Living in Spain

by Dee Andrews

Follow our family travels and travails and life changes while living in Spain and traveling throughout the Mediterranean for a year.

View Our Year Abroad in a larger map

In the summer of 2007, while camping in the Colorado mountains, we decided to seize the day, make big life changes and move abroad. My husband was dreaming of warm, sandy beaches and learning to surf. I think he was really dreaming of a career break, a change to his daily life and the routines we had fallen into. I could hardly contain my smile in the dark starry night. I had been dreaming of moving abroad for years. Experiencing another culture, family travel to exotic destinations, writing, and spending lots of time with my daughters and husband. We went home energized and committed to making it happen.

About Life Changes & Family Travel

Almost a year later, after much research, discussion, planning, selling our house, packing or giving away our stuff, we moved to Spain. We wanted a Spanish speaking country, warm weather and the opportunity for great family travels. We had also traveled to Spain in the past so knew a little of what we were getting into! While the year was to be about journeys and finding new paths, they were not all to be of the traveling kind. It was also an opportunity for life changes, a career break, time… to step back and evaluate our careers and plot our next course. We were excited; our daughters, who were six and nine at the time, had their days of excitement, sadness, and a little fear of the unknown.

From Malaga to Valencia, Spain

Throughout that first summer, we spent several weeks in four places in Spain in the Malaga and Valencia regions, scouting out each town to determine where we would be living in Spain.

Our first experience in Javea.

Our first experience in Javea.

Living in Javea

The three weeks we spent in the idyllic Spanish village of Benimeli, about 352 people, took us into nearby Javea for the beach. We really enjoyed Javea, which had a bigger population of about 30,000 and was on the Mediterranean. It reminded me of southern California without the attitude and sprawl! The arenel felt like a beach town, the port more Spanish and lively. We heard a lot of Spanish being spoken, though German, French and English too. There were two international school options, great weather, close proximity to great beaches and mountains, and we eagerly committed to a rental house and schools. We also had Denia, Valencia and Barcelona near for family travels by car or train.

Camel Trek in Sahara Desert

Camel Trek in Sahara Desert

Family Travel to the Mediterranean

Our adventures took us beyond Spain as well. Some of our most memorable experiences were from family travels to Italy, Morocco and Turkey. Our family travels in Morocco and Turkey were highlights for many reasons, but I think mostly because they were so foreign and new to us. Traveling beyond the USA and western Europe was an eye-opening experience and a wonderful way to learn about others.


In many ways, living in Spain was nothing as I expected. Learning a second language was difficult and more so perhaps because we were not immersed as we thought we would be. Many English-speaking expats lived on the coasts of Spain, and English was a common language among many Europeans. We still learned a lot, but we didn’t come home fluent by any means. I also felt that to really immerse in a culture, make friends, experience the ways of life, we needed more than one year. We were just beginning to make friends and share experiences when it was time to return to the States. Our family vacations more than met my expectations and those were the weeks that I enjoyed the most. Living on the road, spending days and weeks with my family, relaxed, out of our routines and trying new things.

All in all, it was a year of amazing ups and downs. The ups I expected; I didn’t realize how hard the downs would be and how much stress and isolation I would feel at times. But I grew; I think we all grew. I know we lived, learned, cried, laughed and had an unforgettable journey, one we’ll do again some day in another way, shape or form.

Our year living in Spain has ended, but we continue our family travels and finding new paths. Enter your email address below to directly receive ideas and inspiration from Travel and Travails:

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Bergren March 1, 2010 at 6:25 am

So excited to discover your blog, Dee! I’m a writer too, dreaming of a RTW with my fam, and have been focusing on Spain as a possible central landing zone. Thanks for all the info and lovely inspiration!

Dee March 1, 2010 at 11:15 am

Hola Lisa,

I can’t encourage you enough to make your RTW dreams a reality! It was so rewarding for my family to change daily routines, try new things and see how other cultures live.

Spain was a great jumping off point for Europe and the Mediterranean countries. My original blog, Sieze el Dia, is full of more specifics if you are interested or please email me directly at

Best of luck!

Rachel Denning March 17, 2010 at 4:04 am

I love finding sites like yours! It’s so great to find families who love to ‘take the leap’ and do something they’ve dreamed of doing.

