Moving to Spain
I have been dreaming about moving to Spain since ….well, since forever.
About 15 years ago I decided to seriously investigate that possibility instead of just daydreaming about it.
I planned a vacation to Spain twice, spent time in three different locations, where I went house-hunting with real estate agents.
This was years before the economic world crisis, and prices were sky-high at the time.
The outcome of my research was that I simply could not afford it then.
So I decided to ‘park’ the whole idea until something would change for the better.
Tip: investigate your dreams
This whole investigative adventure had definitely not been in vain though. It helped me to figure out how possible and realistic my dream was. Or not.
And finding that out gave me peace of mind. It helped me to stop thinking about it all the time (“if only I would live in Spain…” etcetera) and instead embrace the here and now as it was.
The idea was still there, but I simply put it on hold.
Instead, I painted a mural in my garden, loosely based on one of the locations that I visited during my research.
This way I sort of have a Spanish view right from my living room in Haarlem. During my search in Spain I met a beautiful dog that I bonded while I stayed with his owners. I pictured him and my two cats in my Spanish mural.
Now, many years later, the mural is still there and it still makes me happy.
Reviving my dream
A year ago, several good friends turned out to have emigration plans within the coming three years. Talking to them revived my Spain dream.
I started researching again; would it be possible now? After the economic crash, Spain has become way more affordable. I did some calculations and came to the conclusion that it indeed seemed possible for Frits and me to move to Spain, in a couple of years.
Frits though, was not really on the same page. He did not share the same dream and had a hard time imagining what that life in Spain would be like.
So I decided to write a fictional interview with myself, dated in 2023. One of the reasons was to give the interview to Frits. Hoping that that would help him see what retiring in Spain would/could look like.
Fun excercise: describe your future life in detail
Writing the ‘interview’ was quite fun to do. It helped me to envision our future life in detail.
I ended up with a precise timeline and with a clear overview of our income streams, savings and future costs.
I left out a lot in the version below, since a part of the info I gathered is private, as you may understand. But still, it gives you a good impression of my vision.
Me, interviewing the future me
Interview with Anja van der Vorst ( 67 years old)
Place: somewhere in Spain (1. Albir, or 2. Nerja, or 3. elsewhere)
Hello, Anja, you and Frits live here now since two years. Where and when did you get the idea to move to Spain?
To be honest it was mainly my idea, not Frits’. This has been my dream since I was 45 years old! #wannabeapensionada
What appealed to you about living in Spain?
In the first place the weather. Sunny, warm weather brings on a certain lifestyle that I love.
And a feeling of freedom. Having breakfast outdoors, cooling down in your own private pool, not too much fabric on your body…. The light, the warmth, it all helps to get in a happy mood.
Further more, Spain is a beautiful country, the culture is interesting and Spanish seemed like a language that I would be able to master.
Also it’s cheaper in Spain, so your money takes you further than in Holland.
The other side of the story is that I became less and less happy in and with Holland over the years.
Not only the literal climate aka the weather bothered me more and more, but also the political climate became a problem for me.
But why Spain? Why not Bali? Or Portugal? Panama? Timboektoe?
Believe me, I did a lot of work (research, talk, think) and the whole world got investigated.
I had a number of criteria in the back of my mind, so I checked which countries matched those criteria.
I did quite a study, making notes about all possible countries and drawing my conclusions from there.
So what were those criteria?
- nice weather
- cheaper than in Holland, so you can do more and longer with your money
- safe, also for women
- comfortable, easy living; so not THAT primitive circumstances that daily life becomes a struggle
- enough like-minded people around you, wether they are locals or expats, as long as you can build up a circle of friends
- laws and regulations, and e.g. treaties with Holland which allow you to keep your pension etc.
- the language (am I able to master it?)
- internet and wifi: crucial for a blogger and for an expat
- clean air
- is it a place and country that is pretty and interesting enough to keep yourself entertained for years to come?
- commute to Holland: travel time, connections, cost of flights etc.
I soon found out that Spain matched these criteria best. Ok, Portugal came close as well.
So why not Portugal then?
I find the language much harder
I don’t like the portuguese cuisine
Portugal is way less developed and more rural than Spain.
