the city was so different from anywhere else we have been, but yet it felt like home in many regards. The streets, the colours, the cafes, and the history all combined to put us in a good frame of mind.
We had excellent day trips to both Cascais and Sintra and each one charmed us in its own way. Our son, Erik, and a friend came to Lisbon and they loved it as much as we did. It was especially good for us to be able to share the experience with Erik which is priceless. We will not forget the time we had in Lisbon and will return.
Sometimes when you arrive in a new location something clicks and you feel comfortable right away. That’s pretty much how it was for us when we arrived in Lagos, and in fact the feeling has grown over the past two months we have been here.
We had already spent over a month in Lisbon so we were getting used to the Portuguese lifestyle. When we got off the bus in Lagos, it looked different but had a lot of the things we loved about Lisbon.
We do have to keep in mind that we are “winter-letting” (October – March) and here during the off season when the weather is cooler and there aren’t crowds of people. This has been a perfect time to slowly get to know our new home and we have discovered many aspects of Lagos that work really well for us.
The weather is a big draw. We had a few days of wind and rain but that was a great excuse to stay indoors and catch up on writing, reading and editing. The remainder of the time has been sunny almost every day. As soon as the sun comes up the temperature climbs and we were surprised at how warm 18 degrees Celsius can feel. There are very few days that you can’t get outside and explore, be active, or have a coffee or lunch by the beach. On the down side the evenings and nights are cool and our apartment is very cool.
We have met some wonderful people here and have made great friends already. It helps to have the experience of people who have been on the ground in an area. The companionship, support and sharing of ideas and experiences is a comfortable feeling. We have been so fortunate to have found a group of friends we enjoy spending time with.
The transportation links in Lagos are good in that there is both bus and rail service from here so it is relatively easy to get to Faro and beyond. Having a direct bus to Spain is a big bonus and we don’t have to tell you how much we enjoyed our trip to Seville and Cordoba. We are looking forward to more trips within Portugal, to Spain and beyond.
Not to diminish the joy of exploring nearby towns and villages. We have been to Sagres, Cabo de Sao Vincente, Luz, Portimao, Silves, Aljezur and Ferragudo and thoroughly enjoyed them all.
The town of Lagos itself feels just about right for us. While it does cater to tourists and the marina dominates much of the harbour it retains a lot of charm and personality. There is a great range of restaurants and cafes, a local movie theatre (which is great), and the streets are fun to wander and explore. All of the shopping and services you need are available either in Lagos or nearby.
We are outdoors people by nature and love walking beaches, marshes, trails and country roads. Birding is a big activity for us and from what we have seen there are some excellent marshes, estuaries and woodland areas to explore.
So at the end of the day we knew that we had no choice but to extend our time in Lagos. We had lamented the fact that we could only stay in Europe for 3 months so now we will base ourselves here and enjoy the best of both worlds. We can enjoy and explore Portugal as well as foray to amazing destinations within Europe at our own pace. We will also use the base as a staging area for future trips to Asia and Africa where we have dreamed of going.
The steps are now to apply for a 4 month Residency Visa which we will do this summer in Canada. We will return to Lagos in the fall and apply for a Residency Permit which we can renew after a year. Our fingers are crossed that everything will fall into place and we get the required approvals.
We are getting ready for our first trip to South America and will be in Ecuador for two months, followed by three month in Costa Rica. Crossing the Equator, seeing the Andes and venturing into the Amazon rainforest are all exciting prospects and who knows what else fate will throw our way. Thank you all for following our little adventure this year and keep checking in with us to see what 2017 has in store.