Reflecting On Living In Spain for 1 Year! & What is next?

I thought it would be great to reflect on the past year a bit and write something up for our 1 year anniversary.  Oh how time flies.  I can’t believe it, we have been living in Spain for a full year.  When we first decided to take a sabbatical / career break, we planned on living abroad for 12-18 months.  Of course the length of time was dependent upon us sticking to our budget, as we were living in Spain on a non-lucrative visa.  We officially weren’t allowed to work in Spain, so we took that to heart and have enjoyed the past year without any official paid work.  Happy 1 year Anniversary to Wagoners Abroad and Spain!

Living in Spain for 1 year

I’m not going to bother going through everything we have experienced, as it is the full blog! Just read it here, we have categories and archives on the right sidebar, so knock yourselves out and dig through our journey.  However, I did think it would be good to point out a few of our lessons learned and our “takeaways” from the past year.

When we first embarked on this journey we had a wish list of things we wanted to accomplish.  I think we have hit the mark on them all and in most cases far surpassed our wildest dreams.  The kids are pretty fluent in Spanish and are very comfortable with reading, writing and speaking.  Alan and I are more at the intermediate level, but we have been working on other priorities.  We have experienced several other cultures, countries and languages and have loved them all.  We have managed to make very good friendships and Spain just feels like home to us.

As one would assume, picking up your family and moving to a foreign country isn’t without it challenges.  We felt we were prepared for all of this change, but didn’t realize how much it was all going to change us.  What stands out to me the most from this past year is our ability to adapt to change, our family communication skills and how much we have all grown closer by working through the challenges.  As we have mentioned the schools were a bit different for us and of course the language was a challenge in the beginning.

Coming into this year, I was in fear of how we would all deal with spending so much time together.  Knowing the kids would only attend school for 5 hours a day in Spain and that Alan and I weren’t going to be working was a valid fear for me.  I know that sounds terrible as everyone should want to spend all of their time with their family.  Alan and I both worked full-time (+) and the kids had gone to daycare/school since the age of 10 weeks.  So you see, this family was very used to having somewhat of a “separate” life for about 9-10 hours out of each day.  To my surprise that hasn’t been much of an issue at all or at least it has not been mentioned by anyone.

If any one of us needed our own personal space we would just ask for it or create it on our own by going out for a walk or something.  What I didn’t expect was that Alan and I would have a good 5 hours a day together and that we would become closer.  With all of this time, we had plenty of time to reflect on our life together.  The good, bad and the ugly.  To bring up the big and little things that we otherwise didn’t have time to talk about or it was never the right time.

Living in Spain has allowed us to discover that we had a few kinks in the marital armor.  It also provided us with the very much-needed time, to work through any walls that our “separate” lives allowed us to build.  I know, you are thinking “What, you aren’t perfect?”  Ha, of course we are perfectly normal.  We have had countless hours to talk and communicate with each other!  We left no stone unturned and we are much closer now than we have ever been.  That wasn’t an expectation out of this journey, but I will take that bonus over anything else.

1 year living in Spain

Fiesta de la Virgen de la Antigua – Almuñecar 2013

We’ve also had countless hours available for the kids to work through issues, concerns and problems.  We have had the kids point out to us our “parental flaws”.  I know shocking right?  Not really.  We are trying to teach them not to hold things in. We are trying as a full family to communicate and share our feelings, to talk about it when something is bothering us.  When discussing a problem it may be a bit of a sting initially, but it is so much better than shutting down and building walls.  Is this going to scar the kids for life?  I have no idea, but it sure is nice when you don’t have to read minds and someone tells you when they are bothered or upset.

The hope is that we all learn how to graciously face confrontation, how to share what we are feeling and how to express ourselves.  Fortunately for us, we have never been a yelling/screaming family, so this process seems to be working for us.  Let’s hope it continues and gets us through those teen years.  I can honestly say, I don’t think we would have made time in our busy lives back in NC to work on this.  I do think it is a life skill that most people don’t have and it will always be a work in progress.

Another bonus from living in Spain for the past year is the kids creativity has blossomed.  We are living a simple life here, without many material things.  We no longer have every game console that exists and every toy and book that a kid would ever want.  We have a deck of cards, a game of Uno and Catch Phrase.  Anya has her doll Amber and her friendship bracelet making gadget.  Lars has his Nook to read books and his DS for the occasional game.  Other than that it is time to be creative.

