The Opposite of Nomad

Ode to another day of the usual things

LaDonna Witmer


Photo by the author, taken in Palmela, Portugal

What if you move across the world to a new country and then just… live there. The idea is a dream. (Or at least it’s the dream for a certain subset of people for whom moving countries is optional and accessible and adventure-adjacent instead of desperately needful and laden with trauma.)

In this dream, however, the expectation of what it means to “just live there” varies wildly from person to person. It’s common, I think, to imagine your life in a new country as an endless vacation full of exhilarating adventure and scenic vistas and life-changing meals and photogenic outfits.

Reality is what you make of it. And while there is a version of life in Portugal that looks a lot like vacation with household chores and bureaucratic headaches thrown in now and then, I’d imagine that for quite a few of us, life here just looks like regular old life.

As our tenure in Portugal approaches the three year mark, we might not be fully blended into the background like a local, but we definitely don’t stick out as much as we once did. We know what we’re doing, for the most part. We know where to go, and how to go. We know (most of) the words we need to use to accomplish the things we need to do. We know the neighbors well enough to wave a cheery bom dia! across the street or the wall…