Darlene Foster's Blog

Spain Chronicles, Part 1

Posted on: September 29, 2020

It is coming up to six years since we packed up and moved to Spain. Recently at a writing group, we were given the prompt of – Screw it, let’s do it! I decided this would be a good time to write about the trials and tribulations we had as we prepared for this huge move. The group enjoyed my story, so I decided to share it with my blog followers.

Screw It Let’s Do It!

Retirement loomed. My husband and I often talked about retiring to a warmer climate. Many of our friends had bought property in the southern United States, Mexico, Central and South America. But hubby wasn’t keen on living in any of those places. His parents retired to Spain from the UK a number of years earlier, and we had visited them there a few times. We both liked Spain.

This will do.

It was a long way from Canada, but it had the appeal of being in Europe and close to other countries we wanted to explore. I loved the history, the beaches and the weather. It was affordable for people living on a pension., too. Paul imagined riding his Ducati on twisty mountain roads all year round, and I entertained thoughts of writing books and travel articles while sitting in the sun.

We booked a trip, and while in Spain, we found places along the Costa Blanca that could work for us within our price range. Once returning home, we did further research. Retiring to Spain became more of a consideration. When I told my children our potential plans, they said, ‘Do what makes you happy, mom.’ I mentioned to my daughter that I would give her my trusty Honda Civic. Her eyes perked up and she asked, ‘When are you going’?

With the blessings of the family, we began the process of clearing out the apartment and putting it up for sale. Having downsized from a 2500 square foot house to a 1350 square foot apartment fourteen years earlier, we didn’t think it would take much work. We didn’t realize how much we had acquired in that time!

Both of us still working, every weekend was spent clearing out closets, file cabinets and storage spaces, as well as painting and decorating to make the place look fresh and clean. We met with three different real estate agents, and decided to list with the one we felt would represent our place well based on her enthusiasm. There were many showings but no offers. As we had some wiggle room, we dropped the price a bit.

Over the summer, I gave away, donated and sold seventy percent of our belongings. Time was spent with family and friends as it might be awhile until we saw them again once we made the move across the ocean. There was one offer on the apartment. Way too low, we turned it down. There was still time. I knew the right people would come along and love our garden apartment in its great location as much as we did.

Retirement party!

I retired at the end of September and we booked tickets to Madrid leaving the first of November. I made one last trip to Alberta to ensure my mom was settled into her care home and to spend valuable time with my grand and great grandkids. An offer on the apartment came through while I was there. Although low, after some negotiating, we came to an agreement. They were to sign the papers the last week of October. For all intents and purposes, it was a done deal. Things were looking good. We went out for drinks with friends to celebrate.

I sold the rest of the furniture and organized a moving company to pack and pick up the personal belongings we would take with us.

On the last Monday of October, I woke up to a very upsetting message from my son. A good friend of ours had passed away in her sleep at the age of 53. I was devastated. I had just seen her two weeks earlier, a picture of health.

An hour later, I received a call from the realtor. The people who bought the apartment were to sign the papers for the sale the next day. Except, they decided to withdraw from the agreement, forfeiting their deposit.

What else could go wrong! I felt the walls crashing in all around me.

The furniture was all gone except for the bed. The dishes, pots and pans, and everything else were packed, ready to be picked up by the movers the following day. My daughter was coming for my car on Wednesday. Hubby had already sold his car and shipped his Ducati. It was already on the way to Spain!

Even if we stayed until we sold the place, we had nothing but an empty apartment. I was sick to my stomach. We sat on the bed, and in between my incessant sobbing, we explored our options.

Finally we decided. Screw it, let’s do it.

So with very little money and continuing mortgage payments, we flew out to Spain on November 1st, 2014 as planned. Well actually, we ended up flying out on November 2nd, but that’s another story, for another day.

109 Responses to "Spain Chronicles, Part 1"

Thank you for sharing the story of your life adventure…it’s a fantasy that many of us dream of doing someday!

