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 Elle Draper

10 years in Spain

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Today we celebrate our 10 years in Spain. A decade ago today, Alan and I left Portsmouth in the UK and jumped on a plane to start our new life.

10 years in Spain

It wasn’t a difficult decision for us to make. Alan had wanted to move abroad for some time, and once we met he knew he’d found someone happy to share that adventure. We had only two criteria. We wanted to move to an area with an established English-speaking community, so that we could sell our services to them… and I insisted on the climate being warm and sunny. It was narrowed down to Italy and Lanzarote, with Lanzarote winning the final round. Since then we have moved to mainland Spain and now reside in a beautiful town in Almería… where we live very happily now.

Not always an easy road

It would be a lie to say that it’s been easy – although much of it would have happened regardless of where we were living at the time. Within a couple of years the credit crisis hit, affecting just about everyone on the planet. We all had to tighten our belts, and we said “Goodbye,” to many friends and associates who headed back to the UK, or to other parts of the world along the way.

We’ve seen many things happen during the last ten years, major decisions being made (such as the Referendum in the UK). We’ve looked on in horror as religious fanatics around the world carried out abominable acts in the name of their “religion.” We’ve seen a rise in racism and bigotry particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. We’ve seen a volcano bring Europe to a halt, and we have lost several dear friends to sickness and eventual passing (including three dear friends called “Mike” while we were in Lanzarote!!). We felt helpless when my Mum had a nasty head injury which has changed her life into something almost recognisable from what it was before… and many tears were shed when Alan’s mother finally lost her battle against ill-health.

But amazing things have happened in our 10 years in Spain too

But there have also been a number of amazing things happening too! We’ve got to know some amazing people, and have made friendships that we know will last a lifetime. We’ve seen Alan’s three sons grow up from teenagers into fine young men that we’re very proud of. We’ve watched my beautiful sister, Mimi, develop into a stunning young woman, become a mother and get married to the love of her life by Elvis in Las Vegas. We’ve attended weddings of those friends dearest to us and parties to celebrate major milestones. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve worked our proverbials off… and we’ve partied.

Spain is different

We are not saying that Spain is better than the UK. It’s different for everyone – and only YOU can decide which is the better path for you and/or your family to take. But what Spain is… is different. Here are ten things that would have been very different, for us personally, had we not made the leap.

