Picking a city was step 3 in our 5 step process:

1. Decide we CAN move   2. Decide we WILL move   3. Pick a city

4. Visa & Scouting Trip   5. Sell our stuff…vamos!

Ok, so we knew we were ready to get out of dodge but there’s a whole wide world out there. Rolling hills of Italy, Mexican beaches, French…everything. I couldn’t figure out how to pick with so many amazing options. We realized we had to prioritize so this is how we did it:

First we needed to establish our family’s set of priorities. Coming in at #1: have our kids learn Spanish.

This left us with Central and South America, Spain, and Equatorial Guinea. I don’t know where the hell Equatorial Guinea is so that’s out. Now, priority #2 – get to do lots of travel within a close distance …this made Spain a great choice for our first 2 priorities.

Priority #3: A safe and family-centered CITY. We’ve always lived in suburbia, so we wanted to experience city life. I pictured us at a cafe or dinner and the kids running around without me feeling anxious that they were going to be on “Taken 5” and that the schools would help them achieve priority #1.

If you don’t really set a few main priorities – the world will swallow you up and you won’t end up getting what you want most out of the experience. These 3 intentions also helped us land on schools and neighborhood choices so they really have kept us on target.

Finally, we had to choose a city. Madrid is the largest city in Spain, centrally located, sharing the latitude of 40 degrees with NYC so we weren’t excited about the size or chilly-ish weather. Barcelona is the 2nd largest city and a coastal city. Strike against Barcelona – it’s 1.6 million people and a HUGE tourist town. Also, they are a bit in a political quagmire (dating back to before Christ basically) over whether or not to secede from Spain. They also speak Catalan in addition to Castilian Spanish. It is NOT a dialect of Spanish or an accent – it’s a separate language altogether. Let me show you:

GRAPE = uva: Spanish and raïm: Catalan

APPLE = manzana: Spanish  and poma: Catalan

TO EAT = comer: Spanish and menjar: Catalan

So I wouldn’t even be able to eat fruit, ha. Most people speak both languages (and often a few others) BUT in schools they encourage the regional Catalan. Also, the city is just a little too big and the tourism seems a little too much. The metro map alone has like 30 train lines.

Priority #4: Be Warm. This had us thinking about Valencia, Malaga, Marbella, Almuñécar, and all the little cities in between Valencia and surrounding Malaga.

This is how we arrived at our final few cities. From there, I began to research like a maniac and contacted several relocation companies. I found a family of 4 with a daughter and son that lived between Alicante and Malaga – the Wagoners. They have a great blog that I read incessantly and it really helped me get a read on the areas. I paid Heidi Wagoner via PayPal for her time on a phone call (~$30) and picked her brain on how she arrived at her city, why?, costs, schools, etc. She was amazing and I highly recommend checking them out as they are San Fransisco natives now in their fifth year of Spanish residency. Here’s a link to The Wagoner’s Abroad blog.

Next came reading A LOT and researching online. I found a relocation company in Malaga called Move To Malaga and they were helpful in setting up a Skype call (free) and I later used their “city tour” ($300) on our scouting trip.

I found another relocation company Move 2 Valencia and they were fantastic in answering my questions on private vs. public schools, and more via LOTS of emails (for free). I found them to be the most thorough, available, and helpful. Highly recommend. I also used them again for a city tour on our scouting trip ($330).

A highlight in picking our city was calling my cousin Adam in Texas and telling him the good news. We both studied in Spain in college and are pretty tight as we were born 2 months apart and our moms are besties. Here’s our convo:

Kate: Dude, we’re moving to southern Spain but we’re not sure what city yet.

Adam: I have friends in Valencia, you should talk to them – they have like 7 kids and they love it there.

Kate: OMG SHUT UP, I think I know who you’re talking about – were they on House Hunters International? Like is she super pretty with cool hair and are they musicians? 

Adam: Yeah. ya’ll would get along. 

Turns out YES – he knows Jack and Maja Burton and this is their episode on House Hunters International. My cousin hooked us up on Facebook messenger and the Burtons were super helpful and gracious with their time in helping walk me through some questions and concerns. Check out their blog too as I referenced it for visa help: The Big Burton Bon Voyage.

