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.
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.
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!!!
- 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…