Today’s the day

We’re finally feeling excited, but today has been stressful too. It was nice not to have to drive today, but there was still a ton to do.

Kyle dropped Bailey off at the airport for his flight. It’s sad seeing him go and we hate putting him on a plane by himself, but we really don’t know how else to do it. He weighs 80 pounds so there really aren’t many options. I’ve been trying to convince myself (and Kyle) that it’s only one day of his life and that tons of other dogs make the move and they’re fine. I’ll feel a lot better when we see him tomorrow though. And I still feel awful because I know he will be scared on the plane.

We had to drop off the Uhaul and rental car. I picked Kyle up from Uhaul and then took an Uber back to the hotel after I dropped of the car. Then we had to split up and take two Ubers to the airport. It was a lot, but we made it work. We have two toddlers, two strollers, two car seats, seven boxes, two backpacks, and two suitcases. Whew!

In between all the ubers we made some time for a little fun. We were planning on going to the zoo, but according to our GPS the 23 mile ride would take an hour, so we tried to find a playground instead. When we got there is was roped off, so we eventually found an outdoor shopping center and walked around and got some ice cream.

I’m writing this last part from the plane. We’re about an hour into our flight. We are exhausted but so excited to be in this flight. I feel really grateful that everything came together as we needed it to. Bailey’s flight left hours ago- actually he will be landing in a few hours. Hopefully he’s doing okay. We are all exhausted but happy. Both kids are sleeping, which is exactly as we had hoped for.

Well, we’re off to start our new life! This still feels so surreal. I wonder when it will feel real.

On the road

What a day! What a week! We just settled into our AirBnb for the night in Greensboro, North Carolina. I am so glad to be on the road and on our way to Portugal. It still doesn’t seem real. We haven’t had a lot of time to really process it because we have been so busy. This week has really been a rollercoaster of emotions and we haven’t been this stressed out in quite a while.

Ready to hit the road

It was kind of hard leaving the house for the last time today. We only lived there for 2 years but so much has happened in that time. When we first walked into that house I was pregnant with Leo. We had one kid, one on the way, two dogs, and a cat. And we were so innocently blissful because the pandemic had not hit yet. The last two years have been hard- for everyone, I know, not just us. Raina and our cat were put to sleep by a vet in our living room. My last memories of them are in a room that I will never go back to. It kind of felt like I was leaving my pets behind and that makes me very sad.

The things that have gone good this week- we sold both of our vehicles to Carvana and it was the easiest part of the week. I’m so glad we were able to do that because we were really counting on the money from the sale of our cars. We got our rental car and the Uhaul. The SUV we sold was pretty comfortable and we miss it, but I also really like the one we rented, so that’s good. It has a third row seat, so Bailey has been riding back there and is way more comfortable, and safer, than he would be in the Uhaul.

Our pallets are on their way

The bad things this week- well, the vet messed up our USDA paperwork three times. We were pretty sure that it wasn’t going to come in time, but somehow it did. We’re still pretty shocked and obviously extremely relieved. Our pallets were supposed to be picked up Wednesday, but no one called or showed up. That caused some stress for a while, but they did get picked up, so all is well.

Today as we were leaving the house the Uhaul got hit by a tree branch and broke a mirror clean off. There is a road by our old house in Greenville with shrubs that don’t get trimmed all that well. Normally it’s not a big deal, but since the Uhaul mirrors stick out it turned out to be bigger deal today. We duct taped it on and made it here, but it’s not safe and we’re not sure what to do from here. We have to call Uhaul tomorrow to see if they can exchange it for one with a mirror, or what they suggest.

Stress with a side of stress

Today starts the week I’ve been dreading. I know I’m supposed to be excited. I am, but I’m also annoyingly anxious. Bailey has his vet appointment this afternoon. When I made the appointment I hadn’t known that today is a federal holiday, so the USDA office isn’t open. Hopefully the paperwork will be waiting in some queue tomorrow and they will just stamp it and mail it out within a day or two. Everywhere says that it takes 2-4 business days, but most people who have moved recently said it was mailed out within 48 hours. We leave on Saturday, so we have to have it by Friday. We really should get it in time, but it’s that small chance that we don’t that is causing me so much anxiety.

