We’ll never walk alone in Cascais

How a team effort got our Better Living Project started here in a fishing village outside Lisbon

It’s 3am on Saturday 3 December and now that I have made the active choice to sleep when I need it rather than having a set time for sleep being forced upon me to ‘fit into a system’, I’m writing this post to give some background to a first week in Cascais that has been ‘exactly’ what I wished for.

#BetterLivingProject is a reality — we have moved out of London and landed in the village of Birre, positioned perfectly between Cascais and Guincho beach. We have the making of a new home, a new family.

One week in, myself and Carlos Alonso have committed to our team to keep the project running into January and beyond. In doing so, we are committing to our ‘backers’ that we will lead the change that we seek, for a better, cheaper way of living.

Rima chose this photo when she and Henry started Super Tribe House

There’s something about Rima

On 18 August I walked into the office of Escape the City in London to an event set up by Rima Patel and Henry Blanchard called “Super Tribe House”. I was curious to know what they meant about us living together better.

I met Rima and Henry in the same week in 2015, at Rebel Book Club and Escape to the Woods respectively. And on that evening in the City a couple of months back, other new friends like Ambica and Julia, who I also met at the Woods a year prior, were also curious enough to show up.

With Rima this week in Cascais — I think of her as the Dream Weaver

It was the first time in a year of hanging out around this new group of peers and friends, that the conversation moved onto something that really mattered to them, beyond the usual talk about changing career and starting businesses.

And although I was happy with my living situation in Baron’s Court, I was drawn to the Super Tribe House project, because I had felt a horrible feeling of disconnection since returning to London after a year out in July 2015.

In fact, the most enjoyable dinner I had had in the time back in London was with Kate Davis and, you guessed it, Rima at her flat off Bermondsey Street, in December last year.

The day after the meeting at Escape, Rima created a Facebook Group and posted a message, which I have paraphrased here:

“Last night really felt like the start of something special! Thank you to all who came. There is no-one in charge around here, this is fundamentally a collaborative project, so if you know awesome cool peeps who just *get* this whole concept feel free to add them in, no need to ask for permission etc.
From the discussions last night I think we all fundamentally understand what is exciting about trying to figure this out so I’m down for just trusting everyone’s decisions. Hopefully it works out that this is a super awesome, self-selecting, tight nit community. If this doesn’t feel quite right let me know.”

As you can see there is something about Rima and as it turns out, she was the first person to make a financial contribution after I secured our house here in Cascais, soon after Carlos had suggested I go check it out. That £46 was worth so much more.

What I have learned about Rima this week here in Portugal is that she has framed 2016 by forming three ‘keystone’ habits based on sleep, meditation and drinking water. This approach has served her well as she left the safety of her profession, learning and development at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, in March to seek a way of working and living that works for her.

“Dude, we should move to Cascais”

I met Carlos in Bali when he was Tribe Locations Chief at Tribewanted in 2015 and in 2016 I made a point of going to visit him in Madrid. That trip fell at the end of September on a Friday, two days after I got back from a week’s annual leave in, you guessed it, Bali.

My flight from Gatwick was delayed and when Carlos picked me up at 2am, he said: “tomorrow, do you want to go into Madrid, or head out to a lake?”. It was not a decision for me.

Saturday 1 October — the day where London became Lisbon

Carlos’ family have a house next to this lake and after a solid sleep we were soon there. And soon after than we were walking and talking about the possibilities about what we could do at the lake.

I was thinking #LittlePaddleGoesAbroad and he was thinking of a weekend ‘headspace’ escape for Madrid-based entrepreneurs. But, deep down, we were both thinking about something bigger, more meaningful — a place where we could hang out and change our lives for the (significantly) better.

Carlos had first mentioned Cascais to me six months earlier in London and when I looked it up on the Google, I spotted it was right next to a big national park on the western extremity of Europe on the Atlantic coast. It was a place where he had lived four years earlier while working in Lisbon, which had allowed him to surf every day.

Over the next 28 hours we talked a lot about Cascais and by the time I got back to London, Carlos had introduced me to his old house mate Antonio van Dias (Tony), who lives in the centre of the old town. That was enough for me to book a flight to Lisbon the following Sunday, 9 October.

Cascais offers a pathway back into sailing, something my family loves

I drove down the A5 from the airport and had only one thing in mind — getting to the Atlantic Ocean. The picture to the left is the first view I had.

I burst into tears of joy as I thought “Dad and Sam are going to love this place”. As I have learned since, Cascais has a rich sailing and fishing heritage.

By the time I met Tony the next day at Hotel Baia for breakfast, I was sold on the location. As someone that doubts my own judgement, having a Cascais local there made a huge difference to my confidence to ‘report’ back to Rima and the team back in London.

And thus, on World Mental Health day, as I launched a new radio show about mental health while in Cascais, I opened up on my plans to find a house for Super Tribe to escape the London winter. And I went nuts texting Carlos back in Madrid.

Our team

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, Carlos and I have already committed emotionally to Cascais and this is enabling us to extend our time in the house we have rented in Birre village until the end of January. We are having dinner with the owner tonight to conclude that and share more about our #BetterLivingProject with him and his wife, on what will the first time he has had dinner in this house (his parents) for 10 years.

In the eight days we have been in Cascais, we have had 10 people as our ‘first footers’ (as Ben Keene calls us at Tribewanted). Despite a full house, it’s also felt spacious.

The Cascais 10 has been: Adam Bromby, Rachel Cristina, Luis Franco, Lisa Beecham, Joy Blundell, Sego Surrel, Rima, Carlos, Tony and me.

As week two starts we have been joined by Jonny Miller and James Crowley with more arrivals to follow next week. We have also started involving Lisbon folk in our project, like Ridhi Kantelal who escaped the City of London and moved home to Lisbon in search of more meaningful work and a better way of life.

Sound familiar?

Note: “You’ll Never Walk Alone” are the words below the emblem on the shirt of my team, Liverpool Football Club.