Moving to the country… gay and single

This move to the country is full of surprises (read obstacles?). Not only is the actual purchase of the farm still being held up by all sorts of paperwork and permissions that need to be in place before the transaction can go ahead. But also on the personal front, I had a “surprise”.

Yesterday came the big “It’s not you, it is me” discussion. Or in short, if I previously had the illusion that although I wouldn’t move to the countryside with my boyfriend, I thought I wouldn’t move as a single.

So any plans for romantic reunions on weekends, orange harvests together and spiritual support from afar while building up the farm have been put on ice. Of course, everything is still a little too early to say  exactly how it will turn out, and my feelings are a bit confused at the moment.

Aside from the emotional component: On the one hand, I imagine that it would have been a lot easier to carry out such a project as a couple, rather than alone. Even if your partner may not there with you, there is “spiritual support” somewhere.
On the other hand, I also know that I am definitely a lot “freer” and can do more of what I want. But how this all will pan out in practice will probably be something to see.

Of course, there is the not insignificant component of being gay. And while there are plenty of gay men in the city, at least in the countryside “single men” are supposedly in short supply. Frankly, I had to stop googling “single gay men in the countryside” in frustration after all the results predicted a completely lonely life…

Well, “only time will tell” as they say.

Speaking of time: So far there is no news from the bureaucracy front… so there, too, we will have to wait and see.

Lisbon, Tourism and Gentrification…

.. or why is it time to move to the country?

One of the questions my friends keep asking me is why I don’t just stay in Lisbon. A good question, and here is an attempt to answer it…..

Without a doubt Lisbon is a great city. If you live here, you can be on the beach in a few minutes, the nightlife is top and great food and cheap drinks are available at every corner. Actually a great city to live, one should think. For me personally, however, there are some very decisive factors that slowly convinced me against living in Lisbon: Firstly, my current life goals. And on the other hand, the impending and very much foreseeable consequences of the increasing gentrification here in Lisbon.

Unfortunately, not a day goes by without another report in the newspaper or the news about the effects of gentrification. That’s a pity, of course, because tourism and investment can, if done right, be really good for a city or region. Of course it’s hard to keep a sustainable and slow-advancing middle ground, especially in a country like Portugal, which needs tourists’ income urgently. On the other hand the mass tourism and the gentrification (I connect the two here, even if they are, of course, somewhat different things) destroy exactly what makes the city so attractive. And it’s happening super fast…  Even in the two years I’ve been here I realise every day how hard it is for the folk here. There are certainly more competent sources that give the full account of the consequences, but I notice how strange (i.e. annoying) it is to live in a house in which there are 14 apartments… but only 2 have people really living in them all year round. And more and more restaurants in the area are replacing traditional cuisine with pre-cooked (and Spanish!?) paella…. and the list could continue for a bit.
Gentrification is something I didn’t like about London, and one of the reasons I decided that London has had its day and it was time to leave. However, the gentrification (and also the hype around the city) there seemed to be progressing at a snail’s pace – at least when compared to the pace here in Lisbon!

On the other hand, of course, my personal priorities also have a decisive influence. As an openly gay man, I quite simply assumed, without further questioning, that life in the countryside is rather complicated. And therefore, life in the big city, with all bars, discos and clubs was actually the only viable alternative. Meanwhile I take a more nuanced view: Of course there are a lot of possibilities to meet other gays in the city (and not only gays, of course). On the other hand, however, I also see that, unfortunately, and especially in cities, many people are totally lonely (not only gays of course). And that’s why I think it would be interesting to try “country life”. We’ll see if it works. But I could at least imagine that in the countryside there are fewer “opportunities” to go out and get to know each other, but that contacts become deeper as a result. We will see how and whether this thesis works.

In short, there are these two big reasons to try it now completely outside my “comfort zone”: out of the city, and off to the countryside….. how will it continue? Don’t forget to check back for more updates – soon!

Buying property is hard to do… (or the trouble with the deeds)

… and why I’m still “urban” for a little while longer.

Portugal is a lovely country: it has plenty of sunshine, the people are lovely and the coffee is great. And it has plenty of property to buy, especially if you look outside of the big cities like Lisbon or Porto. Sadly, much of the rural property is abandoned, often in dire need of repair and restoration. Which  is probably exactly why an increasing number of foreigners tend to buy these places and turn them into anything from B&B’s to workshops, farms, small holdings and palatial residences.