Nothing worth doing is ever easy! Thanks, John for your comment. There will be more.

I loved reading this, Darlene and look forward to the next instalment.

Thanks, Mary. You were an inspiration to write this. xo

Very brave of you

Thanks. Not sure if it was brave or crazy!!

Well done, Darlene. You only regret the things you don’t do.

This is true. Although there were times I considered my sanity!

OMG, I can just see the upheaval when trying to move across the ocean! But you did it! Congratulations!

It was crazy, I’m not sure if I could do it now.

I admire your courage and determination. Crap does happen, but you’re right….we need to move forward….always forward. Things always fall into place, but not always when and how we want them to. Can’t wait to read more!!

This is so true. If you want something bad enough, you do need to get through the crap. It did get worse before it got better!

It like the last episode of a Netflix drama when you have to wait 6 months for the next season! I love your story and had no idea.

I promise I won’t make you wait 6 months for the next episode. We can laugh about it all now but it was pretty grim at the time. xo

Courage, and apparently you have it and can trust your gut!

Such an interesting story, Darlene. Now I want to read Part Two!

It’s coming!! Truth can be stranger than fiction at times.

I love this bold adventure, Darlene. We gave away about 2/3 of our stuff, and I don’t really miss a thing. I smiled at your daughter’s wish for your Honda. A year or two after we moved, I gave my Infiniti (16 years old) to our son. It feels so good to off-load what we no longer need or want.

There is very little that I miss as well I sometimes go looking for a book and then realize I no longer own it. Our children do benefit from our discarded cars! The Honda Civic is still going strong and it is over 20 years old now!

Wow. That’s a story. I know from what I’ve read since the years you moved to Spain that you don’t regret taking that chance. Sometimes, we just have to take that leap into the unknown.

It´s never easy but can be very rewarding when things eventually work out. No regrets here!

Loved the post. Understand the downsizing process — have done it 3 times. You must have been a young retiree. I’ve always wondered how difficult it is to move to another country — did being a Canadian, help? Do you give up your Canadian residency and become citizens of Spain?

Moving to another country is not for the faint of heart. It helped that hubby is British and is considered an EU citizen. (that would no longer apply now since the UK has left the EU) I am a resident of Spain but still a Canadian citizen. There is a lot of paperwork to deal with and the bureaucracy in Spain is unbelievable. One learns to be patient.

You moved at the perfect time! You sound like you love your life and are so upbeat and inspiring! And having a loving partner makes it all the better. What a way to really see places you’ve dreamed of visiting! One of my close friends has a lot of family in Spain, and she visits annually. Have to ask her where. Enjoy reading your posts!

For me, it would take a lot of courage to move to a different country. Kudos to you! And it seems to be working just fine.

It was not an easy venture but it has worked out!

A fascinating story, Darlene. It just goes to show you that little in life goes as planned. I’m curious as to what the deciding factors were on choosing that specific location in Spain. Were other Canadians living there? Was it near your husband’s parents? I can see that the landscape was certainly attractive!

We live about 10 minutes from my in-laws. We had looked all up and down the coast but decided it would be best to be near his folks. It was a good decision as they now need our help a lot. There are no other Canadians here at all! Being able to see the Mediterranean is a real bonus.

Definitely a good decision for you!

This story is giving me chills. Can’t wait to read more!

Thanks, it gave me chills at the time. More to come.

We moved in 2014 too, but our move was calm compared to yours. I can’t wait to read the next installment.

Moving is never easy but this was over the top! It gets worse before it gets better. xo

Thanks for the warning that things got worse before they got better. We felt more settled when our house was sold, but then we had no place to stay when we went back to visit people.

I like stories like yours, Darlene. Sometimes in life, we just have to take a leap of faith. Screw it, let’s do it isn’t a bad philosophy. I assume, in retrospect, it was the right decision. I hope you’re going to give us the rest of the story.

