Heart of Spain

When one is considering a major move, such as we were with moving to a new country, there is often a fierce debate, not between husband and wife, but between head and heart.

Some places make sense for all the rational, budgetary reasons, but they don’t fill one’s heart with a sense of “this is it.” Other places remain a fantasy, appealing to the romantic vision but beyond practicality.

Despite the name “Spain” evoking dream-like images of sunsets on the Mediterranean, wine and paella dinners, and Hemingway-like adventures, we first took notice of Spain for practical, economic reasons. I’ll leave it to Jiab (our newly certified RICP, or Retirement Income Certified Professional) to tell you about how we (meaning she) researched affordable moves and found Spain.

What we had to check out was did Spain live up to the myth and. Most of all, did it fill our hearts?

It’s one thing to go to a restaurant because you hear it’s low-priced, only to be disappointed with the food. It’s another to move to a whole other place because it’s more affordable, only to find that the meals, living accommodations, and life itself are not what you wanted.

We really had little idea of what to expect. There were plenty of books, but they were mainly about tourism visiting. We also didn’t know if these authors had the same view on life as we did.


In a word, no one can get the actual “vibe” of a place, or if one is in harmony with it, until one walks around.

I wrote previously in Now You See It on how one has to experience a place first hand, and not just as a tourist, but as a potential resident.

And in some ways, that’s more difficult to decide than satisfying the budget, rational questions.

Rational questions can often be answered by numbers, data, and spreadsheets (again, I’d let Jiab take the lead).

Deciding if a place satisfies the heart is more impressionistic. How do I FEEL walking about? Do the people and places seem to naturally appeal to me, or am I thinking life here is an “acquired taste?” 

So Jiab and I walked around Malaga, and then Granada. We often didn’t talk or point out things so much as just “felt.”

Very unscientific, very unspecific, but very much the way the best love stories start.

And we fell in love with it. 

We did end up making a list, but only so as to try to confirm what we already felt, that this was the place.

Turns out, it was not so much what we saw as what we didn’t see that helped us to identify the four messages that Granada sends to people:

Granadans appreciate people of all kinds, especially in shared spaces, because you WON’T see:

  • People in groups looking at cell phones instead of each other.
  • Impatient native speakers as non-natives struggle to find the right Spanish word.
  • Thoughtless littering (except maybe on the floor of a good tapas bar).
  • Children being allowed to opt out of family conversations and self-amuse with electronic devices.
  • Waitstaff being nice to get a good tip (as there is no tipping, the niceness is genuine!).
  • Wealthier people looking down at “taking the bus” or other mass transit that allows you to meet and hear someone else’s story.
  • individual talkers louder than groups laughing together.
  • People in too much of a hurry to try and help or at least point you in a general direction.

Granadans appreciate that life is so full of natural flavor (there is no need waste time, money or effort on things that are superficial or wasteful) because you WON’T see:

  • Folks choosing effort and make-up to look good over natural beauty.
  • Bling on men or women.
  • Neckties (just a few).
  • Impractical women’s shoes.
  • Men with less than a two-day beard (or with more than a two-day one).
  • Wasting the a/c in any unoccupied room.
  • Clothes dryers in lieu of hanging the washing up and letting them absorb the natural freshness.
  • SUVs, pickups, or other passenger vehicles that not only waste gas but were beyond the size imagined by the 16th century designers of the very narrow streets.
  • People showing off their extravagance by wearing t-shirts with brand name logos (EXCEPT futbol teams).

Granadans appreciate the now, rather than focusing on the “what next?” because you WON’T see:

  • Anyone walking while eating/drinking (or anything else that distracted from enjoying the meal).

  • Drivers disrespecting scooters or anything else on the road because their getting to where they want takes precedence.
  • Many stores open at 3:00 pm instead of a siesta (or many stores closed at 9:00 pm as people stroll about BEFORE dinner).
  • Rushing through a meal or rushing through a conversation (and especially not the greeting!), or rushing through a sale.
  • Rushing, period.

Most of all Granadans appreciate the richness of life and all its joy, because you WON’T see:

  • Weak coffee.
  • Walls without some young person expressing themselves upon it with their arms.

And best of all,

  • Evenings without elderly couples strolling, holding hands, and inspiring others.

Totally biased, totally unscientific, and you can totally expect us to be joining the strolling couples shortly.

As Emily Dickinson (well before Selena Gomez) said, “The heart wants what it wants.”

5 thoughts on “Heart of Spain”

  1. So happy to have found you and your blog on the ChooseFI FB page … as I mentioned, we are currently planning on reaching FIRE in less than 2 school years (I’m a teacher… two kids in elementary school), and we plan to try at least a year in Spain with the family – in Granada!

    I look forward to following your adventure.

    • Tara,
      Thanks for the comment. I am glad you decided on Granada. We are so happy here and will be glad to offer our assistance if you ever need it. I look forward to reading your blog and your adventure, too. Best of luck and please keep in touch.

  2. I am THRILLED to be reading this. Very happy to see that you took the leap. I was just in Argentina this summer and fell in love with taking siesta, but never could get used to dinner at 10 PM. Enjoy!

    • Thanks, Tiffany. You were one of my inspirations when you sojourned off to adventure in the Caribbean!. People think it takes a lot of money to expat, but that first jump off the couch is the hardest part!


Leave a Comment