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Lifestyle Design a Winter in Spain!

November 12, 2009

Spain sunset white village Andalusia Andalucia

"Lifestyle Design" has become a hot buzz word thanks to Tim Ferriss and his #1 best selling  book, "The 4- Hour Workweek" as well as his hugely popular blog. We love how he inspires, so were thrilled when we were contacted and told we were featured in the new and expanded 4HWW edition coming out on December 15th!

We have become accidental trail blazers in extended family travel with tons of varied experiences in digital nomad  living (and roadschooling) on our open ended world tour since 2006, so hoped he would add more that was specific for families, since 70% of families dream about extended travel.

Can you imagine our excitement when I first got this email? "Out of more than 400 pages of submissions, Tim personally chose yours for the short-list for inclusion.  He loved it." I can't wait to get my review copy and will keep you posted!

spain Andalusia landscape white village

I am loving how new ways of being, traveling, educating and working are exploding in the blogosphere as people invent their own versions of "lifestyle design." We were also recently interviewed by our online friend Chris Guillebeau for his new book. Being a life long non-conformist, I admire the inspiration and great work he is doing with his unconventional strategies.

As I was writing this post, I was shocked to get a Skype call and Twitter message from one of my favorite  New York Times travel writers, Matt Gross, The Frugal Traveler who wanted to do an interview with us! Have you seen it? Wow! We were also quite touched by many of the comments.

What an exciting time for us and we're so grateful that we can demonstrate through our lives, that even an ordinary family can do extended travel very comfortably on a tiny budget! We didn't know that was possible until we tried it!

We are in beautiful Barcelona right now, gathering information for our fourth winter in sunny Andalusia which has the best winter weather in Europe. I am surprised that more people do not winter in southern Spain so will be posting more on this topic as soon as we settle in for our 4th winter this year.I get a lot of emails on this topic because we have more experience in this area as a digital nomad family, than anyone that I have seen online or in person.

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Recently, I got a very interesting one from Liz that she also posted as a comment in reply to some of mine at the Location Independent blog.

"Hello, Thanks for providing your insights on this important topic. I have a question: You wrote: “…cost of living can be EXTREMELY low in rural villages. …We live large on less than most do in SE Asia!” Could you please recommend some of those rural villages or areas in Spain that have a low cost of living. I speak fluent Spanish (I grew up in S. America) and I’m planning to spend at least a month in Spain next year. As long as there’s Internet Connectivity I don’t care if I have to live in a stone hut. :) Your plan of going to Croatia after 3 months sounds like a great idea. It’s an awesome place still outside the Euro zone I believe which makes it more affordable. Regards, Liz"


She brought up some common concerns that seems to resonate with many as we talked further:

"I'm obssesed with Europe but every one is always pushing Latin America or Asia. I'm not crazy about Third World countries and safety is always an issue. I like blending in with the crowd and not having people staring at me thinking "there goes the gringa with dollars".Your information is vital as I haven't found too many sites that promote Europe as an ideal destination for Location Independent Professionals or nomadic travelers."

Here are the basics. I wrote about how to winter in Spain in our popular classic post "How to do Extended Travel & Mini-retirements" that is filled with links. I think Andalusia in the small villages, is the perfect combination of exotic and modern with wonderfully accepting people and fascinating culture with a rich history.

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There are simply TONS of places available in Spain, many new with every convenience  & owned by Brits or English speaking northern Europeans who rent them out for the week in the very hot, summer high season. As much as I love it here, I wouldn't want to be here in  scorching July and August, but now that we have seen how cold, dark and rainy some of northern Europe is in those months (especially Ireland) it makes logical sense for the sun starved. Fall, winter and spring are ideal and these same furnished vacation rentals are available by the month at bargain prices!

Places owned by Spaniards are even cheaper...but can be more dated/authentic. Check Spanish websites too. Less famous white villages can be MUCH cheaper & great for someone who speaks Spanish! Do check weather and rain patterns as Andalusia is a very large area and some areas get a lot more rain. The further you go inland away from the sea, it also tends to get colder.

We walk or take cheap mass transit to everything we need & live like simple locals. We even eat tons of avocados & citrus for free that kidlet picks off trees in campo! We shop local market ...& hyper market...which delivers! The weather is almost always sunny & T-shirt weather warm during day, but can get chilly at night inside places made for hot summers, so we bundle up then & use little heat.

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The white villages are wonderful, so I started by getting to know them online here:

http://www.andalucia.com/villages/home.htm

Then just google the villages you like with the words "rental", "apartments" or "holiday" etc & you will find endless possibilities. Contact the owners & negotiate a monthly rental rate that is usually much cheaper than the summer weekly rate! Most lay empty all winter, so most are thrilled to have good renter for the winter. Don't be afraid to negotiate!

