What have we done?

As we prepare to leave Portugal, I can’t help but think: OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE WE DONE???

I have moments like this. I think about the lost income, the savings I’m spending and think I should be spending it on a bathroom reno, or putting it away for future orthodontist bills, or helping with my child’s future education.

Almost without exception a decision to do something means deciding not to do something else. So I’ve swapped the trappings of middle class living in Vancouver, for something less tangible. There’s a lesson in there for me somewhere, I’m still waiting to figure it out. I’ve read minimalist blogs, travelling family blogs, digital nomad blogs all of whom suggest that collecting experiences instead of things is better. Post economic downturn, some have opted to embrace their unexpected job loss, home foreclosure etc. This isn’t the case for me, I have a great career, own a home in Vancouver and have other privileges that buffer us from economic hardship, yet I’m somehow inspired to live more minimally

So how does your average career mom become inspired to live more minimally? I’m not sure, but I do know I’m not alone. I’d achieved pretty much everything I’d set out to do: a successful career in a socially responsible field, a lovely (if crotchety) old home, a loving husband, a cute, smart, funny, charming little human running around said home. Everything I’d set out to do, right? How could it be so unsatisfying? Am I really that greedy?

Apparently, yes.

With an enormous safety net (still own a house, still have my job) I’ve set out to test the theory that I’ll be less stressed, and more present in my life and with my family.

So far so good. The back pain that’s plagued me for the past three years is all but gone. I’ve stopped biting my nails. I still drink too much wine (hard not to when it’s so cheap). I’ve even stopped stressing about whether my grammar is OK. Life is still stressful at times, worrying about whether Swanson will barf on the two-hour bus ride into Sevilla. Or worse – wondering when the money will run out. But these stresses seem more real somehow than job stress, and the ever-present getting-things-done-in-a-busy-life stress.

ANYHOW. Enough about me. I know this isn’t what you came here for. As I was saying, we are leaving Portugal tomorrow and I haven’t written a thing about this wonderful country.

If you want to catch up on the past three weeks, check out The Ugliest Shirt, Darren’s irreverent take on our adventures.

I’ll share my highlights.

The Harry Potter Portugal pilgrimage. Apparently, JK Rowling had been inspired to write Harry Potter while living in Portugal. This fact became the source of a sort of pilgrimage and led us to a couple of spots in Coimbra and Porto. The University of Coimbra is full of wizards. I didn’t get any photos, mostly because they move too fast. Probably because they are annoyed by all the Harry Potter fans trying to take photos of them. The student uniform includes a black cape not unlike the Hogwarts issue uniforms.

Architecturally, you can also see the inspiration. Photos were not permitted in the library, so here’s a photo of a postcard:


Swanson was rightly impressed.

Equally impressive was the Livraria Lello & Irmao one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal but certainly the most beautiful. Also not permitted to take photos so here’s someone else’s great photo:
A nostalgia na Lello

By Alegna13 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Also, cats:

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More to come on Portugal. I’m preparing a post on street art and graffiti!



Simplicity v. jetlag

I am amazed that everything we need for the next year is in these packs (blog post to come on packing efficiently, including the best tip you’ll ever get!):

Well, everything we need except the USB cables for the Lumix micro 3/4 camera and both eBook readers. Sigh. So all our best photos will have to wait until we can buy a new cable. Take a close look at that freshly washed yellow Fjällräven backpack. It will soon be brown.

Despite the simplicity, I still manage to lose things, and not just the aforementioned USB cables. Today, I spent a good twenty minutes going through all our stuff three times to find a needle (not in a haystack) so I could eject the SIM cards from our iPhones. When I finally found it (yay!), I discovered it was too flimsy to push hard enough on the eject button (boo!). I ended up stabbing myself in the hand. I burst into tears. Darren’s attempt ended in a broken needle. A deep breath later, the SIM card slot popped open, only to reveal that our iPhones held different sized SIM cards.

I blame jetlag.

All in all, we really don’t have much to do (yet I can’t seem to get anything done, blog post, learning plan for Gus). When you are travelling for a year, the same time pressures don’t exist (or maybe they do?). Nonetheless, I keep forgetting that we can stay in Lisbon for as long as we want to. Despite the fact that we are challenged by our $100/day budget, we could manage here at that rate, no problem. More on the $100/day budget later.