So we decided to change our lifestyle, quit the job, clear out the house of too many accumulated things, and move the family (with 2 very young children) to another country. Reaching that decision point was not easy.
When my job was no longer a go for me in July 2016, I was ready to quit, implement the back-up plan and move to Europe by the end of summer. My sweet-angel-of-a-wife knocked some sense into my hard head with something like, “Are you finally at the crap end of crazy! What about the kids? What are we gonna do about money? What about the house? What about your career and your high-paying job? What about…. well, you get the idea… A thousand questions; all needed answers; all at once.
Here, I’ll talk about the important questions that I immediately needed to answer before she could agree to anything. If you’re thinking of doing similar lifestyle change, this will help you present some benefits upfront to the Mayor of your Dom (house in Polish/Russian) and save yourself some time and skinny-a*s-chewing. In the words of an inspirational president, “Yes, you can!”
First, I will address the “5 Ws and 1 H” (the who, what, when, where, why and how) in this post which is a long delayed follow up to a related post. Life happens too fast when you are having fun! I will address other important questions in subsequent posts (and they will be quicker this time ’round).
Who will go? This is easy: me, wife and the the 2 boys (age 1 and 4 years old when this idea came about). We could not take our adopted feral cat, “Masha” with us. Besides, she’d rather be free too.
What are you going to do? By moving the family to Europe we have 3 goals: (1) Have more time together and focus on raising healthy and happy kids without the need to work to start with; (2) be conversational in the language and immerse our family in the local culture; and (3) meet our own personal goals like expanding my flamenco guitar playing.
Why are you doing it? Many would call it a vacation. Some, sabbatical. Others, “family gap year”. For us, it is a necessary transition into a life that is fun, free and happy. “Fri og Fro” in Danish (free and merry). You’ve gotta have a plan, knowing that you can change them at anytime as new information unfolds.
What about money? This is the question that our friends and family would often ask… naturally. It’s a loaded question. So, let’s break it down a bit. I think the real concern here is this: how can we afford to live abroad without jobs?
The quick and obvious answer is you have to be ready to use your savings and/or sell your possessions to afford to live for a year without work. In our case, we cashed in the little retirement savings plan (not a wise decision according to financial experts). We needed it now and we’re all in. Together with our savings, we had enough to live on for this plan. Later, we’ll have to be creative with having multiple income streams. We’ll go over the financial details of our family move abroad in later posts.
To answer this money question more fully, I needed to specify to where exactly in Europe/European Union we will move and for how long?
Where will you go? Why the E.U.? We can move much more easily in the E.U. because Ania and the boys are also Polish citizens. This will also save time and money as they do not need visas.
So, why not move directly to Poland? There sure is family support there. We’re not quite ready for that yet. We needed a necessary “neutral” location to change into a saner, simpler and happier life. Our new life sounded a little too “crazy” for many people, families included. So, we needed to remove ourselves from familiar grounds so that we would not get in a way of everyone else and no one else would get in the way of what we wanted to do. “The change will do you good,” as a song goes. And Ania and I do believe that. But change is also hard for many people, especially when there are young children involved. But change had come.
Now, it’s a matter of affordability. So where in Europe is the cost of living cheap enough? As much as we love Denmark (Ania and I have friends there from our university days), that was a NO-GO! The little money we had would not last a year there. Bulgaria? They speak Russian there but mine is dysfunctionally rusty. But it’s quite cheap enough there that, when researching, I saw a property up for sale in a small village near a beach on the Black Sea for 20,000 euros with a little rinky dink Volkswagon Van included! Romania? Slovenia? Beautiful places with wonderfully warm-welcoming people.
But our common passion (and this is an important factor to consider) pointed to a new home-base that both of us like–Spain, specifically Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucia. I lived in Jerez for a summer and we visited it before during our honeymoon. We both like flamenco. We love the sea, sand, sunshine and … sherry. So, what a great place to reset a life and put a simpler and happier one in place and in motion! “Like likes like” and we like it a lot! And it’s cheaper in Jerez too (more on cost-of-living details at a later post).
When will you go? The end of that summer was too soon. So, we gave ourselves the next summer to make this move happen. After the following U.S. elections in October, we decided to leave early, by the following Spring 2017.
Now… for how long? I’m the one who needed a visa and the longest I could get given my means was for one year (more on the visa process separately).
How much money do you need for a year?
Based on my previous visits, you can live quite cheaply in southern Spain, depending on where you plan to live of course. Forget the big cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona and even Seville. It was rather difficult to pin down how much I would need a month, for an entire year. The Spanish embassy did not really give concrete idea as to how much would be needed. Online information was also vague at the time. So, I guesstimated it using a cost-of-living online database and came up with $1,500 per month ($18,000 for the year) which I would later use for my long-term-visa application. It was a bit more than the average monthly salary which seemed a bit inflated. Of course, we also needed something extra ($500/month) just in case. I’m talking about a basic lifestyle here, in Europe.
You can imagine how much less you would need in many other parts of the world!
Where do we get it the money? What about school? What about your career? Health insurance? What’s the plan when you get there, man? As you can see, I have just covered a small part of the decision process. There are many more questions that Ania and I needed to carefully consider over the course of months, prior to getting a final “Yes, let’s do it!”. All these things we will talk about in the next posts.
In the meantime, please let us know, if you were to consider moving abroad to change your life for the better