Everyone has their own story and their own reasons for emigrating to a new country and this is our’s, its very personal, very honest & very us…….
On a cold, wet & grey day in January 2018 we made the biggest decision of our lives – we decided to move from our home in Birmingham in the UK to the Costa Blanca in Sunny Spain.
It wasn’t a decision we took lightly and I know we surprised most of our family and friends with our bold move but it was something we had always dreamt of doing, I think most people have dreams of living in a sunnier climate, daily walks on the beach, a sea breeze rushing through your hair, chilling by the pool, relaxing in a beach bar with a mojito watching the world go by.
Life had been difficult for our family the last few years, my dad had passed away after a lifelong illness and a heartbreaking 10 week battle at the end of his life. I was broken. A year later my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, my mom was so healthy it was the last thing we could have imagined. I was still having counselling over the loss of my dad. On top of all this we had been fighting a 5 year battle to get my son diagnosed with autism and he was struggling like hell with school, suffering severe anxiety and had developed OCD. His school were trying to help but there were obstacles at every turn and CAMHS were near useless for us.
Our lifestyle in the UK just wasn’t working for our family. My husband has his own landscaping firm and was working 15 hour days, I was working full time as a Design & Build Coordinator for a Construction firm and we spent our whole lives rushing around trying to make life work for us……….. it didn’t!
If you know anyone that lives with autism, lack of structure and constant rushing is a big problem. Our son was suffering and his condition was starting to take over our lives, we were struggling to get him into school each morning, he had developed school phobia, it was a massive battle. My boss and colleagues were very understanding at first but I was missing so much work and I was falling behind on my tasks, I knew I was failing. I was spending so much time trying to get my son into school and even when we did finally get him in, my mind was constantly burdened by worry, my health was suffering too, so after much deliberation and after me being signed off work after having a breakdown, I handed in my notice and decided try and find a way to work for myself, from home, in a different less stressful role.
We had a large mortgage and losing a decent salary and company car meant that we would struggle financially, I was a fully qualified hairdresser and it had been my first love so I decided to go back to my roots, excuse the pun and opened a hairdressing and beauty salon in our garden studio.
Our new lifestyle was working, it gave me the chance to be there for both our children, I was able to do school runs fir the first time since having children and I wasn’t complaining to my husband quite so much about his long hours as I was at home more it didn’t seem to matter as much, but the kids really missed their dad, they needed more family time. There has to be more to life than just existing……
We started to see what was important. Our family needed to come first, making money and keeping up with the joneses isn’t and shouldn’t be as important as quality family life. We wanted to make memories and have fun, be healthier and happier, spend more time outdoors, together as a family but financially we couldn’t do all this if we weren’t both working full time. The vicious circle that is life!
I had always wanted to travel, I’d always had the bug but my husband and I didn’t go to uni so missed the gap year travelling that a lot of students do. Instead we both had mortgages by 21. We both settled into careers and had a great set of friends, clubbing and partying took over until we had children and bought a family home. My travelling dream was over as far as I could see but suddenly I was seeing things differently, the world is a big place and we wanted to see more of it, but maybe not in the standard sense, maybe living abroad could be an option, a new country to explore, an adventure for our family that the kids would remember forever.
Every holiday my husband & I had taken together, we were drawn to estate agents windows, we would spend hours pondering and imagining a new life in the sun, it was a pipe dream, but why should it be only a dream?
We had family living in Spain and my mom and stepdad have a holiday home there too, we started thinking about it more seriously, a lot more seriously! We knew the cost of living was lower in Spain, its well known that sunny weather makes you happier. Could we make it work? Would living in another country improve our way of life? Would it benefit the children? Would it improve our family life?
We decided YES, we realised that if we didn’t take the chance we would never know so on a cold, wet & grey January day we decided to move from Birmingham, UK to sunny Spain!
So we had made the big decision, we were moving to Spain, woohoo as a family we were so excited but also nervous, now we had to figure out how we could make it work.
Moving to a new country, its big, a decision not to be taken lightly, there was a lot to think about if we were going to succeed.
Could we afford it?
How much would it cost to move?
Would we rent or buy in Spain?
Do we sell our properties or rent them out?
What would we do for work?
Schooling options? Spanish/private/homeschool?