On the other hand it IS cheaper than Spain.
OK, Spain it was. How did the process and decision to emigrate go?
Well, Frits is two years younger than me and retiring was SO not on his mind! He wanted to keep working and make more money to save up for the future.
Of course you don’t make a decision like this if it is not carried by the both of you. That meant I had to wait and postpone my plan.
#dreambig #chaseyourdreams #bepatient
Postponing the plan meant that Frits could keep working and save up more money. I hoped that in the meantime his attitude towards the idea would slowly but surely change and that he would warm up to the idea.
My health is not that great, so I did not want to wait too long with realising my dream. I had 65 years in my mind as the latest date. I wanted to be a resident of Spain by the age of 65. By that time it would already have taken me 20 years to realise my spanish dream!
And that’s how it happened?
Yep, when I was 65 – and Frits was 63 – we moved to Spain. He needed to bridge 4 years till his pension at that time, while I had a gap of 2 years to go.
Are you living in a house or a flat? Buy or rent?
Frits had already sold his house in Hilversum. And when we moved to Spain I sold my house in Haarlem.
After our renting/renting out/trial year, we eventually each bought a house in Spain from our own money.
How do you cope financially? Where does your money come from?
That’s a combination of the money that was left after selling our houses, savings and (from a certain age onwards) pension and retirement money.
We were able to buy our spanish houses free of mortgage, so that we need less money per month to live from.
Other additional income streams:
Living in Spain has given me new opportunities. I started a blog about Spain and because I live there fulltime, I can really focus and I have become an expert. So now I actually make a bit of money with my blog.
E.g. thanks to some services and products that I offer.
I organize walks that are different. People can get them online as a self-guided tour or they can hire me as a guide. I also wrote several ebooks about Spain, which people can buy online.
Further more I give private tango-lessons, I organise a bi-monthly tango-salon,….
…. we sometimes rent out one of our houses via AirBnB and I take care of the pets of expats around me when they are away.
How about Frits? And what else do you guys do?
Frits did not find this new life easy in the beginning. He worked hard all his life and his identity was mainly defined by his job. And by his expertise. Frits IS expertise. Being the expert is his favourite role in every situation.
So, understandably, Frits needed time to figure out what it means not to be The Expert anymore. What does it mean to be a pensionado? Or, as I prefer to call it, a bon vivant. Because it is a skill to fully enjoy life, I think. #carpediem #seizetheday
He was afraid of emptiness, of boredom. “Who am I without a job?”
By now he has found a rhythm, a way, a new lifestyle. A new him, if you will.
To be clear: Frits stayed in Singapore till 2021, I stayed there till 2020.
For me, the change was less big, by the way. Moving to Spain did not change a lot for my identity or for how I fill my days. In that way, my life in Spain looks a lot like my life from the past decades.
There is a difference though; I am living the dream now. In my ideal climate. There is continuity; I live here. I’m not a traveler or wanderer anymore. #livingthedream
And…my partner is also leading a ‘free’ life. That gives a certain worry-free-ness, freedom and relaxation.
Clear. Can you describe a typical day?
We wake/get up somewhere between 6 and 9 am.
We have cappuccinos and breakfast on our roofterrace/ in our garden/ on our balcony/ at our swimming-pool. With our iPhone/iPad/book. We have all the time of the world.
Then Frits goes for a run/ a swim (pool) / the beach / a dive in the sea / playing golf with friends.
I prefer to be left in peace in the mornings. I entertain myself at home or in our garden. Always lots to do. Blogging. Crafting. Or just doing nothing.
We have lunch together, usually at home, on our roof terrace.
Somewhere in the afternoon I go for a walk. Along the beach or in town.
In the evenings we eat at home or we go out. Together or with friends.
After that, it could be: Netflixing, to the movies, chilling on our terrace.
About our friends: we have ‘local’ friends. Meaning that they live around us. They are not necessarily Spaniards. Its an international crowd. Basically: people that we like and that we have a click with.
I’m thinking of picking up golfing by the way. Then Frits and I can also play together sometimes,
Even before I moved to Spain I started learning Spanish. And I kept taking lessons after I moved. Speaking Spanish is crucial in Spain.
