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And . . . We’re Off to Greece!

As I have written previously, Carla and I are on a journey to find a new home - to expatriate to Europe, and Portugal seemed to us like a great starting point. From everything we’ve read and heard, it seemed to tick a lot of boxes for U.S. citizens moving abroad - great weather, beautiful land, a welcoming people, good healthcare, a fondness for Americans . . . and more. We were excited and expected that over the course of our three-month journey here we would most likely discover our new home.

We started out in Lisbon, and have been staying in Lagos, in the Algarve, for the past several weeks. And as we have shared, there are many things we love about Lagos and the Algarve - the food, the charm, the beauty of the coastline, the weather, and the wonderful people. We have loved our daily walks along the coast and the gentle slow lifestyle. But, even with all that, we’ve had this feeling that something is missing. At first, we thought that we were just being too picky, because what’s not to like? But in the past several days we've been able to identify what’s been nagging at us.

We love beauty and charm, and Portugal definitely has that. We also love art, architecture, and history, and this is where Portugal comes up short – even in Lisbon - for us. In southern Spain, for example, the magnificence of the Moorish history and culture is everywhere, and, combined with the Spanish, it gives towns and villages a “weightiness” and culture-rich presence that we just don’t see in Portugal. And we realize how important this is to us. It’s not to say that Portugal isn’t oozing with historical or cultural presence . . . it just doesn’t resonate with us.

We had been planning to spend three months in Greece this fall. Like Portugal, it has beauty, charm, and great weather, and we’ve heard wonderful things about the kindness and friendliness of the Greek people. What Greece has that we are missing here in Portugal is the cultural evidence of other peoples, such as the Ottomans, Venetians, Romans, Mycenaeans, and the Minoans. The art and architecture that exist because of the richness of this cultural history is what we realize we need to feel happy in a place.

Portugal is lovely and the people are wonderful . . . but we want more. We want to feel the antiquity of a place. We want the streets to shine with its history and culture and to feel it at every turn. We understand that’s a lot to ask of a place, and our attitude may be unfair, and even selling Portugal short . . . but it’s simply how we feel, and we need to acknowledge that.

So, instead of comparing Portugal to Greece at every turn, we have made a mid-course decision to spend the next two months of our trip in Greece. The very nature of travel is that it breaks up your routine, and occasionally even within the framework of traveling it’s necessary to break up your routine yet again, so that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re very excited to be following our hearts rather than our planned itinerary.

As Lao Tzu famously said, “if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” For us, at this time, no truer words have been spoken.

We will be spending one more week in Portugal, staying in Cascais and visiting Nazaré, Sintra and Óbidos (and writing about them as well), which are north of Lisbon along the Silver Coast. We’re still looking forward to seeing these places, but we must also confess that we’re super-excited to be going to Greece. So, the first town we’ll be visiting is Chania, on the island of Crete, and all the photos that accompany this blog are images of that place. My hope is that these pictures will give you a sense of why we are making a mid-course direction.

Thank you for following our journey, even as it means a little zigzagging across Europe and an occasional change of plans. We will of course, be blogging and sharing our journey through Greece! Stay tuned.

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