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Living the Dream: Zen and the Art of Navigating Bureaucracy (a Cramooztopia update)

Many of you are probably wondering what we are up to, where things stand with our project, and what we are doing with our days. I have to admit, I have been pushing off the writing of this blog for months in the hopes that instead of a lukewarm update, I could share some epic and exciting news. Today, I have decided to rip off the Band-Aid and share the frustrating truth – but rest assured, all that means is that the big news is on hold. Let me explain.

Summer was full of wonderful experiences from volunteering at foodie glamping heaven Vinha Da Manta to a woodworking workshop in the magical area of Sintra, and volunteering on another glamping site that hosted a few weddings, Senses Camping.

What you perhaps do not know is that along the way, we used most of our free time to visit properties. We must have seen 30 if not 40 properties or more.

Some had potential on paper that failed to translate to real life – like that huge 28 hectares one with a view of the coal factory that happens to look like a nuclear facility, or the one that checked all our boxes but had the biggest, ugliest electricity pylon smack dab in the middle of the garden… or the one that was so big we could not even visit the whole thing, but did see the 16 hectares of oh so flammable Eucalyptus growing in the area by the house.

Others were exciting and brimming with potential – like the place we nicknamed Babylon because it had hidden waterways that were hinted at under the brambles and even a little cave-grotto (but most of the property was on such a steep slope that in spite of terraces set up to allow better use of the space, we would have had to set up a zipline to go down and get a team of donkeys to get us back to the top – tempting, I know), or the spot not that far from a medieval castle that was nestled in a dip in the landscape and had a stream running along its lower border (the spring was a trickle in the heat of the summer and yet seemed to be the only source of water; and the road was so close to the house that if you sneezed in the living room, someone driving by was likely to say “Bless you”).

None felt quite right.

Were we being too idealistic? Absurdly demanding? Should we reconsider one of the almost-but-not-quite-perfect places and just make it work?

Everyone you talk to tells you “you’ll know the place when you see it” but they say that about love, too, and it took Francois and I a solid six months to fall for each other. What if it was the same for finding our place?

One day in August, Francois bumped into a friendly local mechanic who had fixed our car and, on a whim, asked him if he had time for coffee. They got to talking (in Portuguese, mind you), and he said he knew a place that had a lot of water and was probably on sale as it had been as good as abandoned for the past 15 years.

We went for a visit, and back for a second look; we spent the night wild camping on site and finally, there was no denying it: we weren’t just saying it because we were starting to be over the whole property-visit thing. This place was really something else.

We spoke to the owner and eventually shook on a deal. If you think that was the hard part, guess again!

Since September, we have been working on the purchase of “Dreamland” (our nickname for this property); navigating the deep and turbulent waters of Portuguese bureaucracy. Granted, we set off with the mindset of taking our time and doing things right, but @#$%&! Six months later we are getting twitchy, to say the least.

There has been some progress: the land was partly cleared, we walked the (extensive) boundaries, a cartographer came and measured everything, we found a lawyer, we interviewed architects and found one we invited to join our team, we set up a business, we ended up changing lawyers, we bought a tiny house on wheels and (with the owner’s permission of course) set it up on the land…

So, here is where we stand: we are one administrative step away from being ready to sign. Sound great, right? Except we have been trying to complete that last step since January. Like I said, twitch.

In the meantime, we have our job share with Pure Portugal (we’re the team developing the French content on Pur Portugal and the community on Facebook), I am diving into writing, we continue to work on our Portuguese, and every day we follow up on the administrative front.

We WILL get there. It’s just taking longer than we had both hoped or expected. Now at least you know, which to be honest is a weight off our shoulders.

So, stay tuned for off-grid living updates and the big “we signed” news which will hopefully be coming soon-ish. The champagne is, after all, already on ice.

Spotted in Sintra in a random stairwell. Personally I would add perseverance and hard work but this definitely works too.



  • Eleni Phillips
    24 March 2018

    It’s PROGRESS for sure Shahnaz and while things may be moving SLOWER than you two would want to, PATIENCE MY DEAR because signing papers and all that bureaucratic BS can take more time than the six months it took you two lovies to “FALL FOR” each other♥️♥️ Keep us posted and Happy Persian New Year Shahnaz

  • Mariam nayiny
    25 March 2018

    You are getting closer and closer and it all sounds very promising – can’t wait to see the “we have signed” post soon-
    See you two in July

    Lots of
    Mariam and Nader

  • Laure Bourdes Aron
    25 March 2018

    Happy you gave up the house looking like a nuclear facility brrr. However I would have enjoyed riding a donkey up to your house, except donkeys never go where you want them to go.
    I congratulate François on taping la discute in Portuguese. I’m very impressed.
    Allez en Français mon motto favori : “Il n’est pas nécessaire d’espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. Big hugs to both, Laure xxx

  • Herve Duborjal
    25 March 2018

    Gardez la pêche !

  • Kat
    25 March 2018

    It’s all about the journey… will call you soon!

  • Radka Mosnier
    1 April 2018

    Hey Shahnaz and François, thanks for sharing your feelings and experiences. We really appreciate it- especially when we must brace ourselves too and get ready for the same type of thing. Don’t loose faith- You’re nearly there, just keep hanging! You’ve made a massive progress since you arrived to Portugal, it’s just things like this sadly don’t take a fortnight to be completed.
    Meanwhile, sending love from India,
    Radka (and François from Nepal)

  • Tyler
    15 April 2018

    I’m so glad I read this. I’ve been thinking about you guys and curious about how your plans are developing. I admire your commitment to your dream. Hang in there and we hope to see you soon. Love, Tyler, Kiti & Aria


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