I really love your site, I’m going to explore it more.

Would you be interested in doing a guest post on my blog? ( )I’m doing a series of posts about families who have done what you’ve done and want to share why, how, and what they learned.

Dee April 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Thanks for commenting Rachel and sharing your blog too, Discover Share Inspire. I’d love to do a guest post.

I enjoyed your article about how travel builds character in parents and kids.

How long have you been in India now and how long will you stay?

~ Dee

Stacey Potter March 4, 2011 at 8:30 am

Wonderful blog! Thanks so much for putting this together. We are planning a trip to Spain with our family soon, and I will refer to this for sure.

Dee Andrews March 4, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Glad you enjoy Travel and Travails! Hope you are finding ideas for your upcoming trip to Spain. Let me know if you have any questions; I’m always happy to make recommendations! =)

Erin July 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I just found your blog and have found that it has lots of great information! I had some questions to ask you and tried to send an email to the link, but it wouldn’t accept my email. Is there any other way to get in touch other than on a public forum? Thanks! Erin

Dee Andrews July 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm

@ Erin, Glad you found Travel and Travails. I did receive your email… there is an extra step in there to prevent spam… so look for my reply to you directly.

Barbara August 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm

So much info you’ve provided here! Thanks! I’ve been trying to start planning our trip to Spain this past month and have been getting nowhere. I guess I’ll take some of your advice!
Barbara´s last blog post ..Suede Sectional Slipcovers

Sherrie Hellickson April 24, 2012 at 12:20 am

US family coming from China, living now in Bangkok, wanting to move to Spain. I home school and was curious about schools near Javea. Where did your daughters attend? Did you get a student visa? Loved your blog and pictures.

Dee Andrews April 25, 2012 at 10:58 am

@ Sherrie, Our daughters attended The Lady Elizabeth School. There is also Xabia International College. I recommend both. We applied for resident visas for our entire family, which are different than student visas. Glad you’ve enjoyed my blog and hope you’ve found it helpful. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Micki June 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Hi Dee, I’m so glad I came across your blog. We’ve been thinking of spending a few months in Spain this winter, and I’m finding this very helpful. Thanks!

Dee Andrews June 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Hola Micki, glad you’re finding helpful information here on Travel and Travails! Let us know where you land in Spain.

~ Dee

codie August 10, 2012 at 11:40 am

How did you travel the cities of spain? Did you rent a car or did you bring yours from the states?

Dee Andrews August 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Hi Codie,

We rented a car to use around town and for short local trips, and we frequently took the train to other cities in Spain. Also the regional airlines, Ryan Air and Easy Jet.

~ Dee

Bianca August 30, 2012 at 7:29 am

Thanks for sharing about your trip . even though it was a while back now, it is great for me to read as we are about to do the same thing and move to Granada city, Andalusia for 1 year with our 7 & 9 year old kids. We are excited and apprehensive all at once, particularly about the well being of the children going to a foreign school in a new language. Any advice would be most welcome. I’m a little nervous about the isolation but so excited to travel as a family – just us!! We are from Sydney, Australia and I’ve also started a blog about why we are going and the preparations etc…

Costa Less Property September 24, 2012 at 3:24 am

Thanks for sharing this article, sounds like you had a great trip abroad!

Tanya December 26, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Hi There.
I was so happy to have a link come up when I googled about going abroad with our family in Spain!
My biggest issue are the children. We have 12 year old girls. So a little older then your children.
How did they find the school?? I expect it was English speaking?
Are there any websites you would recommend for expats to get information on?

Dee Andrews January 3, 2013 at 9:54 am

@ Tanya, There are two British international schools in and near Javea, Xabia International and Lady Elizabeth. We considered the local schools, but discovered that they teach in the regional language, Valenciano, not Spanish, so opted for the international schools where are daughters had a Spanish class each day. We have friends whose children still attend both schools and are happy with their experiences. The Lady Elizabeth senior school is not in Javea and is a long drive to make daily. They do offer a bus service, but if you live in Javea, your daughters would spend a lot of time on a bus every day.

Many of my recommendations really depend upon what you’re looking for, how long you intend to stay, how much you want to speak Spanish, etc. Let me know if you have other questions, Dee

Dan OBeirne May 31, 2013 at 11:38 am

Enjoying your writing, thanks! D

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