Happiness comes from experiencing things not from materialistic stuff that is marketed to enrich your life but ends up stuck in a kitchen drawer and a balance on your credit card statement. What really makes our life better? For me nature and the outdoors is essential for bringing me joy. Do you want a lifestyle where you are trying to keep up with the Jones’? I did not and that’s one of the reasons why I left my 9-5 job and the rat race for a life in Portugal. My life in the UK was like groundhog day where I would get up and do the same thing every single day. Wake, shower, breakfast, work, gym, home, shower, TV dinner then bed only to get up and repeat the repetive cycle all over again. It was an exhausting routine that I could not easily break and it made me very ill. My health was put on the back burner and I suffered psychologically and physically. Is it really worth slogging your butt off working long hours and taking work home with you just to be able to afford the latest gadget or would you rather spend time with the people you love? How did we afford to buy our house here in Portugal? We didn’t buy things we didn’t need and made saving a priority. 

We rarely ventured out as a family or connected with nature as a lot of trips are dependent on the weather in the UK so all our fun experiences had to be crammed into summer weekends or that annual holiday which you save up for all year to afford. As a parent you always feel the pressure to buy the next best toy for birthdays and Christmas but actually some of the best moments I have experienced with my children growing up have been the simple joys in life like a picnic and a board game at a local beauty spot or the annual Christmas monopoly game that never ends. I always have to be the dog and if I don’t get to buy Mayfair and Park Lane then I get moody. Obviously I am always the banker as I used to work for Natwest bank and pure and simple I am a Monopoly thief. When my funds are low I pilfer a few notes stash them under the board and whip them out (the notes) when others are on a loo break. I will never forget 31/12/2019 the evening I stepped off of a plane to start our new adventure, the excitement and nerves all rolled into one. Waking up on 01/01/2020 new year, new life and new me. I will also never forget watching my first sunset in Portugal, just magical. I know some people thrive on retail therapy and this is what brings them joy. This is all fine as long as you are not in debt and live within your means. I hate shopping especially for clothes but if this is what brings you pleasure then this is fine, just don’t forget to add some new moments and memories. Step outside your comfort zone and make a bucket list of all the things you want to do – I have done this and it’s very satisfying. 

I challenge everyone to collect precious moments not things. Put your smartphone down for a bit and connect with nature. Go for a forest walk, look at cloud formations, a rainbow or a tree, I love trees. Plant some seeds, grow your own edible crops or beautiful flowers. I get a real sense of achievement from making and building something with my hands as opposed to shopping for that new item of clothing that I don’t really need. Giving 90% of my clothing and stuff away to charity was very liberating and I have no regrets. How many items of clothing do you own that were purchased in that sale of the century that are still hung up in your wardrobe with the tag still on it just waiting for you to slim down for it to fit perfectly? I will just keep those ‘fat’ trousers just in case I put the weight back on as they were expensive and I definitely need to keep that dress, I just need to lose a further 10lbs and it will fit me like a glove. I know I was guilty of this.

I have spoken to a lot of expats here in Portugal who spent absolutely thousands on shipping over their belongings. I understand this if you have thousands of pounds of furniture, sentimental stuff and antiques or heirlooms but if not I think it’s crazy. I watched a hoarding programme once on TV and there was this lady who would not let go of a single item in her house in the USA. It was crammed full of stuff and rubbish to the point where the authorities were going to condemn the house. The expert came in to assist with the clear out and give some advice regarding her mental health. Anyway this lady was holding onto things like little pieces of a broken plastic toy and she seemed to have a reason behind why she wouldn’t let anything go into the skip. The expert said “this is not sentimental, it’s just mental” which made me laugh.

You can buy anything you want here so it doesn’t make sense to me at all. I love the slower pace of life here. Time is often put on pause whilst I have a moment in time with nature and watch a gecko in the garden or whilst I monitor the baby robins hatching and developing into fledglings. Moments are precious, stuff is just stuff. Life is way too short so grab it with both hands and enjoy it. Have the best life you can for you. Don’t put things off and say I will do that next year or when I retire. Life is way too short and who knows how long we have left on this planet so take charge now and make some new memories to cherish and last a lifetime. I often think of the lyrics to the song Ironic by Alanis Morissette, how true!

I have so many ‘moments’ I could share. There are obviously the main events like births, weddings, baptisms, birthdays, Christmas, proms etc. Don’t panic I’m not about to post the birthing pool photos so you can rest easy and not be put off your food (ha ha). Here are just a few of my simple moments from over the years:

Watching a sunset in Portugal has to be one of my favourite moments:

Portugal moments

I can’t wait to collect many more moments in Portugal. Covid-19 has put our exploring and day trips on hold but this is O.K as it means we have been able to focus on renovating the house and garden without feeling we are missing out. I have the rest of my life to build more moments and memories filled with joy and I can’t wait!