Funny thing is that we both like to cook nowadays. Funny, because I never liked cooking, but now I do. Frits usually does the cooking in our outdoor oven/kitchen, while I make yummy salads and the likes.
If we are not doing our usual stuff in and around the house, then we might be doing some of the following things:
- hanging out with friends, at our home, theirs, or elsewhere. We built up an international circle of friends here #friendsaredabomb
- we might be entertaining friends from abroad; usually friends from back home (NL), that stay with us (in the second home; the flat) for a couple of days. The small apartment offers room for 2-4 guests. I would say we have guests once per month. When we have guests I focus on them entirely. I show them around, catch up and we chill together.
- travel: at least once per month we make a trip. #wanderlust. Spain is huge and there is a lot to explore. I prepare and do the research, since I like that, and then we take the car and go on a road trip. We sleep a couple of nights in a small hotel. At home we have a big map of Spain on the wall and we color the part that we have explored. We’ll see when we have coloured the whole map of Spain;-) #lifegoals. Sometimes we go on a longer trip, e.g. take a plane to Portugal and explore it over there. Or we drive to the south of France. Oh well, there is still so much to explore… Thanks to the beautiful weather we don’t feel the need to go far away for holidays.
- back home: the flights to Holland are short and cheap, so we go there regularly. Especially in the summer, when the heat in Spain gets too much to handle, we try to go elsewhere. Sometimes we can do a home-swap, e.g. with dutch friends. #homesick
You just mentioned your car….
Initially we drove my car to Spain and used it during the first year there. Then we bought another car. One that can hold a lot of cargo AND that is better equipped for the sometimes rugged terrain in Spain.
For the rest we have two ebikes and a Vespa. Oh, and we have two electric steps, just for the coolness of those. #coolseniors #foreveryoung
We do a lot of walking too, but Spain is quite hilly, so sometimes motorised ways are easier, e.g. when you go for shopping groceries etc.
What made you decide for buying a house instead of renting?
For me, creating a ‘home; is a crucial part of my dream and my life. I want complete freedom in interior decor and style. My home is an important part of my identity. I see it as a part of me. Look inside my house and you see who I am. It’s an important outlet for my creativity. #homesweethome #myhomeismycastle
Usually this is not possible with a rental home. I wanna be able to go wild and over the top and to create a very unusual house.
The wife of dutch actor Alfred van den Heuvel has a B&B in Spain. I mention this NOT because I want to run a B&B; I don’t!!!
No, I wanna be free and really retire. But the way she set it all up and the look of it is SO my cup of tea. Awesome! Inspiring!
Other reasons are that I want continuity. I do not want to be forced to move when the landlord wants us out.
If needed we can sell our houses in Spain, so that money is not waisted on rent.
Ofcourse we DID rent during the trial year. I then rented out my house in Haarlem to expats.
By the way: you lived in Singapore, before you moved to Spain. Wasn’t the weather there warm enough? Didn’t you like it there? What made you keep dreaming of Spain?
Don’t get me wrong; I LOVED our years in Singapore. We lived there 11 years and I loved every minute of it.
But it was not a retirement life.
- Frits worked like a dog.
- Also, it is way too hot and humid to be an ideal climate. Lots of clouds and rain as well. Dengue mosquitos and the unbearable heat keep you inside a lot.
- Further more, life is crazy expensive
- and the flights to Holland are long and expensive.
- Also, we lived in a rental flat. Yes, we made it nice and cosy, but you usually can’t go crazy or wild and paint the walls in vivid colours, put nails in your walls, so no creative outlet there for me. You know its not a permanent situation, so you don’t go overboard with interior decorating.
No complaints, by the way, because as I said: we had such a great time there. But carpe diem is something else. Its what we do now, here in our Spanish home. #noregrets
Well, it sounds like a good decision and a great life!
It sure is!
Ok, so far for my fictional interview with myself. Let’s check back in 5 years to see how accurate my vision turns out to be, shall we?
How about you? Do you have plans to emigrate? How do you see your future after you retire? What are your dreams?
Do you know people who moved to Spain? Are they happy there?