Yet, despite the abundance of empty property, actually buying a place is much less straightforward than you’d think. In fact, buying a place in the sun can turn out to be quite an adventure in itself. If you ever look around on the internet for purchasing advise, it seems it comes with a big “be aware and get advice” in blinking bright neon lighting all over it…. and for a reason!  While in the beginning I dismissed all the talk about the trials and tribulations of buying a place in the sun as something that happens to holiday makers who buy a flat from a ruthless developer, I soon learned that not all of the problems are because someone is trying to fool unsuspecting foreigners. But also, and this is probably especially true in the case of rural property, many problems are simply the result of the way business is done historically here, with no bad intentions at all…

In my case, the first hurdle was dealing with the real estate agents. This was somewhat unexpected, as in the UK, estate agents tend to be highly motivated folks, who are literally chasing after any potential buyer. In Portugal, my experience couldn’t have been different: I was lucky to get a reply to an email inquiry maybe 1 out of 10 times, and then mostly stating that all the information was on their website (even though I usually asked for information that was actually not on the website to begin with).

buying direct…

The solution came in the form of pureportugal, a website where most of the property is advertised by the owners. This meant that I could email questions to the people selling the properties – and usually got an answer really quickly. The downside of this though is that now I am dealing directly with the owner, rather than someone necessarily experienced in selling property, which explains the problems with the deeds that followed. That said, from countless stories on the internet, it seems even a slightly clueless but well-intentioned owner is better than a disinterested estate agent. So maybe this is a blessing in disguise.

of deeds, licenses and men…

So, here came hurdle number two: the trouble with the “deeds” and “licenses”.  This is probably the most complicated and confusing part of the property purchase to navigate. Basically (or rather as far as I understand by now….), the land is divided up into either rustic land or urban land. That means, rustic land is land that is used for agriculture and has no buildings on, like a field, olive grove etc… Urban land is land with a building on (or it could have a building on it).

The next problem then is what sort of building: buildings can either have a license to live in, a license to use the building for agricultural purposes (think shed), or to use it for touristic purposes (like a B&B). Seems fairly straightforward, but it is anything but… As you can imagine, many of the places in the countryside have never really changed hands, and therefore many deeds and licenses are hopelessly out of touch with what is actually “on the ground”. Some farmers may have build a shed on land that isn’t supposed to have one, while others may have constructed houses or annexes, or even swapped land with neighbours etc…

This isn’t really helped by a stifling and complicated bureaucracy, which means that many people just never caught up with having the right deeds and licenses in place. Or the deeds are entirely out of date, like missing out buildings altogether or showing much smaller buildings than the actual buildings are etc…

The problem, however, comes when the place is sold – as then the licenses and deeds should be correct, or otherwise, the purchase might end up having to correct all of this, including incurring fines and even potentially having to demolish buildings. And, of course, any alterations can’t be done before the correct licenses are awarded.

This entire subject area is so complicated, that just about everyone I ran into who bought property here had some sort of horror story to tell. In that sense, I think I am quite lucky to have a lawyer who seems to have checked all this out and insisted that all of the licenses and deeds are 100% correct before the final purchase. Of course, things were not quite correct, …

the choice

Basically, at that point, I had to make a choice: I either look for another place, or I stick with the place that I like and wait for the process to complete.  Reading how other people have literally ‘abandoned’ plans to purchase upwards of a dozen properties because of the problems with the deeds and licenses, I decided to try and stick with this property. After all, the property I have set my eyes on seems to offer everything that I wanted, and in a location that is amazing. Having made that decision, my lawyer suggested putting a time limit into the contract: so if the legalisation hasn’t happened within a year, I can pull out and look for another property. With this reassurance, I decided it was a gamble worth taking, and, fingers crossed, I won’t need to go to plan B, visit lots and lots of other properties and hope that they have the right paperwork…. and start everything all over again. As luck would have it, shortly after deciding to stick with plan A, I was also lucky enough to be offered another contract for work, which meant that I was stuck in Lisbon until the summer anyway. In that sense, it seemed like a good choice to hold on and wait. Which also explains why I’m still in the big city, rather than in the countryside.

