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What made me up sticks?

What made me uproot my young family, say goodbye to friends, close my business and move to Spain?

At least once a day I wonder how I and my young family ended up here. Life has changed completely. At times it feels frightening, and I wonder if our move was too impulsive, mad and stupid. But at the same time I realise it’s exciting and that we only live once (allegedly) – so why not?

One thing is for sure: our lives will never be the same again…

Once upon a time we lived near Brighton working from home on our own business. We certainly earned a decent living but the business was declining and motivation was ebbing away.

In 2001 a close friend came back from an inspection trip proclaiming he had found the land of milk and honey. “It’s paradise!” he exclaimed, before telling us this paradise was actually known as Javea on the Costa Blanca.

Six months later we were worn down and we went on the inspection trip. This was with a superb company who in no way pushed us into anything. Most people seem to knock inspection trips – I wouldn’t. I think most of us are adult enough to make up our own mind and not be pressured into anything rash.

We paid something like £149 each for the flights and they paid for the hotel. We started off in Moraira on the Friday. I wondered why our good friend had been so enthusiastic. Admittedly it is a fantastic place (looking back now) but I was looking for the earth to move. It didn’t. Later we went to Javea. All of a sudden the feeling hit – THIS IS IT!

The next day (Saturday) we were due to fly back that night. Now I swear we were not motivated by pressure, but – you guessed it – that day after a whole 24 hours of looking we saw the property that we were destined to buy. My wife was practically jumping around, she was so excited – there was no chance of the agent not realising that they had hit gold.

Prices were surging at that time so we didn’t mess around trying to negotiate discounts. We wanted it, we got it and we don’t regret it one bit. Looking back we were perhaps lucky. At the time we hadn’t heard of the dreaded words “land-grab” but fortunately our property wasn’t ever going to fall into that category.

We thought we were buying the property as a place to retire to – an investment. I’m writing this now from that house in my late 30s; what went wrong? – or should I say right?

I blame Channel Four mainly. A lot comes down to the programme A Place In The Sun. Watching that makes it very hard to go to work the next the day without dreaming of sipping wine beneath crisp blue skies with waves lapping your feet.

Every time we visited the Costa Blanca we met people who came across like religious converts. They had a glazed look in their eyes as they spoke about how great the lifestyle was and how happy they were. “Come on out!” they proclaimed.

One day we examined the fact that we were living in a house with rooms smaller than the average jail cell. We already had a house in Spain near the sea, we heard good things about the health system, the education system, the quality of life – what the hell were we doing?!

We decided it was now or never – our eldest daughter was four and needed to start school that September. We knew it would be so hard once she started school and got entrenched in the system (and we would feel guilty uprooting her).

I won’t bore you with every detail of our time here in Spain but let me give you a flavour of what to expect.

Someone said to me that every day for at least six months I would question what the hell I had done. Of course I laughed at the very suggestion (not to his face of course) but that turned out to be wise words indeed. Take it or leave it but you will feel like this and if you don’t then you are either very lucky or out of your mind. It’s normal – don’t deny it.

You are in a foreign, and I mean FOREIGN country, you probably can’t speak the language, you will be lost when you breakdown (car not your mind), you want a phone line installed, your computer modem gets struck by lightning (yes, I’m drawing on my own experiences here), you won’t have any friends; it’s not all fun in the sun, you know.

Some people can’t take it – they move back. Right now I know of people going back to what they call home. I also know people who have lived here 15 years or more and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Think carefully!

It does make sense to try evaluating which category you might fit into. It might save a lot of heartache but even if you move here, you can always move back and you should never regret a thing because at least you’ve had one of life’s rich experiences and that can’t be taken away from you.

[This is an shortened version of Mark Eastwood’s story of his move to Spain from England. He runs a website with the full article and lots of to-the-point and brutally honest information on the Costa Blanca coast of Spain.]

Copyright © Mark Eastwood

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