Life is a journey filled with opportunities, challenges, and moments of uncertainty. At its core, it is a series of choices that shape our paths and define who we become.
Taking chances is not about recklessness or blind leaps into the unknown. Instead, it is about stepping outside our comfort zones, embracing vulnerability, and daring to explore uncharted territories, like what a UK couple did when they found an abandoned farmhouse in Portugal.
When Alan Andrew and Vincent Proost were presented with the chance to relocate from the UK to Portugal, they recognized it as an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
Having met on a blind date in London in 2006, Alan from Pennsylvania and Vincent from Belgium had been together for over two decades when they began searching for a vacation home.
Despite their limited time spent in Portugal before, Vincent had a gut feeling that it was their ideal destination. Little did they realize just how true this intuition would prove to be.
“To be honest, I was more keen on somewhere like Italy,” Alan tells CNN Travel. “I didn’t really know Portugal.”
After falling in love with the scenic beauty of Alentejo in southern Portugal, Alan and Vincent decided to find a house in the area.
They explored approximately 80 properties before stumbling upon an abandoned farmhouse in the rural village of Figueira e Barros.
Despite the house’s dilapidated state, the couple was captivated by the breathtaking views surrounding it.
However, upon closer inspection, they realized that restoring the house would be impossible, and they would have to embark on a complete rebuild.
The project took an unexpected turn when they realized the extent of the renovation needed.
It became apparent that they would need to permanently move to Portugal to fully commit to the undertaking and establish a functioning farm on the property.
“It suddenly became a project,” Vincent said. “And I was like, ‘Okay, let’s move.’ And then we did.”
“We built the house from scratch just before the pandemic, which was quite an adventure,” Vincent recalls.
After acquiring the property in the summer of 2019, they made the life-changing decision to permanently relocate to Portugal.
During this time, they rented a house nearby while finalizing the property purchase and obtaining residency.
Eager to bring their dream to life, Alan and Vincent met with architects and builders to carefully plan and design their new home.
Before commencing the main construction, they decided to renovate the barn on the property, transforming it into a comfortable living space affectionately referred to as the “pool house.” This allowed them to reside on the property while the main house was being built.
Little did they know that a global pandemic would disrupt their plans.
Shortly after settling into a rented house in Portugal, the country went into lockdown due to the pandemic, and they were forced to leave their rental property, adding another layer of complexity to their already massive project.
“All the hotels were closed,” Vincent said. “So we had to sleep in a tent for two weeks.”
After moving into the barn on their property, Alan and Vincent faced the challenge of fixing it without electricity.
Being new to the area and with limited options, they embraced the adventure and settled into their new home.
“For a long time, we really couldn’t leave our village area,” Alan said. “And we had just moved here, so we didn’t know anyone.”
Their property covered a vast 175 acres, allowing them to embark on a new venture. With around 1,500 olive trees to tend to, the couple worked diligently to start their own organic oil production.
“Neither of us had any clue about the farming aspect at all,” Alan said. “So we were lucky that we met a Portuguese oil farmer, who’s been a kind of a mentor to teach us how to do it.”
Their dedication and hard work paid off, as their olive oil gained recognition and even won prizes at prestigious competitions like the London International Olive Oil Competitions.
Construction on their beautiful home began in September 2020 and took nearly three years.
The house features a solar water heating system incorporating traditional local materials, blending seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.
Although they faced various challenges, including complying with regulations and building restrictions, the couple found solace in the warm welcome they received from the local community.
“It’s very well insulated,” adds Alan. “In the old traditional houses, the windows are tiny because of the weather, and now because of technology, we’re able to put in bigger windows.”
The former abandoned farmhouse is now a stunning retreat, featuring five bedrooms in the main house and an inviting outdoor swimming pool. Additionally, the pool house offers a cozy studio bedroom with a kitchenette for added convenience.
For Alan and Vincent, the authentic charm of their new home lies in the warm embrace of the local community.
They have been welcomed with open arms, and the declining population has fostered a pro-immigration sentiment, making them feel right at home.
One of their home’s most captivating features is its breathtaking views. The house, measuring approximately 800 square meters, was chosen for its tranquility and beautiful vistas.
The abundant windows provide picturesque views, and Vincent’s favorite moments are the mesmerizing sunsets they can enjoy from their home.
Their new residence, carefully designed to blend harmoniously with the natural surroundings, sits on one level, merging seamlessly with the landscape.
They have even managed to preserve the gate of the abandoned farmhouse, adding a touch of history to their modern haven.
Renting out four of their five bedrooms as Casa Baio, Alan, and Vincent have transformed their home into a welcoming bed and breakfast for visitors to enjoy the beauty of Portugal.
The warm embrace of the locals has made them feel right at home in Figueira e Barros.
“As soon as we bought the place, all the neighbors invited us for dinner,” says Vincent. “The people are just wonderful.”
Adjusting to the change of pace in the Alentejo region has been an experience for the couple. They’ve come to appreciate the slow-paced lifestyle, where time seems to move more slowly.
Despite enjoying their new home in Portugal, Alan’s health condition, ARVD/C, has presented them with challenging decisions, according to Inspire More.
Given the physical demands of running the farm and the potential risks associated with the disease, they have decided that selling their cherished home is the best action.
While facing the disappointment of leaving behind the life they have created and the abandoned farmhouse they worked so hard to renovate, Alan and Vincent maintain a positive outlook and no regrets about their journey.
They eagerly anticipate their next adventure, embracing the uncertainty with courage and resilience.
Considering their experiences, they encourage others considering a fresh start to take the leap and explore new opportunities.
“Go for it,” Alan said. “Life is short; we don’t know what’s going to happen around the corner.
“But also have your eyes open. And when you go into a new place, don’t expect things to be the way they were in the US or wherever you’re coming from.”
“Be open to the differences. Try to find ways of adapting and not expecting things to adapt to you. Because why should they?”