Jack recommended realtor Anthony Scotti with Perfect Spain for help with apartments. Anthony is also featured on their episode as well as 4 others.

So, this is how we arrived at scheduling our scouting trip and narrowing it down from the globe – to the Malaga area and Valencia. I did lots of research, leaned on anyone who was willing to help me, and found people to actually speak to. Blogs can only take you so far 😉 I also learned on our scouting trip that the internet and pictures are extremely deceiving so I’m glad that I didn’t rely on internet research alone.

Check back soon for details on the scouting trip and actually meeting some of these fine folks in person!

Thanks for reading. Comments, questions, and puns always welcome…Kate

People have so many questions and it’s so interesting to hear everyone’s curiosities. I wanted to put together a list of FAQs so that inquiring minds could know. It’s also a lot to explain many times over in casual conversation, so it’s better said in writing so when I see you in person, we can talk about real things like “This Is Us” and GOT.

The only question I don’t answer here is “What city?” because we are taking a trip next week to figure that out – we’re between Málaga and Valencia and we’ll keep you posted.

1. What do the kids think? Do they know?!

Yes, our kids know!! We have been talking about this as a family for over a year. We have dreamt about it together, gushed over pictures online, watched House Hunter’s International, and researched hot European “fútbol” players for Max as he chooses his new home team. They are super excited and we’ve been 100% real with them. It’s been really encouraging for me to see them supersede my expectations.

Just yesterday I overheard Max upstairs as Sam was looking for something: “It’s not here Sam, Mom sold it, but you won’t need it in Spain.”  “Oh yeah!” was her reply. ha! They’re just fine. At least so far…

2. How can you afford this?

I’m putting this at the top because it’s what a lot of people are thinking so let’s just get on with it: Our life in Spain will cost us the same amount as our life in Nashville. huh? Yes. Think about it:

We wont’ have cars or car insurance!!! +$800/month, our furnished Spanish apartment is less than a mortgage +$600/month, we will have NO space for home goods/clothes +$150/month, our health insurance is cheaper +$150.

We will spend this “excess” on travel, public transport, stateside storage, managed treasury for our business ($50/month) but that will really be a break-even.

The expensive part of the process is the start up. The visa is going to cost about $1,000 and the tickets to get to Spain, scouting trip, and realtor fees are going to probably run us about $5,000. After that initial cost, we’ll be back to breaking even with our life in the US. Fun fact: Eating out in Spain is cheaper than cooking. PRAISE HIM.

If you think you can’t live somewhere because of the money – do your research, don’t assume, and pretty please don’t let this be your barrier to travel.

3. Will you keep your business?

YES!! We’ve worked so hard to “fill the funnel” and we’re excited to continue to do digital marketing and build websites. We will have to let go of speaking appearances and we’ll be slightly limited for phone call hours because of the time change, but that’s about it. We look forward to spending our energies wisely and that will no longer include a commute. We also believe that we’ve established strong client relationships and we deliver a quality and affordable product so I don’t think people will care that we can’t sit in on a meeting. I guess we’ll see.

4. Are you selling your house?

Yep. And about 70% of what’s in it. We looked into renting our home but it’s not something that we want to deal with. We know that we don’t want to move back to this exact subdivision, so bye. I’m not at all phased by this as you can tell. A house is wherever my 3 people are. We will store our family antiques and some special pieces that my brothers made.

5. What about the kids schools?

There are 3 types of schools in Spain: concertado, private, and state schools. Concertado is comprable to charter schools in the US, they are often affiliated with a church and they cost to attend. Private schools are impossible to get in unless you’re a diplomat’s kid. I know because I tried all 4 in Valencia and was rejected. I really REALLY struggled with this part of the move as the schools dictate the city and neighborhood and vise versa.

All said, we’ve decided to put our kids in state schools. Our #1 priority for this move was for the kids to speak Spanish and private schools are conducted in English. Also, the Spanish siesta is REAL and our kids might be coming home in the middle of the day for 2-3 hours so we needed our school to be in our neighborhood. I will write a blog later about schools. I read books on this, sent dozens of emails, and hours of research – it remains the most important part of the move.

