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