One never knows if the decision is right or not, it is up to us to make it the right decision. More is coming…

Well, and there we have … the new Amanda book will be Amanda in Bonkersland, a semi autobiographical book. But then Canadian are world renowned for being spontaneous and flighty so why would we be surprised!!!

If you can´t live in Bonkersland, why bother?? I think we crashed the Canadian stereotype. I can tell you many of our friends and family thought we were completely bonkers (probably still do but are too polite to say so). There are no other Canadians here, so what does that tell you?

It tells me you got out at the right time!!

Good to see you’re not one of the ‘what if?’ brigade who look back and wonder ‘what if?’ I’m wondering if ‘gut instinct’ also played a part? I’ve moved home plenty of times, and it’s never been a smooth process. However, I’ve never moved to a different country.
Looking forward to reading the next part.

When my dear mom asked me why I was moving to Spain, I said, “I don´t want to be your age, in a wheelchair, in a care home, wishing I had done it while I could.” She completely understood.

That’s a great response to your mum who was obviously a wise lady.

This story intrigued me for so many reasons. My daughter and I are looking for somewhere we can set up an inexpensive base camp to travel from. We had considered Portugal but unsure of Spain. I speak some German but not Spanish or Portuguese so there is the language thing. I’ve been doing the getting rid of and getting ready to sell. There are so many questions about living in any other country that you can’t get online looking at statistics. I’ll keep reading and maybe figure out which direction we might end up going. I’m glad you chose to just do it. I’m guessing there is a happy ending to this story. 🙂

Yes, there is a happy ending. Portugal is another good option. We don’t speak Spanish either but we found many people here speak English, especially on the coast. Just knowing a few words in Spanish can get you a long way. The Spanish people are very forgiving if you say the words wrong or get them confused. There are always people willing to help you out as well. Good luck with your decision making and eventual move.

The Germans were the same way about the language. If I was willing to try, so were they. Also extremely helpful which I did not expect. 🙂

I am looking forward to this story…

It might get scary!! Actually, it is more of a comedy than a tragedy.

Have you read ‘Driving Over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart’ about starting up a new life in Spain. He was the drummer with the band Genesis.

Yes, I did read it a couple of years before we moved to Spain. It’s very good. I have since read his next book, A Parrot in a Pepper Tree which is a continuation and also good.

What a nightmare! But you did it and you’re still here, so I guess it worked out all right in the end. All the best for the years ahead.

Thanks, Ruth. Wait till you hear the rest of the story!

Oh dear, it can’t get any worse, surely!

Oh, but it does. Stay tuned!

This is an interesting story, Darlene. I take it that a buyer did come along in the end. I’m surprised you had any trouble selling in 2014, that was quite a reasonable year for the world economy.

We eventually sold the house in April of 2015. Some nail-biting times for us.

Very interesting, Darlene. You took the plunge and are living the dream that many people have.

Thanks, Cynthia. It all worked out in the end.

Just occurred to me: Will Brexit affect ex-pats?

It will affect British ex-pats somewhat.

Thank you for sharing for your story! Sometimes we just have to take a leap of faith on things in life!

You are so right. It wasn’t easy but nothing good ever is.

Kudos, Darlene. I know all too well the difficulties of a major relocation. I’m delighted that you found the right place. Hugs on the wing!

Thanks, Teagan. Relocating can be tough but is usually worth it. Hugs back!!

I so admire your having the courage to make that leap of faith–aka, screw it, let’s do it! I look forward to the next installment.

Thanks, Liz. It was quite a rollercoaster ride.

You’re welcome, Darlene. It must have been!

Your story echoes mine somewhat, Darlene except I had a cash buyer and no problems with the sale of the house…The rest like you is history…I look forward to the next instalment 🙂 xx

The house sale falling apart sure threw a spanner in the works!

Well done! That is a big retirement move.

Thanks, Norah. Retiring and moving countries at the same time, what was I thinking?

You’re obviously one for adventure!

