Real Expat Story: Moving To Valencia, Spain, Was My Destiny

Blame It On Valencia—Mike’s Excellent Spanish Adventures

There is a scene in the 2003 movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” that I now can identify as the moment everything began to shift.

I was a 51-year-old single man living in Nashville, Tennessee, with no real job and no prospects.

A friend had called to let me know that he had two tickets to an afternoon preview of the “Under The Tuscan Sun” movie prior to its release. I was aware of the memoir of the same name written by Frances Mayes in the 1990s but had discounted it as a travelogue about Italy with judiciously inserted recipes that would appeal to the largest possible demographic embracing women “of a certain age.”

For one September afternoon my friend Eric and I joined this demographic.

The plot quickly became unimportant, because, for me, time stopped when the heroine accepted a ride in an Italian two-seat convertible traversing the route between Rome and Positano.

As the camera followed the moving sports car from above it was as though I was sitting there rounding the next curve on a winding two-lane road resting precariously at the edge of a precipitous drop to the Mediterranean.

I turned to my friend and whispered, “What am I doing here?”…

A month later I had left for California for four months (ironically in my 1991 Mazda Miata… a two-seat convertible) before settling near Daytona Beach, Florida, in early 2004 to begin a new job.

With visions of Italian seaside drives in my head, the universe (or Mother Nature if you prefer) gifted me with a lot of time to begin my online research about international relocation courtesy of three hurricanes in six weeks.

Over the next 10 years I followed Kathleen Peddicord and Lief Simon through their writings until I was ready to join Live and Invest Overseas (LIOS) as an All-Access Member in the summer of 2014.

When LIOS announced Nashville as the destination for their Annual Retire Overseas Conference in August 2014, I knew the time had come to make my move.

Shortly after the conference ended, I created a three-week itinerary for April to May 2015 that was anchored by a five-day conference attended by 700 international travel bloggers (TBEX) in Lloret de Mar, Spain. I was convinced that learning about successful travel bloggers’ nomadic lives would offer a glimpse into my future.

It could also provide me with the opportunity to travel the world through their eyes and uncover hidden gems as possible destinations.

The bloggers proved as enlightening as I had hoped they would be, but a funny thing happened on the way to Lloret de Mar…

I stopped first in Valencia, Spain.

As I stood in the baggage claim area of the Valencia airport I remember having the crazy thought that “this could be the place”… before ever setting foot in the city!

Fortunately I had been to 47 U.S. states and 25 foreign countries, so I had 72 points of reference. Not 1 of the 72 had ever provoked this reaction, so I proceeded… though with caution.

Three days in a hotel and three days in a bed and breakfast confirmed my initial reaction to the city.

LIOS had referred me to a local real estate broker, Ramón Serrano Vila of Obrix Asset Management, who gave me a city tour and showed me seven properties. At the end of our tour, Ramón gave me the advice that would become the foundation for my future plans:

“Come back next year,” he told me. “Stay for at least a month… and move around to various areas of the city to determine if Valencia is your destiny.”

One year later I was ready to cut my ties with Florida. For those readers who were at the Retire Overseas Conference in Orlando in September 2015 you’ll remember me as the guy hobbling around on crutches with my right leg in a bright orange cast.

When I tossed the crutches at the end of December 2015 I was ready to sell, donate, give away, or throw out all of the things that didn’t matter and put the things that did in storage.

On March 21, 2016, I left Orlando, Florida, with a giant backpack, two checked bags, and a Panama hat. I sold my car the morning I left and rid myself of key rings. After all, I had only my storage unit key to worry about.

After a stopover to attend the wedding reception of my best friend I arrived in Valencia March 28. Nine weeks and two Airbnb apartments later, I placed a deposit on my two-bedroom apartment in the central historic district of Valencia; the sale was closed Sept. 20, 2016. Remodeling was completed for the most part by mid-November of last year.

Because I was operating on a tourist visa that only allowed me to stay up to 90 days in a row in the Eurozone, I have lots more tales to tell about my ongoing adventures…

The wedding reception in a French castle… a week in Marrakech, Morocco during Ramadan… nine days in Portugal… three weeks in Cape Town, South Africa… two months in Buenos Aires, Argentina

When I set out, the “grand” plan was to explore the world in search of my new home and make no decisions until the journey was over.

As the author and cartoonist Allen Saunders wrote in 1957, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”

My future life seems to have been determined at a Valencia baggage claim carousel in 2015…

Mike Herndon