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Sea Glass – The Pass of Time

Collecting Sea Glass – The Pass of Time

After five months of retirement Mark and I have settled into a nice weekly routine.  We have days of the week that we do walks, hikes, yoga, grocery shopping, flea market, reading, writing, and of course a few rest days in between.  We both love to cook and have taken on new recipes and enjoy baking and cooking at home most days. We have found our home cooking is by far much better than any food we can get in a restaurant.   Travel is also very much a passion for us and we also have had the pleasure to travel to Madrid and also explored the town beside us called La Herradura. 

So far I have not had the concern of being bored having every single day to do exactly what I want to do.  I know many folks often are worried to retire thinking they may be bored or lonely day to day. Every person is different but I can say for myself, so far I have no complaints outside of sometimes missing being able to see my children in person whenever I want.  WhatsApp calls, instant messaging and video chats have helped with that. The world is much easier to stay in touch these days with the technology we have at our fingertips.  

One Wednesday morning Mark and I were doing our regular weekly hike over the hills of Parque de Mediterraneo to the various beaches on the route.  We wandered onto the beach of Playa Curumbico and walked along the water’s edge. Mark was taking some pictures and then handed me a piece of green round rough edged glass.  I recognized it right way as a piece of Sea Glass. It brought back memories watching the movie “Spanglish”. In the movie Adam Sandler proposes a challenge the children to collect a bucket of sea glass and he would pay them for it.  Sea glass is broken glass that has been tossed around in the ocean and comes up as frosted coloured gems.

When we got home Mark sent me a beautiful photo of ocean stones and the brightly coloured green stone amongst the rocks.  I decided I am going to start collecting. After about a month I barely have a handful of the stones. Upon reading online about sea glass it appears that it is widely sought after and people are now making jewelry and other craft items out of the stones.  It seems that green is the most common, red and black are more rare. I now have a challenge for myself to search for that elusive black or red stone. It’s a fun pass time when we wander on the beach and also gives me a reason to focus and be mindful searching for that perfect stone.  I have decided I am going to collect enough to fill a whisky bottle for decoration, and who knows someday I might even take up making sea glass into jewelry pieces.

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Filed under Balance

The Decision to move to Spain

We talked about retiring about three years before we actually did it. I had always envisioned I would retire outside of the USA.   The cost to retire in the USA was significant and everything I read about being able to retire comfortably in the USA meant you had to have at least a million dollars or more to be able to live and retire in USA.   I had subscribed and started reading news letters from International Living years ago in my early 50’s about the affordability to retire outside of USA.  

In September 2015 Mark and I traveled to Spain and Italy with our good friends Sue and Dave for two weeks.  Taking two weeks off from work when you are living and working in North America is considered a big vacation.  I saved up my entire years vacation to take this trip. We spent one week in Italy on the Island of Sardenia. It was late September and their tourist season was winding down.  Many stores and restaurants were closed. We had amazing weather the first day we were there and then the weather went steadily downhill after that. We experienced a medicane (the equivalent of a hurricane by our standards).

After the first week we took a ferry from the Island over to Barcelona. We loved Barcelona and stayed in an area called La Rambla. From Barcelona we traveled by high speed train to Valencia to make our way to our destination of Denia for our second week.  Again, Denia was winding down from their summer tourist season. We spent a day on the beach and several days exploring this lovely town. The weather turned at the end of the week and we left Denia in torrential rain. At the time we traveled to Europe we had not really thought or seriously entertained retiring there.  

In April 2017 we traveled with our same travel companions to Panama.  At this time we were talking more and more about retiring in the next few years.  I was hesitant, Mark was ready. Making the decision to retire is a huge one. I had put together extensive spread sheets on the cost to retire in various countries, including Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, Portugal and Spain.  At this point in time we were thinking we would retire from United States to either Mexico, Central or South America. This seemed to be the norm for most folks retiring from North America. We were only in Panama for 10 days but managed to travel most of the country to Santiago, Santa Fe, David, Boquette and Bocas Del Toro (Bastimentos), and also time spent in Panama City.  We traveled the entire time by bus on public transportation. The highway system was impressive.

We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast in Santa Fe and found out this business was for sale. We loved the location and the property which was set amongst amazing mountain views in a very picturesque valley. We actually put an offer on the property to buy it thinking we would continue the bed and breakfast business until such time we would close the business and permanently retire on the property.  Our offer was declined. After this fizzled out we decided to pin down a date when we would officially retire. We decided to pick the date which was after my birthday two years from 2017, which was going to be May 2019. At this point in time we had not officially decided on our retirement location. 

