Hello from London, where we’re housesitting for a couple of weeks before we start the next chapter of our adventure: we’re moving to the Algarve! After a hectic year of travel in the Americas, our plan was always to move to Portugal in the autumn, but we had our sights firmly set on Porto until Andrew was offered a great teaching job in the Algarve.
A new life in the sunny Algarve
We were in the middle of an adventure yoga camp in the Scottish Highlands a few weeks ago when Andrew got an email about a last-minute teaching position at an international school near Faro. It all seemed too good to be true, a job teaching French, Spanish and English (Andrew trained as a languages teacher in the UK) with a good salary and amazing holiday leave located in Portugal, a country we fell in love with during a visit last autumn.
One interview later and they offered Andrew the job. I think we may have literally jumped for joy in the supermarket when the confirmation email came in. After the stress of balancing freelance work with our most expensive year of travel to date, knowing that we’d have a guaranteed base and salary coming in for the next year was a huge weight off our shoulders.
Digital nomad struggles
I’ve blogged about the challenges of digital nomad life before, but this year the realities really struck home. In theory, being able to live completely untethered, work remotely and go anywhere you have a wifi connection is utopia. It certainly worked well for us while we were living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Andrew was teaching online while I built up my freelance writing work.
Trying to take that digital nomad lifestyle to South America this year was a struggle. For a start, Andrew couldn’t teach online because of the time difference for his students in France, so the pressure was on me to take as much writing work as I could to keep us going. That meant a lot of stress for us both, plus many weeks spent hunkered down in a cold apartment somewhere, be it Medellin, Cusco or La Paz, on a laptop all day.
A few weeks of work would be followed by a few days or a week of amazing travel adventures, such as trips to the Amazon Rainforest, Machu Picchu or the Uyuni Salt Flats. Here’s the thing though, travelling in South America turned out to be way more expensive than we thought it would (see our Bolivia costs, for example) so the money we made quickly disappeared.
This led to a constant internal dilemma: we felt guilty about being stuck inside working when we could have been out exploring, yet when we were out exploring we felt guilty about not working. What’s more, blogging went completely out of the window. In over four months of travel in South America I wrote just 18 posts.
I’m not saying that you can’t live a happy, balanced life as a digital nomad. You can and I know many people who do. It worked well for us in Asia where living and travel costs were lower, as well as in Europe last autumn. I love working remotely and would never want to go back to a 9-5 job, but the lifestyle doesn’t work for everyone.
Andrew has never loved teaching online or being on a computer all day, so we had to consider what was right for us as a couple and adapt our lifestyle. There’s no way we want to stop exploring the world or move back to the UK (especially given the state it’s in right now!) so moving to the Algarve is hopefully the ideal solution for us.
Andrew can teach in the classroom again while I continue to work freelance. We’ll have one guaranteed salary each month to take the financial pressure off us and will hopefully be able to rebuild our savings. We’ll be living in a sunny place just a couple of hours from the UK with our own apartment and a spare room for visitors. Since Andrew gets an amazing amount of time off for school and public holidays, we’ll still be able to travel.
We left the UK back in 2013 because we wanted to see the world, but also because I wanted to change a lifestyle that wasn’t fulfilling and build one that I truly loved. Five and a half years later, after backpacking through Asia, teaching in Hanoi, living in Chiang Mai, road tripping through Europe and travelling the Americas, that quest has brought us back to Europe. We’ve figured out what’s right for us at this point in our lives and we’ll keep adapting and changing as the years go by.
Moving to the Algarve – next steps
It’s always a joy to be back in London and we’re making the most of these last couple of weeks catching up with family, friends and exploring the city. We’re off to see Aladdin at the theatre with my Mum, check out some vegan treats at the Plant Based Live expo, watch my friend do some stand-up comedy, sightsee with Andrew’s parents and take our nephew to the Warner Bros Studios.
We have ferry tickets to Calais booked for the 17th September and our car has been serviced and the air con fixed in preparation for the long drive down to the Algarve. We’ve also been stockpiling all our favourite British and vegan staples like Marmite, Earl Grey tea bags and nutritional yeast. As the weather turns cooler here, I look forward to sunshine and blue skies in the Algarve.
The next month will be a big transition for us as we settle into our new life. There’s the small matter of finding an apartment and we both have to adjust to having a routine again when Andrew goes to work. There’s also lots of admin to sort out like getting our Portuguese NIF numbers and all kinds of other paperwork.
I’m excited to share the process with you all though, it’s going to be an interesting journey, one I hope you’ll stick around to hear about.