Living the Good Life With a Portable Income

When my husband and I landed in Alicante, it was the first time we ever set foot in the Spanish coastal town built around the edges of the Mediterranean.

We quickly made a ritual of sitting on our sunlit balcony to enjoy a meal of fresh bread tapas, topped with cured cheese and salty olives. It was August, and 80 F afternoons made eating outdoors an inevitable and enjoyable experience. As we dined one night, a parade of dozens of revelers, head to toe in resplendent costumes, announced their presence with horns and singing as they marched below.

We were in luck; we had front-row seats to the annual Moors and Christians festival, a noisy, exuberant reenactment of the centuries-long battle between the two groups for the soul of Spain. The celebration has been held here for over 700 years, a fact reflected in the proud and jubilant expressions on the participants’ faces. We raced outside to join the growing crowd. For 14 straight days, the streets were filled with music, singing, dancing, food, life, and color. After that experience, I knew Alicante would be different.

My life abroad started typically enough. After becoming a qualified English teacher, I left Boston to pursue work on the international school circuit. This led to two years in Asia, 18 months in Europe, and stints distance-teaching students from Saudi Arabia and China while I bounced between Canada and Denmark.

Though the locations were exotic, my schedule was just as hectic as the teaching life I had left behind in the States. A year into my latest contract, the lengthy commute, mandatory overtime, and no days off prompted me and my husband to make a decisive change.

We quit our jobs, and over a few glasses of Mateus rosé, chose Alicante, Spain as the locale for our fresh start. By late summer, I was headed to my fourth country in three years, only this time, a full-time job did not await me.

In between exploring the charming jacaranda and hibiscus-filled streets in Alicante’s historic Santa Cruz barrio (neighborhood) and soaking in the sun on the sandy, pristine beaches of the Costa Blanca, I was planning my next career move.

I decided to look for opportunities to work with nonprofit organizations remotely. I discovered that grant writing was an in-demand skill. After poring through books, taking online courses, and joining a few professional organizations, I was ready to start on a new path. I registered as a self-employed person and started working with community organizations based in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

For the first time in my life, I can set my own schedule. Some days, I stick to the traditional nine-to-five, making time in the evening for a long, aimless stroll with my dog and my husband. Other days, I follow Alicante’s lead, and use the hours between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to drink a small caña, practice Spanish with a stranger, then head to a local outdoor market for farm-fresh vegetables. Then after that, I get back to my writing and work up an appetite for a delicious dinner that will be enjoyed way after the sun goes down.

Alicante’s low cost of living enabled me and my husband to work fewer hours while maintaining the same standard of living we enjoyed when our commutes took up a sixth of our day and the only words we had time to say to each other were “good night,” “good morning,” and “coffee first.”

For those considering moving to another country, remember that no matter where you are, your destiny is still in your own hands. Make decisions that will move you toward living the life you want. For me, that meant moving to Southern Spain. On paper, I’ve been working abroad for over five years. It wasn’t until my move to Alicante that I realized that I could actually live abroad too.

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