6. Why Spain?

  1. It’s pretty warm year round – sorta like Florida.
  2. Europe means we’ll be able to weekend in Paris, Mallorca, Croatia, Vienna, and a million other places we’re dying to see.
  3. Spanish!
  4. It’s affordable.
  5. Rich culture and great people.
  6. Sangria and the beach.

7. What did your family say?

They are so sad to miss the kids but they understand that this is an amazing opportunity. This was easily the worst and hardest part of the process for me for sure. I put this off until we were 1,000% sure that we were all systems go and I had a gnarly stomach ache for months before breaking the news in tears. It hurts to disappoint the ones you love but I think that regret hurts more.

8. How long will you live there? Will you move back here?

Not sure. We know that we love Nashville and lots of our family is here. We think that 1 year in Spain is the absolute minimum for all of the work and $ we’ve put in. Right now, 12-24 months is the plan. The other plan:

Have no plan.

9. Is your blog to make money?

From whom?! No. Blogging doesn’t work that way unless you’re established and drive lots of web traffic. So, unless you Venmo me rn – I’m doing this for pure fun, to help others, and to document the process.

10. How does the Visa work?

I am almost there with our visas!! It’s a tough process and I’ll blog on the dirty details later. We are going to apply for a “non-lucrative” visa and it is valid for a year. We will re-apply in Spain after 12 months. This type of visa is not a fit for everyone but after lots of research, it works for us. Each country requires a different visa and the processes are drastically different so don’t  use my experience as a barometer unless you are moving specifically to Spain.

Also, should you move with a company, au pair program, school, the military, etc., they usually handle the lion share of the application process – so again, don’t let this freak your freak. Plus, call me – I’ll help you out with a pep talk or a wallowing and wine session.


Hope I answered all of your questions. If I missed a something you’d like to know, please comment and I’ll answer. If you have experience with any of this or really any thought at all – I’d love to hear it. I’ll be blogging about once a week so check back! Thank you SO much for reading and visiting our site and please Pin if you’re a Pinterest person;)

I’m always hesitant to download an app because I so rarely use 90% of the clutter that’s already on my phone. However, the following 3 apps not only made the cut – they are too useful not to share:

  1. My favorite and I’d-be-lost-without-it app is TRIP IT.

Thanks to my Mom for this one. It’s the easiest thing ever and all of your trip details are stored without you ever having to upload them – yahtzee!! Whenever you make a reservation and receive a confirmation email, this free app will recognize that the reservation is travel related and will organize it for you. You do nothing.

When you look at TripIt, you’ll see that each hotel, flight, excursion, rental car, and anything else you want to upload is all there, in order by date with the full details of the reservation. No more searching  your inbox for confirmation numbers, TripIt has the phone number, addresses, and full location or flight details in a neat little timeline.

For my longer trips to Peru and to the East Coast, I was able to have all my train tickets, hotels, flights, and excursions in one place for all members of the family. I would have been printing out and carrying with me a folder or sifting through screenshots without this handy lil guy. I’d wake up every morning and check out what we were going to do without having to remember anything. Vacay mode: On.

If you want people to be able to keep track of you while you’re away,  you can send them your itinerary in 2 easy clicks. No-wifi? No problemo, it’s already uploaded in the app so you don’t have to worry about loosing access to anything.

There’s also “TripIt Pro” which keeps track of your flight status and will send you alerts. The Pro version also has a seat tracker to notify you if there’s a better seat on your flight as well as a reward points tracker. I’m too cheap to spring for the $49/year but I bet it doesn’t disappoint.

Also, it counts down how many days until your trip!! Nothing gets me more pumped than a good countdown.

Finally, the app stores all of your past trips so that you can reflect and recommend places when you get home. Download this now. You’re welcome.




This app is another winner for $Free.99! Mobile Passport is officially authorized by the Customs and Border Protection and processes at most major US international airports and some cruise ports. If you don’t have Global Entry, then Mobile Passport is the next best thing.


It will save you from finding a pen on the plane and filling out the paper customs form for you and your kids. This will be your own little family VIP moment because you’ll get your own security lane at the airport and you’ll jet past people scanning their passports with the classic confused traveler face (usually accompanied by my favorite: the “under the breath grumbling about processes” mumble).


Put yourself in a Benadryl coma on the plane, ignore the stewardess announcements, and once you start to taxi into the airport make about 3 clicks on this app for each family member and be done.


