She and I have always enjoyed traveling, and have done a lot of it together over the years. We enjoy learning about different cultures, the history, and trying new foods. As a life-long suburbanite, I’ve always wanted to try living in a city, and love the idea of living in a really old city. We’ve talked many times about moving to Europe, and I’ve even had a couple of potential career opportunities here, but there was always something that held us back. Whether it was her career or mine, the birth of our son, or something else, the timing was just never right to make it happen.
We intend to travel in the summers and during holidays to explore more of Europe and expose ourselves to a lot of different cultures. We’ve got a long list of people and places we want to visit, and are hoping that living here makes it more possible.
Spain is as good as any other western European country to use as a base for exploring this part of the world, and is a short flight or a day train ride to most anywhere in Europe. The weather is great, and similar to our beloved San Francisco Bay Area weather. The cost of living is relatively low and since we don’t intend to work while we’re here, that’s a major factor.
Our son had already been learning Spanish at his school in San Jose, and we expect he’ll be fluent in Spanish when we return. Italy and France were our first choices, and they would be wonderful places to live too. But we feel that learning Spanish will be more beneficial to him during his lifetime, and useful back home in California. We both want to learn Spanish too, for all the same reasons. We’ve only been here a short time, but we’re already making good progress!
It’s a beautiful, old, charming, coastal city on the Mediterranean that is at the same time large enough that we don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything, and small enough that we can walk it and not need a car. We will live in the oldest part of town, where the streets are crooked, narrow, and steeped in centuries of interesting history.
As the locals say, Valencia is well-communicated. It has great public transportation options, and easy access by rail and air, with cheap flights around Europe. We don’t want a car while we’re here, so this was an important factor.
The weather is good in Valencia, with four seasons, and no real extremes.
I also have friends here who have been very supportive and are helping us make even more new friends.
And finally, Valencia is cheaper than a lot of the bigger cities, and our dollars will stretch a bit further.
I was already taking a break from working, taking my turn at being a stay at home parent. She wanted to take some time off too. I realized we had fallen into a sort of rut. We weren’t taking enough time to enjoy the simple things in life. As I traveled and met people in Europe, I envied their cultures and better work/life balance. What if we took a break to enjoy our lives while still relatively young? We want to be more present, live in the moment, and not keep putting it off for “retirement.”
Our Silicon Valley careers are on hold. To some this is unthinkable, and for us it was a major hurdle to overcome. There will be a cost, probably a high cost in terms of opportunity lost. There’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to pick up where we left off. There was no IPO windfall or winning lottery ticket, but we’ve both been fortunate to work for a great company that compensated us well. We’re frugal people by nature. We’ve always tried to maximize our savings opportunities. We’ll take a financial hit, but we’re pretty sure this will all be worth it in the end.
I hope my future self doesn’t begrudge us for taking some of our “retirement” now. At this moment, we are willing to trade some luxury in our old age for this opportunity. One of my favorite quotes is: “Hard work may pay off in the future, but procrastination pays off now.” Everyone talks about doing some thing like this, but how many people do it?
We’re planning to stay in Spain for 2 years, which will be during 4th and 5th grade for our son. Knowing that he will return made this big adventure seem more fun, and less scary for him. It’s a good time before school gets too serious. We’re confident he is the type of kid that can handle a big adjustment. It will be an amazing experience for him, and will pay off in ways we can’t imagine yet. We also love the idea of him possibly being a foreign exchange student during high school and college. We hope our big adventure will give him the confidence and desire to want to return later.
Is it Really Possible?
We made it possible for us. We had some good fortune, but it was not easy. It required discipline, sacrifice, and hard work. But we wanted it bad enough to make it possible. Several factors aligned which gave us the confidence to feel the time was right.
The San Francisco Bay Area is booming, and the rental market is hot, contributing to the feeling of good timing. The income from renting our house will help with living expenses while we’re here in Spain. Our good friend and neighbor owns a property management business. We left our house in his hands with confidence.
We have worked very hard for the last 20+ years in the Valley. And have built a comfortable life for ourselves. Now we want a big adventure, something fun, yet challenging to take us out of our comfort zone. We’re leaving our house, jobs, and daily routines to live in a foreign country where we don’t speak the language. It’s certainly going to be a challenge, but we’re ready for it.
An unanticipated side effect of this has been that we feel closer than ever to our friends and family. Telling people that you’re leaving for a couple of years has caused us to express mutual feelings of appreciation. Everyone has been very supportive, encouraging, and genuinely happy for us, which has been really wonderful.