  1. Health: Alan was heading his way into an early grave back in Blighty. His job and lifestyle was possibly pushing him towards a heart attack and certainly ill health. My asthma was getting worse each year and I was being pumped full of drugs to get me through each winter. Yet since moving to Spain, we’ve addressed our priorities, enjoyed fresher air and a much more organic diet. Alan has lost weight. I have colour in my cheeks (and also gone blonde). We are both much healthier than we were ten years ago and expect to enjoy many more decades of active life (hopefully!)
  2. Friendships: Alan and I are both outgoing people, and we make friends easily – so this would have continued in the UK. But since moving to Spain we have got to know people that we may not have had such easy access to – people from all over the world, from all backgrounds and of all ages. Our “address book” consists of intrepid travellers, knighted peers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, policemen, pilots, artists, best-selling authors, record breakers, and even an exorcist (well, you never know when you may need one of those). We’ve got to know so many amazing people: people that inspire… people that excel despite adversity… people who work tirelessly to help others regardless of the impact on their own lives… people who quietly fight for human rights… and people who simply make the world a better place by being on it.
  3. Money: We’re not saying that life would have been awful for us had we stayed in the UK – we’d certainly have been richer financially had we remained. But money isn’t everything. Now we are content because the bills are paid, we live in a wonderful home and we still have enough money for wine and tapas.
  4. Work: Had we stayed in the UK, Alan would no doubt still be working in a stressful environment, and I would still be throwing my stilettoes around the office and drowning in office politics. Now, we work for ourselves and make our own decisions. Our working hours are now half of what they once were – and the commute takes us into the office via the kitchen in a matter of moments. The suits have gone, to be replaced with casual wear and sometimes even swimwear or jimjams. We now have web design clients all over the world and Spain Buddy is rapidly becoming something we’re very proud of.
  5. Weather: No longer do we have to scrape ice off a windscreen in the mornings before heading to work. No longer do we worry about being rained off when organising a get-together. Now we enjoy the sunshine – which always manages to make you feel better on “down” days. Grey skies have been banished, to be replaced with azure blue skies and sunshine. We live at a higher altitude now and will apparently experience snow occasionally – but that’s okay!
  6. Food: Alan and I could both cook when we were back in the UK, but generally we didn’t bother. Fast Food and Oven Ready Meals were just so much easier and faster after a long day at work… and our repertoires were pretty limited, if we’re honest. These days our diet is much more varied, certainly organic, way healthier and about 80 per cent of it is cooked from scratch. Cooking for friends is now a pleasure – and many a fabulous evening has been held across a dinner table. The wine and conversation flow in equal measures.
  7. Language: Neither of us is anywhere close to being fluent in the Spanish language. Living in a very British environment in Lanzarote for six years didn’t make it easy to learn. It was so much easier to be lazy about it. Then almost four years of living in Llano del Espino in the Campo with little interaction outside of work made that difficult too. However, those are merely excuses. So that has stopped! Since moving to our almost-entirely Spanish village of Vélez-Blanco – we are improving rapidly. I’ve finally started lessons (which has led to the realisation that I was speaking almost entirely without verbs… and I have a long long way to go). But I can still go and have a gossip in the local shops. I can jabber to the locals in bars about absolute nonsense, and finally I can communicate confidently.
  8. Charity: Alan has a huge heart (despite his grumpy and gruff exterior) and has always wanted to do more to help others. With the freedom of time, he has been able to explore that more. Walking across the Canary Islands, bringing a car over for Tasha Lynch, fundraising and much more that he does quietly and privately. Back in the UK he never had enough time to explore his humanitarian side. Now he can – and I’m terribly proud of him.
  9. Dogs: With both of us working silly hours back in the UK, there was no way that we would have considered having a dog – it simply wouldn’t have been fair to leave those paws home alone all day. So getting a rescue dog was very high on our agenda when we moved to Lanzarote – and it wasn’t long before Guido moved in and joined our family. A few years later we were joined by Pepper, and then Billy Boxer came along too. Yes we know we’re nuts to have three male dogs living in the same house. Yes, we know we’ve made a rod for our own back and can’t travel as much anymore (because we won’t kennel them… or have them cared for by strangers), or attend the same social events because we won’t leave them home alone for long – but every single day they bring us joy. From the moment Billy attacks our toes at the end of the bed in the morning, while Guido and Pepper “raptor” their way to our noses with their doggie kisses… until the moment they are curled up at our feet late at night, they bring us happiness, entertainment and so much love. Would we have three dogs at once again? No! But would we be without them? Never!!!
  10. The future: Do we regret having left the UK? Not in the slightest. We see Spain as our present and as our future. We have now found the town where we are happy to stay, grow old and eventually be laid to rest. Of course a Euromillones win may prompt a few conversations (in Alan’s case that involves fast cars) – but actually we love it here so much that we can’t imagine life anywhere else. Spain is home…

38 Responses to 10 years in Spain

  1. Pauline Fuller September 24, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Enjoyed reading.

  2. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Our pleasure Pauline. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.
    E xxx

  3. Julie September 24, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Very inspiring. Lanzarote is my passion one day.

  4. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Follow your heart! It’s not as difficult to make the move as you’d think xx

  5. Sue Lea September 24, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Elle and Alan, so enjoyed reading your account if 10 years in Spain. We are quite close to you, we are near Huescar. Moved here December 2015 permanently and so might still be in honeymoon period, but really enjoying our lovely cave house in the hills, with our dog Buddy. Graham and I are both early retirees and are keeping busy doing jobs in the cave and setting up a garden, making friends and getting to know the locals. We hope to be able to stay here the rest of our lives too. Our beautiful daughter is in her second year at University with a fabulous future ahead of her we hope and pray, so all in all we couldn’t be happier. A lotto win would be nice but not a necessity to happiness. Looking forward to seeing more from you at SpainBuddy, well done so far, all the very best 😎😎

  6. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    It’s lovely to hear your news too!
    A cave house eh? I never thought I’d fancy one of those… but have seen some stunners on the telly. Am so pleased that you’re happy.
    Have a wonderful weekend, and give Buddy a tickle from me. xxx

  7. Audrey Young September 24, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Love Lanzarote so much.
    Thanks for sharing xx

  8. Carol September 24, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    How exciting and fascinating. It’s always been a dream of mine but so many things hold me back. I’m glad you had the courage to go for it. Life in Spain sounds perfect for you… Thanks for sharing.

