Europe, Living Overseas, Travel, Travel from home

What it’s really like living abroad in Portugal during the pandemic

Popular media would have Americans believe that this pandemic is wrapping up and pretty much over. States like Texas are opening up completely and even California is reopening its theme parks. What they’re not telling you is that just over the pond things look drastically different.

We decided to move to Portugal to work remotely back in November of 2020. Weird timing? Well, not really. At that point, Europe had just finished enjoying a relatively normal summer. People were traveling (within Europe), leisure activities were flourishing, and pretty much everything was open.

Then, Christmas came. After most countries loosened any lockdown protocols, major spikes hit many different countries. Variants also became prevalent throughout Europe. What happened after that? Even stricter lockdowns.

When we first arrived in November, life seemed pretty normal. Taking the normal precautions (like wearing a mask and washing hands frequently), we were able to enjoy some amazing cuisine and explore our surroundings. Shops were open and people were mingling.

We went back home to Florida for the holidays and then returned in January. That’s when everything changed for us in Portugal.

We currently reside in one of the most beautiful and best kept secrets in Europe. Portugal’s Algarve. This area looks like a tropical oasis of cliffs and aquamarine waters that really remains a hidden gem under the radar for most Americans. And really, we cannot figure out why!

From the food to the prices and the beauty, this really should make it onto your travel bucket list. It is truly one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. We live just steps from an outdoor playground full of adrenaline-pumping cliffside hikes and beaches as far as the eye can see. However, the area is really hurting badly. The culprit? A full lockdown.

You see, when we returned in January, this area was the hardest hit by Covid in the world. Was that televised back in America? Nope. We watched cringingly as several store owners and restaurants owners (some who were family businesses for hundreds of years) go from smiling and thriving to absolute panic. Many owners talked to us and thanked us for coming in to bring them business. We did what we could and were grateful that we could visit. The only problem was, we were unicorns. The only reason we were able to give our business to these people in need was due to a visa we had to get lucky enough to get before the second lockdown. We had to prove that we worked in America remotely and could self-sustain in Portugal. No other traveler could come and give to these businesses, even if they wanted to. Even Europeans were locked out from Portugal.

So, in January 2021 everything locked down completely. You were not allowed to leave your house (yes, that included the beach). So, we decided to head back home to Florida. We were stuck in the middle paying rent in Portugal and paying expensive hotel fees in Florida. It was a purgatory that afforded us awesome time with friends and family, but endless anxiety. When would the lockdown end? Should we go back? Why are we paying rent and not living in our apartment?

So, late in February 2021, we decided to go back. We boarded an empty plane back “home.” We had enough of hoping from place to place and went back knowing the lockdown was still taking place. When we arrived back in Portugal, it was starkly different from before. No restaurants are open. Many are boarded permanently. No one is out and about. Everyone is stuck at home.

However, the one difference is that we can go on hikes now. So, we have done a lot of that since we got back. However, I find it so bizarre how disconnected America is from reality. I believe the culprit is the media. After all, the media does set the agenda (McCombs, 2014). Go ahead, see for yourself.

While all of Europe is entering new and more strict lockdowns, America is lifting them. I’m not saying it was the election, but I’m also not saying it was not the election. The day Biden was elected, California suddenly opened up, even though their cases were not decreasing. Before you say it is the vaccines, Portugal is on the same vaccine schedule: elderly, teachers, medical staff, etc. Anyway, enough about politics!

The experience being in lockdown in Portugal is okay. I do not feel unsafe. I feel sad for all the businesses that have shut down and I miss human interaction. My apartment is moldy, so I don’t love that I have to be in it all the time. However, I am okay. I am happy for the beautiful coastline and hope this situation gets better soon!

We can hike, exercise outside, and grocery shop. Meeting new people is pretty much not happening. However, I am happy to be here. Some businesses are able to stay open for takeout. We are doing our best to mix cooking at home with takeout. So, what’s it like to live in Portugal during a pandemic? Well, it’s not as good as it could be, but still incredible. Basically, we are in a late March 2020 type of feeling. But, hey! At least we can explore on foot!

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