A New Deadline – Dreaming of a September Migration

by May 27, 2020Moving to Portugal, Nomad Life

The heat of a perfect day is cooling, and the crows caw raucously as they jostle for roosting space in their trees by the stream. Iggy’s windows are still wide open, mosquito nets firmly shut, and I loll lazily on my back, dreaming of a September migration.

Jay is off in the farmhouse somewhere, leaving me peace to work. Maybe he is killing dragons. Or laying down some saxophone tracks in our son-in-law Alan’s recording studio. But there is no sound to be heard bar the myriad trills, croaks and cheeps of the birds. And my thoughts keep drifting. Swooping and swirling with the swallows, as they chase their evening meals in breathtaking acrobatic splendour all around my tiny Hymer home.

I have a peaceful, excited, feeling of kismet as I watch them. Because this year, we will leave together – the swallows and I – flying away together in our September migration. South… south… south. 

I have dreamed of this ever since I was a child. Watching the summer swoops turn into autumn gatherings. Numbers swelling. Telegraph lines seeming to bend under the hundreds of delicate, streamlined bodies. Ever restless, ever flitting, shifting, surging into the changing cooling air. 

Then gone. Leaving me, the child with the far away eyes, gazing forlornly at the empty skies. Sighing at the bare electric cables. Feeling that same pull under my skin that I’m sure they must feel in theirs. In September the whole world seems to whisper to me to go; south… south… south. And my bones and my heart scream silently to answer the call.

And this year, finally, we will fly together – the swallows and I.

September Sky in Shetland

September skies back home in Shetland – Scotland is a hard place to say goodbye to.

Or so is my fervent hope after today’s research anyway. The day started in a muggy, groggy sort of a way. I’d fallen asleep far too late the night before. Trying to find definitive answers to my first question “How to Apply for Portuguese Residency?” I’d got sidetracked by some articles about tax on Expatica

Riveting was not the word for the Portuguese tax system! But it did confuse and scare the heck out of me enough to keep me up well past one in the morning. Needless to say that my plans for rising fresh at seven and writing an article before breakfast turned to dust somewhere in the hot, sweaty night. Turning into a limp, hay fevery ten o’clock walk with Marley dog, and pushing lunchtime before I really started to get back into articles on residency applications.

I was moving from website to website skim reading pages for the information I needed. I found lists of paperwork requirements. Go to this government office for paper A. Then take paper A to government office B with papers C,D, and E. This will cost X euros. That will cost Y euros. Ah the joys of the bureaucratic system. Thank goodness for all my experience of dealing with these things in my work in a crisis centre in Edinburgh. My head would really be in a muddle otherwise!

Beggar in Dijon

Beggar in Dijon – Working with rough sleepers has been the greatest privilege of my life.

Finding a completely definitive list of what was needed was difficult. Like an old fashioned paperchase race every source brought me another step closer to the whole picture. But there were still no answers to one of my key questions… Did we have to be in Portugal for 90 days before we could apply for residency?

This was absolutely crucial to our plans. If we could apply as soon as we had an address then we had until December to get there. WIth all the lockdowns, and Jay currently unable to work, we wanted to wait as long as possible. Heck we needed to wait as long as possible.

We were expecting it to take at least a couple of months to sort out the small pension we were using to fund our move. We needed to move it into a different fund so we could drawdown some of the funds and leave the rest invested for now. And we wanted to save that for buying the land. Not spend it all on living expenses while Jay wasn’t working.

But without a guarantee that arriving in December would be okay then we would have to leave sooner. And how we could possibly make that work I wasn’t at all sure.

Finally I had a stroke of luck.

Porto sunset Portugal vanlife Travel Malarkey

Working on shots of our trips to Portugal keeps me motivated.

Over the years I’ve worked out two main steps to doing good research. 

  1. Get on Google and start searching like crazy for everything possible about what I want to know. As much as possible look for officially recognised sources. When reading from unofficial sources then look for links to official info – follow them and double check everything.
  2. Talk to people. People are the best possible help in finding out anything you want to know. Join forums, join Facebook groups, tell everyone who will listen exactly what you’re trying to achieve. People will help, they’ll give you advice, tell you their stories, and give you links to places they got their information from. Then, once again, follow those links, read it for yourself, check it out.

