After the shock of our youngest boy, Mayhem being seriously ill, we quit our jobs, quit the rat race and moved our family to Spain to seek out a simpler life. This is how leaving the UK has changed our family.
We are by no means the hub of the community but we know our neighbours, they have given us several bottles of their homemade sweet wine, the boys grapes from their vine and we have given them some Walnuts from our tree. We know the café owners in our nearest town and we are welcomed and greeted locally; we are even on first name terms with our postman. Families are a massive thing here in Spain and children are welcomed and expected everywhere, especially late into the night at Fiestas, which seem to happen a least monthly. Children and families are at the heart of the community and people want to get to know you. A big change from life in London and latterly Kent. Yes we miss family and friends, we wish we could have everyone nearer, but we thought that when we lived in Kent as we have family all over the world. Obviously the language is a barrier but even with very basic Spanish, we get by and really feel like we are part of this community.
I used to shop online, a lot. Clothes, supermarket, Amazon, stuff. I would have no qualms at all browsing in an evening and spending the odd £20 or so, or more. I was by no means a spendaholic but we earned enough and I never had to be that concerned about spending. Now we are living off our savings and taking some time out from work, spending online is is no longer a problem, because we don’t buy anything. Literally. Nothing, nada, zilch! Yes, of course we still go supermarket shopping for food but we rarely shop for anything else. In just over a year I can count the number of purchases we have made on one hand. For the whole family. We all had new trainers, apart from Mayhem, who only ever gets hand-me-downs from his older brother Chaos. We also bought the boys €1 wellies (bargain!) and Paul €5 wellies, pretty essential in the campo. The boys have been given lots of clothes that other children have outgrown, we spent €3 on a few essential clothes for them from a social shop and they have received some clothes as presents from my mum (thanks mum) for Christmas. Our clothes are showing signs of wear but they now get repaired, sewn and patched up. We also only have the clothes that we actually NEED, not just want. Especially the children. It’s all too easy to have loads of clothes that are never even worn and are a complete waste of money.
As a family we always managed to save a little each month, even when we only had statutory maternity pay and a part-time wage coming in but I still look back and regret all of our spending. We could have saved so much more, instead of buying things that we really did not need, just ‘wanted’.
One thing I will never regret spending on is holidays. When Mayhem became seriously ill at ten months old and we finally found out that he had a tumour, we thought we might loose him. It certainly wasn’t a consolation but it was a comfort that we had so many brilliant holidays and times together to look back on. It took a very long month to find out that the tumour was benign, operable and wasn’t cancerous or terminal. In our darkest moments we had no regrets about all the time spent together as a family and the money spent on the holidays we had been on in the UK and abroad. What certainly wasn’t important was the clothes or labels any of us wore. Experiences really are so much more valuable than stuff, and that is why we are here…
Oh and we have also bought the boys some toys as presents for Christmases and Birthdays, we are frugal but not stingey!
We have gone from a very squished two-bedroomed flat jam-packed full of stuff to a two-bedroomed Casita (cottage). We don’t have many possessions, in fact, the most clutter we have are toys. Apart from that we are actually pretty minimalistic. I guess what that means is that we have space. Yes, space and it’s wonderful. Read our post here on trying to live a simpler life. We also only have a shower and a limited kitchen. With only a two-ring gas burner and no oven cooking is sometimes a little difficult. We do have access to a bath and an oven in the adjacent house but mainly, we just adapt. In our old life not having an oven or full cooker would have been unquestionable. Now, it just does not matter. This whole experience really has made us realise that nothing really matters as long as we are together as a family and are all healthy.
We used to have a fig tree in a pot in our flat. This was the closest we came to a garden. Even though we had Reggie, as he was christened, for over four years he failed to bear any figs. Now we have four fig trees that produce wonderful and massive figs, a walnut, nispiro, plum and almond tree and a small olive grove! The boys have the chance to run free outside rom the trees and help harvest and collect the fruits, nuts and most recently the olives.