There’s also the fact that Fedex just lost our package. Fedex will be delivering our USDA certificate- it’s going to be mailed to us overnight. This past Saturday I got a text that a package I was expecting was delivered. It was nowhere to be found. I called Fedex and they opened an investigation, but it has definitely shaken my confidence in them getting us our USDA certificate on time. Or at all. Anyway, I really hope that in 3-4 days the certificate arrives and all of this anxiety will have been for nothing.

Even the kids are exhausted

We have a ton going on this week. No more free days. Like I said, today is Bailey’s vet appointment. Tomorrow we are selling our SUV. We’re using Carvana. I just went online, got a quote, uploaded a few things, and got to schedule when they will come to our house to pick it up. That was really nice. It would have been really hard to try to sell it privately since I have never done that and we need really specific dates to have them picked up. A lot of our planned money is coming from the sale of our vehicles, so it’s nice to have that 100% done this week. Wednesday is when our pallets are getting picked up. Thursday we pick up our rental car. Friday we sell the truck (also to Carvana). Saturday we leave. And every day we pack, donate things, and throw things away. We did completely finish one of our pallets. Tomorrow we’ll finish the other.

I know this entry is kind of whiney, and I thought about not including it, but the stress and anxiety are definitely a part of moving internationally, so I figured I should have an entry about how stressful it can be. At this point so much is out of our control. I have moved tons of times in my life, but never with two toddlers. Actually the most stressful part of all of this is moving our dog. None of us are sleeping that well, and we’re all a bit grumpier than usual.

Kyle’s driving certificate came last week. We sent his stuff in literally just one day after sending in mine, but his certificate showed up weeks after mine did. I think I have everything I need for the Driver’s License exchange, but if I don’t it’s kind of too late now. No matter what, we’re leaving SC on Saturday and we’re driving to DC. DC is an 8 hour drive and we’re going to break it up into two 4ish hour days. We will be in DC all day Monday and our flight doesn’t leave until almost 10PM. We have some things to do that day but we should have some time to go to a playground so the kids can burn off some energy before our 7.5 hour flight. The change of scenery will be nice.

I don’t really know the purpose of this entry, lol. Just kind of a venting/airing my anxiety post I guess. Hopefully in a few months I will look back at this post and laugh at all of the unnecessary stress that I caused myself. And then I’ll walk out of our apartment and walk to the cafe to get some coffee and sit and relax in the sun, grateful that we finally made it to Portugal.

Last day of work

When we first got back from Oregon it seemed like time was at a standstill, but the last few weeks have flown by and now it’s suddenly my last day of work. I have been wanting to quit my job and spend more time with the kids, but now that it’s actually here I’m feeling all kinds of things that I didn’t really expect. I really like my coworkers and have come to realize that they’re definitely a support system that I appreciate and rely on. I’m going to miss talking to them. Even if we do keep in touch, it’s not going to be the same. So I’m definitely sad, but also excited. Now our move is just about two weeks away.

Playing pallet Tetris

We have been getting a lot done, though there is still so much that needs to get done. It will be really helpful not working the next two weeks so that I can get more done. Our pallets came, so we have been busy building those. The pallets were 1″ shorter in length and width than we expected, which has actually turned out to be a big deal. We had boxes that would have fit perfectly, but now they don’t, so we’ve been trying to order more boxes to make everything as uniform as possible. If this turns out to be our biggest problem that would be great!

We hired a pet shipping company, Dog Gone Taxi, and they booked Bailey’s flight. We booked our flight, which will leave 4 hours after Bailey’s flight. There was a small hiccup because the website wouldn’t let us buy a seat for Leo, so he’s technically going to be a lap baby. I tried to get him a seat, but it just got too frustrating and I had to give up. I’m still going to bring his carseat and ask them if there is an available seat. I’ve been watching our flight and it’s definitely not fully booked. If there isn’t a seat then I will gate check his carseat an just deal with it. By the time we walk onto the plane we will be so relieved and excited that nothing else will really matter.

Sofia is ready to go!

