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Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Articles | 14 comments

How to cope with life when you hit a crossroad?

How to cope with life when you hit a crossroad?

How to cope with life when you hit a crossroad? What do you do, when life pushes you around like an autumn leaf swirling to the rhythm of the chaotic wind, not knowing where it will take you next? Not knowing what to do…?

It was past 7pm when I landed in Lisbon after a life changing trip through south East Asia. That was my 3rd trip to Asia and somehow I always feel at home there.

I was truly happy through every country I visited, through every culture I experienced, through every delicious vegan dish I tried.


happy bday

Birthday in the Philippines


And then life played a tricked on me, sucking me back to the place I wanted so much to escape. Forced me to return to my home country; filled with sad memories of a year that felt like an emotional torture, sparkled with a few moments of light.

Here I am again. It’s dark and warm in Lisbon. I’m so tired… I’m so tired I can’t even bother taking public transportation to my mother’s house, I take a taxi which I never did before.

After a short chat, I lock myself in the room, and turn the tv on. I just want to watch a movie and sleep. I feel so miserable to be back, predicting what is awaiting for me.

As I skip through channels, a movie with Julia Roberts grabs my attention… Ohh, and I haven’t see that one yet…


Eat – pray – love quote


As I watch it, tears start falling from my eyes. It was the true story of a woman who went through an intense break up with her partner and ran away; first to Italy, then to South East Asia, in search for herself again.

She found the joy of self nurturing through food in Italy. She searched for herself through prayer in India, and once she dropped the old baggage and made space for the new to enter her life… she found true love in Bali.

If I could resume my trip to Asia, I would say It was all about eating and praying. I prayed every single day to have the strength to go forward despite the enormous emptiness I felt. I prayed for courage, for the ability to push through… I prayed like I had never prayed before. And although I don’t believe in any God, I prayed…..

That was also the story of my life, literally. Eat. Pray. Love. Is love what comes next?

The reason I returned was the fact that I rented my apartment in southern Portugal (Algarve) before I headed to Asia, as a way of having a small source of income.



Last January in Algarve, while fixing my place before renting it


But 3 months after signing the contract, and once I was already in Asia, the tenant stopped paying and disappeared. I was 100% dependent on that money. I knew something was very wrong, and according to previous experiences I knew I had to return immediately. My time in Asia was cut short.

My fears were confirmed. The guy payed the first months to get a key and once he had access to my apartment he did as he pleased. There were actually 10 men living here for free, trashing the place. When I arrived, they were still using it.



Th sofa I had just bought was totally broken and the mattress completely filthy which they used to sleep


According to Portuguese law, people can live LEGALLY without paying rent for 3 months, in which the landlord is NOT allowed to disturb the occupiers or enter his own house. All rights are on the hands of the occupiers, and there’s absolutely nothing the owner of the place could possibly do.

I called the police twice, the first one they didn’t come, said it was not their problem. The second one they gave me trouble.

I grabbed an old key and entered my place, knowing there could be people living still inside, just to find a completely desolated scene. Part of my furniture was broken apart, destroyed or stolen.

I couldn’t hold the tears. The police arrived and I could not even talk. I was in absolute shock. My house had been vandalized and robbed one more time by tenants. Soon after, I get a really rough reprehension by the police who warns me what I’m doing is illegal and the occupiers have all the right to press charges against me now, for trespassing and theft if any of their belongings disappear. They took notes of my crime so the occupiers can press charges against me later on. Did I bite my own tale by calling the cops? Absolutely and I’ve learned my lesson.



The fridge was filled with maggots and larvae eggs. There was rotten meat inside and the smell still hasn’t disappear after one week.


Being Portuguese and living the 18 years of my life here have taught me that right and wrong is sometimes, very often here, disconnected to what is legal and illegal. Well, if getting my place back is illegal,then be it.



The towel holder was broken in pieces



My mattress was stolen. Those are the shoes of one of the men that occupied my place.




My bedroom door….. destroyed….



My bedroom door


I want to believe that maybe there’s a reason why I’m here. Maybe my time in Asia was done and there’s something greater waiting for me around here. Maybe out of every door that closes there’s another one that opens…??? I immediately started fantasizing about turning my place into a travelers house, where people could temporarily rent a room here and explore this beautiful part of the country.

That exciting feeling kept growing as I spent the days cleaning up the broken pieces. I can add my place to AirB&B, welcome travelers and tourists, do something really amazing in this place. Maybe that’s why I returned. I had been craving for a place to settle and call home, why not bring the world to me?



When I was a couchsurf ambassador and host, welcoming travelers at my place


As much as I hate the Lisbon area, I love the southern Portuguese coast where my place is located. The beach right next to me, the calm and gentle sun. People here are friendly, they take the time to greet you. Southern Portugal really is a magic place.



