I Moved to the South of Spain

It's been a while since I posted an update on my whereabouts on here, and it's high time. If you've been reading for a while, you'll know the story already, but here's a quick summary my journey over the past six months:

  1. Early 2017: Decided to quit my job and travel starting late 2017

  2. September 2017: Decided to move to Spain, at least for a little while

  3. November 2017: Received the Spanish residency visa for which I applied in September

  4. December 2017: Left for Madrid, unsure if I would stay in Spain or not

  5. January 2017-February 2017: Traveled solo around Spain, the Netherlands, and Italy; decided after a few weeks in Spain that I wanted to stay

  6. February 2017: Realized I had less time to establish residency than I thought and flew back to Spain early to begin the process

Which brings me to where I am right now, having just completed the administrative process to legally stay in Spain. I'll write a more detailed post about my experience doing that, but I wanted to let you all know where in the world I am and what I'm doing, since a lot has happened in the last couple of weeks.

When I decided to stay in Spain, I originally thought I would live in Madrid. This was just an assumption of mine, since I already know and love Madrid and have a handful of friends there. Then I traveled through Andalucía for a week, and then I stayed an extra week, and then I started to rethink my impulse to move to Madrid. 

Andalucía is in the south of Spain, and it is home to the many of the quintessential archetypes that come to mind when foreigners think of the country: flamenco; orange trees; tiny cobblestone streets in meandering historic quarters; the mix of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures; Federico García Lorca; and the río Guadalquivir running through it all. I'd visited Andalucía briefly in the past, but staying in the region for two weeks gave me an opportunity to get to know the rhythm of life here in ways that a weekend trip never allowed.

In particular, I fell in love with Córdoba, a beautiful city that's three times bigger than my hometown and less crowded than the major tourist destinations of Sevilla and Granada. When I first came here, I would wander the streets and peek into doorways to catch a glimpse of the sun-dappled patios hidden in the center of historic homes. I got lost within minutes but didn't care. I started to picture my life here. 

I had to fly back into the south of Spain due to flight prices anyways, and so I decided to stop in Córdoba to see if the fates would pull me there. Rent prices here are about half of what they are in Madrid, and as a fledgling freelancer, the thought of smaller rent checks sounded extremely appealing. I booked a hostel for five nights and told myself that if I found a place I loved, I would stay, and if not, I would go on to Madrid.

As luck would have it, I found a house at the end of my first day. I'd spent the morning feigning polite interest in cramped student apartments, knowing full well that I'm past the time in my life when I'm willing to play Jenga with beer bottles in the recycling bin. I walked into la Judería, the city's historic Jewish quarter, and held out hope for the afternoon. 

When I arrived at the house, no one answered the doorbell, and the landlady wasn't picking up my calls. Another girl pulled up on a bicycle, there to visit one of her friends, and I was let through the heavy double doors to wait. I wandered cautiously through the entryway and found myself inside a gorgeous patio. A shaggy white and brown dog padded up to greet me, and I tilted my head up to the blue sky above. I was a goner.

I toured the house, which the landlady told me was from the medieval era, and by the time I saw what could be my room, I had mostly made up my mind. Or rather, my heart had decided, but my mind was making a feeble attempt to scare me out of listening to my instincts.

I asked her to hold the room for half an hour and stumbled out the front door, leaning against the stone building and taking a deep breath. I texted two of my best friends and called my mom, half-expecting one of them to tell my I was making a huge mistake. Instead, they told me to follow my gut and go get the deposit. I felt like I was going to throw up, but not in a bad way. It was more like the stomach flip I feel when I swim in the ocean; I throw myself into a wave and feel the thrill of the plunge in front of me. 

An hour later, I'd left the deposit and first month's rent in cash with the landlady, and the room was mine for six months. I walked back to my hostel in a daze.

The next week, I took the lease to city hall and declared my residency. Then I went to the foreign affairs office to complete the process, since I needed to apply for a residency card with my visa. That's where the trouble began.

Even though I was living in Córdoba, I had originally listed a Barcelona address on my visa application, and so the office here insisted that I had to go to Barcelona to complete the process. Barcelona was the last place in Spain that I wanted to go, because the travel time meant I’d be in immigration office on Monday, February 26th. My 26th birthday. But failure was not an option, and so I sucked it up and went to Barcelona. I showed up at the government offices first thing in the morning, and after several hours and several dozen phone calls, they processed my application using my Córdoba address. They told me I would need to return in about a month to pick up my residency card. I took a taxi back to my hostel and collapsed. I drank a mojito for lunch. I took the next train that I could afford back to Córdoba and went straight to my house with the patio and the dog and the window where I'm sitting now as I write this.

And that is how I moved to Spain.