  9. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    It’s a wonderful place to live… but the mainland had more of what we needed. Lanzarote will always be very special to us though xx

  10. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    If you really want it – you’ll find a way to make it happen. Good luck! xxx

  11. David L Frayne September 24, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Hola Elle and Alan

    We did meet once when you were in Playa Blanca ,we had just moved over almost nine years ago . We have had the same experiences except for the dogs ,it could be us you are talking about it is all so close to us . We had a business and are now retired and met many different people as you did and have made friends for life.

    We wish you a long and healthy life in Spain


    Dave and Amanda Frayne

  12. Garry Cribb September 24, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Enjoyable and fascinating read. Thanks for posting your experience.

  13. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Our pleasure! xx

  14. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Ah yes – I think I remember. So pleased Playa Blanca is still wonderful for you. Hopefully see you over there again soon. x

  15. Cheryl den Heyer September 24, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. I made the move here to Almeria 2 years ago after being made redundant. My husband still works and lives in the UK. I also found that my rescue dog and 2 cats keep me amused. Hopefully if we win the lotto my husband can join me as that is the only thing missing. I live in a small hamlet where nobody speaks any English and I only know the odd Spanish word. But I’m working on it.

  16. Peter and Pam Mitry September 24, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    We loved Lanzarote and once owned a timeshare there. We eventually moved to mainland Spain in 1997, having lived in Cadiz, Almeria and Costa del Sol. We now live in Marina de Casares, just 100 metres from Sabinillas beach! We speak passable Spanish and would we go back to UK? NEVER!! Peter and Pam Mitry.

  17. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Your story is one we hear quite a bit over here – hubby still working in the UK but then coming to Spain for quality time with their spouse.
    A lotto win would be nice eh!
    You’ll get there with the Spanish language – I’m finding that I am picking it up a lot faster now that nobody speaks English.
    Enjoy Almería – we are! xxx

  18. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Am pleased you are so settled, Peter and Pam. Sounds like you enjoy trying lots of different scenes. We’re the same. We did the “resort” and we did the “campo”. Now we are trying the “town” and are right in the middle of it. We think this is it for us xxx

  19. Niki September 24, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    In awe. I will do it. I will get there. Thanks for writing this x

  20. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    That’s the spirit – think positive and it’ll happen. Good luck! E xx

  21. Antonio Aldeanueva September 24, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Mi hermanita Bonita!! These is simply awesome!! You are a Mirror to look to!

  22. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Ah… mi hermanito favorito!! You are one of the first friends we got to know. Miss you!!
    When you come to visit – we can all speak Spanish instead of English (like before).
    Besazos y abrazos.

  23. Tony Murray September 24, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Elle,

    Just read the article while having a cup of tea here on a very windy and rainy day in Ireland
    and i very much enjoyed it from start to finish

    Best Wishes


  24. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Ah but Ireland really has its charms too. I could just demolish a plate of potato cakes, vegetable roll, bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and soda bread! Washed down with a huge mug of tea.
    Glad you enjoyed it. Stay indoors… warm and dry xxx

  25. Mandy Coupland September 24, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    We are looking to move to Spain next year so was really interested to hear of your experiences. Looking into Axaquia at present . We love the Spanish way of life and the fiesta around every corner….plus of course the weather!!

  26. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 24, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Axarquia is certainly popular – and from how pretty it is, I’m not surprised!
    Good luck with your plans! xxxx

  27. Robert Edwards September 25, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Congratulations to you both! It’s not easy to uproot to another country and start a new life, especially a new business abroad. Here’s to your next 10 Years! All the best.

