I want you to close your eyes for a minute and imagine: Waking up to the Mediterranean Sea each morning, drinking cappuccinos every day, taking your kids to the beach every afternoon to play in the sand, and soaking up over 320 days of sunshine a year.
That’s the life my husband and I were envisioning when we decided to move to Spain; and that’s the life we were able to have for six blissful months, thanks to my online business.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my suburban home just outside of Vancouver- so obviously we are not still frolicking in the Spanish sun (okay, frolicking is maybe a little strong) …but if you want to know how we were able to pull it off, how we ended up on TV, and why we’re now back in Canada, then keep reading!
Why We Chose Spain
I’m going to start this off by answering the number one question we faced when we decided to take the leap and pack our family half way across the world: Why Spain? If you’ve seen our episode of House Hunters International on HGTV, you’ll know that we have absolutely no connection to Spain- in fact, it wasn’t even on our radar as a possible destination until just a few months before we made the jump!
The truth is, my husband and I have been talking about living in Europe since we first started dating- back when we both had very un-mobile careers and absolutely no ability to pull it off. We looked at France, figuring that as Canadians it was probably a good idea to learn French anyway- and then we turned our attention to Malta. Malta is a teeny tiny country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea; along with warm temperatures and the perks of EU membership, it also has the very attractive quality of a population that speaks both Maltese and English- meaning my husband could eventually work if he wanted to.
After spending a week in Malta together however, we realized that our fantasy didn’t quite line up with the realities of setting up life on a small, insanely populated rock in the middle of a very large sea…not to mention the fact that we actually preferred the look of life on Gozo- a second, smaller island in the Maltese archipalego- and so we shelved the idea.
Funnily enough, while we were on our way back to Canada from Malta, my virtual assistant was on her way to Valencia, Spain with her husband and dog- and once they were settled in, we started to hear more and more amazing things about life in Spain… and all of a sudden, we became Spain obsessed.
Six months later, we booked our flights to Valencia.. and as they say, the rest is history!
What It Took To Move
A small but important detail about our move to Spain: Neither of us speaks a word of Spanish. That means that for all practical purposes, my husband couldn’t work there until he was at least conversational- and we had to be realistic about the fact that his law enforcement and army career did not translate to a country where he wasn’t a citizen.
Obviously, that meant that my income would be our only income. When we first looked at moving to Europe years ago, I was working for a local nonprofit and Bryn was working full time with the army reserve- our incomes were not portable, and that effectively killed our plans back then. Times are different now, however, and since having our son I’ve built an online business that provides a steady stream of substantial income for me and my family. After taking a good hard look at the numbers, we knew we were in the incredible position of being able to move anywhere in the world with an internet connection… all we had to do was pick a place that met a few key requirements:
Since we were moving with our then 2.5 year old and not just by ourselves, we had some extra concerns for our new potential home. On top of a good internet connection and relatively safety, we also needed to find a family-friendly place with quality accessible healthcare, good schools/childcare, and a viable immigration route, since we planned to stay at least 18-24 months. EU countries were the obvious choice given that I have British citizenship, which gave us an easy route to residency… and as I explained above, we went through a few options before finally settling on Spain- specifically, Valencia.
Where We Ended Up
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and sits on the Mediterranean Coast. It has some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen, along with every modern amenity and service you’d expect from a bustling European city. After checking out some places in the city center, we ended up settling a few kilometers north of the city in a beach side resort town called Port Saplaya. In retrospect, I do sortof wish we had stayed in the city- but when we first arrived, my little guy was really overwhelmed by the volume and bustle of the city center, so we opted for a more tranquil seaside experience instead.
Port Saplaya is known as “Valencia’s Little Venice” and while it’s not exactly like the real thing, it is absolutely breathtaking. We scored a three bedroom apartment overlooking the marina on one side and just steps from the sea on the other, which was seriously amazing. It wasn’t a perfect place (honestly, Spanish craftsmanship is kindof an oxy moron) but as we sat on the terrace every day drinking coffee and looking at this view, we were pinching ourselves and asking over and over if this was real life.
