Why are we moving to Spain? Many people have asked us that.
After all, life is good and very comfortable at home in South Carolina. We live in a beautiful place and enjoy our community. We have a nice home and wonderful family and friends.
But sometimes, we like to mix things up, get out of our comfort zone, and change the scenery. That’s what this trip is all about.
Our prior travel adventures
When it comes down to it, Chad and I both have a bit of wanderlust.
Even on our very first date, which was a hike to a local waterfall, we talked about exploring new places and countries. When we were dating and newly married, we traveled together inside the US and to Costa Rica and Mexico. In 2009 we took off of work for 4 months and traveled in Spain, Peru, Chile, and Argentina.
During all of these travels, we dreamed of someday spending extended periods of time outside the US when we had children.
Once we actually had kids, we began by hauling them around in baby carriers on road trips to the western US and to Mexico for a couple of weeks. Traveling with kids had its fun moments, but it was also much more challenging than we expected!
But it was rewarding enough that in 2017, when the girls were 3 and 5, we spent 17 months living in Cuenca, Ecuador. The girls went to local schools; Chad blogged and wrote a book; and I taught English. It was fun to connect with a new community and live our day-to-day lives in another country. It was a wonderful experience, and we wanted to do it again as the girls got older.
Need some space for creativity
Fast forward to 2021, and Chad started thinking about writing another book. Even before he mentioned it, I realized that we’d be living abroad again. As his book contract started becoming a reality, he brought up the idea of us living out of the country.
When at home in South Carolina, we spend a lot of time visiting friends and family or going to community meetings. But when living abroad, we have less of those (in the beginning anyway). This frees up big expanses of time for creative projects like Chad’s book. For this and many other reasons, I was on board.
Which country should we live in?
So, we’re taking a trip now. But where should we go? The world is wide open. We could go anywhere.
I initially liked the idea of going to Argentina. I love Latin America, and I’ve wanted to spend time in the northern Patagonia region of the country. Chad and the girls, however, liked the idea of going to Europe. The girls got into Greek and Roman mythology through the Rick Riordan books, and they really wanted to go to Greece and Italy.
Chad and I also wanted language learning to be a part of our experience abroad. This meant that the UK was out, and we weren’t too interested in learning Italian or Greek at this point in our lives.
Germany became a possibility that Chad and the girls talked about. Chad wanted to rekindle his German language skills that he studied in high school and college. The girls were interested in going to a place where both sides of the family have heritage roots. I was slowly won over because I decided that I could spend all of my time learning a new language and enjoying the beautiful countryside.
But as we started watching more YouTube videos about Germany, we were deterred by the many dark and cold days of winter. We’d definitely visit, but Germany was out.
Spain then made it to the top of the list because the girls could bring back their Spanish, which they’d mostly forgotten in the four years since we left Ecuador. Chad and I could both improve our Spanish, which has also gotten rusty. And, Spain is a beautiful country where people seem to value slow time – something we love.
What city in Spain?
Now, where in Spain should we go?
We liked all of the parts of Spain that we had previously visited. I studied in Salamanca in 1997 for five months, and Chad and I spent six weeks traveling around Spain in 2007 to Salamanca, Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, Granada, Valencia, and Barcelona.
Barcelona was one of our favorite places, but we heard that school is mostly taught in the Catalan language, which wouldn’t help the girls’ Spanish.
We also have very dear friends from Clemson that live in Santiago de Compostela, the terminus of the famous Camino de Santiago. It was an appealing possibility to live near close friends in a small and beautiful city that also had access to the outdoors (something we love).
But although we missed our friends and wanted to spend more time with them, I also love the idea of learning my way around a city on my own. That adventurous aspect is one of the allures of traveling for me. But more than that, I couldn’t shake one of the first things I read about Santiago de Compostela on Wikipedia – “Heavy winter rainfall.”
Dark, rainy winter days weren’t how imagined our year in Spain. I sighed because this was also one of my motivations to move to the southern part of the US – to get away from the gray winters in my hometown of St. Louis.
As of December of 2021, we still hadn’t chosen our destination. So, to help us decide we met online with a couple of specialists on relocating to Spain as a foreigner (Jackie with familymoveabroad.com and Christine with youryearinspain.com). We also learned about taxes and the type of visa that would allow us to live in Spain for longer than 3 months.
During our calls, we mentioned that we weren’t sure what part of Spain we were headed to. In a very quick side comment, Jackie mentioned the possibility of Granada. That reminded me that we really liked Granada when we traveled there in 2009.
So, we started researching Granada more. It is a very sunny and beautiful place. It has universities, a big international population, and lots of tourism. We fondly remembered our visit to Granada watching a Flamenco show, drinking sangria, and touring the breathtaking grounds of La Alhambra. We also liked that the outdoor haven of the Sierra Nevada mountains are just outside of the city.
So, after some walks and long talks, Chad and I decided Granada would be our home.
Visas, paperwork, and translations – oh my!
Deciding where to live may have taken us a while. But we were only getting started because the process of gathering the documents needed to apply for a residential visa was enormous! The steps included:
- request birth and marriage certificates
- get documents apostilled by the Secretary of State for each state
- find a Spanish translator and get the documents translated
- pray all the documents arrive on time
- gather financial records to prove we won’t be working in Spain
- get Spanish health insurance
- pray we get approved for health insurance
- scan everything
- double check everything
- make copies
- triple check
- make more copies ???
We turned in our applications at the end of April, and we found out at the end of May that we’d been approved! We were so excited and immediately made our plans to fly to Miami to pick up our visas in person, as required.
Packing & final preparations
It was exciting getting ready to move to Spain, but as we began packing up our home, it reminded me that THIS is a big reason many people don’t move abroad in the first place! It’s a big task!
We packed some things, stored others, and purged as much as we could. We also found a wonderful couple to rent our house for a year, and they were ok with us leaving it furnished. That meant we didn’t have to pack up the kitchen or move the heavy furniture!
It was also a relief to know that the house would be in good hands.
The sadness of parting
As we prepared to leave for a long period of time, we really began appreciating the little things about our home and our community in Clemson. For example, we savored falling asleep to the sounds of the cicadas and the woods behind our house. Knowing that we’d be moving to a city, we wouldn’t hear those sounds for the next year!
And, of course, we were sad too. We were going to miss our family and friends.
To get our fill, in June we vacationed with family in Montana and at Lake Hartwell and friends in Washington. And in Clemson we filled our days with gatherings, lunches, coffee, walks, runs, dinners, and beers to try to spend time with as many friends as possible before leaving town.
See you soon?
We hope to see you if you decide to visit us while we are in Spain! Interestingly, many more people have offered to visit us in Spain than in Ecuador 🙂 Perhaps it’s because Spain was the number two tourist destination in the world in 2017?
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Photo credit – Alhambra on the hill – By Slaunger – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35203662