Why we went to Spain

For many years we held this idea so close to our chest that we barely even talked about it between us. Now that we have fulfilled the dream, we reflect on how it came to be that we packed up our comfortable life in Sydney to live for a year in a country where we knew nobody.


The pre-amble to this story occurred more than a dozen years ago as I contemplated the type of man I might like to share my life with.

Top of the “pre-requisite list” was that he probably wouldn’t be Australian but he had to want to live in Australia and have established his own life here. It all sounded very specific and unlikely but alas, in 1999 such a man did find his way to me. He was a Mexican/Finn who had spent four years in Sydney as an international student and had a working visa to stay for another year – tick, tick and tick – Eureka!!!

What followed was…we moved in together, he became an Australian resident, we got a dog to see if we could jointly keep it alive! The dog survived as did our relationship and we decided to get married. We proceeded to make, bake and pop out a pigeon pair of Finnish-looking kids and spent the next years on the seemingly endless mouse wheel of sleepless nights, dirty nappies, settling, bathing and spooning mush into unyielding mouths. These were not unhappy times but the dominant feature of that period was utter exhaustion.

First born with Chula the dog
And then there were two: “Where did my sister come from?”

During a moment of inspiration in the midst of the child-rearing blur, my Finnexican husband (as he was nicknamed) suggested we move overseas for a year to gain some perspective on the relentlessness of having two very young children and a dog. I can’t tell you exactly what I said or did but it was along the lines of: “Are you f&*#ing crazy? You are asking me to move overseas with a toddler and baby when I can barely get out of the house each day to go to the park? Ask me again in 5 years but not before!”

There were some smiles amid the chaos of no sleep, nappy changes and feeding.



And there we were in 2013 … the clouds of sleep deprivation had parted, as had the financial strain of daycare fees and living on one income. Our son and daughter both attended the local primary school, my husband and I enjoyed our respective work, we had enough time to be adults together as well as enjoy time with the kids. The balance had come back to our lives and we decided it was time to shake it all up and spend a year living in a country where we knew not a soul: SPAIN.


The main reason for going to Spain specifically was that we wanted our children to be fluent in Spanish, the language of their grandfather, uncles, aunts and cousins in Mexico. Spain is also a warmer part of Europe and culturally it seemed more relaxed and vibrant than the north. My husband and I spent time in Spain in our early twenties (prior to meeting each other) and we both felt it was a place in which we wanted to spend more time. We loved the vibrancy and openness of what we had experienced and we felt it would be a brilliant base from which to explore Europe and to build a life for a year.

Our assumptions were well founded and in the short space of 12 months we became part of a warm, like-minded community in Granada. Our only regret was that we couldn’t stay for two years rather than just one.

In addition, my husband and I had been dreaming of visiting Europe together since we first met yet the trip had always eluded us for one reason or another, particularly once the children came along. I had never met my husband’s Finnish family and I hadn’t been back to visit my Swiss host family, from my exchange year, in more than 10 years. It seemed uneconomical for four of us to go to Europe for a few weeks of holiday and that’s when we realised we had to aim for a whole year.

It took us longer than we had hoped to finally visit Europe however once we landed, having a year to explore and immerse ourselves in the life made it worth the wait. Financially it actually cost less than if we had gone for a one month holiday. By renting out our home in Sydney, we were able to cover our rental expenses in Spain. Living off my husband’s long service leave wage at half pay was also sustainable in Spain where the cost of living is about half to a third of what it is in Sydney.

It really was the best year of our lives which has made it all the harder to adjust back to regular life now that we are back in Sydney.


