Somewhere Over The Rainbow… OZ IS Where You Believe

Somewhere over the rainbowA few weeks ago, having been gone for seven months, I took a flight back to the States. As the airplane flew over Los Angeles, nostalgia swirled inside my head. I first traveled to this City when I was a teenager from Ohio, ready to live with my aunt and attend college.

Never could I have imagined years and years later, creating a home in a foreign country. While the plane taxied to its gate, familiar memories of maneuvering the city’s freeways, neighborhood streets, and frequenting trendy locations, resonated. I smiled when listening to the Europeans on the flight, eager to explore a city I knew I wouldn’t live in again, because I no longer belonged.

Belonging is a critical part of life. Finding its door brings contentment even while embracing the ups and downs, and the good and bad choices… it all leads to understanding yourself. My journey has been one of opening many doors. I’ve lived in all three western states—California, Oregon, and Washington—for employment opportunities, pivotal to the later lifestyle I’ve carved out in Europe.

Reaching the end corridor of the Los Angeles U.S. Customs, I was directed into the U.S.A. Citizen Passport Area. I readied, for the country’s entry, my blue passport with its decent self-photograph. I was happy to hold this document—it meant I was in a shorter line, but also, I was HOME.

LAX: A few weeks ago, having been gone for seven months, I took a flight back to the States. As the airplane flew over Los Angles, nostalgia swirled inside my head

Funny, living in Europe, one loses the perspective of what home is across the globe. Your daily life phases more and more away from America. Most, if not all the expats I’ve met, vow NEVER to stand in a U.S. Custom’s line again. They’re done with the politics, racism, violence, and high cost of living. Home is now a country with language challenges.

Retuning to handle personal matters has given me an appreciation in seeing family and friends face-to-face. Relationships, the ones I have here, mean more to me than I thought. I’ve missed them.

I’m still asked why I ventured into an uncharted territory. Originally, Portugal’s purchase was an intended Airbnb investment. But things changed; choice tourist destinations clamped down on such type of rentals. Thus, this endeavor became a serious consideration for a second home and obtaining a second passport.

Summarizing the details of achieving this goal are:

  • Resident Visa: Easily obtained.
  • Climate: Moderate Mediterranean with mild winters.
  • National Health Insurance, not welfare: FREE. Private Health insurance is affordable at a cost €40 per month, and prescriptions are free or at a very, very low cost.
  • Transportation: Finding no need for a car in a walkable city, also UBER, LYFT, and BOLT are cheap. Bus stops and metro trains are a short distance from my front door.
  • Safety: The country ranked #6 in the world for safety. It’s not an issue to walk around alone after dark here. Coming from the U.S., (ranked 129th in safety); Canada (ranked #12).
  • Location: Three International Airports take you anywhere in Europe for a small, and I mean small price.

People. The Portuguese people speak ENGLISH, the Americans aren’t uptight and stressed. It seems the political divide wasn’t packed in their luggage.

Chaos or order? I worry how low can the bar drop, and why can’t there be more cohesiveness within the world’s largest democracy

Yet, in all my celebrations rejoining family and friends, I struggle with the time back here. How and why can’t the country I was born in, rise above its chaos occupying the newspapers, social and news media? I worry how low can the bar drop, and why can’t there be more cohesiveness within the world’s oldest representative democracy? Giving up my passport isn’t an option—I’ve earned the right to obtain one. Maybe in the future, I’ll have less and less desire to return if the bar hits rock bottom.






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Donna Pizzi
3 months ago

Welcome “Home,” dear Cheryl! Looking forward to hearing first hand your thoughts on “missing” your friends, and, more importantly, how living abroad has changed your perspective as a writer and ex-pat. Having lived abroad myself decades ago in France, I am well aware of the feelings you describe. The yearning for familiarity of family, friends, places, yet being delighted to live among a different culture and all it has to offer. I admire your ability to shift and to get adjusted to all these new challenges and BENEFITS you describe – especially as we all grow older. Flexibility is more challenging, I find, as we age. Agreed, there is a lot to be disappointed about within this country as we face a crucial election and it’s pretty frightening the things that women, especially, must face and FIGHT FOR… Truly saddens me deeply. Looking forward to seeing you soon! Big hugs, Donna

2 months ago

Dear Cheryl,

Your words about belonging and feelings of home reminded me of the time I first visited Germany, 20+ years ago. I landed in Amsterdam and drove to Germany — my friends live just 25 minutes from the Dutch border. As I crossed the border, although I’d never laid eyes on that road, those fields, the woods, I was filled with a sense that I was home.

Seventeen years later during my scouting trip to Porto to determine whether I would move to Portugal or Uruguay, I sat on the terrace at Graham’s Port House, sipping port, eating hors d’oeuvres, warm in the May sun, gazing out on the Douro River with Porto on the left, Gaia on the right, and the Dom Luis I bridge straight ahead. I was home. This was where I was to be. I didn’t look any further and I haven’t regretted the move one moment over the past year.

It helps that all the other attributes of Portugal you tout are positive, but I don’t think I would have moved here without that feeling of belonging. The Germans call it “gemütlich” which doesn’t translate exactly, but it captures what you’ve written about.

I have met more dear friends in the last year than in the previous 10-20 years. I’m so happy to include in the group. I look forward to your return to Porto next month. Hurry home for our next Movie Night!