Within a week of moving to Spain to begin a new life of perpetual travel, they closed the borders.
This wasn’t in March, this was two days ago, in late October 2020.
My husband and I decided some time ago that life in the UK wasn’t for us. Too much Brexit, too expensive, too many…Brits. We were proud owners of a successful wine shop and bar, but even that wasn’t enough of a lure to keep us in the country.
So we sold the shop under some of the worst economic and social conditions in living memory. We planned a new life centred around nomadism, working when we needed to; a slower-paced, more fulfilling existence.
We left in a blaze of glory, with myriad social media posts about how ‘life isn’t linear’ and ‘despite Coronavirus, we’re doing this anyway’ commented on by hundreds of well-wishers, talks of our life choices being ‘inspirational,’ and many, many ‘I’m so jealous!’ messages.
With Brexit looming and with it the sad disappearance of our rights to live and work freely in the EU, the pressure was on to apply for European (specifically Spanish) residency in order to keep our rights to work and live on the continent.
So within one week of selling our shop, we sold all our possessions, including the house they were in. We bought a one-way ticket to Spain and managed to sneak into the city of Logroño just hours before they closed the borders.
Two weeks ago, the state of La Rioja, the place we had decided to make our home for the next 6 months, had one of the lowest infection rates in Spain. Now it’s one of the highest.
On the day we arrived, they instilled a 9 pm closing time for bars and restaurants. Three days later, Spain went into a national state of emergency with a nationwide curfew. And, finally, by the end of the first week, they closed all bars and restaurants completely. It’s rumoured that Spain will soon be moving to a full confinement model, similar to the Spring, with no outside movement allowed other than for food and medicine.
When you make a drastic life change, you’re prepared that your new life might not be exactly what you expect. But whereas three years ago, we may have battled solely with Spanish bureaucracy and learning a new language, we are now faced with not only these but also a strong Brexit deadline and life in the ‘new (not so) normal’.
But I Regret Nothing
These may be challenging times. I may have cried nearly every day for the friends and family I left, the cat I had to give away, the fear of the very real, final decision we made to leave everything and own almost nothing. When I think “I want to go home,’ I realise that I have no home. But that was completely my choice.
Regrets are pretty useless. We make the decisions we make at the time and we must work with the life we make for ourselves.
Many of us are in the incredibly fortunate position of being able to choose how we want to live our years, whether we realise that we have that freedom or not.
So when we do take control of our situation and we do it in a measured, thoughtful way (it took two years to extricate from the UK, so it was not a quick decision), we can learn, observe and understand where our choices worked and where they didn’t. But we can’t regret.
Do I Miss My Stuff?
No. I still have my laptop, my phone, a kindle, a few clothes and my husband. I have access to great quality Spanish food and wine. I’ve written before that food, wine and travel are the pillars on which I live my life and those pillars have not changed. So no, I don’t miss that bookshelf full of books I only read once, my ten-year-old TV or my tatty old IKEA furniture. I still have everything I need, just as I did in the UK.
Except now, I have the opportunity to learn about, explore and enjoy this wonderful country. Coronavirus may limit our freedoms, but the country is still there, still accessible for walking, buying produce and conversing in - very basic - Spanish to our new neighbours.
The table I write at may be different, but the laptop and the person behind it is still the same. Just with a few more ideas to write about.
What’s It like Moving Abroad During a Second Lockdown?
Challenging and emotional. I may well be writing this too early; lockdown began in earnest less than 72 hours ago. This piece is partly my way of processing, of coping with the trials of beginning a new life under a strict curtailing of personal freedoms.
But is moving abroad ever what we think it will be?
It’s not a holiday, after all. It’s life.
However, I will always be eternally optimistic when it comes to the future. I never believe that the best is behind us because believing that the world only gets worse is not a way to live. Even now, even in this second Coronavirus wave.