A Soft Landing and a $300-a-Month Rental in Spain

I was eight years into my Vietnam adventure, living in a $300-a-month ocean-view apartment, earning a living teaching English, and starting to think my wanderings had ceased.

Then Covid-19 came along.

With all Vietnam schools closed indefinitely, my finances took a major hit, so I decided to take early retirement. This would ensure a regular income in uncertain times, as well as give me time to work on some long-term, oft-postponed projects. However, changes to immigration rules in Vietnam meant my time in the beguiling country I had come to love was over.

Now I was back on the road; an itinerant traveler looking for a safe haven. But where to go?

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I set out a list of criteria to help me determine where in the world would suit me best.

The final answer surprised me.

Granada, Spain.

rent in granada
©iStock/syolacan

I had no history there, had never visited, and knew almost nothing beyond the clichés of Don Quixote, siestas, and bullfights. But it hit every point on my list of must-haves.

The first of my criteria was cost of living. My new hometown would have to be affordable on my monthly retirement income alone—a worst-case scenario best prepared for. That made my budget about $1,300.

The second point was that my choice would have to be below the Covid red zone, with free or cheap vaccinations, and sensible science-based policies that seemed to be working.

The next point was ease of entry. All I would need, preferably, was proof of vaccination, and a reliable airline with a good record regarding flight cancellations.

And the fourth point was that it be an EU country.

Why?

Because I hold dual citizenship.

I am a U.S. citizen and also an Italian citizen, and therefore an EU citizen. That means no hassles with visa extensions, free or nominal-cost universal healthcare, and easy passage to and from other EU member countries.

As an aside, if you have the slightest interest in living or working in an EU country, by all means look into getting a second passport—it can open worlds for you. I got mine over 10 years ago and it made this relocation process so much smoother. Also, if you intend on pursuing a second passport, start now; mine took more than five years to process.

Of course there were other attractions too…

Granada is a beautiful city with dramatic landscapes and friendly people. It has great cuisine, and drinks come with tapas—free food! Transportation is cheap and comprehensive, and city-wide siestas testify to the importance the Spanish place on a relaxed lifestyle. It’s also home to a diverse population, including about 80,000 students at its various schools and universities.

Arriving at my hotel in Granada was a moment of quiet joy. After four-months in the U.S. couch-surfing and house-surfing, planning and deciding, I finally had my own room with a lock on the door, in my country and city of choice.

I was staying just off Elvira street, at the heart of the tourist district. The souvenir shops sold rugs and postcards and local restaurants dished up tasty meals for as little as $3. A glass of beer, with tapas, was just $1.70.

After a month, hotel living, running $300 a week, was rapidly eating into my savings. I looked at some rental apartments but at $700-a-month they were beyond my budget. Some also wanted multi-year commitments, and four months’ rent up front. My living requirements needed some fine tuning.

Enter Facebook Groups.

I put up an ad looking for an apartment, and someone soon contacted me and offered me a room for rent in their house. Including utilities and WiFi, it’s $300 a month.

So here I am, living like a college student again, sharing a house with an anthropologist, a software engineer, and a waitress.

The line for the shower is almost non-existent, and the neighborhood wanderings are as endless as they are delightfully unpredictable.

My home is in the Barrio Realejoe—a traditional Jewish neighborhood of medieval stairways and ancient cobblestone plazas with outdoor cafés.

Looking down to the end of my street I can see the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

I’ve got a place to sleep, a workspace where I sit and write, all of Granada at my doorstep…and the rest of Spain and Europe just a little farther.

These are challenging times for travel, but there are still choice locations out there for the savvy, safety-conscious traveler looking for a happy ending.

For me, here in Spain, it’s been a pretty soft landing.

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