Our landlord did end up selling the house. Luckily it sold very quickly, because we were getting pretty frustrated. For a few days it took over our lives between the showings, and all the text messages and phone calls. The new buyers were hoping to move in sooner, so our landlord agreed to prorate our rent if we could move out before our lease ends. That’s exactly what we were hoping for, so it’s a win for everyone! It will be especially helpful because hotels in DC are expensive.

Everything is booked. Now all we do is pack and hope that it all works out. I’m still pretty stressed out about Bailey and the USDA certificate, but I think it will be just fine and I am probably stressed out for nothing. Even so, there is really nothing that I can do about it. It will work out somehow. And in just over two weeks we will be moving to Portugal! I know that, but I think it hasn’t really set in because there is still so much that we need to do between now and then.

I got my driving certificate to exchange my driver’s license in Portugal. We sent Kyle’s the day after mine was sent, but no sign of his yet. Hopefully it will show up. We got a mail forwarding address with physicalmailbox.com. They will receive our US mail and scan and upload it for us. They can also ship it to us in Portugal when we request it. I got a virtual phone number with TextNow. It costs $5 per year and it gives me a US phone number so I can still send and receive texts from US numbers. That will make it easier to stay in touch with family and receive text verification codes. I have been researching all of this for years, and it feels so surreal to be implementing it all now.

Less than 6 weeks to go

I gave my notice at work tonight. My last day of work will be Friday, October 1 and moving day is hopefully going to be Monday, October 18. Less than six weeks until we leave. Putting in my notice has made it more real and also kind of scary. I’ve been at that job for 4 years and it’s a good job. It’s really because of my job that I was able to have my two kids and now move to Portugal. A little part of me wonders if I did the right thing, but I know that’s just the fear talking. Of course getting to spend more time with my kids will be the right move. But still, it’s scary to lose my main income source.

Since being home we’ve gotten a ton of things done, though there is so much more to do. Now that we’ve started, I realize how many moving parts there are. Hopefully everything will line up as it’s supposed to on moving day. We decided to hire a pet shipper after all to help us with Bailey. We tried calling Lufthansa a few times to book his flight, but the system said that it’s too busy and to call back later. And then it disconnected. We can’t even talk to someone to book his flight, so we decided that we need some help. We just got his crate today, so tomorrow I’ll put it together and start crate training him again. He used to be trained, but it has been years since he has been in one.

Bailey

I emailed the Portuguese consulate in DC to find out how to get the letter I need to exchange my driver’s license. The form is called the certificate of authentication of driving license. They said that I needed to send a notarized copy of my driver’s license, a money order, and a self address and stamped envelope. I sent those out yesterday. Hopefully that part is as easy as it seems!

I booked an apartment in Lisbon for October. We thought that it would be fun to stay right in the city, especially since we’re moving from a smaller town. We’ve been watching some YouTube videos called 3 minute Portuguese and they are really helpful. I actually know a few words now, lol. We also put a deposit down with upakweship, and we’ll schedule a pickup soon. We’re shipping over a few pallets of our things. We thought it would be worth it to have some familiar things, especially for the kids. This is already such a huge move and we’re getting rid of so much. They will love seeing some of their favorite toys in Portugal.

Our landlord is selling the house and we have our first showing scheduled tomorrow. We’re really not looking forward to having a bunch of strangers roaming through our house. One of the requirements to enter into Portugal is a negative COVID test. Even though Kyle and I are vaccinated, we still want to avoid COVID and are being really careful until we leave, so it’s frustrating that we’re going to be exposed to so many people in our own home. Luckily Sofia and Leo won’t need a test, but obviously we don’t want to expose them either.

Kyle and I are both feeling anxious, but also excited. I know it’s normal to feel some anxiety right now. This is such a huge move and there is so much to keep track of. I have a huge to do list in my phone. It helps me to have it all written down somewhere. Now that I’ve put my notice in at work I’m definitely feeling more anxiety because we’re leaving what we know. Yeah, I have moved around a lot, but always in the US. I’ve never lived abroad. I’ve never even been to Portugal. I am still 100% sure it’s the right decision for our family, but I also get why some people don’t end up making the move. It’s definitely nerve wracking. But in 6 weeks our nerves will be calmed because we will be there!

