Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Two weeks into our stay in Spain, we are faced with several decisions that will effect our quality of life in the next year or so. Thankfully, our current landlord, Anthony, has been extremely kind in helping us navigate our way through some of our unknowns, so we feel armed with at least a little bit of knowledge (which will likely change the longer we are here). We have questions about retirement visas, local bank accounts, cell phones, communities, transportation, schools etc.

Retirement Visa
Anthony seems to have a pretty extensive network of American friends here, having helped many of them acclimate upon their arrival in Spain. Though he has a residence card and holds an Italian passport (his grandfather was born in Italy which entitles him to one), he said that the majority of the American immigrants that he knows have stayed without a legal visa. For the 4 of us to apply for the retirement visa would cost us a $520 application fee (not to mention a lot of time and effort), and that is without any guarantee that the visa would be granted. However, if we want the freedom to continue traveling throughout Europe safely, having a visa is the smartest thing to do. Also, there are real advantages to holding a residence card, which one can only do with a proper visa. We still have some more thinking to do about all of this!

Bank Accounts and Cell Phones
Opening a local bank account should be relatively easy with just our passport. This will enable us to transfer larger sums of money here and avoid multiple transaction fees (the fee is the same whether the transfer is for $1 or $100,000). Also, once we rent longer term, all of our bills will need to come directly out of a local account. Anthony told us that his bank is very easy to work with and everything is accessible on-line. Once we get settled, that is where we will start.

As I write, Bill and Anthony are biking to a local cell phone carrier to get phones for Bill and me. Anthony explained the easiest kinds of plans (some, he said, are very complicated), and agreed to go with Bill to be sure we got the plan that works best for us right now. We think we really only need local phones to be able to call each other, since we have Skype to call friends and family back home, but once we get a bit more settled, we can switch to a monthly contract that is cheaper.

Communities, Schools and Transportation
We rented a car for a few days and drove south along the coast to try to find a place that we want to be for awhile. Originally, we thought that place would be north of Valencia - between Valencia and Barcelona - but Anthony told us two things that changed our minds: the northern coast isn't as pretty due to overbuilding and it's colder up the coast.

About an hour south of here is a town called Javéa (Habea). Originally a fishing port, it has become a beautiful resort town. Homes are built in the hills on the mountains that line the coast, and the climate is perfection. The biggest drawback to Javéa is that it has become a major destination of many British expats, so English is spoken in many places. It is a place that we will have to really seek out Spanish immersion, but it may be worth it.

Another drawback to a community like Javéa is that we will need a car to get around. That was one of the things we really wanted to avoid. Also, unless we have a residence card, we cannot get drivers' licenses here (and even then there is a lot of red tape). Bill did some checking and found that he can get a temporary international drivers' license through AAA, so that is what we will do for now.

The schools in Javéa are supposed to be quite good, as well, but we will need to investigate a little more. We still are unsure of the procedures for Americans to enroll in the public schools, though we are told that it is quite easy.

We met with a realtor in Javéa and decided to rent a villa there until mid-December. It is a 3 bedroom furnished villa with a pool and beautiful view, and will only run us 800 Euros per month (about $1100). This will give us a chance to see how we like living a more suburban life here and if Javéa is right for us. The kids are, of course, so excited at the prospect of having their own bedrooms (I wonder how long it will take them to decide to share, though) and a pool, and Bill and I are thrilled to have such a beautiful outside space to maximize the amazing weather that this region enjoys.

It feels good to be making some decisions, if only temporary ones. We are all craving a little more stability right now and I think this will give us some. We still hope to travel and explore other parts of Spain in the coming months, though, and are not sure what the future holds for us!

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