We are approaching the first anniversary of our move to Albufeira. Looking back we have had a phenomenal year, learnt a lot and definitely changed for the better. I wanted to write this post to pass on some of the experiences and what they meant to us.
Harry at school
Without doubt we are most proud of our fantastic son Harry. There is no doubt that, of the 3 of us, he was by far the most wary of the move from Belfast. He was leaving behind friends, a brother and sister, and a school he was very settled in.
I would describe Harry as a quietly confident child; he does take on new challenges but definitely has initial doubts on his ability to handle them. As parents, we didn’t doubt his ability to grasp a new language and were also confident his social skills meant he would make friends fairly easily. We did have concerns on how long it would take him to adjust to an environment where none of his old friends were around. I would say that, alongside my ability to keep my business going, it was the most critical thing to making the move a success.
When we first arrived one of the first things we did was enlist a private tutor who took Harry for 2 mornings a week at 2 hours a time. This was a fantastic investment. Maria was superb at giving Harry the confidence that he could learn a new language, and he thrived under her creative way of teaching, playing games and challenges as part of the structured learning. In all, Harry took these lessons from the week after we arrived in June through to the start of September and it turned out to be massively important when he started school.
I’ve covered the overall process to get Harry enlisted at school in a separate post. When we (finally!) completed that, we visited the school the day before the classes themselves started. This was on a sunny Thursday afternoon, and parents and children were in attendance together. It was here that the reality truly hit home. The teacher spoke Portuguese, obviously, and we struggled to follow. But there was something touching about the way the other children, their parents and the teacher, all made us feel welcome. After the meeting we were given a tour of the school and it felt right.
Harry started on a Friday and it was one of the longest mornings of our lives. We were so worried about how he was getting on, if he was interacting with friends and if he was following the classes. As the days went into weeks, he did struggle to settle. He found Monday in particular a hard day – he started at 8.15 and didn’t finish to 17.10. That was well over 3 hours longer than he was used to and the intensity tired him. However, he did reveal he was making friends and he definitely showed signs of gaining confidence with the language and started interacting with the “banter”.
The standard of work is definitely a big step up from what he was used to at home, and he is tested regularly during the term. He is now gaining 60% plus in all subjects and we are massively proud. Harry himself prefers this school to the one at home; he finds the teaching much more suited to what he likes and the teachers are more relaxed in their approach. Picking him up each day I beam with pride when I see him walking out with friends, laughing and chatting in Portuguese!
I run the business I set up in Belfast from Albufeira. I do most of my work remotely anyway but it was still quite a step into the unknown to distance myself from any immediate face to face contact with my clients.
In the initial weeks most clients were supportive, but what surprised me a little was that 2 were not. They made some narky comments, and despite me tackling the issue head on, it did take some management to get to the bottom of the issue. It turned out it was little more than jealousy that they couldn’t do what I was doing!
In terms of how work has changed I have made subtle but important changes to my routine. I have made a conscious effort to take more time on marketing the services to the correct customers; some companies are simply too old school to work over Skype and Google Hangouts and consider someone working remotely as not working at all. I developed a great partnership with another consultant doing a similar work – life change in France, and leads coming in now really have no issue working with a virtual advisor. I am developing some really great relationships and finding out interesting new businesses and ways of working while doing it.
I also invested a lot of time in making the company truly cloud only and completely paperless. I was working here for nearly 6 months before I had to go and get a printer and print a bank form for a client. We are living in a much smaller building than at home and space is of prime value. Removing the need for an office has really helped us. In terms of going cloud only, it means I can move between 2 laptops and an Macbook Air seamlessly without worrying about version controls and flash drives. (If this interests you, you may find value in this post on my business site).
It is a pleasure working from Portugal. You cannot help but feel inspired by the sunshine and the coastline. I definitely feel that I have professionally relaxed a lot working here and the quality of my work is improving (I believe anyway!). I am able to devote the time saved from having no commute into a dedicated creative session, and the business development work is really benefiting. There is no doubt that this move has strengthened the business and enable me to start working with Companies outside my catchment area. I have now gone from having businesses in Northern Ireland to working across 5 countries. All from a lounger in my sunny garden!
As a family we are finding this move has brought us all closer. Not just in a literal sense as we no longer have a 4 bedroom house to space ourselves in, but emotionally.
My wife and I spend all day together, every day. That would probably scare a lot of people, but we have always done everything together and it didn’t faze us. It is wonderful that we can have lunch together now and spend time talking, something we definitely didn’t get enough time to do at home. There are also no need for the distractions in life – we just spend time talking and listening. Its important and its really helped us manage things, like Harry getting settled down in school.
We are very disciplined during the week and avoid the temptation to eat (and drink) out. We visit the gym 3 times a week and then just enjoy the environment. An evening visit to the beach is a pleasure, but sometimes just a quiet moment in the garden works.
In terms of Harry, I now have the absolute pleasure of the school run. This was something I never got the chance to do at home, and its my favourite part of the day. That time is sacred and no work deadline ever gets in the way. Now that the attractions are opening again we have a To do list that we are diligently working through.
At weekends we always make time to take in at least one meal out a weekend. The food is awesome and its our mission to support our restaurant and bar owning friends here as much as we can, but also to try and find something new as much as possible. (I think my favourite dish so far has been the black rice fish paella but there are so many that will be a separate post in itself!)
In terms of family at home I’m really pleased at how often they have visited us. It does wonders for Harry to see them and is always a brilliant surprise for AnneMarie. For some reason they always entrust me with the details, and to keep it as a surprise for the other two – I am useless at keeping surprises but getting good practice at getting better! Its lovely taking the family out to meet the people we’ve met and to enjoy the places we’ve found. I did receive a wonderful message from my Aunt who said she found it “great to share our new lifestyle”.
I think overall this move has been important. I am personally more relaxed and content, and I think we are all becoming like the laid back locals by osmosis. The town has a wonderful vibe, things get done and in their own time, and rather than getting frustrated with that, we actually enjoy it.
I intend writing about our tours in more detail but so far we have fantastic 4 day breaks in Lisbon and Porto, and our now spending time at weekends touring different places around the Algarve. The country is beautiful, there is no denying that, but the level of beauty and the variety has astounded us. The fact that we are based here and can effectively have a weekend abroad every weekend if we wished inspires us. We definitely have a lot more to explore and now we have the time to do it.
What is also underestimated is how lovely Albufeira itself is. Outside the main bar areas there are some great views in restaurants and we walk endlessly just taking in new places in the town.
All in all, I think its been a great decision and paid off well on all fronts for us. Its hard to believe our first year is nearly over, and we are looking forward to many more. I hope this post has given some insight to the many, many great moments we have had so far, and if you want to contact me to discuss anything in more detail I’d be delighted to hear from you.