Unfortunately though, the process of legalising an existing property is indeed fairly exhausting – and time consuming.  My place as a buyer is very much that of a spectator in this steeplechase, but I really feel for what the vendor is going through. He has faced any possible hurdle that I could imagine: from the dossier being sent to the wrong department, forgotten to a barrage of visits, questions and requests, and the authorities are definitely not making this process any easier.

The side effect of this is, however, that the vendor and I have now become pretty close friends: Over the last few months, we have regular meetings for lunch, going on excursions together and having small updates about the trials and tribulations of the legalisation process. I have also learned lots about the local area, as the vendor loves to talk about traditions, hidden places and other trivia from the area. In that sense again, I’m quite glad I actually know whom I am dealing with, and not dealing with an anonymous other through an estate agent. I can only imagine how much more frustrating and complicated that would be!

Of course, when I started this ‘adventure’, I hoped to avoid all of this legalisation madness… but, it seems it simply is, more often than not, part and parcel of buying property here. You can be lucky and find the one with the right deeds and licenses, but it seems 9 out of 10 have some sort of problem with this. Or, as my fellow sojourners said: it’s just the way it is. Luckily, after several twists and turns over the last eight months or so, we are hopefully on the home stretch with all the paperwork. So at the moment, I’m keeping my fingers crossed… and stay tuned for updates 😉  …

Change is coming…

About two years ago, I decided to change my life: moving from London to Lisbon and focusing on more on creating a different life all together, from leaving the “rat race” behind to spending more time listening to my inner self. One of the things I kept constant though was the environment in which I live: a fairly big, capital city.

Since being a teenager, I had tacitly accepted the idea that, as a gay man, living your life freely was only possible in a big city. I’m not sure I ever gave this postulate much though, I just accepted it as truth and let it guide some crucial decisions I made: For example, when choosing a place at university, I decided against an offer I had from a really nice university in Wales, and instead opted to study in London. Not so much because I liked the university in London more, or was more into the subject, but simply because I assumed happiness and fulfillment as a gay man was definitely to be found somewhere where the lights of the city sparkled.

Of course, that was then and now is now. And over the last year or so, I have increasingly looked into setting up a place where LGBTQ+ folks can connect on many different levels. Of course, my first intuition was to look for a space somewhere in a big city. Again, the assumption being that, in a big city where queer folk are more numerous, there would be more space to build such a community.
Eventually, however, I looked beyond the gay community and found that alternative living and social communities are not confined to the big cities. Instead, many seem to thrive away from the city, in the very places I would have expected to “outcast them”. On the contrary, with only a few exceptions, many spaces that try and create community beyond commercial interests, seem to struggle in urban environments. Not because there is a scarcity of attempts to create them, but often simple economic realities, such as sky high property prices, make such attempts not viable.
On the other side, even with many places, apps, clubs and other offerings to connect, especially for gay guys, gay loneliness is a big part of reality.  Especially, among gay men living in urban environments. Discussing the many reasons for this phenomenon would probably fill more than a couple of books, but in short, it seems having 200 gay guys in a 500m radius around you looking at their smartphone, twenty gay bars to choose from or even the possibility to attend several “social” groups. Ironically, all this choice seems to make us lonelier.

This thinking let me to develop the idea of the Quinta Project (‘quinta’ is Portuguese for farm). In short, a sort of rural, residential “community centre”.  A place I envisage to be inclusive for all queer folk, where the focus is on creating real, social connections – away from the city. The Quinta Project website contains some more information about it, but I will also come back to some of the thinking behind the project in later posts here.

Of course, this means actually moving to a farm,  transforming the farm into a place where the project events can take place… but also, and importantly, running the farm around the project. In other words, my future plan doesn’t just involve me setting up and running the “community centre”, but also looking after over a thousand olive trees, reviving several currently unused fields, caring for a mature fruit orchard and creating a vegetable “garden” that can supply produce for the Quinta. In short, transiting from the “urban gay” man, with no idea of how to prune a fruit tree, to becoming a “gay farmer”.

How will it all work? Or indeed, will it work at all? I have no idea. At the moment I have more sleepless nights thinking about what it will be like. And other moments, where I just can’t wait to wake up every morning and hear bird, rather than buses. Will it be great? I don’t know. But I know it will definitely be an exciting journey! And I’m really glad that I can share this adventure with you!


