It looks like I've linked you here myself. Linking people to a blogpost I wrote is often a bit akward, especially at work.
I likely shared this blog in an attempt to further a conversation. Usually the post does a better job at succinctly sharing information than I could by talking.
In any case, I hope me sharing this post doesn't come across as humblebragging, that's really the opposite of what I'm trying to achieve.
Thanks for reading!
This past February (2023), we decided to pack our car, drive 2300km south and work remotely from Portugal for a month. With 2 young kids (18 months and 3.5 years). Here’s how that went.
Escaping the rat-race: The big picture is that we’re searching for a way to live more deliberately. The idea that you shouldn’t let life happen to you as a result of past choices, daily obligations and routines - but intentionally shape it instead. Especially with kids, it’s very easy to slip into auto-pilot and perhaps have regrets later. It should be clear that this is an ongoing search for us and that there’s much more to say about this - perhaps in a future blog post 🙂
Spending more time together: While my wife works half-time, she still spends almost 2 hours per week day commuting for work and daycare/kindergarten. Additionally, most of my work meetings are right around the time the family comes home in the evening. As a result there’s little quality time as a family on a daily basis. This is something we wanted to compensate.
Because we (still) can:
Seek adventure and discomfort: Explore, see new places, experience new cultures - all the reasons people travel :-) Ever since we got kids we’ve travelled little, we wanted to rekindle this. At the same time, by deliberately putting ourselves in an unfamiliar location and context we believe we can grow as individuals and a family by developing new skills and handle new situations.
Why Portugal? Mostly because it’s warm-ish (15-20C) in February and because we hadn’t spent any time in Portugal together. Some other places were considered (we wanted to stay within Europe) but we didn’t overthink it. We ended up going to the very southern tip of Portugal in the “Algarve” region.
Prior Excitement: Having something concrete to look forward to made January go really fast. We had many conversations about practical things like car organization, luggage packing, remote work setups and daytime activities for the kids. Having a family project to jointly obsess over was already a lot of fun on its own!
Journey: Because of the amount of baggage, the length of stay, overall cost and quite frankly for the challenge of it, we decided to drive rather than fly. This went well and without major hiccups. On both legs of the journey we held overnight stops at AirBNBs en route. When the conditions are right, a long car drive can definitely be enjoyable. The kids also did really well, although some excessive TV time (headrest mounted iPad minis) was pretty much unavoidable for us to keep our sanity.
Exploring: Visiting new places during the weekend, going for long beach walks, exploring the local area, visiting new malls or restaurants, learning about the local culture. There were definitely times when it felt like we were on a holiday!
Journey: While the journey overall went well, there’s still a few notes-to-self. Things that are common sense and I knew before but still managed to screw up:
Not a holiday: Contrary to first impressions, we were working from Portugal - not on a holiday. Consequently, life fell into a household pattern rather quickly. A different pattern from home, but a pattern nonetheless (working, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc). Time for proper exploration was mostly limited to the weekends and young kids drastically affect how much you can do in a day. As a result, someone spending a single holiday week in Portugal might have experienced more than we did in an entire month. While we expected and were ok with this, we’ll probably still take some more time off during our next adventure.
Working with kids: From the past, we knew that working with kids around all the time is difficult. We could make this work is because a) my wife only works half-time and b) us both having the flexibility of moving our working hours around as needed. While it’s clear that a permanent working-with-kids-around arrangement wouldn’t work for neither the kids nor us parents, for a fixed and purposeful period like this it was well worth it.
Minor accidents: We had a few cases of bad luck, testing our mental and emotional resilience in first 10 days:
Family distance: We had a family situation for which it would’ve been better if we were at home to support. This sucked.
With the intention that this was an experiment we would probably want to repeat, we deliberately tried to be more frugal than if this were a holiday. We were looking to get an idea of what the experience was like at a cost point we could afford to do over.
Here’s a breakdown of the costs.
|Portugal AirBNB Location||1500||30 nights. We saved a lot of money by going off-season (huge discount) and picking a no-frills house.|
|Car Journey||1200||Covers the two-way journey. Includes fuel, toll roads and roadside food. Definitely cheaper than flights + month long family-sized car rental (+ child seat rental + fuel).|
|Transit AirBNB Locations||400||4 nights total (3 on outward journey), 1 in return journey.|
|Car Roof Box||550||Includes roof bars. Reusable for future trips.|
|Mobile remote work setup||400||Mobile screen, GLINet mobile router, tripod and VESA mount. Reusable for future trips.|
|Miscellaneous extras||250||Kids toys, portable battery, guidebook, etc. Mostly reusable for future trips.|
|Reduced costs at home||- 300||Lower energy bill, subscriptions/services on hold|
Other costs like groceries and weekend activities weren’t noticeably different than at home.
While 4000 EUR is clearly still a large expense, it’s actually quite reasonable (arguably “cheap”) taken into account that we were away for an entire month with a family of 4 and drove as far as we did. Regardless, we’re obviously privileged to be able to afford this.
The initial idea of going to Portugal for a month came up during a brainstorming session with my wife on how to live more deliberately. Without overthinking, we decided to just book something and see how it would go.
We knew up front that the outcome would neither be “This was amazing, let’s do it fulltime” nor “This sucked, let’s never do it again”, but somewhere in the middle.
Looking back at our experience now, I can confirm this is true - I hope this blogpost reflects that.
Yet, from the perspective of “escaping the rat race” and doing something different, this trip was undeniably a huge success.
So much so, that we’re doing it over! Croatia, here we come! 🇭🇷