Six years ago we moved to Spain with suitcases and backpacks, ready to start our adventure and live in Spain for a year or two. That was it! That was the plan! Here we are after six years, with so many life changing experiences, memories and stories.
When we first started to share with others our plans to move to Spain, we of course received mixed reactions. Some people were thrilled and wished they could do it too. Others were skeptical and quiet, but there were a few who didn’t hold back with their doubts and pessimism. They wondered what we were running from, why would we do such a thing and why would we uproot our kids and take them from their childhood home? The list goes on, but you get the idea. I think some of you may have questions, so I will do my best to answer what I think may be on your minds.
What did you think of our move?
Well, to those who have always supported us, we thank you. For those who questioned us or doubted us, it seems many of you are on board now. I think some people were secretly hoping we would fail or come running back. I know there was a close watch on us that first year for sure. We have since proven that we made the right choice for our family. Not that we needed to prove anything, but guess what? The kids have childhood roots right here in Spain!
That was never our plan, but it turned out that way. Here’s a video of us, just before moving to Spain. The kids were so tiny!
Moving to Spain in August 2012
During our first year to eighteen months, we would sometimes interview the kids on their thoughts and progress about living in Spain. We asked the kids how they were adjusting, what their thoughts were, and even asked them about speaking Spanish. If you want to see the full interview playlist, you can check it out on Youtube, first year living in Spain.
Where have we been?
At this point I can’t even keep track of it all. I know the kids have now been to 28+ countries and Alan and I have visited more that 50 each, in our lifetime and not the past 6 years. We’ve spent 5 of the six years living in Spain as expats and one year nomadic in Southeast Asia, with a little road trip in the USA. We’ve been to France nearly ever summer one way or another, excluding this year.
We had our first epic European road trip in 2013 and spent 6 weeks exploring Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France and Spain. We also had a 3 week road trip in Europe, prior to taking off to Southeast Asia for 10 months. Then of course our time in Southeast Asia with Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam (Christmas with gma Bev), Malaysia and Singapore. What an amazing experience! And we can’t forget out 8 week road trip in Spain and France. With so much time traveling in Spain, we’ve created a master Things to do in Spain list for you! The experiences we’ve all had and the memories we’ve made are priceless.
What about friends and family?
This is the tough one! We made some amazing friends along the way in Spain and traveling the world. Many people come and go in our lives, either we are on the move or they are, yet we still manage to keep in touch. The kids have incredible lifetime-friends here in Spain, so that is wonderful to see. Spain is their childhood home and maybe one day they will come here with their kids and walk down memory lane. They can point out where they had their first fútbol game or flamenco recital, or perhaps where they would hang out on the beach to swim, maybe even where they had (or will have?) their first kiss.
Lars has also met many people during his time volunteering each summer and has made great friends around the world. The kids are far better about keeping the long distance relationships going, via social media and so on. This summer Lars organized his volunteer time at Diverbo with the friends he had made in years past. They all volunteered at the same location together this year and strengthened their friendships even further. One of them came to Spain on their family holiday a couple of weeks ago and now the two families are friends! Love it!
Family is a bit trickier with family as they aren’t on the move as much. We’ve met up with Gma Linda for Christmas and other holidays around Europe, including Paris, Budapest, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Thailand and more! Gma Bev has visited us in Spain and Asia as well. We have had many other family members visit us in Spain and we stopped by the USA on our way back to Spain from Asia. Keeping in touch with family is the trickiest part with timezone differences, but we make it work and take any time we can with family.
The kids education in Spain and in Asia
While the schools are a bit different in Spain compared to what we were used to in the USA, but the kids are getting an education! They also learned so much during our nomadic year in southeast Asia, even though we weren’t the best at a stereotypical homeschool situation. Bottom line is the kids have flourished in any situation we have put them in. This photo was their 2nd day of school in Spain, 2012!
How well is everyone speaking Spanish?
The kids are so fluent in Spanish, they even shock some of the locals. They have the local accent down to a tee and it is fun when someone new hears them speak Spanish and see the shocked look on their face. Yep, the kids look like foreigners, but they certainly don’t sound that way. Lars will be starting 11th grade this year and Anya will be in 9th! Wow, where did the time go?
Alan and I have not made it our number one priority, but we can certainly can go out with friends and have a good chat. It may not all be grammatically correct, but we don’t need to play charades much anymore. I think we are getting by at an intermediate level and if we want to put in the extra work we can cross that line into advanced.
Our priorities have been completely focused on running a business, generating income, running a family and creating experiences. The fluency of Spanish for the adults, hasn’t been a top priority. That said, we have had some wonderful immersion experiences, which have helped up reach a higher level of proficiency. I had high hopes of having a video here in this section, but the kids just don’t have time or interest in it (they’re teens!). They are off enjoying summer with friends at the beach or roaming around. I will keep trying to get a video, but don’t hold your breath. They don’t like to be “on show” anymore, so that doesn’t work well with blogging.
How are the kids with English?
