Making the Leap: Uncertainties

Chronicling my move to an ex-pat life in Portugal

This is a week of uncertainty. Another strain of Covid has been found and countries are shutting borders again. Brexit is not helping — with the UK pulling out of the European Union, I don’t know if EU countries are allowing flights from England to land. My flight goes through Heathrow. A person on one of my Portugal Facebook groups says her flight was cancelled. Someone else said they had to reroute through Amsterdam. I don’t know if this is temporary or the new way of things.

Another person said that only citizens and residents are being allowed into Portugal. I have a residency visa — does that mean I can enter? Or do I need some other, more finalized paperwork? I am realizing how much I don’t know and hoping that I can get it all figured out in the three and a half months before my residency appointment. If I can get in at all.

I make the decision that things are going to work out just fine and go with that thought. I can’t control it and outside of checking with the Embassy in DC after the holiday, there’s not much I can do. I’ll keep moving forward as planned.

Getting the residency visa was a process in itself. (Post on the specifics coming soon.) My friend Kellie turned me onto videos by a lady who goes by Driven Spice on YouTube. She had just moved to Portugal and was documenting her experiences. Her videos are very informative and I like the way she couches things with “This was my experience; yours may be different.” The other part of that is that things change — forms change, requirements change. Throw in Covid and all the health considerations involved when you allow people to come into your country, and you can understand why things are so uncertain. I am hoping that the availability of the vaccines will ease things a bit. But it is early days.

Last Minute Details

I have lots of last minute details to do: transfer car titles and registrations, talk to the insurance company, find out if I can use my phone in Portugal, and pack everything I own, either for storage or to bring with me. I have the smallest storage space possible, 5’ x 5’, and if it doesn’t fit, it goes into the trash or to the charity shop.

I have sold my car to my cousin’s significant other so I can leave it at their condo. I explained over and over to him that the car is a money pit, but he is good-natured and likes a project. Can’t say I didn’t warn ya, Gary.

I am lucky that I know how to pack for long trips. When I first worked on ships, I had a rotation of four months on, two months off. Packing for four months is the same as packing for two weeks. They have washing machines in Portugal. The trick will be not to over pack and throw my back out before I get the luggage to the plane.

I’m doing a round of telephone and Zoom goodbyes with friends because Covid. I wish I could give people good, hard hugs but I’ll have to wait and hug them when we can visit in person again. I wonder if this will be the last time I see some of my friends. I don’t wonder; I know. It’s a hollowing feeling.

Moving Forward

So I take a deep breath and look forward. I don’t know what makes me want to leave behind everything I know. I’ve done it before. I moved across the country from Atlanta to San Francisco. I moved from San Francisco to Honolulu. I am reminded of a comment my fourth grade teacher put on my report card: “Barbara excels in class, but she doesn’t really pay attention.” Or something like that. (I didn’t pay too much attention to that, either.) To be fair, I was near the windows that faced the courtyard. I could see people walking down the corridor, other classrooms, birds and squirrels in the courtyard. So much going on and I was trapped in a square room. I guess I don’t like feeling trapped anywhere. That and there is so much going on outside my box. There’s a whole planet to explore. I understand that not everybody has the means or opportunity or even desire to explore it. But me? I have no excuses. In six days, I fly.

This post originally appeared on Barbara Grassey’s ExPat Life blog at

Barbara is a writer, speaker, and marketing consultant. She specializes in helping business authors leverage their books. Learn how:

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