  28. sean johnson September 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

    i love your story sounds like me and my wife but we havent achevied the move yet butt we do travel to spain every year in motorhome and im sure now my children ar older 1 day we will travel down south and wont come back to uk we love the uk butt we love spain aswell for health reasons the relaxed feeling you get not the hustle and maddness off the uk ?

  29. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 25, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Sounds like you’re halfway here already ;)
    Enjoy your motorhoming xxx

  30. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 25, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks Robert. You’re right – it’s not easy… but if you get the bit between your teeth… it becomes easier. You’ve done the same – with grit and determination xx

  31. Richie September 25, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    What a great read….

    We both love love Spain too ….did the Camino this time last year….and we go climbing in El chorro and surrounding areas……so much to see away from the holiday resorts which are not for us…

    Love the Spanish villages …..and the food is beautiful…..love the prices too 😎

    Might move over some day soon…

  32. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 25, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Yes we’re the same. We did love living in Playa Blanca, and it was the right move for us when we first moved over… but now we love living in a very Spanish area… away from the tourist bubble. xx

  33. Anne & Mike September 26, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Hola Ellie,
    We have just retired and on a road trip to Spain for our first winter with our 5 rescue dogs! Your words are inspiring and outline all we hope to find in Spain. We have the first three months in Costa Tropical and the next three in Almeria so it would be nice to catch up sometime as you sound very similar to us, mad dog lovers, charity workers etc. and we would value the wisdom of your experiences. We are determined to hable espanol and have started to improve already since arriving last week after our 3 months of lecciones in the UK. I shall bookmark your website for the future as we shall most likely be looking for a long term rental with our dogs and/or a purchase sometime. Many congratulations on your 10 year Spainiversary!

  34. Mary McHarg September 26, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Congratulations, enjoyed reading your experiences. It’s 9 years for us, and had tough times too, but like you we have found our special place and don’t intend moving again

  35. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 27, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Flies by eh Mary! Hope the new place is living up to expectations xx

  36. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 27, 2016 at 10:58 am

    HI Anne & Mike.
    Five?! Are you mental?! :D Three is enough for us he he.
    Yes it would be lovely to see you if you come anywhere near Vélez-Blanco – although I wouldn’t recommend getting all our dogs together as there ould be bloodshed.
    Keep in touch!
    E x

  37. Jeany Wilson September 27, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Hi Elle, I Just found your page so thought I’d add if that’s okay.
    I’m chomping at the bit to move away from the U. K.
    We are looking to retire early,sell up, and just go for it !!! .
    We have thought about Lanzarote, however I read that property is very difficult to come by now for long term rent so we think we will end up on the mainland.
    I’m quite lucky in that i speak pretty good Spanish having lived and worked on the Costa Blanca for 5 years, returning back to the U.K in 1999 so my advice is please keep going with your Spanish lessons. All of a sudden it will fall into place. Once you grasp the language, it will become second nature. Speak with the locals as much as possible. This is where you will grasp all your grammar, pronunciation & verbs.
    I am looking to take a TEFL course before we make the move, so I hope to teach English on a one to one basis once we settle just for those people who just need a little extra help learning. Got to have something to do, it’s not all sand and sangria.
    Good luck to you for the next 10 years.

  38. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 27, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Yes of course it’s okay to add!
    Lanzarote is booming right now, and yes… long term rentals are as rare as hen’s teeth (and double the price!). But if you’re set on lanzarote… sit tight and keep watching – something will come up.
    Yes – am enjoying my lessons. It’s been a shock to relaise that my Spanish was SOOO bad – especially as the locals here are so forgiving. I had a chat with a fella in the photocopy shop yesterday (I was printing out some Spanish worksheets). he was surprised I was bothering with lessons and said that we understand each other perfectly. I then pointed out that I need to pass a couple of exams to get citizenship and he then agreed that I’m rubbish ha ha. This time next year though, we’ll all laugh about it and I’ll be communicating much more accurately I’m sure.
    As an aside – you do know there’s a corking little language school for sale in Puerto del Carmen at the moment? Well established… great reputation… only €35k. It’s being sold by a friend of mine. May not be of interest to you – but if it is, then drop me an email to info@spainbuddy.com and I’ll whizz you the link over.
    Good luck with everything Jenny!!
    E xx

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