We were in lucky position in that we owned 2 properties, so after much deliberation we decided to sell our apartment. Our apartment had always been earmarked as my husband’s pension fund, with being self employed he didn’t have a private company pension so again this was a big decision for us to make, but if we needed to free up some finances to make our dream a reality, this was our best option. We didn’t want to sell up fully and cut all our ties to the UK, even though if we did sell our family home we could have lived in Spain mortgage free as the houses are so much cheaper. But we had heard many a horror story of people changing their minds, being homesick and not settling in a new country, wanting to return home but unable to get back onto the housing ladder. We had our children to think about and we wanted to have a security blanket to return to the UK if things didn’t work out. We decided that selling the apartment and spending some of the money to do up our family home up and rent it out would be the safest option.
I also decided to go back into construction to earn some extra money before we relocated. I was lucky that i found a short term 3 month contracting position that paid really well and I would be able to use these extra funds to pay off my personal debts before we left for Spain.
We talked long and hard about my husbands company, he had spent over 10 years building up a fantastic company that he and I were very proud of, he had built it from scratch and had worked his butt off building it up plus he had employees to think about and we just couldn’t justify ending the business so we worked out how we could keep it going whilst living in Spain. He was still hands on in his company, he still worked on the jobs in the day as well as spending evenings quoting and designing. We are fast approaching 40 and it was time for him to take more of a back role. He had been burning the candle at both ends and burning himself out in the process so this was the perfect opportunity for him to take a step back. He has a great set of lads working for him and if he could spend more time growing the business & working on his designs it would be beneficial to the company……. and he could do that from anywhere. We knew that this would mean monthly trips back to the UK for him to keep things going but this was a sacrifice that would help us obtain our dream and one we were willing to take.
One thing that was really important to us was to ensure that any new school would have provisions for Harvey’s special needs, this was at the forefront of our minds and I had done a lot of research and joined lots of local facebook groups to enquire about this. I had mixed feedback but more positive than negative and the positive stories I read were so much more positive than I ever could have expected. Every Spanish school has its own psychologist (our school in the UK had a monthly drop in, for which here was a waiting list) I was told amazing stories about the psychologist making home visits at night and there was also the option of private British schools. I will discuss schooling more in a separate education blog as there is so much to think about and I found it quite difficult to sift the internet for this information when we were researching.
By March we had watched hundreds of episodes of a place in the sun and any other travel/relocation programmes we could find, I was in full on excitement mode, trying to learn everything i could about moving to Spain. I even stopped watching Eastenders just to fit in all the programmes lol
Now we needed to decide on where we wanted to live, we knew it would be the costa blanca and we knew we wanted to live near to my aunt and uncle in Gran Alacant and also be close to my Mom and Step Dads holiday home near La Manga, we also needed to be half hour max to the local airport for Sim’s monthly flights back to the UK, we were slowly narrowing down our search area. By mid march we had finally agreed on our new location, Ciudad Quesada on the Costa Blanca. Now we had to find a house……
The house search wasn’t easy, there was a massive influx of people wanting to move to Spain with Brexit looming, there was a real shortage of long term lets available and every time we found one we liked, it would be gone by the time we had made the call, We spoke with some great estate agents and they were very helpful. We knew we needed space for visitors, we have a large extended family and knew we would have lots of visitors. We wanted outdoor space and a pool, we wanted to be close to the village, close to bars and within a 10 minute drive to the beach.
Finally we found a house we liked that was still available, it was perfect, 3 bedrooms plus a large under-build that was more like a self contained granny flat, shared pool & plenty of outdoor space and it overlooking the salt lakes. We knew this was the house for us but it was available from April and we weren’t planning on moving over till June arrgggghhhh we had to act fast and agreed it was worth the extra costs to rent the house now but move over when we had originally planned in July, if we had taken the risk and hoped it would still be available in July or chose to look for a different property we could have ended up paying holiday rental prices as many long term lets that aren’t rented by May get turned into holiday lets for the high season costing as much a week as we would pay monthly.
We had been chatting to our agent Petra via whats-app and she had put my mind at ease helping us understand the logistics, discussing schools and answering all my questions about the local area. I had also been in conversation with Frankie our translator, she confirmed that if we wanted the kids to start school on the first day back in September with everyone else we would need to enroll them in May. To enroll them we would need to be on the Padron, to be on the Padron we needed an address so the option of taking the house from April was now the only option.
We needed to get over and view the house as quick as possible, I couldn’t take any time off my new contracting job and the kids were at school still so sim booked himself a flight, booked himself in at my Aunt and Uncles, booked the house viewing and off he went to sunny Spain to see our future house……luckily he liked it as much in person as I had online and we agreed the rental there and then, we would get the keys at the end of April. Shit was getting real, I was drawing furniture layouts on our floor plans and inquiring about house removals, school enrollment, N.I.E’s, padron.
Our new life in the sun had already begun……