Embrace the easy-going lifestyle

Sarah Hendrickx (48) is a freelance writer and blogger living in the hills north of Tavira with her partner, Keith (47) and a whole bunch of geckos. Originally from Brighton in South East England, she’s currently writing a book about how to move to another country, which is due to be published in early 2017.

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2016

What inspired you to move to the Algarve?

Sarah: My partner and I had always planned to move full-time overseas at some point in our lives having previously owned homes in France and Morocco, but had expected that it would be a few more years down the line once we had more money/security blah blah. The goalposts would have likely continued to move. An unexpected diagnosis of a potentially life-shortening disease for me and an almost simultaneous offer of voluntary redundancy for Keith made us rethink our timeframe, panic about dying and throw our lives up in the air. Sometimes the present is all you can be certain of, so we took that. Turns out we were wrong about needing all that security; we’re fine without it.

We chose the Algarve after many years of wandering Europe and a spreadsheet featuring multiple potential locations and numerous factors (yes, I’m that type of gal). The Algarve won on its climate, ease of access to the UK (I still work occasionally as an autism specialist there) and for the general feel of the place. I love Morocco and there are parts of the Algarve that take me back there with the architecture and the smells.


When did you feel at home here?

Sarah: After a few months, when I took a radiator with a missing wheel back to a shop and successfully obtained a replacement, all in Portuguese. I thought: ‘Yeah, I can do this Portugal business’. The situation was resolved by the assistant taking a wheel out of another box and giving it to me. That in itself told me a lot about the country and the people. I like their style.

Was it hard to get accustomed to the Portuguese lifestyle?

Sarah: Not at all. I remember a fellow expat complaining that the Portuguese didn’t like to work too hard and that it was difficult to get things done quickly here. She said: ‘They just earn enough money to get what they need, and then they stop working’. I thought that that sounds like a great philosophy for life and I am embracing it entirely. As a hardened workaholic, I’m finding it harder than it sounds.


How does your life differ now you live here?

Sarah: I eat a lot more fava beans and mostly live outdoors. We grow our own food and are interested in permaculture which basically means growing as many vegetables as you can with as little effort as possible, whilst not harming the environment, which works for me. Our first attempt resulted in 43kg of fava beans all ready for harvest at the same time. The lesson there was that planting 73 beans at one go was possibly too many. We currently have a fantastic bunch of pumpkins expanding by the day. I blog about our gardening efforts at www.bicyclesandbiscuits.com.

What is your favourite Algarve moment?

Sarah: Being asked to dance three times by a local gentleman at a festa in our local bar. I accepted each time, but he abandoned me after about a minute each time due to my complete failure of ability to dance. I have no idea why he kept coming back for more; perhaps it was pity, perhaps he thought that after another beer, he wouldn’t notice how bad I was. I was just delighted to be asked to dance by a stranger as that hasn’t happened to me for decades.

Otherwise, cycling in the hills and along the Ecovia is an amazing way to travel. I like to see how fast I can cycle down the big hill near my house – 56km/h is the record so far. I am less good at cycling back up it again to get home and can probably be heard moaning about it for miles around.


What annoys you here?

Sarah: The terrible driving, which is in total contrast to the calm, amiable nature of the Portuguese. My Portuguese teacher says that something happens to the Portuguese when they get into a car and I think she’s right. I also hate how many hills there are on the way back to my house. And horse flies.

What do you miss most from the UK?

Sarah: A decent biscuit, although they do a Digestive in Contintente. Other than that, nothing really – apart from the lack of horse fly bites.


Which 5 words would best describe the Algarve for you?

Sarah: Bright, quiet, beautiful, fava and beans.


What’s your favourite spot?

Sarah: It has to be my own garden with its view down to the sea. We eat in this spot every day and I never fail to be filled with joy and smugness at being able to live here. Smugness is a highly underrated emotion.

In what way does the Algarve inspire you?

Sarah: It inspires me to live well because it’s so easy to do that here. My kidney disease can be slowed in its progress by eating and living well, so I’m doing my best to do that. The slower pace of life and the great weather has allowed us to re-evaluate what’s important in life and learn how to live differently. It’s impossible for me to feel stressed here.


How’s your Portuguese coming along?

Sarah: Really well actually. Learning the language was a priority for me when we arrived. I have very strong opinions about people who move to a country and don’t bother to even master a few greetings. I believe it to be rude – don’t get me started on the subject; I feel a rant coming on. I’ve had a lot of individual lessons and a week at a language school in Faro, which was brilliant. I can converse in several tenses with some correct verb endings, which is more than I can say for my English at times, but am less good at understanding what is said to me.

I have a tendency to just say ‘yes’ and pretend I know what’s going on rather than admit that I haven’t got a clue. This has led to some interesting items turning up at our table in restaurants that I didn’t know I’d ordered. My main problem is finding people to talk to beyond ordering things in shops and striking up conversations with random strangers. There is definitely a market for Portuguese people offering conversation services to those of us who don’t have many opportunities to speak.


Do you have a secret tip for our readers?

Sarah: In regional Saturday markets, local people with small amounts of their own produce turn up as well as the larger scale commercial stallholders. We always try to buy from the little guys; it’s more likely to be organic and it supports the local community directly. They’re usually happy for a chat too.

Also, if you’re thinking of making the move: do it now. It will all be fine, but really do be one of the ones that learns Portuguese, as this will make all the difference.

All words and pictures courtesy of Sarah Hendrickx


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2016

Posted in Algarve expat stories.