Lesson Four: Life should be a daring adventure

“Life should be a daring adventure or nothing at all. —Helen Keller

Spanish seafood paella

My hubby and I both like warm, sunny weather so we decided to retire to Spain.  Even though this is commonly done among British and Irish people, it’s not so common among Americans.  The Spanish government makes it hard to retire in Spain, throwing lots of hoops out for people to jump through.  You have to proof you have never been arrested anywhere in the US. You have to prove you have no contagious illnesses. You have to buy a full medical insurance policy for a year, even before you have actually moved there.  If you want to get a retirement visa or what they call a non-lucrative residency visa, you have to prove a certain minimum level of monthly income. When we applied for the visa, the minimum income level was a little below 2,200 Euros a month.

If you can’t do all these things, plus spend money for a variety of fees and taxes, you can forget the whole thing. And everything they request must be translated into Spanish by a certified translator. Plus you have to have copies of everything, plus many photos of yourself. In short, you have to really want to move to Spain because retiring to sunny weather climates like Florida or Arizona are much easier. Just pack up the car and drive there.  What is the big deal?

But we didn’t want to move from one state to another to eat at the same chain restaurants we just left behind, such as Red Lobster, Italian Garden, Panera, and so on.  We thought it would be fun to try paella, rather than pizza. We wanted to dive into a variety of tapas (jamon iberico, calamari, spanish omlettes) rather than order a burger and fries. We wanted an adventure, but nothing too extreme like trying to backpack across Afghanistan. We wanted to live in a safe, democratic country with warm weather, good music, lots of culture and history. So Spain fit the bill in all these ways.

Now that we are here in sunny Spain, we are glad we successfully jumped through all the hoops. It was well worth it. Every day is a new adventure, whether it be trying to get a Spanish drivers’ license or having day surgery in the hospital. Things are done differently here and that’s what makes it great. You are not sleep walking through the day, but navigating a roundabout with your eyes wide open looking out for drivers on the inside lane inside who decide to cut in front of you at the last second to turn right off the road.  This makes for exciting driving. But it is not for the faint of heart. I have a North American friend here who doesn’t drive at all because the roundabouts are too scary for her.

Of course, lots of things are done differently here in Spain. For example, they traditionally eat much later here. But the good thing about that is some restaurants offer early bird specials. So you can go to dinner between 5 and 8:30 pm and get the discounted three-course meal complete with a bottle of wine for 10 euros a person. In the U.S., if you want to partake in the early bird dinner special, you typically have to be in the restaurant and ordering by 6:00 pm, at the latest.

They are more relaxed about time here too. So if a Spanish electrician says he will be at your house at 10 am, don’t be surprised if he shows up at 11:30 without explanation.  This relaxed attitude rubbed off on us after living here a while, permitting us to enjoy the moment rather than continually checking our smartphones for the time.

Another bonus about Spain is they speak Spanish here. So if you move there, you have to learn a new language and that’s good for aging brains like ours. Learning new things helps reduce the risk of dementia. Putting sentences together in Spanish and being understood by a native speaker is fun. It’s almost like being a child again and learning how to read. New connections get made every day. For example, just a trip to the grocery store can be an adventure because all the spices have different names in Spanish than in English.  So you have to fire up your smartphone app that translates words from Spanish to English to come home with the cumin you want rather than the coriander you don’t need.

When you speak Spanish to a native speaker here, you typically get a warm response because you have made the effort, even if your pronunciation or grammar isn’t perfect.  At least you are trying and showing respect for the people in your adopted country. In general, when I do speak English here, Spanish people think I am from Canada.  That’s close enough to the United States, as far as I am concerned, because I am still learning to tell the difference between the accent of a Scottish person and an Irish one.  As long as we are living, we should always be learning!

Life Lesson: If you want adventure in your life, be open to new challenges. Be prepared to leave your comfort zone in a variety of ways every day. Traveling to other countries or even living abroad is a great way to leave your comfort zone and experience life differently. So is trying new foods and learning a new language. Life is short. Make the most of it.

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