How a Globetrotter Found Her Second Paradise in Barcelona

When I lived in Canada, I was a national construction safety officer and owned a safety consulting and training company. I had 10 employees, worked around 12 hours a day, and I was a single mom. Then I decided it was time for a change. I realized “the rat race” was something I no longer wanted to be a part of. I wanted to enjoy life while I could.

In 2011, I semi-retired and moved to Costa Rica. Long walks on the beach most mornings with my dog were extremely relaxing. I enjoyed it year-round and didn’t have to think about the cold Canadian winters and snow. But after four years in Costa Rica, I started to get bored with the small-town life. I wanted to do more and see more of the world. This is when I became an international housesitter and travel writer.

For the next year and a half, I traveled through the U.K. and Europe housesitting. I loved the travel. However, I became tired of living out of a suitcase; I wanted some routine and my own space.

Then I arrived in Barcelona. It was the first city that had everything on my checklist:

  • An international airport: I still travel back to Canada twice a year.

  • Seasons: I wanted a place that was not always hot like Costa Rica and never cold like Canada.

  • Beaches: I love being near the water and wanted a place with the beach.

  • City life: I get bored in small towns, I enjoy a lot of options on a regular basis.

Excellent transportation: I did not want to buy a vehicle, so I wanted a city that was easily walkable and had a great transportation system.

After three days, I knew Barcelona was going to be my next home-base. I found a three-bedroom apartment just outside the city center that is walkable to everything I wanted. There is a bakery on the corner, a convenience store right next door, and a great little bar a short walk away. Additionally, there are several shops, pharmacies, restaurants, parks, and squares within minutes of my apartment.

My life in Barcelona is very different to how it was in Canada. I now work as a freelance writer and travel as a house and pet sitter. Two days a week I meet with a group of other freelancers for co-working. It has been a great way to make friends. In the evenings there are countless events and language exchanges that anyone can attend throughout the city.

I love never setting an alarm clock. I wake up when I’m well-rested. If it is not a co-working day I will go the beach for a few hours or discover new areas of the city, like the Bunkers del Carmel. Here anti-aircraft guns were installed during the Spanish Civil War. On my visit to the area, I enjoyed the panoramic views of Barcelona and learned a little about its history. Other days I have enjoyed discovering the public works on display throughout the city by Antoni Gaudi. Instead of indoor Sunday brunch in Canada, I join friends on an outdoor terrace surrounded by Gothic architecture buildings, for a glass of wine and tapas a few evenings a week; never having to think about snow or freezing cold temperatures.

Spending time at the beach or wandering through the maze of cobblestone streets surrounded by jaw-dropping Catalan Gothic, medieval, and Modernism architecture buildings never get tiring. The option to join a group to go on a day-trip to various areas and towns around Barcelona is available every weekend.

Depending on where you want to live in Barcelona the cost of housing can vary dramatically. If you want to be in the city center, you are going to pay more for rent or to purchase. Rent for a modern two- or three-bedroom flat near the city center will cost about $1,350. However, you can still be in the city, close to a metro line and the beach and pay a lot less than the center. I find food is substantially cheaper in Spain than in Canada. I spend about $35 a week on groceries and can get a good bottle of wine for $2.50. Fruits and vegetables are very inexpensive in Spain. Most restaurants have a lunch menu of the day for about $13. This includes a drink (wine, beer, soda, or bottle of water), a starter, an entrée, and dessert or tea/coffee. Lunch is usually around 2 p.m. so dinner is something very light for me.

Healthcare in Spain is excellent. As a Canadian, I’m not used to having to pay for it, so it was a change for me. I am not a resident yet. However, my private healthcare covers me everywhere in the world, so I no longer need to buy any travel insurance. This is nice because I still travel a lot. My full healthcare coverage costs me around $1,100 a year.

Spain is full of large cities and small towns. Some areas get a lot hotter than others in the summer. If you are thinking about moving to Spain, I recommend you first think about what you like. Do you want a large city or a small town, beach area or inland, touristy place or local? Then make a list of places that you may like and go visit them. Spain has many beautiful places and the cost of living will vary accordingly.

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