Sunrise from my kitchen window. Mind blowing!


Desolated with my constant bad luck, my neighbors have been searching for trusted people to whom I could rent my apartment. I hit a crossroad…. Of wanting to stay and build a community, a safe house for travelers and small source of income for me, and the reality of life: my bank account is empty and I’m desperately broke after this. Soon, I won’t have enough money to eat.

I’m on the crossroads of building a nest and a dream here vs. facing reality, packing my stuff after fixing the place and leave. Rent it to some stranger and wander around the world homeless like I’ve done most of my adult life.

Everything in life has a reason to be. Everything happens at the right time, at the right place. I’m wondering what the surprises will bring for me. That’s the message what I’m trying to figure out now.

If there’s something I brought with me from Asia was the belief, that at the end everything will be alright.



  1. Hi Yara,
    I’m so, so sorry to hear about the terrible experience you’ve had. It must have been devastating to come back and find your place in that condition. My advice is to fix it up, put it on AirBnB and rent it out to tourists/travellers for short-term stays. You could potentially make a lot more money this way than with a long-term tenant, though of course there is more involved. For example, you would have to arrange for someone to clean the apartment, hand over the keys, etc. when you’re not there. I’m actually planning to do the same thing in the future, so if you’d like to send me an email I can share with you what I’ve found so far in my research. The big question is, what are the Portuguese laws relating to these kind of short-term rentals?

    • I think I would rent a room for the time I’m here (this way I would have a home too) and then, during high season I would rent the whole apartment (but I guess I would lock my personal room and just rent it as a 1 bedroom apartment) on airB&B.

      I would definitely make much more money this way. Rents here are around 350€ a month for a 2 bedroom apartment by the beach, which is nothing for me to survive basically. Out of this money I have to pay the government 1 month as income tax (IRS), 2 month goes for the government as propriety tax, 1 month for the cleaning, maintenance and insurance and once they leave my apartment I spend a few hundred because it’s usually totally destroyed.

      The problem is that right now I’m so broke, I might not be able to start the AirB&B anytime soon…..

      I’m so confused…..

      • Hmm, yes, you are in a tough situation. But do you really need a lot of money up front to start the AirB&B? It seems like you could just rent out a room now, even if it was at a lower price since the place is not in great shape. And then you could reinvest that money into fixing it up so that a bit later you could charge more for it.

        • I can’t rent the place the way it is, it’s really trashed down…. I don’t need a lot of money to invest at all. But it’s low season, very few people come here during winter time, and my bank account is basically empty. With the amount of taxes I pay and a cronically ill dog who needs treatment, I can’t risk it financially…. Although I really have the feeling I should not rent it the whole year and should do an airb&b. It’s a really strong gut feeling.

          Maybe…. I should show it to these people who are interested (friends of my neighbors) and leave it with destiny. If they want it, rent it to them while building an financial cushion, if not airb&b it is….?!

          • That sounds like a decent plan, as long as you’re convinced they are trustworthy. But if you have a really strong gut feeling then it’s probably wise not to ignore it. Good luck!

  2. You could fix up the apartment, rent it out on Air B&B or other, and also play host to new guests from all over the world who will appreciate your knowledge of the region and kindness. This might help you save up money for another journey, while you get some needed downtime from the stress of the situation.

    • That’s an option I’ve been seriously considering Rebecca. The problem is that this is a beach area, and now, during low season not many people come down this way. Which means, I need a financial cushion for the time being, which is disappearing as I blow up money to fix this place.

  3. You could also list your place on VegVisits, which just launched recently. That way you won’t have any more problems with rotten meat in the fridge :-(

      • You’re welcome!

  4. Oh Yara this is so sad to read :(
    In Italy we have kind of the same law, and it’s so unfair.
    I’m actually thinking of doing the same think – renting my house and travel, but I’m so scared that something similar happens to me as well.
    So I’m thinking of selling it instead .. why don’t you do the same?
    Big hug my friend and I wish all the good for you from my heart <3

    • Ciao Bella, thank you so much for your message! Yes, I think we have some crazy laws here in southern Europe. Spain had something similar, but they have changed it now.
      Don’t sell it, the market is terrible for that now. Rent it through airB&B :)


  5. Oh wow I’m so sorry you had to go through such a bad experience. Also cannot believe those laws that is absolutely crazy! The police sound so unsympathetic and I was so frustrated reading about their awful response, treating you like a criminal!! God. Just remember karma is a bitch and it’s coming for the guys who trashed your house!

  6. HI everyone is there anyone here who can help me how to apply for a job in Europe as a Care /or Nanny .what’s the procedures

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