Before our travels in Asia we lived as expats in Spain for five years, have I mentioned that yet? We moved there when the kids were three years old and just six months. When I think about that now as they are ten and seven years respectively it makes me think, “Wow! How brave we were” but in the words of my amazing and well travelled cousin, Rebecca, we were more scared of things just staying the same than scared of the change. Not that we had ever brought a family up in England before, we just knew we wanted something different. Chris had spent a year living in Spain a few years earlier before we were together and he loved it, even though he was there on his own he could see the different attitude to family life, the freedom that children have there, more of an outdoor life. He wanted it for our two and everything we did from the birth of our first child was really with that end result in mind. We slowly rid ourselves of responsibilities, my business partnership ended and I spent some time as a mobile hairdresser while pregnant with Lewis
We had a holiday there once my salon closed when Izzy was two. We spent two weeks in the same area that Chris had lived in previously to have a look around, pretty important as I had never been. We didn’t speak Spanish but it is a very international place the Costa del sol, people of all nationalities live there and the common languages are Spanish, obviously and English. So it is really not difficult to get by. To my embarrassment I still only have very basic Spanish although Izzy is fluent now. The people who end up the best Bilingual are the ones who have a Spanish Partner or who grew up there and went to Spanish public school. But trust me there are many many people there who have lived there for years and still the only Spanish they know is ” uno caña, por favor” which is asking for a beer. I kid you not.
We knew from Chris’s experience there already that earning a living in Spain without speaking Spanish limits your options so we were very busy trying to build an online business, we sank all our money from Chris’s house sale into our original website, a very forward thinking thing to undertake really at that time, we didnt know anyone else who was already doing this, we were breaking new ground and winging it really. This whole journey has been a challenge in personal growth and has tested us to the limit in terms of stress and riding out the tough times. Entrepreneurial spirit is needed and ultimately it was the only way forward for the life we wanted. We set a challenge for ourselves, the first was that the business had to be earning X amount consistently and second, Lewis our new born needed to be weaned. Both these things coincided when Lewis was roughly six months old and as we only rented our house in the UK and had made a lot of sacrifices to be free of responsibility it was relatively easy to just go.
We took an eleven month rental on a villa that was in the same urbanisation as we had holidayed in a year earlier. Luckily for us as European Union residents we could live in Spain easily without applying for visas, so we arranged transport for our furniture and boxed up stuff to get there a day earlier than we did, this is something we came to regret as most rentals are fully furnished in Spain, unlike England, our furniture became a burden in future moves but we loaded up our slightly battered Rover estate car with suitcases and things we needed for the two night ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Santander. We had no farewell parties, no fuss, a few goodbyes was all we did. I think a few friends hadn’t really believed we would do it, we had been talking about it for so long and then having a new baby etc seemed to mean that we would stay. Saying goodbye to my mum hit me a lot harder than I expected. The guilt at taking the kids away was massive. I cried on and off all day, getting on the ferry, I cried, it wasn’t really until two days later when we drove onto Spanish soil that I stopped. I knew my mum was going to visit a few weeks later and stay with us for a week so that helped. Chris had done this before and I remembered him being very upset when he left that first time, years before. This time he was well prepared and he knew that it is only a three hour flight away from home, you can be back in England if needed within a day.
We were nearly mugged on that journey which is something I will write another post about. Such an adventure, it was all very exciting really. We have done a few road trips since then and love them, one of our dreams now is to get a campervan and drive round more of Europe. This travelling life is certainly addictive, for us anyway.
And so began our five years in Spain, I will try to cover as many aspects of expat life there as I can as honestly as I can without upsetting any of our friends there, sorry in advance guys. Ha ha, if there are any questions that anyone has then please feel free to ask in the comments.