The U.S. government is in its 15th day of shutdown and I wouldn’t blame you if you thought this blog has been as well. That doesn’t mean things have been idle here at Bucking-the-Trend, however. As I mentioned in a previous post, our family has made the decision to spend 2014-2015 living in Spain. We’re committed to at least one year and hoping that we love it enough to spend two. I’ve been working many of my nights scouring expat forums, reaching out to other bloggers that live in Spain, and doing general online research to try and piece this whole thing together.
Because there appeared to be genuine interest in the comments of my guest posting, I thought I’d give an update on our planning. I’m also an organizer and need to brain dump. Getting some of these thoughts and lists formalized will help me feel more organized.
When all boiled down, there are three (3) main goals that we’d like to get out of this adventure.
1. Stretch our comfort zone – While we are super-blessed, life has gotten into a convenient, predictable routine lately and we look to leave our comfort zone in the name of growth and new experiences.
2. The gift of Spanish fluency – Our twin boys are in their third year of language immersion at the local school here in our hometown so they’ll arrive in Spain with a solid foundation of the language. Today, they are able to understand a bunch and are able to speak in very basic terms. I imagine being immersed in Spanish full-time, without the crutch of English, for an entire school year should cement their fluency.
3. Culture and Travel – We’re looking forward taking in la cultura española and to being able to see other countries and potentially other continents. Shoot, I recently learned that Morocco is about a half-marathon away from the southern tip of Spain and takes about 30 minutes to cross by ferry. Being located in Europe may facilitate visiting my in-laws in India as well – a place where they spend their winters.
I’m excited because I think it will turn out to be a semi-retirement for us. A test run of sorts. It should be a real learning experience to live on savings without a reliable income. I suspect that for whatever period of time we’re away will delay our ultimate ‘retirement’ by that same amount of time.
Desired Location – We’ve narrowed down our choice of location to the region of Andalucía at the southern end of Spain. The reason is twofold: 1) it is where they speak and teach in Castellano – “typical” Spanish and 2) it gets over 300 days of sunshine per year. We’ve been living in the Upper Midwest for the last 20 or so years where cold and snowy winters rule and look forward to experiencing a different climate.
The only bit I’ll initially be worried about from a language perspective is the local dialect. Spaniards in this region tend to not pronounce the final consonants of most words (leaving off a plural ‘S’ for example) along with other oddities. This may take a month (or six) to get accustomed to.
Schooling – The biggest outstanding questions I have are related to our boys’ schooling. We’ve ruled out sending them to a private international school because they can be very costly and teach largely in English which would defeat the main reason for doing this. I’m leaning toward public state schooling but need to better understand quality and placement considerations.
Another interesting tidbit of information I’ve gained is that Spanish schools place by birth year. None of this mid-year birthday cut-off stuff. Our boys were born in September 2005. In the U.S. this means they are some of the oldest kids in their 2nd grade class (that also includes kids born in 2006). In Spain, however, they’ll be placed with all other kids born in 2005 (regardless of month) and will ultimately be placed directly into 4th grade. Who needs 3rd grade anyway?
- Long-Term Visas – We plan on obtaining ‘non-lucrative’ resident visas. This is a one-year visa typically granted to retirees who have ample savings (or passive income) to support themselves. This visa does not allow you to work in Spain. We’re currently building up our cash reserves so that we can essentially “buy” our way in.
Mrs. Buck is working in Chicago this week and will be paying the Spanish consulate a visit tomorrow, so I’m hoping to have the visa process better understood here soon.
- House & Stuff – We really like our hometown here in Madison, Wisconsin. It has good schools, family isn’t too far away, and we have a great circle of friends. We’ve decided that we’ll be renting out our house while we’re gone, selling a bunch of our stuff including one car, and storing away the rest. My parents have volunteered to take our second car (a minivan that we want to keep) and to store some of our more sensitive belongings like artwork and electronics.
- Declutter – With this impending move on the horizon, we’ve been sensitive to how much stuff (junk) is in our house. I’ve started craiglisting the more valuable items and giving away the remaining.
- Passports – We need to re-up our passports and apply for new ones for the boys.
- Reconnaissance Mission – I plan on making a solo trip to Spain early in 2014. I’m hoping to have a couple of places targeted so I can check out the towns, meet with school administration, and get a general vibe of the place to see if it feels like somewhere we ultimately want to end up.
- Apply for Visa – Get all the required paperwork together and submitted next spring so it is cleared by summer.
- Sell one car – I found a potential buyer for my car that conveniently isn’t prepared to buy until next spring.
- Find Renters – We’ll need to continue prepping the house. We have a couple leads on some potential renters. They are friends that we know and trust and would appreciate having them in our house while we’re away (as opposed to total strangers).
I know I have a handful of readers from Spain. If you or anyone else out there have any other advice or considerations about our adventure and would be willing to share, please do leave a comment or contact me. Also let me know if you currently live in Andalucía and want to do a house swap with us in the U.S. – ha!
(Edit: To hear about the next episode in our planning, click here).