Back in the Southern US

Well, we made it back to South Carolina two days ago. Whew, this humidity! I somehow forgot how humid it gets. It was nice getting to spend two weeks in the way cooler air of the Pacific Northwest. The flight home was so much better. Our first flight landed on time, so we had an hour and a half layover in Dallas. It still felt kind of cut short, but we had time to eat and stretch our legs a bit. We have all been pretty exhausted since we got home.

I go back to work today, in two hours. It will be fine. I’m feeling kind of sad though. I always feel kind of sad when vacation is over. It has been so nice getting to spend the past two weeks with my kids. I’ll miss getting to spend so much time with them. I really miss my parents too. Sofia has been asking to see them a lot today. She misses them too. Since having kids it has gotten so hard saying bye to my parents. It’s so nice spending time with them and the distance between us is hard. And it’s about to get way bigger.

On the plus side, we will be moving to Portugal soon. I still haven’t picked the exact date, but we’re really close to deciding. We got our passports back and my SEF appointment is December 20 in Setubal. Kyle, Sofia, and Leo have their appointments on December 21, also in Setubal. For that appointment the biggest thing we need is a lease. Originally we planned to find something to start January 1, 2022 but now it’s looking like we will aim for a start date of December. The travel date we listed on our D7 visa was October 13, and that might be the actual date we enter Portugal, or we might do a week later.

Kyle has already started selling some of our stuff. I’ve been going through the kid’s clothes to either sell or donate them. I still have all of their clothes, back to when they were both newborns. We have so much to do and not a ton of time to get it all done, but we should be fine. We’ve known this was coming and I began packing some things a few months ago. Now that we know that we’re actually going soon it’s time to get moving.

I still have to figure out my last day of work. I think that I might just stay for a while longer, and have my last day be 10 days prior to our move. That last paycheck will be helpful, and having our insurance for as long as possible means we won’t have to spend a ton on short term health insurance. We still have some decisions to make, but that’s the fun and easy part. We tried calling Lufthansa today to book Bailey’s flight, but after being on hold for a while we were told by a machine to leave a message. I definitely have some anxiety about Bailey’s travel- booking his flight will be a huge piece. Once we book his flight I will book ours and make the last decisions that I need to make.

Our visas have been approved!

I got the email this morning that our visas have been approved. We are so excited! I was really hoping to find out while we were on vacation and we did. I even brought our passports with us, just in case. We are going to mail them to DC to get our visas put in them.

There is still so much that we need to get done, but just knowing that we are moving to Portugal will make it all worth it. The biggest things are to finish what we need for the driver’s license exchange, and get Bailey ready to go. I requested our driving records from SC and FL, so those should be coming pretty soon. I think that from there I need to mail something to VFS DC to have them sign. I still need to figure that out some more. Bailey will probably be the most stressful part, but tons of people have moved pets with them, and we only have to do it once. We will probably just do it ourselves, but are still looking at the possibility of using a pet relocation service. They are so expensive though, and we will still have to do the majority of the work. I think that if we were able to get the visas on our own, we should be able to do this on our own too.

Eugene, OR

I’m still not sure of our move date. Once we get our visas back, we will know the date of our appointment in Portugal. We will need to find a lease before that appointment. I’m really hoping our appointment is not until January, but we’ll see. So far we have an AirBnb rental for the month of November, and we will figure things out from there. The rental is in Sintra, and I was really hoping to get to stay there. It is in walking distance to a bunch of stuff. Since walking is a major priority of mine in this new life, I think it’s fitting that our first place will be around so much stuff.

We are going to enjoy the rest of our vacation and then get back to work when we get home. Less than 2 months until the move! Woo-hoo!!

Visiting Oregon and Sofia and Leo’s first flight

We’re still waiting to hear back about our visa applications. In the meantime, we flew to Oregon to visit my parents. Sofia and Leo had their first flights on Wednesday. it was a really long 8+ hour day. They did pretty well, though there were some meltdowns from all of us, lol. Once we boarded our first flight they told us that we would be delayed. We sat in the plane for an hour before takeoff. We came really close to missing our connecting flight in Denver. Trying to get to our gate in time was a pretty miserable experience and both of our suitcases broke. They lost some wheels. The doors were already closed by the time we made it, but that flight was delayed by about 10 minutes, which is why were were able to make it. 48 hours later and the memories are already fading since we have been having fun in Oregon.