Free wifi & broadband internet is available in many but not all. We've gotten around that with great places without by using satellite and also contacting a Brit broadband cable internet provider who lives nearby.(Usually the rental owner will split the $150. installation cost with you as it increases his place's value, then you pay 29 euros a month for high speed. ) There are other ways to get  internet, but we have not done them all as usually we find it already there.

For a really great and furnished 2 to 4 bedroom ( separate house in the countryside or village house or apt  within) with every convenience and newly built or remodeled in the last 5 years (most with pools, washing machine, dishwasher, terraces and Med sea views) you will pay between 300 to 600 euros a month in our village and even less if you pick a further out, more remote village. ( A FAR inferior unfurnished 2 bedroom rental cost us $1700.00 a month in California before we left in 2005, after we sold our home).

For those with kids, we have found it very easy to enroll our child in the local school which is just a short walk away. 99% of the school are locals who have lived in our 15th century village for generations. My daughter has 6 sets of cousins in her small class! There is a tiny expat community (2 in my daughters class less as the grades go higher). We usually return in November and leave in April or May and have also had no problem taking our child out of school to travel during that time or when relatives visit.

Despite the cruise wear that tourists who visit wear, it is not a tropical climate in the winter, but a Mediterranean one. The locals usually dress more winter-y looking. A fireplace in winter is nice, as there is no central heating, although we have yet to get one.The pool water is not heated, but my daughter usually swims on hot days in November and starting again in March after school and on week ends.

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There are two really nice parks in our small village of about 1000 people as well as a modern gym. There are after school classes like ceramics, rock climbing, flamenco and sports plus a pony club nearby. Andalucian's love very elaborate festivals and everyone in the village participates from the youngest to the oldest ( as I have written about before).


Right now I am at a luxury campground in Barcelona w/wifi ( & 3 pools, restaurant, cottage rentals etc) for 11-17 euros a night where many snow birds from Great Britain, Germany, France, Swiss & Swedes etc stay the winter.

It gets too cold for us here late winter, but before we return to our village we do the above work, call friends & rental agents, line up the best ones before heading south. That way we see them all in person before making final choice & can move right in, usually same day as we arrive!

I recommend staying in the village instead of countryside to become part of the community. Spaniards are Very accepting in our experience, especially  if you speak Spanish. You will be much more isolated in the "campo" (countryside)  & need a car. Returning every winter to same village makes it easier too. We just found ours blindly online, but now it is part of us forever & the sweet people too!! Within an hour of our return, every knows that we are back.

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Andalusia is a huge area, so lots to pick from! If you have more questions please leave them here in the comments.


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Liz

Congratulations on being featured in the new edition of the Four Hour Work Week and many thanks for further expanding on this topic.

Your daughter is getting quite an education and a lifetime experience.

I'm sure your post will inspire other families with children to try more unconventional ways of living and traveling.

Best Regards

Jen Laceda

Your family are real trailblazers! I commend you for a life well-lived!

Carmen

Congratulations on your inclusion in Tim Ferriss' new book. That's quite an honor. I was struck by the quote you included from Location Independent of the woman discussing her preference of Europe vs. a "third world country". I'd like to encourage people not to think of countries in Asia or South America necessarily as "3rd world" which connotes lack of infrastructure, poverty and overall chaos. While this may be the case in certain areas, many countries within Asia and South America are quite developed and sophisticated. I was a bit dumbfounded at the inclusion of Argentina as a "3rd world country" in this comment. I have lived in both South America and Asia in places where every convenience that I could find in the U.S. or Europe was available if I wanted it. I have been particularly impressed here in Brazil with their attention to the latest swine flu epidemic, watching the population take mass precautions that I have never seen in the U.S. I would encourage people who have thought of these areas as underdeveloped to take another look.

Carmen

sorry, I hit "post" prematurely. I would also like to add that if you research your destination carefully before departing you may also find that many places are also safe. We chose Florianopolis Brazil for that very reason. I have felt very safe here, even as a woman traveling with 3 daughters. We walk alone at night, carry cameras, leave backpacks on tables in restaurants while we get food, my daughters take public transportation alone, etc. I feel safer here than in Austin Texas in many regards. I also felt completely comfortable in Japan. For women traveling with concrns about safety they may enjoy reading Great Travel Safety Advice from 4 Women Travel Bloggers at http://www.nunomad.com/blog/travel-safety-for-women/. And finally, I have blended in on the streets here in Brazil even moreso than Europe. The amazing mix of racial backgrounds and their western style of dress make it easy to blend in and not be "the gringa" on the street.

JL Zoeckler

I enjoy following your adventures and I thank you for taking the time to teach us how to do it. My wife and I have been talking about vagabonding for the last 7 years with our 4 daughters and we have been significantly encouraged by your families trek. If we were going trek around europe and asia, what language would you advise we study at home before we go? I'm thinking that any language acquisition we do at home will aid us when we travel/live elsewhere.

Kymri

Love the pic of your daughter by the pool, that's a classic! Thanks for the great info, love Espagna!

Marina K Villatoro

That last picture took my breath away, she is so beautiful.

