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This article was submitted by Sharon of Live Spain for Life. Sharon moved with her husband and children to Albatera in Costa Blanca to enjoy a better quality of life than they had in the UK. It's been far from easy for Sharon and her family...
We are a family of five; Emma now 12, Danny 14 and Jamie 18, and me Sharon with my husband Paul have completely sold up in England and begun a new life here in the town of Albatera on the Costa Blanca.
Our Story so far: My husband Paul decided he wanted to live in France, but that was 20 years ago! No seriously, he always dreamed of moving to France and was in fact going over there to work with his brother, had sold his house and everything, then he met me.......oops, anyway that was the end of that dream for a few years anyway. 15 years later he decided to start working on me, he was sick of working all hours and basically wanted to give the kids a better future, not really in monetary terms but quality of family life etc. Anyway I eventually said if we must buy abroad then Spain not France, more accessible and more sunshine! (Definitely got that right then).
At first we just wanted to buy a holiday home, which we did, down in Mazzaron on the notoriously slow at being built urbanization Camposol. However, very soon after we had signed on the dotted line we were also sold on being here full time, after spending a couple of holidays down there on Camposol itself. Unfortunately the place did not match up to our criteria for full time living, no international school for Jamie for a start, not good planning to be honest with hindsight, but if we all had that we would never learn by our mistakes would we!!!!
We really thought it would be a while before we actually moved out full time at that point so we had to look further a field which we did, travelling all over the Costa Blanca, up the coast and then inland and ended up here in Albatera, which is near enough to the coast and the cities but gives us the quiet country life as well. We bought our holiday home 3 years ago so it seems a long time ago but isn't really is it?
It was quite a quick decision between the holiday home and moving permanently because of the kids ages really, if we didn't do it at that point then we would have to wait for Jamie to finish his education by which time he would probably not want to come with us at all and also Danny & Emma would have been too old really for it to be fair to put them into Spanish state school. With hindsight this has worked really well for us, they are both able to hold a proper Spanish conversation and often have to help me out, I am ashamed to say!
Jamie has a girlfriend here now and although he did go back to the UK after his A levels, it looks like even if he does go back to University he will come back, early days I know. But all three are very happy and settled at the moment and I cannot tell you enough that if only one good thing were to come out of moving to Spain it would be the difference in lifestyle that our children have here and although I am often tied to this computer like you wouldn't believe.
We all spend a lot more time doing family things. I also notice that I seem to get a lot more help around the house now without everyone moaning about it! Wow!!! We actually all enjoy working together in the sunshine, funny how the weather has that much of an effect on everyone's well being and happiness. We also left in the UK a perfectly successful business which we helped run with our partner in the UK who now carries it on in our absence. This was a risk but one we felt important enough to take in order to better ours and our children's lives in the future.
So there you are....sounds like a life story! But this is how we came to being here and this is how we did it………
We trawled the Internet looking at properties on many different websites or at least I did, Paul is not into computers at all, I found that unlike the UK most of the properties can be bought through many different agents!
We carefully considered many different areas, our main criteria being Schooling for our three children, two of whom would go to main stream Spanish school as they were young enough to cope with this and the eldest to go a private school which followed the English curriculum as he would be studying for his A levels, a bit too much to ask, we thought, to learn a completely new language at this important time of his education. Obviously this being so, narrowed our search down quite a bit as there are not so many International Schools in the part of Spain we preferred, we also had to consider the time and distance of travel that would be necessary on a daily basis.
We found to our surprise that we actually knew more about the schools and the whereabouts of them from our own investigations! Not very helpful of some agents really when this advice is just as necessary as that of the property and area you choose (still this came in handy later).
We are not saying that nobody knew anything just that the people we chose didn't know as much as we had already found out!
Of the agents we chose, three of them had the property we eventually fell in love with, and ended up buying, on their books, but at different prices! After having two offers refused through one agent found it was still over our budget. Unfortunately whilst we were very disappointed we had already decided under no circumstances could we go any higher and this meant we had to resume our search. Luckily we had already done our own research on the schools and health facilities in that particular area or I don't think we could have even put an offer in on that basis.
This is where we got lucky, we think so anyway! On the penultimate day of this particular trip we were lucky enough to be introduced, through some friends we had made on a previous visit to Spain to a local Spanish agent who by sheer luck took us to see the very same property which was destined to be our new home. Believe it or not this time it was within our budget! So we met up with the vendor and agreed a price and time scale in which to complete the sale.
Don't get me wrong it is hard work living & working here in Spain even if you can get by with the language it is very difficult and even the simplest of tasks can be quite a challenge. I also found out that my Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer just after we had paid our second deposit and sold our house in the UK. Its times like these when you start to question your motives. Thankfully after the upset of that she is now, after surgery and chemo, clear and well and has been out here four times a year since.