Urban flight: Is the countryside the new cool?

From London to San Francisco, from Sydney to New York: living in big cities has become increasingly stressful and expensive. But is urban flight, especially beyond suburbia and into the deep countryside, a real alternative?

By chance I recently came across an interesting talk by German politician, self-declared nerd and big “urbanite” Simon Kowalewski. Hardly the sort of guy you’d imagine that starts advocating leaving the city. During his talk at re:publica, a leading tech and digital culture fair in Berlin, he offered some interesting insights into why he is thinking that the future could be in the countryside.

Unfortunately, the full talk is only available in German (YouTube). But here are a few points he covered, upsides first:

1) Prices. The obvious one, of course. In his talk he notes that  the price of buying a square metre in a rural part of Germany is less than renting one in Berlin for a month.

2) Environment. Another obvious one, maybe. The environmental impact of living in the countryside can be much lower than in the city. Why? Because it is much easier to install environmentally conscious solutions, such as solar panels.

3) Health, above all mental health.  According to his talk, all sorts of mental health problems are much more common in cities. (This is actually a well documented phenomenon, with a variety of reasons)

The downsides?

1) Transport, at least sustainable transport. Of course this is an enormous issue in the countryside, where buses and trains don’t run on two minute intervals. No easy solution here, unfortunately… at least not until electric cars get better!

2) Internet…actually, not so much according to him. Although I guess German connectivity might be particularly good in the countryside/bad in urban areas. While there are certainly solutions, connectivity can be a problem in Portugal (and other countries).

3) Health… or maybe not. Another one where the apparent downside might be more of a myth than a reality. Busy inner city hospitals and doctors with lists covering many thousands of patients are indeed something more common in urban areas.

4) Politics… or rather the legend of the “backward countryside folk”.  Here, he makes an interesting point during his talk: he notes that at least as far as serious and organised right wing politics is more common in urban areas. On the contrary, in rural areas, while people may feel “left out”, they are less likely to be hard core xenophobes.

So, does rural living really present an alternative for him? Well it certainly seems so. As at least in his conclusion the positives outweigh the negatives, and many of the negatives are more myth than reality.

What do you think? Would you consider living in the countryside?

8 top reasons for more self-love

Self-love is probably the most difficult and most neglected aspect of love for many people. So here is my personal list I made to remind myself just how important self-love is:

1. Self-love brings more love
No matter if you are looking for a new lover or are happy alone: practicing self-love will always attract more love into your life. And if there is one thing you can’t ever have too much of, it’s probably love…

2. Self-love spreads and trains empathy
Loving yourself and looking at yourself with empathy will not just train your brain to be gentle to you, but also give you the tools to show empathy and kindness to others (and those we can’t ever have too much of either!)

3. Self-love makes you healthy
Catch 22 alert: self-love may seriously increase your health and well-being. And increased health and well-being can seriously increase your self-love!

4. Self-love improves your self-image (and idea of self-worth)
Having a better idea of yourself is the key to getting what you want – you know, because you are really worth it!

5. Self-love gives you the tools for real progress
Knowing where you stand and start will help you to work on the best project of your life: you!

6. Self-love because you’ll always be there
People come and go… but you stay by your side. Always.

7. Self-love because it helps others to love themselves
At the beginning of working with self-love I thought self-love was selfish. It isn’t. In fact, it is the one thing that inspires self-love in others like nothing else.

8. Self-love because you’ll find your beauty
Too many critical voices in your head make for too many sad moments. But with real self-love, you’ll soon find that there is beauty right inside you – and it will also help to let others see your beauty!

P.S. If you want to kick-start your self-love, why not check out my 30 Day Self-Love program? With small tasks to perform every day, you can really transform the love you have for yourself.


Six Ideas to make the holidays sexy

If for you the holiday season is often the season of far too much stress and too little fun, here are a few ideas to inject some holiday sexiness into the season. Don’t forget to share your ways of making the season sexy!