9 thoughts on “Why we went to Spain

  1. Well done in taking such a big life change head on! I am the 26 year old you! Trying out life in London again after being here 5 years ago, having left a family, boyfriend and nice life in Melbourne behind! I’m reading your blog as I searched “living in Spain” and seriously considering moving after only a few weeks in cold London, like you, the language culture and sun beckons, however I’m not sure what ill do for work once there! Maybe like you, take university classes in Spanish and also teach English…but in what city! It’s a nice problem to have 🙂 good luck and all the best for you and your family, it’s been great to read, living in another country must be experienced in a lifetime! Enjoy 🙂 Kaitlin x

    1. Hi Kaitlin,

      Thank you so much for your message. It’s nice to know there are other Australians living and adventuring in Europe. We leave for our big trip in 3 weeks and I we are beside ourselves with excitement. I just hope I don’t spoil this opportunity by feeling homesick. Australia is just so far away from the rest of the world and yet I am very attached to it.

      Anyway, I wish you great adventures and good times on your journey and I encourage you to find a way to live on the European continent and not just in the UK. If you can find a way to earn money and survive (difficult in these dire economic times) I guarantee that the sense of achievement and thrill of living in another culture and language will be great. Good luck and let me know if you end up in Spain. I have other friends who went to Spain for a short stay and ended up staying 3 years working in Barcelona.

      Warm regards

  2. So glad I found your blog, I love the way you write. I lived a fast forward of the timeline you have described. I lived in Guatemala in 2006, returned to Australia after the year abroad, met my husband and had two children (now 3.5 and 5.5), and we are now planning our 6 months in Spain (Jaen, Andalusia) after a similar realization. I can’t wait to experience the change as a family this time.

  3. Hola familia,
    Como mamá escribe muy bien, nada más leer su blog tengo ganas de escribiros. Soy española, anfitriona con Airbnb, me encanta viajar y conocer gente distinta, con distintas formas de vida, distintas prioridades, costumbres y valores, aparte de idiomas, hábitos y comidas.
    Y me encanta el corage de vuestros padres para emprender el viaje a Europa. NO LO OLVIDAREIS NUNCA y seguro que os ha enriquecido como personas y os ha hecho más tolerantes y flexibles. Bien por ellos!!!
    Ahora vivo en una isla muuuuuucho más pequeña que Australia y que se llama Mallorca. Es española y está en el Mediterraneo. Es pionera en turismo en Europa y la visitan más de doce millones de personas al año y aquí vivimos menos de un millón. Por estar en la ruta marítima de oriente a occidente ha tenido en la historia distintas civilizaciones y culturas establecidas aquí y es en sí misma una mezcla. Por eso también tiene monumentos y restos arqueológicos de las distintas épocas así como un dialecto propio que deriva del catalán que se habla aquí desde el siglo XIII cuando fue la capital de un reino.
    He viajado bastante por trabajo y por placer y siempre que pueda lo seguiré haciendo y ahora recibo en casa gente como nosotros con un espíritu abierto. Mi experiencia es muy positiva y ya me han visitado de New Zeland… Si alguna vez volveis por España me encantaría conoceros.
    And to finish, I would like to say that lenguages help very much to understand what is going on in the different places of the world and as you, youg boy and girl, you still have fresh neurones, in my modest opinion you have to start with chinese as soon as possible. It is the language of the future ( I mean the oficial one because they have around sixty).
    My best regards

  4. Your blog was such an inspiration to my husband and I . We had visited Granada back in the late 80s when are children were very young and am delighted it still retains the magic. We are on the journey back to Spain hoping to start the next chapter ,with our children grown and our first grandchild on the way . We think from your wonderful blog that Granada may very much be our next home!
    Ant tips regarding finding rentals in Granada?

    1. HI Ellen!
      Great to hear from you and about your exciting plans. Granada certainly is a magical place. I can only imagine what it must have been like in the 80’s. I would be happy to help you find a rental or advise you on your move. Regarding house rentals, have a look at some of the houses I represent http://www.youryearinspain.com/rental-properties.html and see if you like any. Then click on the “contact us” tab so that we can communicate about the details, dates, costs, availability etc… I wish you all the very best and am happy to help where I can.

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