Today, October 15th 2019, marks the first anniversary of moving to Spain. Exactly one year ago, me and my partner, Raluca, flew from Bucharest to Valencia with just two suitcases each. I refrained from writing about this experience, for various reasons. As a matter of fact, I refrained from posting too often on this blog during the last few years too, but this is about to change. Or so I hope.
Why Moving To Spain?
If you happen to read this blog for a lot of time – which is highly unlikely – then you know that 10 years ago I took the decision to move from Romania, the initial destination being New Zealand. My personal context was very different back then. Financially, I was on a much better situation than one year ago. Relationship-wise, I was in a much worse situation than one year ago (in a marriage that didn’t work out and which was about to collapse very soon). The choice of New Zealand, as a destination, was influenced by both these factors.
Obviously, that move to New Zealand didn’t happen. It took me 9 long years to actually move abroad and there were many factors at play, factors which eventually made moving to Spain the best option. I wish this move could have happened sooner, but, honestly, I don’t think it could have happened any other way.
So, how we ended up moving to Spain?
Well, when it was clear that the move could actually happen, we ended up with a 5 items questionnaire. Here they are:
- Can we afford to live in it?
- Does it have at least 300 sunny days per year?
- Is it near the sea?
- Is it runner friendly?
- Is it within a reasonable distance from Romania?
I’ll take each question at a time, to understand what was the motivation behind each of them and how our current city, Valencia, responded when we took it for a test drive.
1. Can You Afford Living In It?
When I first decided to move abroad, 10 years ago, money wasn’t a problem. Like I said, it was just after selling my first company, so financially things were looking very good. Back then, I planned to have at least two years covered in the new place, a time buffer which would allow me to find something else to do.
Alas, as time passed by, this initial cushion dwindled, and, 9 years after the decision, my financial situation was back again depending on a regular job. So, this influenced quite heavily the choice of the place, and these were the factors that we looked up:
- rent (could afford something at or below half the price of the average rent in London, for instance)
- transportation (we live without a car and didn’t want to get one, so we looked to relatively small cities, with good walking / biking infrastructure, and good public transportation)
- food (obviously, something affordable)
Valencia ticked ok here, along with a few other smaller cities, some of them from France. Although it’s touristy and popular, it still doesn’t have the cost of living fo Barcelona or Marbella. If you have a decent job (I work as a programmer, for about three years now) Valencia is a livable city.
2. 300 Sunny Days Per Year
This can be also translated as “does it have a very nice climate?”. And by this I mean a certain area on both sides of the Equator, probably 2-300 km. In Europe that would cover an area in which you can find countries like Spain, Greece, a bit of France, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia.
Valencia has a tremendous climate. It’s not too hot, not too cold. Of course, there are a couple of months in the summer when it’s really hot-hot and very humid, and about a month in the winter when it may rain heavily (gota fria) and it’s a bit colder (like the lower at night is 4-5 degrees Celsius and the higher at day is 13-14) but that’s more than ok for someone coming from a climate with minus 20 degrees like winters. And the best perk of all is that, even in the winter, there’s a lot of light and the city does have more than 300 sunny days per year, on average.
3. Does It Have A Beach? Is It Near The Sea?
For some reasons, I find the vicinity of the sea both healing and energizing. This “close to the sea” criterion doesn’t need all the human paraphernalia that comes with merchandising the sea, like hotels, terraces or clubs. On the contrary: the more remote and deserted the beach is, the better for me. But it had to have a beach or to be near the sea.
Valencia has dozens of kilometers of beaches. The ones in the city are a bit too touristy for my taste, and quite crowded during the season, but if you’re willing to spend 20-30 minutes by bus, or even by walking / biking, there are plenty of more secluded, very discrete and beautiful places along the coast.
4. Is It Runner Friendly?
In 2018 I took a break from running, focusing on rebalancing my financial situation. But I never really gave up running. It’s way too beneficial to throw it away. So, when we decided to move, we looked for cities which are favoring an active lifestyle.
Here, Valencia greatly surpassed our expectations. There is this huge park, built in the former riverbed of Turia, which stretches for about 7-8 kilometers in the heart of the city, and which is buzzing every day with hundreds, if not thousands of runners, yoga practitioners, soccer players (there are 4 soccer fields in the park) and whatnot. Valencia is probably one of the most runner-friendly cities I’ve ever been in and I’m very grateful for that.
5. Relatively Close To Romania?
This may not be your cup of tea, but for us it was a condition. We both still have close family in Romania, and stretching way too far didn’t seem right. We’re both favoring Asia over Europe, but at this moment in our lives I don’t think this is an option. A 3 hours flight form Valencia to Bucharest can’t be compared with an 8-10 hours flight from the closest city we liked in Asia (Thailand and Vietnam were the options, for what matters).
What Changed After Moving To Spain?
One year in a new location is enough to form a solid impression of how life is (or can be) there. So, one year after moving to Spain here are the things that changed, both for the better and worse (spoiler, there isn’t anything that really changed for worse).
1. Less Stress
This was by far the biggest problem in Romania. There is this very popular saying: “We live in Romania, and that takes all of our time”, a saying which is, alas, so very true. You can’t really see how much of your energy is drained until you switch for more than the regular two weeks holiday at the all inclusive and realize you’ve been caught in a whirlwind of toxic interactions.
Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing people in Romania, there are also amazing places and some of the good people in Romania are doing great things, things that deserve to be praised. But still, the overall trend is to spend way too much time worrying about stuff that may never happen, or laughing at everything, bitterly, and avoid any constructive action. It’s the trend that I wanted to avoid, not the people or places that I still care for.
2. Better Health
The impact of nice weather, good food and active lifestyle is absolutely fantastic. Not only for us, but for anyone else living here. We hardly see overweight people here, although they’re eating five times per day in Spain (desayuno, almuerzo, comida, merienda and cena). Even senior people are in much better shape than you would expect.
I hardly had a cold since I moved to Spain and the worst things that happened were a couple of allergy episodes, until my immune system adjusted (in Spain trees are blossoming all year round and that increases the allergic potential).
3. More Excitement
When you have more time for relevant activities and interactions, then good stuff happens. I couldn’t pinpoint anything that is spectacular or greatly unexpected, but even the most mundane and simple stuff has a new, fresher vibe to it. It’s like we freed a bigger surface from our system and now we have more to feel with it, more to keep experimenting life.
4. Different Social Life
Speaking of life, my social life changed a lot. Back in Romania I knew way too many people and I think that, unconsciously, I had to maintain some sort of familiar image, a public persona, for all these persons. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pleasant too. Sometimes we change (because the only constant in life IS change) and our inner selves and public personas may get out of sync. And keeping your persona in sync for too many people is tiring. At least it was for me.
After moving to Spain my social life downshifted drastically and I perceived this change as a huge relief. No more image to maintain and still a lot of nice people to meet. Some of them are doing great stuff online, like this travel blog, others are architects, musicians, writers and so on. In terms of numbers, my social life almost doesn’t exist anymore, compared with what I had to maintain in Romania – I meet and speak with a very small number of people – but in terms of satisfaction, it’s way richer.
5. Paradise On Earth?
Re-reading this article while editing it, I get the feeling that it may paint a more idillic picture than reality. It’s not like everything is fabulous here. There are things that sometimes don’t go as expected. There were adaptation periods that weren’t easy. There is still a lot of stuff that is not perfect (and I highly doubt it will ever be).
It’s way far from being a paradise on Earth, but it’s way better than how it was until one year ago.
And that’s all that counts, after all.