We always liked to spend as much idea as possible together, sickening I know, but we actually like being together. Yes it is hard, being a full-time family, every day, all day. We have both said that it is easier to go out to work than to look after two very active children; we have never picked up as much Lego in our lives, played as many games, dealt with as many tantrums or had as much family fun. We wanted to do this, as crazy as it may sound to some, we wanted to spend as much time with our children as possible before they leave us and go off to school. We hope that the boys will benefit from being with their parents 24-7, we are rewarded daily spending time with them. With Mayhem being so ill it really did bring home the importance to us that life is too short and that we need to enjoy and savour every single moment together.
I hardly ever wear make-up now, only on special occasions, and only when I feel like it! In the UK I HAD to have a full face of make-up on to visit the corner shop. I never wore tonnes of make-up and it certainly wasn’t caked on but I wore it every single day. Let’s face it, I totally look better with make-up on but I felt unable to go without it because people around me, even those who didn’t really know me, were used to seeing me with make-up, including myself!! Not only is my skin thankful for the make-up holiday, but so is my bank balance, even though I didn’t wear really expensive brands, it all adds up.
I dyed my hair from aged sixteen onwards. Initially to be more colourful, then from necessity to disguise the silver fox streak which appeared in my early twenties. I also always washed my hair in a brand leading shampoo and conditioner with a hefty price tag of over £5 every couple of months. I
have now embraced my grey am now totally ignoring my grey, and we use the cheapest shampoo we can find. No conditioner apart from the luxury of a small amount of leave-in conditioner to tame the frizz. My hair is in the same condition using cheap shampoo and is actually in better condition because I no longer use conditioner (go figure?!).
I now have a chance to breathe, relax and enjoy life. From when Mayhem was born life became a whirlwind of concerns, illness and hospitals. It is only really now, over a year on from his operation that I can truly appreciate that he is well, marvel at both boy’s daily developments and enjoy every single minute of being a mummy.
Is much hairier, as he has grown his hair and his beard and is just, relaxed. In Kent he was a sixth form tutor with a very demanding job dealing with hormonal teenagers and having two under two, the youngest of which was sick, he was a pretty stressed out guy. I have seen the worry and stress lift from his shoulders. Seen him enjoy and relish gardening, working the land, creating, building and trying his darnedest to communicate with anyone and everyone. Ultimately though his most favourite thing is to spend time with his children, he is loving every single minute of being the doting and attentive father to our two lucky boys.
Chaos & Mayhem
Mayhem started walking and talking since we left the UK. His personality has grown by the bucketful. His favourite things are tree shakers, leaf blowers and chainsaws. He has a pair of children’s scissors he loves to play with (we know, not the best toy!!) which alternative between his three favourite pieces of equipment, with buzzing, whirring and chopping noises to boot. When Chaos was a similar age and we lived in Kent opposite a large shopping mall, his favourite things were riding on the escalators, lifts and cherry pickers. The saying goes that we are a product of our environment and I so love the fact that we are now surrounded by nature and the boys favourite things reflect this! Chaos has just turned four and grown from a toddler into a boy, he’s so enthusiastic about everything and talks non-stop letting you know about his latest adventure! Both Chaos and Mayhem have become firm friends and really do play well together (most of the time) and are totally at home being outside. We spend most of the day outdoors and try to get a walk, or even a hike in (read our tips for hiking with small children here). We can do this the majority of the days because the weather here is pretty amazing. Although it is cold in the evenings and early mornings during winter it’s pretty fantastic during the day and hardly ever rains. Bliss!
So much has changed since we chose to change our lives and there are definitely more changes afoot as we need to start earning money again and return to the world of paid teaching work in September. Chaos is also old enough to go to school (scary)!. What, where, when, how? We haven’t got a clue! Worried…well actually, not at all. That’s the great thing about having no plans, it means that absolutely anything is possible.
What we do know is that we want a similar lifestyle, love to travel and be outside and want the best possible environment for the boys. It could be back in the UK or somewhere overseas and as long as we are together, everyday is a new adventure.
We are going to embrace change, follow our instincts and passions and make sure the next chapter is as amazing as this one!