I reached out through the Travel Malarkey facebook page and people were great. They started offering me tonnes of advice and places to go to for information. And that’s where I struck gold. A facebook group called British Expats in Portugal that was recommended by a couple of different people. A few hours after I’d sent a request to join the group admin tagged me in a post welcoming me to the group. In his post he mentioned all the different info that was in the group files – so off I went for a look.

And right there, in Steve’s write up on registering for residency, I found this:


“ Assuming the grammar is correct in the relevant legislation, there is nothing that prohibits a holder of an EU member state passport from registering residency immediately but there is mention of a request (as opposed to requiring) that you do it not before 3 months & before 4 months & so whilst some issuing officers will issue the Certificate of Registration as soon as you have arrived, others will insist you wait the full 3 months…
There have been a number of recent cases where some applicants were issued their initial 5 year ‘Residencia’ within a day or two of arrival in Portugal & to hotel and/or air bnb addresses whilst other cases have been told they need to wait the full 3 months before registering residency.”


This was the key information I’d been looking for. I wish I could remember exactly who recommended the group to me, so that I could thank them. (If you’re reading this and it was you then thank you so, so much!)

Arriving in Portugal for the beginning of December was out of the question now. We couldn’t count on getting an official who would let us register before the 90 day period was up. If this was going to happen we would need to move a whole, big bushel of a bit faster. But could we? Was it even possible?

British Expats in Portugal

The very helpful “British Expats in Portugal” group

A quick counting of months on my fingers later and I knew we had to be in Portugal by early September at the very latest to be sure of this working. But how? A week ago we weren’t even planning on moving there. We were going to stick to the UK and Ireland for the next year. Make a big Travel Malarkey adventure out of it. Go hiking up a few Scottish munros. Do some work on Iggy. Now I was talking about leaving Scotland to set up home in another country in just fourteen weeks.

I stared at the calendar. Fourteen weeks. The first of September. And I smiled and turned my head to watch my old friends the swallows…Swooping, gliding, dancing in the early summer air. We had left just before them last year – heading off for our Autumn  trip through the Balkans in late August – just as they started to gather round the farm. The dozen or so summer numbers swelling every day as September migration approached.

This year we’d leave together. Only Jay, Marley and I wouldn’t be coming back eight weeks later. This year we wouldn’t be coming back at all.

If only I could get the figures to work…

Marley in Almeida Portugal

I’m dreaming of a spot like this in Almeida for Marley Dog.

And so I turned to my calculator. Prior to the Covid-19 situation our pension fund was worth thirty thousand pounds for us to take with us. The markets had crashed a bit since then and our available funds were now just over twenty-four thousand. It wasn’t a lot to play with, and our plan had been to take just some of it out at the moment. Jay would hopefully get back to work in June, we’d keep most of the money in the fund until we found the land we wanted to buy. Take out just a few thousand to help with residency costs – and to show we had money in the bank.

We didn’t really want to take it all out right now. And we really didn’t want to be using any of it for day to day expenses. But if we didn’t take out more of it then we didn’t have much chance of being on the road to Portugal in September.

The gamble had just got a lot bigger. If Jay managed to get back to work in early June we would still have a few months wages before we had to leave. If he didn’t then we were going to head off to Portugal with nothing but this twenty- four thousand pounds and our Iggy home to our names.

What to do?

Hymer B544 in Sicily

Iggy in Sicily. As long as we’ve got him we’re doing okay.


Well we talked about it. We crunched numbers. Ever the realist I annoyed Jay by making him look at all the things that could go wrong – not just the ones that could go right. And we reached a decision. 

We wanted to do this. The more obstacles that blocked our path the more we realised that we really wanted to do this. Jay’s work would start up again eventually – and in the meantime we were darn well moving to Portugal!

We would live frugally, it’s pretty easy to be frugal and happy in Portugal. And, with luck, Jay would be able to start commuting for work in just a few months. We would still have enough left for that piece of land, and everything would go in our favour.

And if it didn’t work out? Well… then we would have a couple of years of living in Portugal. We would have an amazing adventure. And we would have no regrets.

Is that worth £24,000? We sure think so.

How about you? 😉

Fi. x

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