Over the past few years, my husband and I have been on the lookout for places to retire. Leaving the Arizona desert after more than four+ decades, we wanted to find a new home that was 1) affordable 2) cultural 3) urban 4) provides mass transit 5) bike friendly, and of course, had good medical facilities.
We set out to explore Portland and Seattle and were pretty set on moving to the Northwest until my husband read an article about living overseas. “Would you consider it,” he asked? “Hell yes,” I responded. And the search was on!
We quickly agreed that we would prefer to live in Europe versus some of the other affordable places to live in Central and South America and began our exploration.
A little background on us—Craig and I met eight years ago online. He had lost his wife of 32 years; I was in the middle of a lengthy divorce after 25 years. Our children had been out of the house for two years or more and we settled into an enriching life in Phoenix. We both enjoy travel, music, art, food and wine. He paints, plays tennis and cycles. I am an avid reader and hiker, who has enjoyed hundreds of miles throughout Arizona. Together we have explored Mexico, Belize, Italy, Hawaii, Oregon, New York, San Francisco, et al. Craig was a commercial photographer for 25 years prior to returning for an additional bachelor’s and master’s in nursing, now working in a community health clinic as a Family Nurse Practitioner. My first career was in advertising, marketing and public relations before shifting to nonprofit management. For the past three years have had a successful consulting business.
We like to immerse ourselves in cultural experiences, staying away from large hotels and typical tourist attractions, much preferring local flavor. On our trip to Belize, we borrowed the help’s rusty bikes to ride into the neighboring village where we participated in a fundraiser for a local woman undergoing cancer treatment. There we met Belizean soccer players, woodcrafters and many folks with “local flair.” The others at the hotel were surprised we ventured out for this experience, until they saw the handmade wooden bowl a local craftsman made especially for us. Picking out the log and design together, he carved a magnificent piece for us. When the guests heard about our artisan experience, they all wanted to purchase a piece from him. Of course we were delighted, helping this young man substantially boost his income.
WHAT WE LEARNED:
Research, research, research! Craig is the ultimate researcher and investigator. In a few short months, we had established a large ex-pat retirement and travel guide library. Our first inclination was Portugal—super affordable, beautiful. The drawback for us—we wanted to live in a cultural hub, not in an expat community, leaving Lisbon as the primary choice. After consideration, we felt that the language barrier would be too difficult and turned our sights to Spain. Living in Arizona, we had a much better sense of Spanish than Portuguese and thought the language would be much easier to master.
PLANNING OUR INVESTIGATIVE TRIP:
Our first trip is planned for September this year, when we planned to spend three weeks in the Costa Brava. Here’s a synopsis of what we have done to get to this place—
Subscribed to Expat Blogs – Other blogs served to be great resources of information
FlipBook – We download this great app on our iPads. It provides news and articles based on your personal interests. We each receive daily articles on Spain, Europe, retirement, travel and have found many other resources and innovative ideas through it.
Booked Our Flights – Try using the app #Hopper and ? to watch for falling airfares. After reading an article on #FlipBook we discovered #NorwegianAir and although we hail from Phoenix, found it worthwhile to fly to LA on Southwest, then flying LAX to Barcelona via Oslo. Waiting until #Southwest had a sale, we scored round-trip for $99! Using #SeatGuru.com we were able to read other’s experiences on the aircraft and the airline, identify the best seats without having to pay premium prices. Compared to the other airlines, we saved over $400 per ticket, even after paying for our Phx-LA leg of the journey. And that my friend, is a lot of paella!
Selected our Lodging – Traveling throughout the world via #AirBnB we have found unique, comfortable, quiet lodging. In planning our trip, our evenings were spent searching destination cities for best neighborhoods and favorite apartments. With AirBnB, you can choose to have your own place or share a home. We prefer our own space, but have had some nice encounters with shared space as well. Sharing our favorites with one another we whittle down neighborhoods, price and amenities. Lodging in Spain is hugely affordable—renting a one-bedroom apartment in city center for as little as $40 per night! Best of all, we have the opportunity to meet wonderful hosts who provide their own recommendations for things to do, places to see and eat.
In Country Transportation – We much prefer to use mass transit whenever we travel overseas. However, because we plan to visit many small cities and towns on our three-week journey, and we didn’t want to be committed to an itinerary or bus schedule, we found it necessary to rent a car. We’ll go into a little more detail about that experience at a later date.
We hope to provide you
- Choosing a place to live