Discover why we decided to move to Lisbon after three years of digital nomad life.
“Did you move to Lisbon?!!”
We’ve been getting this question from friends who’ve suddenly noticed that we’ve been living in Lisbon for six months. Our easy answer to this question is YES.
Things, however, get a little more complicated when they ask why we moved to Lisbon. We get it. Many of our friends have never traveled to Portugal and some haven’t had the opportunity to visit Europe yet.
It’s not that we don’t have a reason. Rather, we have several reasons for moving to Portugal’s vibrant capital city. We also have a connection to Lisbon that dates back to our honeymoon over a decade ago.
We’ve now lived in Lisbon for four years and were thrilled to live in Portugal during the global pandemic. Thankfully, we lived in an apartment with amazing views, fiber internet and tons of natural light. Now that we’ve moved to an even better apartment with an amazing kitchen, we’re focusing our free time on cooking at home, crafting cocktails and learning Portuguese.
Our History With Lisbon
Portugal and its hilly capital were far from the spotlight when we honeymooned on the Iberian peninsula in 2007. Earlier, when we were dating, we often ended our evenings with port wine and… ‘conversation.’ That love for port wine led to an agreement that if a honeymoon ever happened, it would happen in Portugal.
With few blogs espousing Lisbon’s charms back then, we hobbled together an amazing trip based on a lot of research and an equal amount of good luck. As for dining back then, all we had were forum sites like Chowhound and Egullet. We enjoyed some great meals but Portugal, including Lisbon, remained largely unexplored tourist territory in terms of food.
We joked about moving to Portugal during our honeymoon. If only we had taken our selves seriously! We could have bought a mansion back in the day – maybe even a sweet estate in Cascais. Had we made that progressive decision in 2007, you probably wouldn’t be reading this website right now because we’d be rich.
It took us over a decade to return to Portugal and another six months to commit to the big move, but now, we’re not only living in Lisbon like locals – we are locals. We have an apartment lease, utility bills and residency cards to prove it!
How We Moved To Portugal
A lot of people ask how we moved to Portugal.
Since we operate a location-independent business, obtaining D7 visas was the best option for us. Beyond proving financial security, the process involved obtaining NIF tax numbers, setting up a Portuguese bank account, arranging appropriate travel insurance and finding an apartment. We later converted those visas into Portugal residency cards.
While the process for obtaining D7 visas remains relatively similar, the requirements are always changing. If you’re interested in obtaining this type of visa too, we recommend joining the American and Friends PT Facebook group for up-to-date information and checking out the following services:
Why We Moved To Lisbon
Getting to this place (literally and figuratively) wasn’t simple. After leaving our comfortable Philadelphia lives to answer the call to travel, we gallivanted around much of the earth in three wonderful yet exhausting years that brought us to both coasts of the USA and to distant spots like South Africa, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
Though we have no regrets about the amazing experiences and life-long friendships we accumulated during 36 months of non-stop travel, we were tired of being tired. It was time to make a change.
Those who’ve been on tour for an extended period of time can relate. Constant touring means new beds multiple times a month. It also means constantly packing your things before moving to a destination by means of an exhausting plane, train, bus or car trip.
This type of travel makes you a target for theft. In fact, all of our camera gear was robbed in Cape Town and Daryl’s smartphone was pickpocketed on an Athens metro. When you’re in non-stop travel mode, important needs like health and security become secondary considerations to just getting from here to there.
The digital nomad lifestyle can be challenging for those in their 20’s. It’s even more so for Gen-Xers like us.
And, while being on the road taught us valuable lessons about overabundant materialism, it’s still nice to have some stuff. Nothing gives us more joy these days than little things like a recent coffee maker purchase and using our Japanese kitchen knives in our kitchen.
Being in a fixed place also allows us to pursue interests beyond the website. Daryl gave up his life as a musician for the three years we traveled. He plans to rekindle that passion in Lisbon.
Once travel started to lose its charm, we began resenting trips to amazing destinations. While we never lost our wanderlust, the constant work of travel caused our sense of wonderment for new cultures and experiences to dim slightly.
We knew that it was time for us to settle down, but where???
For various reasons, mostly financial and political, we didn’t want to return to the states. Let’s face it – America is expensive. Don’t get us started on the current state of the U.S. government. Yes, we’ve consistently voted on an absentee basis since we’ve been on the road. Despite our expat status, we consider ourselves proud Americans and will never relinquish our passports.
