A Move to Portugal with Young Children
Moving to Portugal with my husband and three kids from the San Francisco Bay Area nearly 4 years ago has had many incredible rewards, from delightful surprises to challenging adjustments. The transition to ‘normal life’ in a new country, in many ways reflects the essence of life in Portugal: it evolves at its own leisurely pace, filled with unexpected twists and turns.
But isn’t that the beauty of it? Life isn’t just about reaching a destination; it’s about embracing the journey. Isn’t this what we moved abroad for – an incredible transformational journey of growth, that comes from traveling and living outside of our comfort zone? One big shift is the ability to walk everywhere for my daily errands from the grocery store, cafes, and restaurants, to my children’s schools and their extracurricular activities. The habitual act of walking is very relaxing and allows me to engage with my new environment in ways that my previous car-centric life did not. Overall, Portugal constantly reminds me to slow down, be present, and immerse in the beauty that surrounds me.
We’ve encountered cultures and people from places previously unknown to us, like Cabo Verde, Guinea Bissau, and Macau. My children mingle with peers from Brazil, Russia, and Angola, and experience incredible linguistic and cultural diversity. Through these interactions, it’s evident how interconnected our shared humanity is and how much more there is to learn. It’s this spark of daily inspiration that fuels our lives and underscores our decision to make Portugal home.
With more time on my hands now, my focus has shifted to what’s truly important: fostering connections, personal growth, my life coaching endeavors, health, and playing an active role as a partner, parent, friend, and professional. It amazes me that I’m now conversing in a language foreign to me just a few years ago. This sparks even more curiosity about what other new endeavors I might undertake with this gift of time I have.
Our move was, in essence, a gift to our children. I wanted to offer them TIME — to witness their growth and play a pivotal role in their lives. I dreamt of a global upbringing for them, transcending traditional classroom boundaries. A holistic education rooted in experiencing the world’s vast wonders. This encapsulates our life in Portugal.
This is how we live in Portugal.
It saddens me when parents forsake their aspirations, fearing it might be reckless or that change might scar their children. The real reason they aren’t trying something new and different is because they are naturally scared. However, their reluctance to embrace change often stems from underlying fears. Unfortunately, these decisions, driven by apprehension, teach children to play it safe, stunting their growth and ambition.
What lessons do such choices teach our children? Is chasing dreams perilous? What comfort zones should be sought after? This way of thinking is precisely what I aim to keep my children from. I’m determined to shield my children from such a mindset. I aspire for them to demonstrate resilience, tenacity, and unwavering bravery. Challenges, like our struggle with the Portuguese language, aren’t deterrents but opportunities. Our continued commitment to mastering the language, evidenced by my kids’ fluency, serves as a testament to our dedication. It’s a lesson for them that with consistent effort, one can conquer any challenge, new and unknown.
After nearly four years away from the US, I can proudly affirm that our Portuguese chapter is flourishing. Here, our children are cherished and celebrated for their vivacity and inquisitiveness. I witness the loving acceptance of passing strangers on the street towards my children (with their Portuguese exchange that I don’t always understand)! Here, children enjoy an enviable autonomy, allowing them to genuinely experience community living. I don’t have to always monitor their whereabouts at parks and on the streets because the community is also watching; my son is now commuting to and from his neighborhood school with ease; truly kids can be kids, slowly and innocently exposing them to life in a community. This newfound serenity, trust, and confidence reflected in their demeanor, ensuring a more relaxed and fulfilling life for us as parents compared to our previous routine. Making our lives more serene as well as less stressed and rushed.
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