Hard to believe, but today is the last day of my career! It’s been just over forty years since I collected my bachelor’s degree, shopped long-defunct department stores for my first professional wardrobe, and started a daily commute to downtown LA along with hundreds of thousands of other people.
After my coffee this morning, I’ll head into the office to wrap up some paperwork, bid a few final farewells, turn in my badge, and kiss routine goodbye. Tomorrow we drive to Tucson to spend three nights with family, and Sunday at 7 am we’ll board Delta flight #1345 for the first leg of our journey.
Perhaps I should expand a bit on why Spain in particular speaks to Robert and me. We both grew up in the Los Angeles area, so geography and weather play major roles in the country’s desirability factor. After numerous trips on high-speed rail through central and southern Spain, it occurred to me the local landscape much resembles the sensuous, golden hills of southern California — except in southern California there isn’t a centuries-old castle perched atop every elevation.
The general cost of living is less than in the US: important things like groceries, healthcare/insurance, wine, dining out. Rents are similar to Arizona. Some costs such as electronics and clothing can be a bit higher, but we know how to find deals and our needs in those categories should continue to be on the light side.
Of course we will be assuming the foreign exchange risk between the US Dollar and the Euro, but the Euro has been remarkably stable the past seven years or so. And if there is nasty surprise, we can simply adjust spending to accommodate our budget. While Madrid and Barcelona are near the top of the list of the priciest cities in Spain, living expenses (particularly rents) drop dramatically if you consider smaller cities such as Valencia, Alicante, and even Malaga.
The most common question we get is about what we’ll do with all our newfound time. We’ll face logistical chores immediately upon arrival. In order to not feel compelled to rush into a longer-term lease, we have booked an AirBnb for first six weeks, which will allow for a more relaxed evaluation of the available apartment inventory. That said, after monitoring the search site www.idealista.com for over a year now, it has become clear that well priced apartments in desirable neighborhoods are snatched up in a matter of hours. We’ll need to be on our toes with the checkbook ready for that process.
In addition, a local bank account is a necessity because all monthly bills in Spain are paid electronically. I was originally hoping that cash payments for things like rent and utilities would do, but no dice. There is a European internet bank called N26 that partners with TransferWise (a low-cost foreign exchange service), which sounds like a good combination. But I’ve also read positive things about BBVA, which boasts a robust English-language website and a free basic on-line checking account.
Within 30 days of arrival we must also formally register our visas and obtain our TIEs (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero or Foreigner’s Identity card). This entails another appointment at a local government office, another stack of forms, and another wait, but it is really just a formality.
We have arranged to start Spanish classes on 11 November at Tilde Madrid (https://www.tildemadrid.com/index.html#). The school is very near our AirBnb, and we visited them last March. What appeals to us most about the school is their emphasis on older adult learners and classes that are limited to four students. We have signed up for three weeks to start and will see how we like it.
A quick Google search immediately yielded several interesting Meetup groups: LGBT hiking, LGBT socializing, as well as gourmet dining. We already have plans for two events in the first couple weeks.
Finally, we hope to spend a lot of time exploring the Iberian peninsula. While I have trained and bussed through a fair expanse of the northern, central, and southwest regions, Robert has yet to discover many of Spain’s historic riches. Additionally, the Camino Portuguese from Lisbon north is a shorter, flatter, and less-crowded pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela (http://santiago-compostela.net), and we are anxious to sample that adventure. And close friends are planning their annual trip to Malta in May, so we definitely hope to coordinate a few days together there.
Stay tuned as our adventure continues!