Yesterday we checked out Amazon Park and today was Sofia and Leo’s first beach trip. We knew Sofia would love the beach. She loves the water and she has a lot of fun experiencing new things. At first Leo didn’t seem too into it, but I guess he was just checking things out because a few minutes later he was running all over the place and he ran right into the water. Sofia had a massive temper tantrum when we left. I’m pretty sure she wants to move to the beach.

The beach was right next to a town called Florence. I really liked it there. It had a really cute, walkable downtown area. We got lunch and then walked around a little bit. Eugene has been really hot. The day we got here it was in the hundreds, and it has been in the upper 90s ever since. The AirBnb we’re in doesn’t have air conditioning, so we have been pretty miserable in the rental. Florence and the beach were significantly cooler, so we’re really hoping to make it up there at least one or two more times before we leave.

Our property management company has been bugging us everyday that we have been here so far. I told them I was on vacation and asked if we could talk to them when we get back, but they’re pretty persistent. They sent an email saying that they won’t be renewing our lease, and all of the things we need to do to get our deposit back. We’re pretty sure our landlord is going to try to sell the house again. We never planned on renewing our lease, but it’s still kind of nerve wracking. As of October 31, we don’t have a place to live. We have an Airbnb rental in Sintra, Portugal starting on November 1. I’m really hoping we make it there by then. I know we have to be patient and just wait for word from the embassy, but we’re definitely ready to start planning and putting things into motion. We’re still hopeful that we will hear back from them in the next few weeks.

Submitted our D7 Visa Applications

We are a little behind the blogging game. I’m just now starting this blog, as we are waiting to hear back about our D7 visa. When I first started looking at applying it was very overwhelming. I read as much as I could about other people’s experiences. I joined a Facebook group called americans & friendspt. That group was immensely helpful. Their files section has everything you need to figure out how to apply.

We currently live in South Carolina, which means we apply through the VFS DC office. Since we live over 150 miles away we can apply by mail, which is what we did.

The first thing we did was get our passports. We applied in early February. Kyle and I renewed ours by mail and we brought Sofia and Leo to the local post office to apply for theirs in person. We got an extra copy of their passport pictures and they are so cute. Baby passports are adorable. It took a few months to get our passports.

From their we got our NIFs. The NIFs are tax ID numbers, essentially like a social security number. I got them for all four of us. You can get a NIF for free in Portugal, but to apply for the D7 you need to have a Portuguese bank account already opened and funded, and in order to get that bank account you need a NIF. We used nifonline.com to get our numbers. It took about a month, so if you’re in a hurry, there are other places to contact to get it quicker.

Next we opened an account with Abanca. It was pretty easy. At this point I don’t remember all of the required documents, but we sent in my paystubs, our 2020 tax return (just the first page), a copy of our main passport page, and a bill showing proof of address. There might have been other things. We scanned it all and we had to physically mail it using DHL, UPS, or FedEx. We sent it via DHL for $70, which was the cheapest option. Opening the bank account only took a week. I’ve heard that it can take a lot longer, so we feel really lucky. We had to transfer 250 euro from our bank account. After that we used Wise to transfer the rest of the money. For two adults and two children the requirement is 15,900 euro (that was the requirement when I applied, double check the current amount before you apply), so we just transferred over 16,000 euro. It’s nerve wracking to have that much money sitting in a foreign account since I can’t take the money out until I go to Portugal.

From there we did our FBI background check. The post office can take your fingerprints and send them electronically to the FBI, but there are no post offices near us that will do that. We got fingerprint cards at a place nearby and mailed them to the FBI. We never got any kind of email confirmation, so I was kind of worried we might not get them back, but they showed up a month later. Remember, don’t open the FBI envelopes. If you open them you will have to get them apostilled.

Our visa applications ready to mail to VFS DC

While all of this was going on, I also applied for birth certificates for the kids and a copy of my marriage license from vitalcheck.com. I had read that all documents, including birth certificates, need to be less than 6 months old. I think the issue date on all of mine was April and I applied in July.

