It sounded like a grand and impossible idea: moving to Spain for a year. Strangely and luckily, it wasn’t as hard as we imagined it would be, and since pulling off our great dream, we’ve become evangelical in our enthusiasm to help others take the leap and live their own Spanish adventure.
I have learned that each family arrives at their decision to spend a year in Spain for different reasons however one thing is certain: once you take the leap, there is so much wonderful learning to experience, you will never look back.
For our family, the aim of our year was to experience a Spanish way of life, learn the language and integrate into a local community. We wanted to understand the customs and traditions of Spain as well as explore other parts of Europe and our European heritage. We managed to achieve all this and much more which made it difficult to leave when the year ended.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity for our dream year being over (well, ok I have definitely done my fair share of that since our return) I have begun to live vicariously through other families by helping them to move to Spain for their own experience. After writing this blog about our preparations and year in Spain, people from all over the world began contacting me for advice on how they too could move to Spain. I have found that the success of a year away is often determined by the planning and preparation you do before you go.
The questions we had to answer to make the year happen are the same ones I now ask the families I work with to help them create an unforgettable time in Spain. Here are some for you to consider..
WHY do you want to go to Spain?
- Is it to spend time as a family and step away from your fast-paced life?
- Are you looking for a sea change?
- Is it work related or purely leisure?
- Is it to experience a new culture, learn a new language?
Our family’s answer to this was to spend a year as a family immersed in a new and different culture, learning the local ways and the language.
WHAT do you want your year to look like?
- What are the main objectives that you want to fulfill in your year?
- Do you want to be with other expats or local Spaniards or both?
- Do you want to study, work or teach?
- Do you think you will be happiest in a big, medium, small city, country area, mountains or coast?
- Is access to cultural and sporting activities important?
- What sort of school do you want your children to attend?
Our family wanted to to experience a local Spanish life so we chose a city with a mostly Spanish population and sent our kids to the local school. In addition to this we wanted to travel and explore as much of our European cultural heritage and family connections as we could during the school holidays or long weekends.
HOW are you going to make this happen?
- How do you plan to finance your time away?
- How will you get the time away from your work and life in your home country?
- Will you work remotely from Spain?
- Do you have an EU passport or do you need to apply for a long stay visa?
Each family achieves the ‘how’ differently. Most apply for non-lucrative visas that allow them to live in Spain long term without working and therefore must prove sufficient funds to support themselves. Many work remotely back to their home country or come to Spain with sufficient savings for a year. Spain is quite affordable compared to many other countries and is considered the most affordable country in Western Europe. We were lucky enough to have European passports so avoided the visa process and my husband had accrued long service leave that gave us an income.
WHERE do you want to live in Spain?
- A large city, medium city, small city, or a small town?
- Is climate important to you? What sort of climate appeals to you? Spain has several climate zones, all very different.
- A house or an apartment?
- What sort of amenities do you require where you live?
- What sort of schools are you looking for?
- Are you more into culture and fine food, nature and rural areas?
- Do you like mountains or beaches or the tablelands?
For us, although we are big city people, we wanted to experience something different and chose to live in a small city: Granada. We were really happy with our choice as it is a manageable, walkable city with many cultural and sporting activities to keep one busy and engaged. Granadinos were welcoming and warm and had time to get to know us.
WHEN are you planning to go and for how long?
- When is the best time to arrive and depart?
- When can you leave and return to your homeland?
- When can you get away from your commitments?
- Do you want to arrive in a particular season?
Most families arrive at the end of August in time for the commencement of the school year in September. This is also when many rental properties turn over and become available after the summer high season. Other families from Australia and New Zealand prefer to arrive in January to follow the southern hemisphere school year. There are of course many other detailed questions to be answered however these are the first broad questions to set you on your path to a year in Spain or anywhere really. If you are thinking of moving overseas for a year, and in particular to Spain, maybe I can help. Check out Your Year in Spain – Happy adventures!!