From North Carolina to Spain: Wagoners Abroad
I am Alan Wagoner (of Wagoners Abroad fame) most recently from Apex, North Carolina, and currently living in the scenic town of Almuñécar, Spain. If you were to envision an organizational chart, I would be in the box labeled CDO. That’s Chief Dad Officer. This position is below the CMO (Chief Mother Officer), but above CSO and CDO (Son and Daughter, respectively) positions. So I’m the Number 2 guy at Wagoners Abroad.
1.Why did you move abroad?
Two big reasons:
A. While Heidi and I had jobs at great companies, we wanted to get back to an international lifestyle. We had lived in London previously, and the allure of living abroad was too great to pass up. We had expectations of living internationally prior to the kids entering high school, so we couldn’t wait any longer on the slim chance our companies would transfer us.
B. We wanted our kids to become familiar with a different culture and language. We figured exposing our kids would help in building up their confidence, and make them better citizens of the world.
2. How do you make a living?
When we decided we were going to move abroad, we made the conscious choice to not work. We allocated a portion of our savings for our living adventure, and decided that would be the best way for all of us to experience Spain. So we are currently not working in the traditional 9-to-5 sense, but as parents, we’re always “on call”. We do keep up our blog and are looking into ways to make a living with remote work.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
We communicate with our friends and family every other week or so. We have e-mail, but when the entire family wants to talk with the Grandmas, we use Skype. It’s very cost-effective (read: FREE), and it’s easy to use.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Spain?
We enjoy meeting the local people. We’ve met a bunch of other expats (British, German, and a few Americans), but we’re always happy to meet the native Spaniards. Our kids have made a number of friends in school, and we’ve met several of their friends’ parents. The people here have been exceptionally helpful. The locals have accepted us and we feel like we belong.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Spain?
The biggest thing has been the food. I am the least Foodie person in the Wagoner household, and sometimes that can be a bit of a problem. Luckily, the rest of the Wagoner crew is more willing to experiment with new foods. I guess it’s pretty sad that we are living right on the Mediterranean, and we aren’t big seafood eaters, but we have all of the basics we need.
6. What do you miss most?
Easy: Food! There are certain things that you just cannot find here. If any of your readers want to send us some Red Vines, marshmallows, Tootsie Rolls, Bisquick, or JIF peanut butter, we’d greatly appreciate it!
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
We took some Spanish lessons when we first arrived, and we always try to do our day-to-day tasks in Spanish. We’ve found that attempting to speak in the native tongue goes a long way in connecting with people. As in the U.S., we’ve a lot of our friends through our kids’ friends.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
That would have to be the nature of the typical day here in Almuñécar. The typical day starts a bit later here (9-10AM). They have this great concept called Siesta where everyone stops for a mid-day break (2-5PM), and most of the businesses close, so running errands during that time can be frustrating. They also eat dinner very late here (10PM), so it can make for a long day. Our Spanish friends have been amazed when we tell them that we normally eat at 7PM. School hours are from 9-2, so that doesn’t give us much time to get things done.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
It’s expensive to live on the Mediterranean coast. With a lot of research, and a bit of luck, we have an amazing view of the Med. The view has provided us with some fantastic sunrises and sunsets.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living is definitely higher here for food, utilities, and gasoline. Since we were on a fixed budget, our concern was that it would be difficult to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. The key to our journey has been to simplify. We don’t have to maintain the same lifestyle that we had in the U.S. in order to be happy here. We don’t have a lot of the creature comforts that we had in the States, but that’s OK (I’m also the CDWO – Chief Dish Washing Officer). Our quality of life is higher, as we’re a much closer family. That said, we have a furnished 3 bedroom/2 bath rental with an incredible sea view for only 550 Euros a month. Housing is much more affordable here.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Simplify as many aspects of your life. Do not try to replicate your exact lifestyle while you are abroad. If you try to make too many things the same, you’ll miss out on the small differences that can make day-to-day living special in your new country. Lastly, be open to new experiences. If you can be more accepting of life’s little hiccups, it will go a long way in helping you adjust. Integrate with the locals and become part of the community.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
We started WagonersAbroad.com about two months prior to leaving. We started it for a number of reasons. The obvious one was to keep our friends and family up to date on our experiences, and to keep a diary of sorts. Another reason was our desire to motivate and inspire others to follow their travel desires. You can do it!
Alan & Co.'s Blog, Wagoners Abroad
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