Looking for a fresh start she moved from Daytona Beach, Florida to Georgia where she accepted a teaching position with the Department of Defense. “I hated the job and was only making about a third of what I earned in Florida,” she added.

Miserable at work and stressed about her life, Emma decided to take a well-deserved, two-week vacation to Portugal. “It was the first time I’d ever travelled abroad alone,” she said. “I was terrified but excited. Portugal really connected to me.”

She went home and immediately sent resumes to every international school in Lisbon. Exactly one month later, on July 4th, the famed Independence Day in the US, she received an email from the school in Lisbon.

“They expressed an interest in me and requested an online interview,” Emma said with a smile.

A second interview followed a few weeks later and in early August she received the official job offer, a teaching position in Portugal.

“When I told my kids I was going to be moving to Portugal my son said, 'Go live your best life mom!' My daughter was happy for me too,” Emma said.

Needing to downsize her life and pack for her next adventure, Emma first emptied out her apartment in Georgia, then off she went to Florida for more of the same. Two weeks later she packed her bags and moved to Lisbon, where she could begin to write the next chapter of her life.

The school in Lisbon provided Emma with an apartment on the outskirts of the city in an area called Sacavém. “I knew I could not live there for too long since I really didn’t like the neighborhood, but I kept busy and travelled during my free time,” Emma explained. Later she walked through the nearby neighborhood of Parque das Nações, a redeveloped area of the city that sits along the Tagus River, and she fell in love. “The area had everything that I wanted,” she added.

Later a friend from school introduced her to a friend of theirs whose mother had an apartment for rent in Parque das Nações. “She made me a great deal on the apartment that I could not refuse, so I accepted.”

“I do think that rental prices in Lisbon are expensive, especially for the average person, but then it is a major city, so I kind of understand,” she explained.

Emma is looking to buy an apartment nearby but outside of Lisbon where prices are a bit lower. “I’m working on getting a mortgage because the payments would be lower than rent, and I think I’m here to stay.”

When a coworker of Emma’s opted to leave Portugal and move to China, he sold her his older model Volkswagen Golf that was kept in stellar condition. “Since it runs like a champ it will allow me to find a cheaper apartment outside of the city, hopefully,” Emma added.

Credits: Supplied Image;

What made her fall in love with Portugal, her newly adopted country?

“I love the mild weather here, the quality of life, the fact that I can walk everywhere, and I always feel safe,” Emma said. “I’ve made many new friends, dated some nice guys, and travelled extensively to neighboring countries.” “I knew NOTHING about Portugal except what I saw and learned during the two weeks I vacationed here, so I really jumped head first, into the unknown.”

Learning Portuguese has been one of Emma’s challenges, but she is able to speak English at work so has managed to get by without it. “The Portuguese people are helpful when I get stuck on not knowing a word and they do try to help, but it can be frustrating.”

Back in the US Emma suffered from stomach issues but in Portugal, the food is so much better and not loaded with preservatives, and even costs far less.

A typical day for Emma includes waking up early for work, tutoring a few nights a week, and meeting up with friends for dinner at least one night a week.

Europe and the US are so different as far as language skills go, said Emma. “In the US I can move to any other state and still find the same language spoken, but it’s not the same in Europe.” “Kids in Portugal have to learn other languages in order to travel or work in neighboring countries like Spain, France, Germany, the UK or others.” But that skill set of being multi-lingual offers them a world of opportunities around the globe.

Emma says she loves that the city of Lisbon is very active and the beaches are nearby and amazing! “The Portuguese people seem to love their country which is nice too. I’ve had to use the healthcare system and find the doctors here to be more thorough than those in the US, and of course, much less expensive,” Emma added.


Terry Coles has been writing about living and travelling abroad since she left the US in 2011. She and her husband have lived in Panama and now reside in Portugal. 

Terry Coles