The first picture looks great, it really captures the escence of that town.

Travel With Kids

We lived in Catalonia for several years. Both my kids were born there and did their early school years there. It's such a wonderfully kid-friendly culture. Have just been checking out your 'roadschooling' post too. Extended family travel is part of our plans for the future and it's so encouraging to read how well you guys seem to be doing. Congrats on being included in the 4HWW too. Look forward to reading it.

azahar

Does Telefónica still charge for putting in a landline? I thought they dropped that a few years ago. I've heard that they are now offering a new broadband service that won't require having a landline.

Congratulations on the "book deal".

Ladyexpat (Nancie)

WOW you have been busy! Congratulations on all your interviews and book features.

One thing I must say though after living in Asia for the past nine years plus....Asia is SAFE. I have traveled all over, and often as a solo traveler, and have never had a problem. Like most places, use your common sense and you'll be fine.

Again...Congratulations!

Ladyexpat (Nancie)

WOW you have been busy! Congratulations on all your interviews and book features.

One thing I must say though after living in Asia for the past nine years plus....Asia is SAFE. I have traveled all over, and often as a solo traveler, and have never had a problem. Like most places, use your common sense and you'll be fine.

Again...Congratulations!

Lise

Congrats on all the attention and feedback. It is well deserved. I know I have personally been inspired by your site.

Artful RV Adventurer

Just found your blog... what a life you had/have/will continue to lead.
It is our goal to take our blog on the road to Europe in the near future. Hope we cross paths.
Mark and Bobbie

soultravelers3

@Liz-Thanks so much! I really appreciate that!

Jen-Aw,thanks-you too!

Carmen-Thanks for your input!We run into lots of people who just prefer Europe, so I don't think Liz is alone in that. But it is true some even thing of Europe as dangerous as plenty warned us before we came for a long stay. That's what's great about the net, we can help each other with a truer perspective!

JL-That's hard to say,but I would pick a dominant and increasing language to make it worth the while. Spanish and Mandarin are the 2 my daughter learns.

Kymri-thanks! ;)

Marina-Wow, thanks!

Travel with kids-Thanks! Who knows, maybe our paths will cross!

azahar -Thanks! I'm not really sure as we haven't gone that way as it seems to complicated.

Ladyexpat-Thanks so much! Great to hear about the safety. It's like that in Spain as well in our village.

Lise-Aw, thanks so much! It's always great to hear that you inspire!

John Bardos - JetSetCitizen

Congratulations on all your success!

Thanks for sharing all the great information on Spain. My wife and I hope to spend a couple of months there next winter. Your advice is very helpful.

Nomadic Fanatic

What a great post full of useful information! No wonder you have had such a run of fantastic happenings! Congrats on the book and thank you so much for inspiring us to get out there and travel full time...it is wonderful!

spaintraveldeals

Thanks for your nice writeup!
I am actually planing a family vacation to Spain, you post has been a true inspiration!

Thank you!

PS: you have a wonderful doughter, congrats!

Margaret S.

I loved this post as I have loved so many of your writings! And I find it interesting that I get as much out of the comments as I do out of what you shared! You are truly attracting a great following of kindred spirits. And it sounds as if, in the campgrounds, you find great people to be friends with in person. Great! Thanks as always for this inspiration!

Margaret S.

Oh, and congratulations on being featured in the coming book release that you mentioned!

Sharon Hurley Hall

Great tips - and beautiful photos. I love the cutout of the bull against the sky - redolent of Spain (though bullfights are not my favorite thing)

AdventureRob

Congrats guys! The nomad lifesyyle is great and I hope you inspire more families to travel.

Barbara Weibel

I absolutely love southern Spain and have often thought of relocating there. Congrats on all your recent awards.

SherryOtt

I just picked up a coy of the new 4HWW - will be sure to look for you in it! Congrats on all of the press!
Great info on living in Spain...cheers!

Cherrye at My Bella Vita

Auguri on your success! I've been following you guys and I'm really happy for you.

soultravelers3

John- You will love it as it's ideal in winter! Glad to help, but sorry we will miss you as we will be in Asia next winter so our child can immerse in Mandarin Chinese!

Nomadic Fanatic Thanks so much. We're always so grateful to know that we have helped & inspired others!

spaintraveldeals I appreciate that.

Margaret Aw thanks! Who knows maybe I will get you out of that snowy winter for a few months of winter sun in Spain, eh? ;) It is amazing how many kindred spirits there are out there & we do seem to meet them every where online & in person!

Sharon- Thanks! I've grown so fond of that bull which is a fairly common sign when driving the countryside of Spain!

Rob-Thanks! I hope so too as it's a good life like you say!

Barbara- So much to adore here, indeed! Thanks!

Sherry- We're really thrilled to be included in 4HWW as I think it was/is a real game changer. Thanks for the kind words & glad to see you here!

Cherrye- Thanks so much! It's been quite a surprise!

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