It’s been a couple years, probably more, that we’ve been thinking of the next phase of our lives -- living on gentle cycle. We've been ready for that change, but…. what to do, where to live?
We want something a little challenging and adventurous. Affordable too.
What About Latin America?
We thought Spanish, at least the basics, would be easy to learn. And living is less expensive in Latin America. So we started looking. What about Ecuador, Panama, or maybe Honduras? We read everything we could get our eyes on, followed daily weather on a Kindle app, considered tropical coasts and Andean heights.
Somehow it never seemed real enough.
So we thought maybe we should take a discovery trip and checked out AirBnB listings in Cuenca, Ecuador. But never got around to looking at airfares. Latin America never really motivated us. We kept digging into what life would be like in Latin America but our hearts weren’t in it. I didn't keep up with Spanish studies. Neither of us did.
Though we had identified our desire for a change, we couldn't put our finger on just what that change should or could be like.
Until we discovered Freshford on our cycle tour in England. Only a 15 minute train ride from the madding crowds clamoring after the Georgian splendor of Bath, we could have stayed in that little village in Somerset County, England forever.
After a couple days in Freshford we finally knew what we wanted. Living on gentle cycle has always meant living without an auto to Susan, but I don't like the noise and hubbub in big cities. We couldn't figure it out until those days in Somerset County where we found what I've come to call Connected Rural:
- a village or town
- near a rail station
- within an hour by train from a cultural center
- no need for an auto.
We talked and imagined, investigated and realized that living in England would be hopelessly expensive for us. Disheartened, we were back to the drawing board. Maybe we can make South America work. Besides we thought we were still a few years away from making the break.
Then One Morning
Then one morning about the middle of March, after we'd gotten us through the dark days of winter..we’re having our morning coffee chat. The house is chill with the night cold. But the coffee's hot and black. We're under the covers, warm and toasty as I finally admit, “I don’t think I can live in a developing country again. When life is hard on people, it’s even harder on animals. I don’t want to live like that."
And the question I was expecting, "Where then?"
I say, "I was thinking that we could try Spain. I’d like to live in Europe.”
Neither of us could imagine living in Latin America, but it turns out we don’t have any problem imagining living in Spain. Two months later, we’re short timers.
We're Headed to Spain in 2017
It was Susan who figured it out. Instead of waiting, if we "live small" beginning today, we can start our Spanish adventure in 2017.
So we've revised our 2016 calendar. Goodbye extended vacations. Hello weekends close to home.
And the family budget? Trimmed like a soldier's haircut.
- Wine clubs -- Cut -- We can get decent Spanish wines at Trader Joe's for $6-8 a bottle.
- Gym membership -- Gone-- Playground workouts turn out to be better that classes at the gym.
- Dining out -- Nope -- We eat at home nearly 100% of the time these days.
- Books and movies --Borrowed -- The library is convenient.
- You get the picture --Parsimony Reigns.
We do spend a little money on Spanish lessons. Fifteen years ago we started learning the language, but a few months after we visited Barcelona.... you know, life happened. This time, we're motivated. I've already gotten farther in the past month than I did in six months last time. I won't be reading Cervantes in the original any time soon, but by the time we get to Spain, I'll be comfortably conversational. Susan too.
As I write this we are 401 days away from Susan's retirement party. Maybe 460 days from touching down in Spain. There's so much that needs doing.
We’re sorting through the accumulation that seems inevitable when living in the same house for fifteen years -- three categories: keep, donate, and garage sale. And we're building out all kinds of timelines and checklists:
- fix-ups before we sell the house
- passports renewals and visa requirements
- insurance policies and pet immunization certificates
- and on and on
We're headed to Spain but the list of lists we need to work through is a little daunting.
Susan’s friend, Frances, asked if she had any doubts. “Nope,’ she said, ‘it just feels right.”
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Jamie Wyant is a retired American living in Spain. After a multifaceted career ranging from ecosystem science to digital marketing, he moved to Valencia in 2017 with his wife, Susan, and their senior pets. He writes about the joys and tribulations of living overseas. Jamie also manages the technical aspects of GentleCycle.net