A Learning Experience

We don’t call it failure; we call it a learning experience and a lot of fun…

Note to self and others who may be considering moving overseas—

  1. Give yourself time to settle into retirement. Leaving 45+ years of employment, clearing out your home and moving to a new country should be tackled over a multi-year period—not a matter of months.
  2. Try living in the new place for 30-60-90 days over two to five years. Check out the culture to be assured you click. Does smoking bother you? What are the things you can adjust to, which are deal breakers?
  3. Does your lifestyle fit with your new home? We came from a large, clean, quiet, private home to a noisy, city apartment with neighbors on top, below and ten feet across from us. You can hear your neighbors sneeze. The Spaniards love to celebrate and do so with gusto and fireworks! Partiers revel down the street until dawn.
  4. Are you a light sleeper? City life can be extremely noisy. Besides the revelers coming home at all hours, three dumpsters (full of glass) are picked up outside our window every night between 2-3 am–this goes on for 5-10 minutes every night (not kidding!) They say that lack of consistent sleep is tied to wellness. After four months of interrupted sleep, I believe it. Craig and I have been under the weather more than we wished.
  5. How well do you handle noise? It’s come to the point, where we hardly hear the church bells anymore. However, they do start ringing at 8 am and the last bells are at midnight. The bells have become our guide to when to sleep. We can live with the bells, but the constant construction noise has us going bonkers. With a city that is more than 700 years old, there is ALWAYS a lot of repair and remodeling going on around us.
  6. Do you have a plan for post employment? Are you really ready to quit working? I have devoted the past 30 years of my life to helping others. I had no transition plan from work to retirement to make me feel that I was contributing to society. This was extremely difficult for me. I miss working!
  7. Love, true love? Going from spending 8-10 hours a day to 24/7 with your spouse is difficult in the best scenarios. However, it is quite different when you have only each on which to rely. Back home we have our escapes from one another through friends, sports, hobbies. While we have met lovely folks, it’s not the same after a lifetime of friendships and ability to getaway when necessary.

The Good We Discovered

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Spain has so much culture, art and history—we could spend the next ten years here and never see it all. We stayed pretty close to home, but took some amazing holidays.

A restaurant with a chef, server and four tables can serve up gourmet food as well as any four-star restaurant.

Our local bodega sells thousands of varieties of wine as well as vermouth stored in old wooden kegs!

We found the Spaniards are very open and warm if you respect their culture and try to speak their language. Even when we didn’t speak the same language, we found ways to communicate and made some lifelong Spanish friends.

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The history, art and architecture are mind-boggling. Its sense of history is different. Unless something is more than 500 years old, Spaniards don’t consider it “old.” Funny, a 100-year-old home in US is historic, here that’s considered new.

From small villages to large cities, there is great emphasis on local customs and culture. Their pride is evident in their music, dancing, food, festivals more.

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This is one of dozens of fabric stores where locals shop to create the traditional dresses for Fallas. Valencianos prepare all year for Fallas, a celebration each March that lights the city ablaze!
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Towards the end of our holiday, we contacted last year’s Airbnb host from Vila Franca to reconnect and take to lunch. Next thing we know, we are back out at their organic farm for two days of pure delight! We visited his family’s farm and horse ranch, 800-year-old homes, picked grapes and blackberries and visited a wonderful winery. Ferran’s Airbnb listing: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3738382

It has been wonderful relying on our feet or bicycles to get around Valencia, and it shows! Craig and I both have lost considerable weight. This is from much more exercise that we were getting in the US as well as eating fresher, healthier foods on the Spanish schedule of a large lunch between 2-4 pm and light dinner.

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While we used electronic communications like wifi calling, instant messaging, Facetime and Duo, and were truly grateful for them, none replace the warm embrace or kiss from a loved one or friend.

So with heavy heart, we have made our decision to move back home. We want a “do over!” I plan to go back to work fulltime, Craig may go back to his health clinic a few days a week, but begin to enjoy retirement back home—painting, tennis, golf and bicycling. We’ll be refurnishing and restocking our home—but plan to do so with a minimalist frame of mind.

First things first…visit the families! Ben and Gabby had their little boy on July 1. I can’t wait to meet Mr. Mason! Ruthie turned one year on September 1 and is getting ready for her first steps. I want to be there to see her milestones. Craig and I both miss our 90-year-old dads and our kids. Craig plans to go back to Michigan to play golf with John and visit his sister and family. I already booked tickets to take Al to the symphony.

Starting over (again) is very exciting. It is our hope that we will spend four weeks each year getting away to a new place—in the US, Canada, Europe or who knows where. We’d like to spend time in many places that we might revisit for our “real retirement” down the road.

We depart Valencia in three days. The past four months have been a roller coaster—lots of splendid memories of new friends, great food, wonderful discoveries of art and culture. We’ll be sure to add our last few trips with pictures on the blog, as we still have many entertaining stories to tell about Spanish wines, cava and vermouth; tasty tapas and much, much more.

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Kindred Spirits–or Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Since discovering Valencia, I have been following a fellow Valencian blogger, Jill’s Urban Food Crawl. She kindly reached out upon our arrival to share info about an expat group that meets regularly. @InterNations has over 500 members here in Valencia and thousands around the world. It organizes and matches individuals by their interests to events—i.e. hiking, arts and culture, jazz, etc.

Friday evening Craig and I headed down to the Marina Real for an InterNations gathering. We intentionally got there early to get our bearings and meet people before it got too crowded.

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Magic at the Marina

The first folks we met were couples Leslie and Dwight, Richard and Tom. Former Chicago educators, Richard and Tom have spent most of every year here since 2015, returning home to Florida from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Retiring, selling their high-rise apartment in downtown Chicago, Leslie and Dwight came to Valencia permanently in September last year. People were surprised we found InterNations so quickly and chatted us up about all the Valencia had to offer, things we had in common, our take on American politics, et al.

Within a very short time we learned that we all rented from Anthony of @PerfectSpain in Barrio del Carmen and live in the same building with Leslie and Dwight—and it is only a six apartment building! The evening breeze arose off the Mediterranean and the light began to diminish around 10 pm as the gathering continued to go on strong. Our new friends were kind enough to invite us to dinner, walking just a few blocks to their friend Sheree’s restaurant, Hosteria El Vizio. Upon arrival, Sheree, welcomed us warmly. An expat New Zealander, Sheree gave up a super busy, high-stress job in Rome ten years ago to start her restaurant. With a heart of gold and a laugh to light up the night, Sheree had her very accommodating staff placed three tables on sidewalk so we could enjoy our dinner and evening breeze.

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Her friend Vanessa is an Australian expat, who also came here years ago for America’s Cup. Her husband is a professional America’s Cup-level sailor, participating in the last nine… yes, count them… America’s Cup competitions! She and her husband are raising two teenage girls and are spending much of this summer taking in friends and family from around the world. While we were dining, Vanessa’s husband FaceTimed her from Bermuda where he was working this year’s America’s Cup, however sailing on a different category boat.

Sheree brought out a refreshing white wine and ordered three pizzas that turned out to be a multitude of delicious toppings—including eggplant and prosciutto. Everyone shared their travels throughout Spain, paradors (old converted castles and convents that are now incredibly luxurious hotels), trips to Ibiza, day trips to Albufera national park, and lots of other great hints they have come to know.

As we ate, drank, shared stories and commiserated, I thought to myself, “I could get used to this.” Meeting new people; warm, welcoming companionship; great food and drink in a picturesque city.

We walked to the street to catch taxis home, Leslie said, “Nights like this are exactly why we came to Valencia.”

I couldn’t agree with her more.