  1. Give yourself a sexy treat
    Don’t forget yourself this Christmas and give yourself a big or small sexy treat. New underwear to make you feel sexy? A relax-massage to make you feel as soft as …? A special book full of erotic stories? You probably have a few ideas what what you’d like, now is the opportunity to give it to you!
  2. Give your partner a sexy treat
    It’s great to buy gifts for your partner, but even better if they are home made: Why not give him a special one-off treat, or even make a book full of “sexy tokens” for him. Perfumes, books and socks are nice, but sexy surprises will really make your partner happy!
  3. Go shopping together
    Shopping can be horrible: too many people, too many things. But you can make it fun by going shopping together: not for the usual gifts, of course. Instead, go to a an adult store and see what you can discover together.
  4. Go surprise shopping
    If different family commitments keep you apart, you can always go adult toy shopping alone. Drop some hints about what you have bought – and enjoy the time when you get together to try out your purchases!
  5. Practice the “Art of the Quickie”
    Busy days of rushing from lunch to dinner to …? No worries: make sure you get your partner on track and practice the “Art of the Quickie”.  It’s something couples often forget about, so here is a chance to revive it!
  6. Rediscover your youth
    Visiting family with your partner for the holidays? Revisit your memories – this time with your partner. Introduce him to the place where you first made love, and all the other special places you remember from your youth.

How about you? How do you make the holidays more sexy? Let us know! And have a great holiday season!

Transparent sexual selves

Guest post from zoereei blog. Check out his blog for many more posts about sex and about the constant changing nature of life.

I have the freedom to sexually relate to whoever and however I want to. And yet I often keep myself distant, avoiding to meet up with a guy. I’m afraid of being seen as sexually incompetent; even more so, of seeing myself in that light.

My sexual drive pushes me forward at times, to look for excitement, for a thrill, for touch, intensity, physical pleasure. It pushes me to overstep the socially approved boundary, to go into the extreme, to take myself into a space where I lose all control and am at the whims of another, a space where I can be the bad boy.

Another force within me pushes me towards connection, to living an intimate encounter with another man, where sex expresses that connection and where body shape and deficiencies are respected aspects of the other rather than a reason to move away. Sex more than a fuck. The safe space of love.

And yet another force pulls me back, afraid of trusting the other, afraid of disease, afraid of infections, afraid of being used, afraid of being exposed and vulnerable – physically and emotionally – in front of the other.

Shame kicks in. Fear steps into the room.

I feel as virgin as a young teenager at times, within the body of a mature adult. I have very deep insight on some aspects of life, and am so ignorant in such a simple thing as having sex. I know all the theory. I lack a lot of practice. And these discrepancies between the child and the adult, the wise and the ignorant, feel like I’m being sheared in two. And in the arena of sex these feelings turn into ear-splitting rips.

There is no way of stepping out of this loop apart from stepping out. I need to allow someone in, and to allow myself into someone else. Not as how I should be, but as I am. Easier said than done, because who I am is constantly changing. Who will I be when I meet him: the slutty subservient slave, the controlling Dom, the fuck-now-then-see fun person, the let’s-take-it-slowly-and-grow-together lover? Which one is me? Or are all of these me? Which selves will I show? Which ones will I hide?

The path to freedom doesn’t lie in splitting apart my sexual selves, but in integrating them and allowing myself to be seen transparently for who I am.

Scary as fuck!

Originally published on zoreii blog. Thank you for the permission to repost!

Two easy ways to have a Happy Holiday Season

Taking care of your happiness is especially important during the holiday season. Two “mental concepts” are essential for your own happiness and mental well-being. Here is a repost of an original post from the Happiness part of the Bootcamp program about the two concepts: Empathy and Gratitude.

Empathy and Gratitude

Two concepts repeatedly turn up when you try and find out the secret of “happy” people: empathy and gratitude. They are also essential to the practice of mindfulness. Why specifically these two? Today I invite you to try them out for yourself – ad see how practicing empathy and gratitude can change your mental “position”, and help you become a more happy person.

Empathy is trying to see, feel and experience the world through the eyes of someone else. As so many concepts in the bootcamp, this seems a really easy thing to do – but is very hard when you put it into practice.
On the other hand, once mastered, it allows you to be more sensitive and open to the feelings of other people, which in turn will make it much easier for you to communicate with them. As you develop empathy, you’ll notice how people increasingly change from being aggressive to open with you, because you learn to treat them the way they want to be treated. This can be a truly powerful motivator for people, and is fundamental to building strong relationships. At the same time, it will help to deal with negativity from people: simply by understanding “where they are coming from”, and trying to help them, many negative situations will become much less stressful – and can even turn out to be an opportunity to grow for everyone.