Lars  and his friends are now getting into video creation and editing and loving his new YouTube channel Lars from Mars.  Stop by and give him a Comment or a Like.  Anya just loves playing outside with all of the neighborhood kids and making her bracelets.  Alan has been focusing on learning about photography, writing an e-book (almost done), keeping up with our blog and writing apps among many other technical things.  I have been learning loads about internet marketing, social media and having fun with the blog and videos.  I am building a new website about Almuñécar and hope to have it ready for sharing in a month or two.

Another challenge we have is missing our family and friends.  We do our best to keep up with people on social media, email and Skype calls, but that isn’t quite the same as face to face.  Because we didn’t have any family living in North Carolina, we were used to this a bit.  But Europe is a bit further away and a little more difficult to hop on a plane for a quick visit.  We did have the luxury of family coming to visit for extended vacations Feb – April, and for that we are grateful.

Another surprise was the number of on-line friends we have made.  We have bonded with many of our readers. We can’t thank you enough for following our journey, continuing to comment and building our relationship!  There have been loads of people contacting us with questions to help them on their journey and I love this so much.  We hoped to inspire, but it is very rewarding when you know you really are!  Thank you for reaching out and making the connection with us.

We have also bonded with several other families traveling the world have become our friends.  We were able to meet Micki and Charles The Barefoot Nomads in March and we think they are great.  We also can’t wait to follow our friend Gabi and her family The Nomadic Family, trekking the Annapurna circuit.  We have also bonded with Erin Travel with Bender and hope to meet up with them when they are in Spain this fall, the Travel-Junkies, World Travel Family, Capturing la Vita, Our Big Fat Travel Adventure and so many others are listed in our inspiration list.

Overall, I think this has been a magical year.  Absolutely everything we have been through, experienced and seen is now part of us.  Our hearts, souls and minds have been changed for ever and they have been touched by Spain.  No matter what the cost of this journey has been, to me it has been priceless.  I think of all the money we just wasted and all of the material things that weighed us down in the past.  We are free and have the time to create the life we want.  What more could we ask for?

You have been goofing around living in Spain for 1 Year, what is next?

Okay enough of the babble.  I know what you really want to know.  “When are we returning to the U.S.?”  Good question, I thought you would never ask.  At this point we have stayed on budget and have enough finances remaining for a good 6-8 months.  We are hoping to start earning a little bit of money with advertising on our blog and selling Alan’s e-book.  If we can manage to do that, we can stretch it out a bit longer.  I found I love to blog especially about travel, so we will keep that going as well.

We would like to stay in Spain, but that is dependent upon our resident card renewal being approved.  We applied for the renewal in early August and hope to have our answer in late August or early September.  We hope there isn’t a problem as school starts on September 10th.  We will keep you posted and let you know.  If for some reason we are declined, then we will have a bit of a scramble.  We have made no plans for rejection.  Fingers Crossed!

Thank you all for continuing to share our adventure and please do comment or contact us with any questions you may have.

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Reflecting on our first year as American Expats living in Spain. We have some great takeaways. Some were expected and others were a pleasant surprise. Read more on

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24 thoughts on “Reflecting On Living In Spain for 1 Year! & What is next?

  1. Hello Heidi, just catching up on your blog-I hadn’t realised I wasn’t getting to see all of the posts because of my facebook settings (just rectified that!). I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for your honesty about family life; I know people think I live in cloud cuckoo land when I say that I think it will be life-changing for our family dynamics if we go travelling or live abroad, even if it is only for a short while, but you know what, I truly think I am right!
    My husband and I don’t scream and shout but I feel like we are just coasting along and I really want to change that. I am with the kids a lot as I home educate them, but the community that we live in is high on consummerism, and I would like to show them a different way.
    Sorry for the blabbing on (I could be here for hours!), but you’ve really touched a nerve with me on this one.