Once we got the FBI background check and birth certificates we went to the UPS store to get passport pictures taken and print out some color copies of bank statements. My color printer annoyingly does not print in color, so we had to use UPS. We got things notarized at our bank and at a local store since our bank couldn’t notarize the copy of our passport.

The official checklist for the D-7 visa is:

Application for Visa (if applying by mail, make sure it is notarized)

Color copy of main passport page, notarized

Personal Statement

Proof of financial means

Proof of a funded bank account in Portugal

FBI Criminal Record Certificate

Release/Request for Portuguese criminal record check

Proof of private health insurance or travel insurance (we used Trawick International)

Proof of Accommodation (we used a 5 month lease on Flatio and 1 month through booking.com)

Copy of marriage certificate and children’s birth certificates

That is the official checklist. We also included our NIF paperwork. I created a packet for me, one for Kyle, one for Sofia, and one for Leo. They were pretty much identical, except that children as young as Sofia and Leo don’t need to FBI background check or the Portuguese background check. I also changed our personal statements around a bit to make them more personal, but I referenced everyone in each letter so they knew we applied as a family.

Some people included airline tickets, but we did not. I haven’t bought them yet. I was really torn about what to do, but ultimately I decided to wait. Buying our tickets would be another $2000+ and we already have some non refundable accommodations that we would lose money on if we don’t get approved.

I contacted VFS DC and they sent me 4 invoices for $35 each. I paid them and they sent me 4 overnight labels. Some people have said that they only paid one $35 fee and just sent everything together. I also included original birth certificates for Sofia and Leo, and our original marriage certificate. That was probably overkill, but I figured better safe than sorry. I had ordered multiple copies back in April, so I might as well use a few of them.

We sent the applications overnight via FedEx on July 15 and they were received on July 16. On July 20 we got an email that they were being forwarded to the Portuguese embassy. I was happy that we made it through one hurdle. And now we wait. Anxiously and impatiently, lol. I know we qualify, but part of me is still worried that we will get denied. Our lease is up October 31. The planned travel date we put on our application is October 13.

Why do we want to move to Portugal?

I love to travel. I have wanted to experience living abroad for as long as I can remember. Kyle and I used to talk about it and it was always something we wanted to do “someday.” Originally we were looking at Spanish speaking countries because I speak enough Spanish to get by. At first Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico were all on our list in part because of their proximity to the United States. We had been to Cozumel, Mexico a few times and we loved it. We took a 10 day trip to Costa Rica and we loved it there too.

When I got pregnant with Sofia we decided that we wanted to move abroad before she began school. We started to make serious plans to move abroad. A top requirement of mine is that I do not want a car. I want to walk and take public transportation. That made Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico more difficult. You can live in any of those places without a car, but we wanted to be able to travel around pretty freely, and it just seems a lot easier with a car in those countries.

I’ve always wanted to live in Europe, but dismissed it as being too expensive. At some point I read that Portugal and Spain are pretty affordable. Immediately I began looking at Spain. I narrowed in on Valencia pretty quickly and I started learning everything I could about living there and their visas. I wasn’t quite sure that we qualified, but figured we could swing it and it was worth a try. Then I got pregnant with Leo, and the second dependent would have made the financial requirements hard to meet.

I had looked at Portugal before, but couldn’t narrow down where to live, so I had turned my attention back to Spain. This time I looked at Portugal’s visas, and the D7 was a great fit. We more than met all of the requirements, including the financial ones. For the next year I researched Portugal. I kept trying to narrow down where to live, but all I did was expand the list. There are so many cities and towns I want to check out.

Portugal is fairly easy to travel around without a car, especially if we live in a bigger city. It’s easy enough to access the rest of Europe from there. Spain is their neighbor. I have read time and time again that Portuguese people are incredibly friendly and helpful. I know that in Portugal family matters, and kids matter. I like that Portugal does not have the same gun culture that we have in the US. I love that Portugal is a safe country. There seem to be a lot of positives. That sealed the deal and we knew that Portugal was the place for us.

As we get closer to moving it can be easy to focus on wanting to leave the US. Even though there are some reasons we want to leave the US, ultimately we are moving because we want to experience living in another culture. We want to be able to travel around Europe and obviously living in Portugal would make that significantly easier. We want our kids to experience other cultures.