One Year in Portugal

LaDonna Witmer
10 min readJun 13, 2022

What do I have to show for it?

I first set foot in Portugal one year ago today, completely spent and slightly smelly. My husband met my daughter and I at Humberto Delgado aeroporto. He (and our dog) had landed in Lisbon 10 days earlier. That arrival marked his introduction to the country, as well.

We made the leap from the US to the EU sight unseen, mainly because of pandemic travel restrictions. If we had held firm in our original plan to do a “scouting trip” before the move as so many American emigrants do, we would have had to postpone our relocation by quite awhile. As we made our plans in the turbulent fall of 2020, we found ourselves unwilling to wait.

And so 365 days ago, I stepped blinking into the Iberian sunshine and took my first look at my new life.

In December, reaching the six month milestone felt significant, so I wrote about what I had learned so far. I’ve just re-read what I wrote, and don’t know that I’ve learned a great deal more since then. I’ve made more progress, certainly. I’ve gotten more comfortable with the culture, the language, my own place in the midst of it.

I have flown away from Portugal three separate times now. On returning, when the plane banks over Lisboa and the red tile roofs reveal themselves, I test out the word “home” to find that it rolls more smoothly off my tongue with each arrival.

On this anniversary, I want to leave a marker not just for you the reader, but for me, so I can return to this day a year from now or three or thirteen and remember who I was in this moment.

Weeks ago, I made plans to write a clickable listicle: 10 Things You Need to Make an International Move. Something pragmatic, something you could bookmark and highlight. Something that would get shared and shared again, trailing new readers in its wake. A writer always wants more readers.

I had begun a draft of my list of 10 Things and made it up to 6:
1. Humility
2. A sense of humor
3. Patience
4. Curiosity
5. A willingness to fail
6. An aptitude for trying, and trying again. (If I were truly trawling for clicks

LaDonna Witmer

Reader. Writer. Hangnail biter. @wordsbyladonna