• Dee Andrews

One Year Abroad | Living in Spain


Follow our family travels and travails while living in Spain and traveling throughout the Mediterranean for a year.


In the summer of 2007, while camping in the Colorado mountains, we decided to seize the day, make big life changes, and move abroad. My husband was dreaming of warm, sandy beaches and learning to surf. I think he was really dreaming of a career break, a change to his daily life and the routines we had fallen into. I could hardly contain my smile in the dark starry night. I had been dreaming of moving abroad for years. Experiencing another culture, family travel to exotic destinations, writing, and spending lots of time with my daughters and husband. We went home energized and committed to making it happen.


About Life Changes & Family Travel

Almost a year later, after much research, discussion, planning, selling our house, packing or giving away our stuff, we moved to Spain. We wanted a Spanish speaking country, warm weather and the opportunity for great family travels. We had also traveled to Spain in the past so knew a little of what we were getting into. While the year was to be about journeys and finding new paths, they were not all to be of the traveling kind. It was also an opportunity for life changes, a career break, time… to step back and evaluate our careers and plot our next course. We were excited. Our daughters, who were six and nine at the time, had their days of excitement, sadness, and fear of the unknown.


Living in Javea

Throughout that first summer, we spent several weeks in four places in Spain in the Malaga and Valencia regions, scouting out each town to determine where to live in Spain. The three weeks we spent in the idyllic Spanish village of Benimeli, population 352, took us into nearby Javea for the beach. It was a beautiful town on the Mediterranean and had a bigger population of about 30,000. It reminded me of a long-ago southern California without the attitude and sprawl. The arenel felt like a small beach town; the port more Spanish and lively. Spanish, German, French and English conversations spilled from the cafe tables. Javea offered two international schools, great weather, no bugs, beaches, and mountains. Denia, Valencia and Barcelona were nearby for family travels by car or train. We eagerly rented a house and enrolled our daughters in school.


Family Travel Around the Mediterranean Sea

family travels in Morocco

Our adventures took us beyond Spain as well. Some of our most memorable experiences came from family travels to Italy, Morocco and Turkey. Morocco and Turkey were highlights for many reasons, but mostly because they were so foreign and new to us. Traveling beyond the USA and western Europe was an eye-opening experience and a wonderful way to learn about different people and cultures.


Managing Expectations

In many ways, one year abroad and living in Spain was nothing as I expected. Learning a second language was difficult and more so perhaps because we were not immersed, as we thought we would be. Many English-speaking expats lived on the coasts of Spain, and English was a common language among many Europeans. We still learned a lot, but we didn’t come home fluent by any means. I also felt to really immerse in the culture, make friends, experience the ways of life, we needed more than one year. We were just beginning to make friends and share experiences when it was time to return to the States. Our family vacations more than met my expectations and those were the weeks I enjoyed the most. Living on the road, spending days and weeks with my family, relaxed, out of our routines and trying new things.


All in all, it was a year of amazing ups and downs. The ups I expected. I didn’t realize how hard the downs would be and how much stress and isolation I would feel at times. But I grew. We all grew. I know we lived, learned, cried, laughed and had an unforgettable journey, one we’ll do again some day in another way, on another path.

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