 Mark and I have both traveled to Mexico extensively and we did consider Mexico as a potential retirement spot.  The US dollar against the Peso was inviting. We were also looking at Ecuador. I started joining Facebook groups in Ecuador and watching the sites and seeing what was going on with people’s lives in various locations around Ecuador.  Mark had talked about a small community in a town called Vilcabamba. We both had visions of living in a home in the countryside and growing our own food. Through research the cost of living in Ecuador looked very affordable. I read several books of people’s experiences living in Ecuador and also followed several blogs of people living in Ecuador.  The more I read about Ecuador and the more I saw of people’s experiences living there, we decided that Ecuador was not the place for us. There appeared to be consistent instability as far as poor infrastructure (water, electricity), theft and robberies, not to mention earthquakes.   

At this point I started to look at Portugal.  My cousin from Canada had been talking to me about Portugal through our email communications.  She spoke highly of Portugal as she and her husband had traveled to Portugal on numerous occasions for vacation. 

Then Mark had said if we were going to look at Portugal why not Spain? I had not really seriously thought about Spain.  I started to do some research on the requirements to obtain the residency visa (non lucrative Visa) for Spain. Comparing the requirements for Spain versus Portugal, Portugal’s requirements are a bit easier than Spain’s, but not by a lot.  The VISA requirements are all laid out on the Spain Consulate website. The whole process seemed daunting, but I figured what have we got to lose? We can put it all together one step at a time and see if we qualify.

I also started reading a lot of articles/blogs online of people’s experiences in dealing with obtaining the non-lucrative VISA for Spain, along with following several Facebook Groups in Spain.  We both knew we wanted to live someplace by the ocean in a warm season climate. Mark researched locations and decided on Almunecar. The cost of living in Almunecar seemed affordable for our first town to live in and explore. We put all the information together, booked our appointment to go to the Los Angeles Spanish Consulate and traveled from Arizona to California for our appointment.

At this point our house was sold with a closing date of early June.  For the last five months we had been selling off all of our personal items on Facebook Marketplace and Offer Up. There was a lot going on in our lives, we were both working full time, selling off items, the house had a solid sale with closing dates set, not to mention we had a family wedding to attend and help arrange. My daughter and her boyfriend had decided to get married.

The appointment at the consulate went well and we told them we wanted to move to Spain in early June.  About 2 weeks after our appointment we got the email to come pick up our Visas. At this point we booked our airbnb and our one way flights to Spain. We were moving to Spain! 

I sit here on my balcony and look out to the Mediterranean sea and still cannot believe we have made the leap to move here. We both are so happy that we decided to retire in Spain.  The weather is amazing and living with ocean views every day cannot be beat.

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Filed under Visa and immigration

Learning Spanish

When we moved to Almunecar Spain in June 2019 it was evident we would need to learn Spanish if we were ever going to be able to talk with locals.  Almunecar is a traditional spanish town where the people speak mainly Spanish. Some people who work in local shops and restaurants have limited English, but Spanish is prominent.  Well of course! We are in Spain anyhow! I do want to point out though that our local bank (Banco Sabadell) and the local cell service company we dealt with (Orange) did have people who spoke English very well.  

Duolingo categories
Duolingo App

We explored taking Spanish language lessons at a few schools in town but realized that the cost to keep up these classes was going to be somewhat significant for our budget.  So I went to the internet to see if there were any free online Spanish language classes and the first one to pop up was Duolingo (duolingo.com). I decided to sign up for the free version (with ads) and have been taking their lessons ever since.  At the date of writing this article I am now into exactly one month of taking daily Duolingo lessons. I receive daily email reminders and spend about 15 to 20 minutes each day taking their language lessons. There are various categories to go through such as Intro, Phrases, Travel, Family, Restaurant, Shopping, School and People.  The lessons take you through five levels of learning for each category. Once you complete the lessons in each of the five levels, and for all of the categories, the app moves you up another phase where the categories are more advanced and the lessons get a little harder. There are a total of 5 phases.

Both Mark and I have gotten a lot out of the lessons. I do want to point out that we did have some basic understanding of Spanish already at the time of signing up for the lessons.  Before the first lesson you will take a basic test which then configures the app for the first level.. Mark and I are now feeling more confident about having some basic knowledge of Spanish and are able to order food in restaurants now after just one month of learning the lessons on Duolingo.  We would like to take some classes with an instructor in person at some point, but for now this type of learning is working out very well for both of us.

Duolingo achievements
Achievements and Friends

What I love about this app is the style of teaching. It reminds me of the way we were taught how to read and write and speak english. You remember, don’t you? Those first grade reading guides where the story was, “See Dick run. Run Dick, run. See Dick with his dog Spot. See Dick and Spot.” Yes, this DuoLingo App is that basic and repetitive. You’ll not only be introduced to the words gradually and the grammar at a pace everyone can keep up with, but you also get to see how to use those funny little accents and spelling too.

Other features the app provides include adding friends to your watch list where you can see their progress and they can see yours. There are ‘Achievement’ awards too for things like getting through a lesson without mistakes, completing more lessons in a single day than planned, and more. And of course, there are bells, whistles, and sounds built in to keep you encouraged to keep going.

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Filed under Cool-tech