On The Move To Barcelona With No Place To Live – 8 Moving Tips

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By Nancy Todd

Seven friends and I, plus two suitcases, piled into a van – my escorts to the airport from Asheville, North Carolina, to Barcelona, Spain. I heard statements: “Oh, you are brave.” “I could never do anything like that.” “Why would you want to leave Asheville?” “I admire your courage.”

The move was never about courage. It was about having lived in one culture all my life. There was a big, wonderful world out there and I wanted more of that world. I needed a fresh view.  I wanted my perspectives on life shaken, my palate tingled, and to walk the unknown paths. Once I recognize a latent dream, I must follow my passion.

I got on the plane. With no place to live, I did have reservations in a horrid youth hostel. Reading Lonely Planet on the plane, I discovered Barcelona was a bilingual culture. Whoops. I did not know the difference between “up” and “down” in Spanish, much less Catalan. I knew no one in the city. I had no job. I had no map. I had few belongings (years after my move, removals to Spain would have been useful…but that’s another story). I only knew that I was on the threshold of a new adventure.

Arriving at dawn, I sped toward the city in a taxi with a golden sun peering out of the Mediterranean Sea. With tears of joy, I took it as a good omen. I had done it. I followed my dream.

The hostel didn’t even have sheets. Leaving the bugs and pealing walls behind, I registered at a good hotel in the same neighborhood. I figured it would take me 10 days to find an apartment. Wrong. It took three and one half weeks. I kept downgrading hotels as it was getting expensive. In the interim, my phone blew, my purse was stolen from a copy shop, and my leather jacket stolen out of my hotel room. I called a friend boo-hooing.  WTF? Was I not supposed to move? Was I to go back to Asheville?

A visit from Melissa and David, my children.

I have always believed in networking. I found some expat groups, met Nanette, a Brit, who not only was fluent in Catalan and Spanish, but was also a realtor. She was my angel as I could not read the ads, and most agents did not speak English. She previewed apartments, told me the best neighborhoods where she thought I would fit.

My apartment was a one bedroom overlooking a small plaza. Home. It was newly furnished and I covered the glaring, pumpkin orange sofa with an Ikea spread. I had two burners for a stove. My frig was the size of three shoe boxes. There was exactly one foot of walk space around my bed. I loved my new humble home and I had lived in some beauties.

8 tips on what you need to move to a new country:

l. Prevent the “Whoops” experience and learn some basic language skills.

2. Know that perseverance is your best friend. You will dig into your perseverance like you never knew you could.

3. Network through Internations and other expat groups before you move. Ask questions. People will help you. Perseverance.

4. You do not have to know everything. If I had known then what I know now, I might have chickened out and not moved.

5. Tourist information offices are incredibly resourceful. What website to find an apartment? List of realtors? Banks?

6. Find a bank where people speak English and where their online access is in English.

7. Get a phone right away. Again, perseverance with the cell phone companies will pay off.

8. Have some money as a backup. I can’t say how much to have. Depends on cost of living, whether you want roommates or not, etc.

Live you dreams. Follow your heart. I have. I love that I moved. I have never looked back.

14 Responses

  1. Wow!! That is so wonderful that you just followed your passion and went for it. You are inspirational. Barcelona is a wonderful city and it looks like it suits you down to the ground.

  2. Silvana says:

    Seville is calling me. Never been …… but ready to try!

  3. admin says:

    If a place calls, you should answer!

  4. Elaine Crump says:

    How awesome that you’re living your dream! You’re living my dream and the dream of many others! Rock on!

  5. admin says:

    It wasn’t easy at first, but it was worth it. I love it here.

  6. admin says:

    Elaine, if I made it happen, so can you! Got to follow those dreams 😉

  7. Ana says:

    I tried to move to Spain in 2000, having had that dream all my life and found out it’s absolutely impossible to live there legally unless you fit into some very specific parameters, which I didn’t. I’ve been trying to find a way in for 35 years and I just never did. I gave up a modest but secure life in L.A. in trying to do that and since I was never able to live there, I lost everything. Now I’m building a business to enable me to live abroad again. It may not be Spain, as you have to make a lot of money to move there, but maybe nearby. :-) All the best to everyone who has made it there.

  8. admin says:

    It can be tough to make the move Ana. But don’t give up. There are usually loopholes or ways to find a job and a work visa.

  9. Megan Peters says:

    Love your story and your tips too! I’m moving from UK to Spain at the end of March and I’m so excited! I’m learning Spanish for two months already and I almost found myself an accommodation. Your tips gave me some more good ideas to finish my preparation for the move. I’m so glad I found your post, it was quite helpful for me. Greets!

  10. Well done, sometimes in life decisions that take guts turned out to be the best!

    And is hard to go wrong with Barcelona anyway! :)
    Bruno @ Geeky Explorer recently posted…7 Unique Experiences in Barcelona: The Best Things To Do (Chosen By A Local)My Profile

  11. Tate says:

    What an inspirational story! I am currently in Barcelona studying Spanish and would love to stay longer, but not sure how an American can stay more than 90 days. Any tips?

  12. The Spain Scoop says:

    You might try getting a work visa which would extend your stay. Oftentimes, companies are looking for English auxiliaries or English teachers.

  13. Patricia says:

    Love your story. Are there many people in their 50’s moving to Barcelona? I’m American but have EU citizenship so won’t need visas or anything. Would love to find an apartment with roommates at first. Is this possible at my age. Going to Barcelona this month to see the Rolling Stones! Have been before and have been intrigued with the city. Any advice on where to find ex-pats my age that are fun! Thanks

  14. The Spain Scoop says:

    There are people of all ages who are expats in Barcelona and all over Spain. Many people retire here.

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