Leaving London: how one renter swapped a Hackney flatshare for life as a digital nomad in Lisbon — and hasn’t looked back

·3-min read
Elizabeth Sharma decided to  leave London to try out a summer as a digital nomad in Lisbon, Portugal  (Handout)
Elizabeth Sharma decided to leave London to try out a summer as a digital nomad in Lisbon, Portugal (Handout)

Approaching her 30th birthday Elizabeth Sharma began taking stock of her life.

And her conclusion was that she needed to shake things up.

“A lot of my friends were moving out to the suburbs, getting married, and having kids,” she said. “That wasn’t happening for me, and so I thought I needed to make a change.”

Elizabeth loves to travel, and she studied Portuguese at university. She was working as a public relations consultant at the time and her company allowed her to work remotely and so in 2015 she set off for a summer in Lisbon.

“I love London and I think if you live there it is easy to become very sceptical about whether you could find somewhere else that you could be happy,” she said. “But I fell in love with Lisbon. The digital nomad scene was burgeoning, and there was plenty of buzz and young people.”

Elizabeth’s first impressions of Lisbon, and its digital nomad scene, were overwhelmingly positive (Handout)
Elizabeth’s first impressions of Lisbon, and its digital nomad scene, were overwhelmingly positive (Handout)

In 2017 Elizabeth quit her £850pcm flatshare in Hackney Wick and moved, permanently, to Lisbon. Four days later she went to a digital nomad meetup and met Mike Gaeta, an American living in Lisbon and working for an online language business.

In 2018 Elizabeth paid €162,000 for a three-bedroom apartment in the Penha de França neighbourhood, a mile from the city centre, and close to the beach.

And she and Mike, 31, got married last summer.

When she was new in town Elizabeth, 36, worked as a freelance PR and video editor but in 2020 she decided to set up her own business, an online language school teaching Portuguese. Her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/TalktheStreets) went live in 2020 and she now has almost 70,000 subscribers and 650 students taking her online language courses.

When not working Elizabeth and Mike take full advantage of Lisbon’s balmy climate, hanging out at the beach or walking Harry, their Cavalier King Charles spaniel. She doesn’t miss commuting by tube one bit and because Lisbon is so much smaller than London she wastes far less time travelling.

The couple are both going through the long, slow process of becoming Portuguese citizens and plan on staying in Lisbon long term. “My heart is in two places,” said Elizabeth. “When I come home and visit the people I love it is like nothing has changed, and leaving is very, very hard. But when I am in Lisbon I am very fulfilled.

“The biggest difference is that we just don’t have the hustle culture here in Lisbon. I was looking for a calmer pace of live and wanted to get off the corporate hamster wheel.”

The cost of living in Lisbon has jumped since Elizabeth moved there – her flat today is worth around €280,000 – but although its not a budget option the quality of life sounds better than London’s sometimes hand-to-mouth existence. “The best things in life here are cheap ,” said Elizabeth. “Going to the beach, a glass of wine, a meal … you can enjoy yourself without it costing the earth.”