But why Portugal in general and Lisbon in particular? After you read about our reasons, the answer becomes clear.
Lisbon’s charms are now far from secret. In fact, it’s difficult to find a travel blog that doesn’t have an ‘ultimate’ Lisbon guide.
After living in Lisbon for six months and counting, we appreciate the city beyond its touristic charms. For starters, the weather is GORGEOUS here. Most apartments don’t have heaters or air conditioners but that’s okay since the climate is super mild for most of the year.
Even after the hottest days, cool breezes grace the city at dusk. We didn’t miss having air conditioning in our original first-floor apartment though we’re thrilled to have it now. Sometimes you don’t miss what you don’t have and appreciate it even more when you do. AC is apparently one of those things.
The cost of living in Portugal makes Lisbon attractive for ex-pats. While the market for rental apartments has gone up, it’s still possible to eat an affordable dinner for four for under €50. (Yes, that includes wine.) Ubers are cheap and widely available here, and the public transportation is both ubiquitous and cost-effective.
Lisbon welcomes people from all over the world to visit for a few days, making it relatively easy for them and us to stay longer. In the time that we’ve been living in Lisbon, we’ve made friends from as far away as Australia and as close as around the corner.
Our only challenge with meeting new people is the seemingly non-stop flow of friends who pass through Lisbon during their travels. We’re not complaining but it’s a challenge nonetheless.
We’ve lived for substantial periods of time in Southeast Asia and South Africa and, while those locations are ridiculously affordable for Americans, they’re also a good distance from the United States. Traveling home required long haul flights, and the jet lag from countries like Vietnam and Japan proved unbearable.
We can fly direct from Lisbon to New York in under 8 hours and back in under 7 hours. Lisbon’s airport, while crowded, is centrally located (just 15 minutes from our current apartment) and offers flights all over Europe and the world. Since Portugal is especially close to Spain, it’s entirely possible for us to take weekend trips to Spanish cities like Barcelona, San Sebastian, Valencia and Madrid.
Loyal readers already know that food is an important part of our lifestyle. Living in a city without an active culinary culture is simply out of the question for us. After dining around the world, we have high standards when it comes to what we eat.
For those unfamiliar, Portuguese cuisine is both diverse and flavorful. Not only did Portuguese navigators impact food in countries they colonized in South America, Asia and Africa, but they also brought back spices and ingredients from these faraway places.
Discover the American foods we miss as expats living in Portugal.
All these years later, we still adore the food in Lisbon and consider it to be one of the best food cities in Portugal. Some days we choose to eat traditional Portuguese food classics like Arroz de Pato, Chouriço, Porco Preto or Bacalhau, while other days we opt for global food like Hot Pot, Ramen or Gelato.
We never go thirsty with the ready supply of third wave coffee at specialty coffee shops around the city. Then there’s inexpensive Portuguese wine available at restaurants, supermarkets and wine shops.
Although it sounds mundane, securing a favorable work environment was an integral factor in our decision to move to Lisbon. Since this website is both our passion and livelihood, we need to live in a city that’s conducive to our operations.
Lisbon is an ideal business location in many ways. Logistically, it’s position on Europe’s west coast provides us with easy access to both Europe and North America. We live relatively close to the city’s international airport and can easily fly to many destinations on both first-line and discount air carriers. The longer we live here, the more we appreciate TAP and its Star Alliance partners!
Internet is critical for us since we run an online business. The internet in Lisbon is as fast as cities like Bucharest and Tallinn, We installed 1 Gbps fiber internet in our apartment and can easily access decent internet speed at specialty coffee shops around town.
Living in a set location has created an extra benefit that we didn’t originally contemplate. Companies now recognize us as local Lisbon experts, a situation which is has opened doors and created opportunities.
Now that we have a home base, we’re rediscovering our love for traveling with carry-on luggage.
We have loads of upcoming trips on the docket which means that we’ll be creating more food guides and videos. We also have several exciting ideas that we can better implement now that we’re in one place.
Watch this space to see where we go next. We can’t wait to take you along with us on our journey!
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Get a discounted quote for travel insurance to protect your trip from things like injuries, theft and cancelations. We never travel without protection! Plus, you’ll need travel insurance if you apply for a long-term Portuguese visa too.
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About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
Original Publication Date: August 8, 2019