• Patrice Poltzer realized it was cheaper to go to Europe than pay for a summer camp for 10 weeks. 
  • On their return, the mom and her husband realized more than ever that they were in the NYC rat race.
  • They moved their family to Portugal in 2023, and Potzer said their new lifestyle was way better.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Patrice Poltzer. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I got sticker shock in 2017 when researching summer camps for my two oldest boys.

We rented in Brooklyn; even the most basic day camps cost more than $1,000 for the two of them. My husband, Olly, and I calculated that we'd spend at least $12,000 sending them for 10 weeks. It wasn't as if they would be at camp all day — 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. instead.

When we did the math, we figured it would be cheaper to travel to Olly's native England instead. We stayed with his family most of the time, but we used London as a hub to visit other parts of Europe, like Croatia.

Our trips to Europe felt like an adventure

It wasn't as if we were paying for fancy hotels. We stayed in a couple of AirBnBs and then spent three weeks with friends in Zagreb, followed by an island where their relatives owned a home. Olly and I worked remotely.

Many parents are scared to travel with little kids, but they're adaptable. There were some challenges with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old at the time. But it was an experiment — a cool adventure.

We did the same thing several years in a row because it made financial sense. We spent time in France and Spain before venturing into Portugal.

Portugal had a stunning, rugged landscape with seemingly untouched beaches. We felt like explorers of a different planet. "I could live here," I told Olly in the summer of 2019.

Each time we returned to the US, I was conscious that we were doing what everyone else did in New York — working harder to make money so we could live a certain way.

The price of living was crazy. I once spent $50 on bagels. I'd go to Target for one thing and come out with $1,000 of stuff. "How did that happen?" I'd ask myself.

Meanwhile, we always wanted the next upgrade: a better apartment — one with a washer/dryer. Then, when I got pregnant with our youngest son, my landlady said, "You're going to need a larger place."

Our kids integrated into the Portuguese culture

Then, in 2022, Olly's boss moved with his family to Spain full-time. We thought, "If the boss can do it, we can do it too." We were on vacation in Mexico City over the New Year of 2023. Olly and I sat in a bar, and he said, "Are we going to do this?"

Portugal made the most sense. Within eight months, we moved to Lisbon. We chose an ornate, high-ceiling apartment straight out of Architectural Digest. The cost in Euros was a fraction of our rent in Brooklyn.

We chose an international school for our kids, where many Portuguese children want to learn English. I liked that our boys were integrated into the culture.

The adjustment wasn't quite so easy for me. After all my years in the city, I'd attached my identity to living in New York. I didn't speak the language, and there was red tape. I started crying in a coffee shop because my American credit cards were denied again. We'd applied for Portuguese credit cards, but they took forever to come through.

Slowly, I found my groove. My video production business is doing well. Olly set out on his own in tech. I'm seeing Lisbon in color. Things are magical. There's no Amazon. There's no Target. I don't waste money on things we don't need.

I don't want to return to New York City

I don't worry about healthcare bills any longer. My mom has embraced the laid-back European lifestyle and often flies from Chicago to watch the boys. It's a kid-friendly environment.

This is how I want to live my life; I'm at that point where, if you had to tell me we had to go back to New York tomorrow, I wouldn't want to contemplate it.

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2024-06-17T16:34:05Z dg43tfdfdgfd