And also despite being robbed twice in two days losing all my jewellery, watches, my sons’ jewellery and all his leaving presents from his mates in the UK, TVs cameras kids Play stations and DVDs etc in fact the total loss was more than 16,000 euros and we only got 8,000 back from the insurance. We are sure enough and there was another family reporting a similar crime when we ourselves reported this one. What to do, then give up or not… certainly not!
We have now made some neighbourhood watch signs in Spanish and all our neighbours display them including the Spanish ones. Since our arrival in Spain we have also lost a much loved cat called Tutan to a blood disorder and a beautiful Podenco bitch called Carmen was run over just outside our gate and killed outright a couple of months ago, only to be found by my 12 year old son to whom she belonged and he was, as we all were absolutely devastated by this. Very unlucky and nothing really to do with Spain although at the time you do question your motives and wonder what you all did to deserve this bad luck, but bad luck is what it is! However we are fighters and we move on and hopefully we are stronger from our experiences.
Paul is now working for a firm in double glazing after doing a stint of the usual building work that a high percentage of expats often do when they move to Spain, this was not planned as he had got enough work to do on our place for the first year at least but as it happened he did it to help someone out. Anyway it worked well and gave us a bit of extra income whilst I wrote my website, which was something I had planned to do ever since we moved over because of our own experiences and lack of help and advice that we found. I didn’t know of this forum or any for that matter which would have been a godsend and is for many as I now recommend many of my potential clients have a look when they want honest advice from the people who live in the thick of it
We have just applied for residencia for the five of us and await the lovely trip to Alicante to do finger prints etc, not because we have to by law but because we think it will make life easier and also for tax purposes and not paying extortionate bank fees for foreigner.
Two years on and a lot more has happened, please forgive me as I am not now sure its been such a long time what order it has actually happened we have also had our ups and downs, yes more but we are still here to stay (as sure as anyone can be) when I mentioned earlier that the research had stood us in good stead when we bought I decided that or thought that I could help people more from our own experiences so that was where Live spain for life was born. I needed to work and I could set this up from home. Well once I got started on this website it was work and late nights for a long long time, in fact it took over 6 months to write the site and then get is recognized and searched and when I actually started to get inquiries it was fantastic but slow, initially I was to use other agents to supply the properties but that soon developed as I made new contacts and got to know a lot of people in the area, a lot of my clients are recommended or come to me through my website because it is a little different and paints a true picture of what life is really like here!
In the last two years I have lost my Mum at 59 this was terrible and only months after being given the all clear the cancer came back in her liver it only took a matter of weeks before she was gone, the website and the thought of Mum not knowing what a success it had become gave me the encouragement and the fight to work even harder for her in a funny way as she was a very successful woman in her own right and wrote books on Driving, I have recently helped get her home study pack published with a publisher in London and it has just been re-launched which is fantastic and means her name will live on.
When things like this happen you do question your own life and the decisions you make and I am trying to get some sort of order in my life. What I mean by this is trying not to be up till the small hours answering emails tiring myself out which is what I was doing night after night in the early days, I love my work so that’s a bonus I suppose which brings me round to the children as they miss out if I am always working so I try to have a bit more free time, I am working on it!!
Jamie our eldest completed his A levels passing them all then went to the UK to learn to drive, but then decided he wanted to stay, I was gutted, however three months on he has been training with Notts County Football Club under 19's but has decided that he wants to be back in Spain with his family and will try his football career out here, hopefully getting a job in between, his Spanish is very good so we will see how that pans out...........
Danny he loves it out here, although at 14 he grunts quite a bit. He plays football for the local team Albatera and goes to Teakwondo in the town too. On a Sunday he goes to golf with his Dad and then out quadding so he is in his element really. Emma and I go horse riding providing I don't have clients that is! She also goes to Teakwondo and did go to golf but is not really keen on that now much to here dad’s disappointment.
Both Danny and Emma now have English lessons, their Spanish is great, but spelling in English, due to lack of it at school and MSN (the internet chat site) is not always good!
Paul was enjoying working for the double glazing company and was doing quite well, unfortunately though the company had problems and he ended up being a few thousand euros out of pocket, so went back to the building with a builder who had just come over from the UK and was just setting up, he did this for a while but I got so busy I needed help with my work if not at work but at home, so Paul then was able to do a bit on our place in between helping me. This was working well until a few clients of mine asked him to do some work on their places, so to make things a little easier I got some help around the house and this has mad a huge difference.
Including us two legged people we now have 4 dogs and 2 cats, we have lost two cats in the last two months so not very good going there, very sad but the way I look at it now is that we have given them a good life for however long we have been able to!!
I am not looking at any more dogs I pass in the street!!! or that is where I probably will be!
The business is now fully registered and I am enjoying the work which up to press is growing from strength to strength. I could let it grow but it would not be so personal, it is hard sometimes as there are lots of pitfalls and I try to tell my clients the truth about them which does make for more work and grief, but at least I sleep at night!