A view from the Costas - our man in Spain, Spring 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

A view from the Costas - our man in Spain, Spring 2014

One of the really wonderful things about living in Spain is the sheer variety of things to do and the vibrancy of the lifestyle on offer.

I was recently reminded of this by a friend of mine, Alan Higgins, who is retired and has been living over here for the past ten years.

With some justification, Alan said that the perception of his friends in the UK was that all expatriates did in Spain was sit beside their swimming pools getting ever more sozzled, whilst turning the colour and texture of wrinkled mahogany.

Doomed to a rather pointless, sybaritic existence, there was little more to do, his UK friends thought, than for expatriates to stagger around a golf course before going to a local bar to whinge about how the UK was going to hell in a handcart.

This is a perception foreign to Alan and is not something that I encounter. In fact, the reverse is true and I continually marvel at how fulfilled are most of the expatriates that I know.

Indeed, trying to get hold of friends of mine who are retired is oft en problematic. Almost all have social lives that are extremely busy, many are pursuing some kind of sport or outdoor activity and virtually everyone, to their eternal credit, is involved in some form of charitable work.

Like many of his friends, Alan is the living embodiment of the type of life that can be lived in Spain and the way that retirement can become both meaningful and great fun, probably to the surprise of most people living in the UK.

Before he came to Spain, Alan was the senior partner of an art gallery in the UK and lived a hectic business life, with little time for other interests.

This was brought to a halt by some health issues, which meant that he had to retire early. Now, he is involved in a bewildering range of activities, as he told me, over a coffee last week.

"Well, as you know, I help at the Original Charity Shop in Javea and at the English conversation group on Saturdays in Gandia. I am also social secretary at the Gandia Area Social Club and organize an array of cultural trips, sports and events.

"Most weeks I attend a classical concert in Gandia and my wife and I are out several times a week with friends either for lunch or dinner. I play golf and petanque and go for days out with the boys on our off-road trials bikes or with the 'Topless Club'.

Add to that visits to different parts of Spain and friends and family coming to visit us during the year and you get a really hectic life."

I hasten to add that Alan clarified that the 'Topless Club' is a group of friends, who go out together for drives into the countryside
in their open top sports cars!

I gather this is great fun and makes the best possible use of Spain's fabulous (and almost deserted) country roads.

Alan's enthusiasm for his life in Spain reminds me of a conversation I had, some years ago with a UK engineer, who was on the point of retirement. When I met him he had just bought a house in Spain but he was clearly troubled. "But what am I going to do?" he queried; worried by the blank space that lay ahead, once he retired and moved into his new house.

Well, I did not see the engineer for some six months but when I did, and I asked him how he was getting along, he beamed at me.

"I should have called you," he said. "However I have been so busy that I have not had time. It's wonderful! I really don't know what I was worried about."

My point is that Spain is not just limited to the tired clichés of sun, sea and sangria. It has much more than that, which is why most expatriates happily stay here for the rest of their lives.

In truth, if you are thinking of coming to Spain then you can be assured of a new phase of life that can be truly rewarding, amazing value for money and provide you with more raw fun than you have ever had before.

You may be coming here to retire but that does not mean that your life will 'stop' or that you cannot thrill to a whole host of new activities.
I see many retired expatriates who have been positively rejuvenated by the life-enhancing adventure of living here.

Personally, I think this is the best single reason for moving to Spain.

Nick Snelling left the UK a decade ago to pursue a new life in Valencia with his family. A commentator on life in Spain (Twitter@culture_spain), Nick has authored several books including How to buy Spanish property and move to Spain...safely, How to sell your Spanish property in a crisis, Laptop entrepeneur: How to make a living anywhere in the world and Taking the Heat: an expat under pressure in Spain.


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