I had forgotten, Darlene about when your house sale fell through and all those months of anxious times waiting for it to sell. Kudos to the two of you for pushing ahead!

It was a trying time but it all worked out in the end. xo

Darlene I was so excited for you both at the decision to retire to live in Spain… of course it was hard knowing of all you were dealing with at the time …but once such a huge decision is made then one can only move forward with those plans….I still miss lunches, teas and visits with you but I know you are both happy in Spain and I have been fortunate to visit you twice already…and hope to see you again in 2021….my Spanish Canadians 🤗❤️🥰

I was pleased with the support of my friends when I made this decision. Having you and Bob visit us was perfect!! What a good time we had too. I do hope we can connect in 2021.xo

Darlene, I loved reading your story and I often mention your decision to move to Spain in my classes when we talk about goal setting. I just saw your link to “Goal Setting Works!”. I remember that workshop so well and had also heard from a mutual friend that the workshop was a pivotal moment for you in making this move. I love following your posts and happy that you and your husband have built this life for yourselves! Very inspiring!

Thanks, Karen. So great to hear from you. I hope you are doing well.

I really appreciate reading the story behind the story of you both moving to Spain. I already know the ending and that you are very happy in Spain but it really helps to know that it was not an easy and smooth transition. That helps those of us who are considering doing the same thing. I think for me the big guilt is leaving a daughter and her children behind. But you write about it easily. I think you’re right. I think our kids just want us to be happy and we should pursue that happiness.

Leaving my aging mother and my kids and grandkids was the hardest part, even though they supported the idea. I usually get back to see them about once a year and spend quality time with them. That was as often as I saw them before as we didn’t live in the same province. Social media has been great for keeping in touch. Getting the dog helped as I had someone to cuddle and look after. xo

This all makes sense, is wise, and advice I shall take!

Wow! And we thought we were being brave moving from England to Ireland when I retired. Thankfully our move went much more smoothly than yours. Looking forward to reading part.2.

Any move can be stressful but ours went from bad to worse. Thanks for commenting Frank.

Talk about cliffhangers – everything seems to be going wrong for you, Darlene! Glad you alread have part 2 posted so I can see what happens.

You can´t make this stuff up. Well, you can but then it would be a TV series!!

A very brave move, Darlene. i could never imagine doing such a thing in middle age!

There is a fine line between bravery and insanity! If we didn´t do it then, we wouldn´t have done it at all I think. Probably better done when one is younger, but I seldom do things the “normal” way.

My son and his wife contemplated moving to Toronto some years back (her mother is Canadian and lives in the UK), but in the end (thankfully in my opinion!) didn’t.

Paul moved to Canada from the UK when he was 22. His parents came to visit us a number of times and were happy they had an excuse to come to Canada. But I understand, it is nice to have the grandchildren close at hand. xo

It is, for sure. We visited Toronto and Niagara Falls in 2013. Great holiday.

Oh wow! Darlene! What a nightmare. We had a very similar experience in selling a property – our buyer had their assets frozen by the IRS on the day before closing. I can certainly relate to the sitting on the bed sobbing. I’m looking forward to part 2. ~Terri

What a roller coaster ride! I’m on to part 2…

It was. You will see it gets worse!

A very brave venture. Thanks for telling us the steps and the hiccups!

Nothing ever goes smoothly does it!

Getting somewhere is half the journey, so many possible mishaps. Sometimes it seems the universe is asking us: Are you sure you want to go? I have several false start stories too. 🙂

Fascinating, Darlene, especially where you’re from Canada like me. I’d wondered about your backstory. And our husbands have the same name. Looking forward to Part 2. 🙂

Glad you enjoyed my memories. I was in love with Paul Macartney as a teenager so it was not a surprise I married an Englishman named Paul!!

So fabulous to read about your great adventure, Darlene. I so admire you doing that. Toni x

Thanks, Toni. 100 years ago my great grandparents left Europe to immigrate to North America, I just did the reverse.

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