Dan's Story

Starting a New Life, Late in the Game

I know I’m making the right decision.  I just know it.  It’s probably not for everyone, but if you’re reading this, you might be interested in how I decided to move to Europe to start a new life with some of my family.  There is a lot to consider. 

I’m fifty years old, and we plan to move only two years from now.  My wife, Angie, and our two youngest sons, Bradley (19) and Benjamin (4), along with my sister, Alecia, and her daughter, Kellie (16), plan to move to Portugal together as a family. We will live, work, and enjoy what life has to offer across the Atlantic. 

For the purposes of my introductory story, let’s skip the big question of why.  I will unpackage all of those thoughts some other day.  This story is more about how is this even possible? 

My Family is Just as Screwed Up and Awesome as Yours

First, let me tell you about my family.  I am the youngest of three, or five if you count my step-brothers.  I was born in Florida about the time my father joined the US Air Force as a nurse.  My brother, sister, and I moved to California, the Philippines, and Maryland as Air Force brats. Our parents divorced in Maryland when I was eight. 

My mother was a struggling single parent who did a great job providing a good life with next to nothing to her name.  I was fourteen when my mother remarried.  My step-brothers were never really close to me. They lived a different life in private schools as we were getting to know each other during our adolescent years. 

My Life After High School

After high school, I went to Clemson University for a year.  I was not ready for that much freedom as a young man. Needing more structure in my life, I joined the US Navy.  I met my wife during sonar school in San Diego.  I married Angie in just under six months. Shortly afterward, we moved to Norfolk where I was stationed.  We moved around a lot after I got out of the Navy (Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, back to Oklahoma) until we settled in Florida for a seventeen-year stretch. 

Three sons arrived along the way, we had several careers, and we bought a house. We lost the house to tough times while we both completed college to become teachers.  We moved to Tennessee where our middle son met and married his wife and eventually had a son of their own.  Their marriage has had troubles up to this day and without getting into their details, that’s how Angie and I had our fourth son – through adoption.  Both birth parents are completely out of the picture at this point and our household consists of our youngest two sons.

My Family

I wrote about my family so you didn’t think I came from a family that has all lived together in one house all their lives until adulthood, and then we moved to a nearby town and started our own families, and a couple of times a year, we gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Not my family. 

We spread out across the US and kept moving around.  I think when I get comfortable with life in one place, I start thinking about adventures I could have elsewhere.  Maybe that is partly why I left my teaching career to go back to a truck driving career that I started long ago in Arkansas.  Well, I know the money is better as a driver, but it is a tough life.  In the meantime, I plan to save as much money as I can for the big move overseas.

You Mean We’re Italian Citizens?

Panorama of Rome

A couple of years ago, I spoke with my sister. She told me that she thinks we are Italian citizens.  I’ve always known that we were Italian, French-Canadian, German, Norwegian, and Irish, but to be citizens?  I never thought about that.  Here in the US, you only need to be born on US soil, and poof!  You’re American! 

Italian citizenship passes along by being born to an Italian citizen, no matter where on earth you were born.  There are complicated rules and everyone’s circumstances might be different, but with a little research, we discovered that we qualify for citizenship by right of blood, or, jure sanguinis

Acknowledging Our Italian Citizenship

When I say that we qualify, let me be more specific.  We have been citizens of Italy since birth, but Italy has no idea we exist.  There is a long and complicated process by which we had to gather vital record documents dating back to my great grandfather. He was born in Italy. We then present the documents to the Italian consulate along with fees and other application papers. 

There are several Italian consulates in the USA, and where you live determines which one you need to use. 

Living in Tennessee, I had to go to the Detroit consulate for my citizenship appointment (pre-COVID-19).  I completed my appointment to present my documents in October 2019. I am still waiting to hear back from them, and by Italian law, they have up to two years to come to a conclusion.  Alecia lives in New York so she will have to go to New York City for her appointment.  Her appointment is scheduled for November 2020. Covid-19 only complicates things.

The consulates take a long time to confirm everything. Once confirmed, we will officially be recognized by the Italian government as Italian citizens, which means we can obtain Italian passports.  Italy is a part of the European Union, and as EU citizens, we can move to any EU country to live and work.  There are several Italian consulates in the USA, and where you live determines which one you need to use. 

Why Did We Pick Portugal?

Well, originally, we decided to move to Italy.  My sister has done almost all of the research necessary to make our decisions and we found out that Italy has far more bureaucracy than we are willing to endure.  We started to look elsewhere in the EU, and Portugal seems to best fit our vision of life in Europe. 

It is one of the most affordable places to live in Europe, and it is rich with culture, heritage, and history.  Most people under 40 years old speak English. Children learn English in schools beginning in 3rd grade.  We still plan to assimilate into their culture and learn the language, but we believe that will be one of the adventures we expect to have. 

Our vision of life in Portugal is living in a place big enough for all of us to call home in a moderately sized city or town close enough to use public transportation.  We have very modest needs and we have very modest incomes.  We also have the potential to make a living online as educators. 

Moving to Portugal is a process that is complicated, to say the least.  We are not even close to buying plane tickets.  There is still much to consider and still more preparations necessary to make this a successful life-changing event.  I hope you enjoy reading the chronicles of my future life as an expatriate.

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