Keep your passports out and your QR code from Mobile Passport and boom, the whole family back in the US of A.


More Info on Mobile Passport






“Wait… 1800 Costa Rican Colónes – what the whaaaat?! Oh that’s like 3 bucks.”


This app will make shopping easier as it’s up-to-date with the market exchange rate for almost any conversion you’ll need. Forget mental math, I need to know how much is this 100% alpaca *hat is going to set me back!


This will also monitor conversions and  you can set up to 10 currencies that you want to follow. Never have to say “How many dollars is this?!”


CNN Travel has a great list of other handy apps to help you find bathrooms, pack smart, map a run in a new city, and more. Check it out here.

Any “must have” travel resources you use? Please leave a comment.

*Sadly, I did not buy this amazing hat. I did buy an alpaca rug that I covet.

When my husband and I were on our honeymoon we had the classic wide-eyed newlywed conversations: How many kids do we want? What names do we like? What city will we live in?    || resist the rising barf ||   A mansion, apartment, shack, house – wait that’s the game of M.A.S.H. Amongst those goals was to live abroad. As we close in on 13 awesome years of marriage, our M.A.S.H. game played out like this:

       – 2 kids

      – we lived in a house

      – 0 pets ← yeah yeah we don’t like animals. We don’t go around kicking kittens, it’s just not our thing.

We live in suburbia Spring Hill, Tennessee (south of Nashville) where churches outnumber gas stations and a cultural outing is Tex-Mex in a strip mall. Which I love btw and have participated in many hours of happy! No judgement, I just think that these realizations, coupled with our kids ages (6 and 8), and our employment situation, created the perfect storm for us. We have lived in Spring Hill for 11 years and sucked all of the marrow out of the the attractions and offerings in our area. We’re hoping that a new culture will broaden their horizons and shape their little futures.  

However, to come to that realization was not easy, it was an internal struggle for about 8-12 months, and I still panic a bit. I briefly lost my mind too. It was the quiet losing your mind where you don’t tell anyone, you just think about it incessantly and it erodes your soul – nbd. I didn’t want to tell people “I’m moving to Europe” and then be the ass hat that chickened out, so I just quietly grappled with it and, at one point, I literally remember Googling “when to move abroad with a family”. Good idea Kate.

After tormenting myself, Paul and I decided that there is no answer to the question: When are you ready?

I mean, I don’t think we’re ever fully ready to do anything.

Nothing will ever be just right. You’ll never have enough money, enough energy, time, the right job, ample storage space, westerly lunar tides, and all the other excuses that you’ll come up with that really are just fear in varying forms. 

So my advice: just jump. The adage is “the step out the door is always the hardest” and it’s true. Other than the crazy nightmare that is your visa – getting the “cajones” to just do it is the hardest part. (Didn’t know you were going to learn Spanish here too?!)

I can’t speak to your situation but I know that fear and doubt will bubble up many many times throughout the process. Often I think:

“Am I ruining my kids life?”

“Is Paul just doing this because he knows it’s important to me?”

I realized that both of those questions are valid on a regular Tuesday morning as a mom, so I focused on what this experience would be instead of what leaving would be. Those are drastically different things. 

I also wanted to show my kids that DOING something is a great way to create the life you want. As a high school teacher for 10 years, I always told my students: “Do you expect to wake up and have a plane ticket to Europe under your pillow from the ‘life experiences’ fairy?!” Of course not. I wanted them to understand they had to create their life instead of expecting things to fall in their lap.

As I approach 40, I’ve started to give less f*c3s about what could go wrong. With good health and family – nothing’s a risk. It’s all just gravy baby! We have wonderful family and friends and we know that they will be there for us despite the area code.

That said, I’m following my own snarky advice. I want my kids to know that the scary and hard stuff is also the most rewarding. 

Sooo…..my advice on deciding if this is right for you: I don’t know, but you do. Trust your gut.

I hope you find solace in our conflicted means to arriving at this decision. If you’re feeling torn, you’re probably doing something right;) It’s what you do with that feeling that will determine if you remain in your comfort zone or venture beyond.  Best of luck creating your life and the big and little decisions that will make it your own version of fabulous.

Thanks so much for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear”. G. Addair