Susan and I have been thinking about moving on from Valencia for some time now. Valencia has been a nice interlude, but we never expected to settle here.
Last year when we visited Portugal, we thought Viana do Castelo might be our next destination. Since then our personal circumstances and the world’s circumstances have changed.
Back then we were looking for a home base. We wanted a place we could travel FROM and come back TO. We expected to make short trips of no more than 5-7 days. I didn’t want to leave TJ and Rico, our geriatric cats with a petsitter for any longer. Lizzie, the best dog little friend ever, was still with us. The covid virus and quarantines weren’t even on the horizon.
Then 2020 happened. It’s been a rough year for almost everyone. Susan and I are thankful that we’ve avoided almost all of the virus related issues. Sure lockdown was inconvenient, but we managed to adapt. Our only real loss was when Lizzie died. Which was enough from me.
Still, the notion we’d be moving was back in the recesses of my mind whispering, “It’s time to go.” You see, Valencia was my experiment in urban living. Truth is I don’t really care for it. There are so many things to like about life in Valencia and I have enjoyed most of the experiences we’ve had here. It’s just that I’m not a city boy. Urban living, stacked up in an apartment building, it’s sort of like sand in my shoes. Doesn’t hurt, but it’s uncomfortable.
“Change starts when someone sees the next step.”
Lockdowns and closed borders, cancelled flights and quarantines. We had no reasonably safe means to explore different options. There was a silver lining though - at least for us.
With the collapse of tourism, a handful of countries are rethinking their visa policies. After noticing that digitally connected remote workers stay longer, spend more money and cause less disruption, Croatia, for example, is moving quickly to implement a 12 month visa for digital nomads that may be as easy to get as a tourist visa. Other countries are considering similar changes.
Tourism revenues have fallen by more than 70 percent in Spain this year. Small family-owned hotels can’t survive that kind of interruption in their cash flow. Some owners are trying to sell their distressed hotels. Others have switched business models by offering longer-term stays at reduced rates.
And that is how we came to find Las Chimeneas in the tiny town of Mairena. Our friends Mat and Kathryn created a lovely website for the owners a year or two ago. When they heard the owners of Las Chimeneas were offering extended stays at reasonable rates, Kat suggested we look into the opportunity.
Long story slightly shorter… We looked into it. They’re okay with the cats. We’re leaving Valencia the 30th of October.
We’ll be embracing the quiet and natural surroundings of the Alpujarra for the following two, three, or four months, depending on how things work out. Las Chimeneas has a yoga studio and is near the boundary of a national park. There will be plenty of hiking on tap for us with yoga for flexibility and balance. Our hope is that with longer-term guests and small numbers (there are only 9 units) a sense of community will develop.
After that, for the unforeseeable future we plan to be vagabonds. We have donated, sold or gifted even more stuff, leaving only a few boxes here in Valencia. We aren’t sure where we'll head next. I was imagining France, but Susan thinks we might pop over to southern Portugal for a bit. We’ll see what works when the time comes.
"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving."
It feels a bit liberating to have decided to put off “settling down” for a while. We were so intent on finding a place to “live," until a few weeks ago we never considered just going on a very slow, long journey. Then we figured out that we can still live car-free and “travel" more safely by renting a car for the moves between long stays. If the covid situation clears up, we can switch to travel by train. We’ll have wonderful opportunities to "try on” a variety of cultures without all of the hassles of obtaining residence visas.
It might just work.