One of our blog readers asked if the kids have a Spanish accent when they speak English. Lars and Anya both live their daily lives in Spanish, other than speaking English at home. From the beginning we decided to only speak English in the home, so the kids would keep up with it. They sound pretty American to me, with a west coast accent (or no accent in my eyes), just like Alan and me. They were born and raised in the south, but don’t have that North Carolina accent.
Sidenote (by Alan): On the subject of English, I’m amazed that the kids continue to improve their fluency. Anya comes up with words, and I have no idea how she heard them (YouTube I’m guessing). Spelling can be a bit of a hit-or-miss with the kids as they’re instructed in British English, and there are differences in between the US. Nothing major, but it’s interesting.
Another thing that amazes me is when I ask them what they learned in school. I ask them this every day when school is in session, and it bugs them, but I am truly interested in what’s going on. Frequently, they’ll start telling me, and then they reach a point where they’re trying to describe something specific, and they don’t know the English word.
Now that they’ve spent so much time in Spain, their vocabularies are starting to favor Spanish. Lars will need to take an S.A.T. type of test later this year, and I asked him if he was going to take it in either Spanish or English. His reply: “Definitely Spanish! I feel much more comfortable taking those types of tests in Spanish.” So there you go!
Now that it is six years later, I am so glad we made that choice to speak English in the home. They are both very well-spoken in English and once in a blue moon forget a word. Lars had more time in the USA and thus more of a foundation with English grammar and spelling. Anya had just completed first grade when we moved, so she can sometimes get hung up on spelling. Not to mention they learn British English spelling in school. It’s nothing to be concerned about and it’s sometimes worth a good laugh.
What is your cost of living in Spain?
To be honest it hasn’t changed much from our first year living in Spain! I don’t keep track of every single thing in a spreadsheet anymore. I am sure the family is thrilled that I cut back a bit. I do keep a mental note in my head and know what we spend each month. The main thing that has changed is the exchange rate. The US dollar is stronger now than it was when we first moved to Spain. I kept detailed notes on our expenses for our first 18th months in Spain and you can see it all. I have even updated a few of them to show our cost of living in Spain for 2018 and the exchange rate differences.
How did 1 or 2 years in Spain turn into 6 years?
Well simply, we just let it happen. We had enough funds to get us through about 2 years. We enjoyed our new lifestyle so much we started to think of ways to make it last longer. With determination, creativity and pure willingness to make it happen, we figured out ways to generate an income. We’ve taken it one step at a time and really a go with the flow attitude and approach. There were no big grand plans, we’ve just made them up along the way.
After 2 years in Spain, we thought that would be it! At that time, we had enough funds to spend another year in Spain or take it on the road and experience something different. We all voted and decided to try something new. We were certain after the time in Asia we would be moving back to the USA and getting back into our old life. Once again, we proved ourselves wrong. Apparently we didn’t want to go back!
After that year, we again took a family vote. This time we had three options; keep traveling in Asia, return to the USA or return to Spain. Well, I guess you already know which one we opted for. Here we are 3 years after that decision, but now we are in a different mode.
What about work?
As if you didn’t guess, I don’t miss working the 9-5 one little bit! Alan does miss working with a team and digging into technology, so we will see what he decides to do. We’ve built up 2 successful blogs and a business directory, Wagoners Abroad | Almuñécar Info | Almuñécar Business Directory.
This is the first year we are starting to get a little passive earning out of our Almuñécar blog. Not hundreds of dollars, but baby steps and we are happy. No matter what, we have a good business helping people move to Spain. We have created many eBooks to help people move to Spain. Not to mention we have provided consulting for hundreds of people and families moving to Spain as well.
What are the future plans?
We will continue to do exactly what we are doing, as it seems to be working for us. We plan to remain in Spain until the kids are off to university. They both plan to attend university in Europe somewhere, so we will see where we all end up. Alan and I are already thinking up travel plans for when we are empty nesters, so it is all exciting. Now that we have 6 years in Spain under our belt, we will hit the 10 year mark when Anya finishes high school. So at that time, we get to decide if we want to go for Spanish citizenship and get a second passport. Hmmm, I wonder what we will do?
At the moment we don’t have any plans or any thoughts about moving back to the USA. It just isn’t even in our heads. I guess it would be the same if we asked someone, “So do you have any thoughts on moving to Lithuania?” Ha! I am sure your answer was an immediate “No”. I was just trying to find a country that likely isn’t in your thoughts. You get the idea.
We just wanted to take a moment to thank you for continuing to follow along on our adventures. You’ve supported us over the years and help keep us motivated and going. I am usually very humble, but in this case I am pretty impressed with us! It just goes to show you, if you want something badly enough, you do what it takes to make it happen.
I would love to hear from you about what you think of our journey. Were you a skeptic in the beginning? Did we inspire you to travel more or to make a move? So do you think our kids will need years of therapy? Do you have questions for us? Don’t be shy, this is the perfect time to get it all out of your system.
Please just comment below and let us know what you think!
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