Think of how often it is easy to just be annoyed at someone who is unfriendly, taking the last seat on the train or complaining. But while it is easy to simply react annoyed, it is often better to stop, think and … practice empathy. You’ll be surprised at the reactions you are getting!

The first activity today is to try and react to three unpleasant or annoying situations with empathy.
To do this, when you experience a situation where you feel annoyed today, try to take a deep breath. Resist the temptation to react to whatever it is annoys you – or judge the person who is annoying you.
Simply switch into mindfulness mode – but instead of focusing o your ow mind, try and focus on the other person: experience how they are experiencing the situation. Imagine actively that you are that person in this moment. Maintain their point of view for as long as you can, especially when you are talking to them or are close to them.
Once you are back to “yourself”, ask yourself how the experience was different for you and them. See how experiencing the same situation from “the other” side has changed your view of the situation.

The second activity for today focuses on gratitude. As a popular saying says: “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy”. Being grateful is, luckily, a lot easier than training empathy. However, we simply often lack the time or motivation to do this important task. So, as a second activity for today, I’ll ask you to write down three things you are particularly grateful for about today – just before you go to bed. This can be things related to anything that happened today. Even if it was a really bad day, I’m sure you’ll find at least three things to be grateful for (and probably many, many more once you start thinking about it!).

By simply stoping and asking yourself “what am I grateful for today”, many people notice how their mind immediately switches from the stress they may be experiencing during the day to a much more positive frame. This is a very powerful little tool: you can use it anytime you feel stressed or annoyed – or even just a bit unhappy: simply stop for a second. Take a deep breath and list three things you are grateful for in this moment or today. Try this out over the next few days – and see how your mind will slowly change and more readily focuses on the positive. You can even have certain “check-ins” during the day: for example, try having a gratefulness moment during your lunch break tomorrow.

Two little tricks today, but both are potentially life changing. I know they are not very easy – especially in the heat of the moment when you are annoyed or feeling stressed. But sometimes this little stop and think can really make a big difference.

Give the Gift of Tantra

Christmas is the time of giving… but giving just another perfume, more wine or the latest underwear often isn’t as meaningful as something really deep and connected. So, this Christmas, why not give something that no money can buy to the most important person(s) in your life: pure love, sacred intimacy and unconditional pleasure?

If you have already experimented with tantra, you’ll know how the most basic tantric “steps” can bring new levels of intimacy and connectedness to you and your partner. And if you haven’t tried out this powerful way to connect, why not do it right now? The good news: you don’t have to be a tantra master to feel the effects, and you don’t need several hours or many esoteric techniques to get started. Here are a five basic steps for your “Gift of Tatra”:

1) Set the scene and bring some time
Light some nice candles, select some relaxing music – and bring some time for the session. Remember the point of tantra is not a focus on the genitalia (and orgasm), but it is a whole body experience.

2) Begin by making a connection
Tantra is about connecting with the partner: start by breathing together, slowly moving on to touching your partner. Remember to it is about the whole body and about making a connection. Don’t head straight for the cock, balls, and ass… but take your time to explore the magic of touch. To explore  more about making a connection through touch and breathing, see Day 18 of Sexual Discovery.

3) Slowly move towards giving (and receiving)
The emphasis is on slow. Enjoy teasing your partner, gently stroking him, brushing your arm against his erogenous zones etc… and allow him to give back if he wants to!

4) Lingam Massage
Massage his body, feel the connection and slowly move towards the penis (or lingam) as the final act in your “gift of tantra). Lingam massage (find out more here) can be one of the most powerful ways to stimulate your partner, therefore, again remember to play slow and aim to avoid a quick orgasm. See this article for more on how to give multiple orgasms to your partner.

5) Finish where you started
Remember to connect and breathe together after your partner has climaxed. The time immediately after releasing all the powerful sexual energy is the best to really connect and create an intense feeling of intimacy.

The main point: enjoy the experience! And it will definitely be an unforgettable gift for your partner – and yourself!