    Love Melanie.x

    • Oh sweet Melanie, I was wondering where you have been. Glad to reconnect and that you have time to catch up. I know this was a tough one to write, because I am not sure the entire world really wants to know the nitty gritty details. At the same time I know that we aren’t the only ones in the boat. I love love love when you babble, laugh, talk, comment or whatever you like. Life is no fun coasting and it gets boring too. I was very nervous about how the dynamics would change and luckily for us, we made the right choices and turns in the road to get us to a great place. Life is so much better now, and we didn’t even realize it wasn’t great before. So strange how easy it is to look in hind sight and see everything clearly. No matter what anyone says, travel changes people. I don’t think there is any way that it can’t. I love change, thus love travel and can’t get enough of it. I wasn’t sure if the entire family would be on board for the travel and change. I think missing food / “comfort foods” has been the toughest on the men in the family. I do hope you are able to follow your dreams soon.

  2. You shouldn’t have any problems getting your residence renewed. After all, you haven’t been spending your time in Spain robbing banks, right, hehe? Let’s see if we meet sometime!

  3. Sounds like it has been an incredible experience on so many levels. Looking forward to following along in what ever the next few months bring.

  4. Congratulations on one year! I would love to go to Spain to live. I have to catch up on your blog, I found you a while back – posts about your budget – and am interested to read more! 🙂 Best of luck on the visa.

    • Thanks Anne. Glad you found us again. Yes, I can’t wait for that extension. I think we need to wait one more week, but I am so tempted to call an pester them. Who knows, it could be sitting there waiting for us or for us to take some action.

      I am currently working on the budget post for our 6 week European road trip. I hope to have that ready sometime next week. If you have any detailed questions about our budget and I didn’t cover them in the post, just ask us.

  5. Going to Morocco? Wait for me! This was a great post….enjoyed reading all the comments
    also. It makes me want to go back to Spain so much!

    • We have wanted to go to Morocco for so long and I want to be sure we fit it in somehow. Perhaps this fall? You are always welcome to join us there or in Spain too. Just hop on that plane and fly fly fly over.

  6. Heidi, glad to hear you guys enjoyed your year in Spain and I can understand the desire to keep it going. Good on you for following your dreams.

    We literally just finished unloading our last box into our new home base in Kelowna, BC and I can say with 100% honesty that I already miss the small handful of toys we usually travel with. The kids are acting like it’s Christmas with all the boxes of toys they now have access to. It’s almost embarrassing.

    Long term traveling definitely gives you plenty of time to bond with your spouse and family. We’ve been doing it for so long now that it’s second nature for us however I’m constantly amazed when we realize that the average family only spends a few hours a day together and even those are often spent running errands or driving kids to and from sports.

    I’m glad it’s given you all a chance to grow together and I’m sure that your family will be stronger for it. Looking forward to hearing how you guys try to top the past year. I’m sure you’ll surprise us all!

    • Hi Charles, I was wondering what you guys were up to these days. I bet it feels like Christmas, we know the feeling. Yes, it has been a great year and hopefully we can pull another one off too. We are still trying to plan a trip to Morocco sometime. Seems silly we are so close and haven’t gone yet.

  7. School is only 5 hours a day?! That is a surprise. I’m glad that you had a wonderful year — how could you not in Spain, right 🙂

    • Yes, they only attend from 9am-2pm. There is only 30 min for recess/snack and then lunches are enjoyed at home during “siesta” 2pm-5pm. That said, there is far more homework assigned here than back in North Carolina. So we end up helping with the work, but I don’t mind as we are all more involved.

  8. As I mentioned on Alan’s post, what a joy to take this year long journey with your family. You all have inspired me to go back, I learned so much about myself and what I can live with and without while in Spain. Time to wind down the quantity and get back to quality of life.
    Gracias y buena suerte!

    • Oh thanks Christine. Do come back and look us up when you are here. 🙂 We are so in love with our life in Spain. It is nice being able to focus on “the important stuff”. I can’t say we don’t miss some of those material things, but life is good. Thanks for the comment and we hope we have another year for you to keep on reading about.

  9. I have loved following your adventure via your blog! Quite honestly Spain is lucky to have you! They should pay you to stay there as part of their Marketing efforts! You journey and how you share it is truly inspiring!

    • Oh Kathi that is great! I am going to save this and send it to the tourism board to send us on cool vacations or something. 🙂 You are too sweet. Hopefully we keep it going a bit longer.

    • I am sure things will work out or at least that is what we have planned for 🙂 It has been absolutely wonderful and we can’t wait for more!

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