What It Meant For My Business
When we first arrived in Valencia, I had to attend ten million appointments and viewings to get our residency rolling and find us a place that wasn’t an AirBnb, which meant I didn’t have much time for active client work. During this time, I was able to focus on the logistics of our move thanks to revenue from course sales and recurring client payment plans for work I had already done back in Canada. As I got more settled in my new surroundings, I made an effort to network in local entrepreneur groups and rustle up a few clients so that I could start to generate referrals in Valencia and just make myself known in the expat community. This strategy worked really well, and I was able to get three clients in Valencia right off the bat. In the meantime, my husband being home with our son finally gave me the time I had desperately needed to work on my course and membership offerings. Over the course of a few months, I was able to pour time and effort into my Facebook community, my digital courses, and my coaching offers– all of which brought in steady revenue that allowed us to live a truly wonderful life there.
House Hunters International
Probably the most surreal part of our time in Spain was the opportunity to film an episode of House Hunters International with HGTV. Bryn and I are House Hunters junkies- it’s probably the only thing we both enjoy watching together, and we seriously love snuggling up on the couch to shamelessly judge all the people house shopping on the show. The fact that we are on the show is both hilarious and mindblowing, because I cannot even tell you how many episodes of this we have watched in the course of our relationship! I’ve got a separate blog post about that entire experience as this one is already so long, but here’s the Coles Notes for now:
I emailed HHI casting when we were visiting Europe the first time, and promptly forgot about it. Months later, while we were setting up in Spain, they contacted me to see if we had followed through on our plan and we began a multi-step casting process that involved telling our story and providing photos, videos, and having various chats with the producers of the show. Within a few weeks of back and forth, they had decided to cast us in an episode- cue the self-inflicted panic!
Yes, panic- because I really didn’t want to be filmed. Honestly, if I didn’t have this business, I probably would never have pursued this opportunity. I have literally zero desire to be on TV, and frankly, the thought of seeing myself on national television (let alone other people seeing me on it) kindof makes me want to crawl into a hole and die. But, I figured that with our big move and all the strides I was making in my business, it was a season of saying YES- so that’s what I did.
By the time we actually filmed, I was nearly 10 weeks pregnant, and Valencia had hotted up to a balmy 37 degrees Celsius. As you can imagine, all-day morning sickness and temperatures above 30 are not a good mix- so if you do see our episode, please excuse my intense nausea bloat and slightly pained facial expression throughout most of the filming. I promise, I was really really happy there- just trying not to barf all over my poor husband, who was trying to compensate for my lack of energy and making me appear even more miserable in the process, LOL.
Why We Came Home
Things in Spain were going really well when we hit the six month mark- we had obtained residency for all three of us, we were spending time as a family every single day, and we were both healthier and more relaxed than we had been in years. After a string of miscarriages back in Canada and what I now realize was probably adrenal fatigue, I was focused on self care in the form of good nutrition, sunshine, and rest. (This approach obviously worked, because as I write this I am currently 31 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby, yay!) My husband was spending more time with our son than he had ever been able to before, and we were making travel plans to start exploring the rest of Spain and Europe later in the year.
Unfortunately, it turned out that we were not destined to stay in Spain for the year or two we had initially planned. Sometime just past the six month mark we got a call from Canada that changed everything- and in the space of three weeks we had booked flights, packed up (again) and headed home. My baby brother needed us- specifically, a home with us- and we knew that no matter how surreal our life in Spain was, we couldn’t live it if he wasn’t safe and happy. Plus, now my son gets to have a live-in cool uncle to play with, so I’d call that a win!
Obviously, this was not how we thought things would go- but that’s life! I’m endlessly grateful that I have a business that not only supported us moving in the first place, but allowed us to come back at the drop of a hat and provide stability and security for my little brother. It’s not lost on me how special that is- and it just gets me even more fired up to share my methods and knowledge with you all.
Your dream may not be Spain- it could be anything. But I guarantee that life is going to throw you curve balls while you’re trying to make it happen, and I want you to have a business that can support your highs and your lows. That’s why Self-Made Mama exists and why I create these digital products– because you deserve both success and security, no matter what that looks like for you.
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