Skip to Content

Geoarbitrage and Slow Travel

Who doesn’t want to think of early retirement and getting the most out of their money to travel the world? We talk with Stephanie who tells us all about geoarbitrage and where you can live cheaply and still lead a the life of travel.

Or you can always subscribe to one of these:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Amazon Music

Stephanie living the arbritrage way, moving to Spain.

Show Notes

1:23 Stephanie – How They Started Traveling and becoming digital nomads
4:47 Living in Rota, Spain
5:18 Spain Visa – Non-Lucrative
8:35 Spain Taxes
9:34 What military services they can use
13:33 Documentation for the visas – what a process!
17:33 Health Care and Insurance
20:53 Schengen Zone – 90 Day Limit
21:47 Before Spain
22:15 Germany and France (especially Normandy)
22:49 Ecuador
23:47 Japan – Cherry Blossom Season
23:59 Moving to Fukuoka, Japan
27:01 Geoarbitrage- Living in Europe
29:47 Minimalism – Living on the Japanese Economy
36:37 Tourist Prices – (during a summer in Rota)
36:54 Lesson Learned
37:59 Finding an apartment in Spain
43:53 More tips for overseas living

Stephanie and her husband in Ecuador.

Worth Mentioning

Stephanies Website: Poppin’ Smoke

Rota, Spain

Spain’s Non-Lucrative Visa

Europe’s Schengen Zone







Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan




First Timers Guide to Oahu

Lessons Learned from Driving Our RV

Stephanie on a military flight.

Join Our Community

Streets and Eats Podcast Facebook Group.
Stephanie in Madrid.

Full Transcript of Podcast

Jim 0:00
Well hello everyone, this is episode 31 and today on the show we’ve got our friend Stephanie and she is going to be talking to us about geoarbitrage and living the expat life, long term overseas.

Jim 0:13
Welcome to Streets and Eats the travel and food podcast dedicated to taking our listeners to the sights, sounds and flavors of fascinating places near and far, both on and off the beaten path. We’re Jim and Corinne Vail and we’ve been traveling internationally and domestically together for decades, visiting more than 90 countries in all 50 states in the USA, we’ll share all of the local knowledge and food expertise we’ve gathered through years of living as expats in Asia and Europe, as well as traveling with family spanning multiple generations around the world. Join us each week for a new adventure.

Corinne 0:43
Okay, so Stephanie, welcome to Streets and Eats. We’re so happy you could join us today.

Stephanie 0:49
Thank you, I appreciate the invitation.

Corinne 0:52
So I was looking at your website, which actually speaks volumes to us because Jim retired from the Air Force, I was in the Air Force for four years, and my father was Air Force. So I’m an Air Force brat big time. One thing that we do is a lot of military travel. So we really feel like Poppin’ Smoke, although I’ve never heard that term before, is something that we relate to. What started you guys traveling, give me a little bit of background here.

Stephanie 1:23
Sure. So my husband was kind of looking towards retirement from the army. And he ended up doing 30 years. We were living in Washington, DC, and he was stationed at the Pentagon. And we kind of realized that we wanted to do something, we just didn’t know exactly what it was.

Stephanie 1:40
And we were kind of saving our money for that something and we didn’t know if it was buying a house or, or what. But I started to kind of get in my head, I had the concept of taking a gap year, and I was reading about that. And meanwhile, we also were watching lots of episodes of House Hunters International. And that’s probably the inspiration for a lot of people’s travels. But one distinct episode, there was a couple, I think they were from Australia. And they were moving to Lake Garda in Italy. And they both had some kind of job that they could do online. And they had this gorgeous apartment overlooking Lake Garda. And they were just gonna live there and work for, I don’t know, six months or a year or something. And of course, their rent was going to be a fraction of what we were paying in Washington, DC.

Stephanie 2:27
I just remember thinking, why can’t we do that; it just seems so feasible. So we kind of started floating this idea of travel (around). My husband wasn’t that keen on it initially, because he was in the military for 30 years, his dad was in the military for 30 years. And he kind of felt like he’d done enough travel. And he probably would have been happy just retiring and golfing and maybe working for a federal contractor or something like that. But he was willing to do it because it was my dream. And we still mulled about for a few years, we still weren’t sure.

Stephanie 3:01
I was also looking for another job and if something had come through, maybe we’d still be in Washington, DC. Also, my stepson was possibly going to go to college in the DC area. So if he had come, we wouldn’t have picked up and left. So it’s just the way things worked out. So we planned to just take a year off to travel. And we were then going to go back to regular life in the United States.

Stephanie 3:27
And also I should mention, this just seemed…everything seemed to fall into place. Because we didn’t have any debt. We didn’t have any young children. I was kind of ready to leave my job, like I mentioned. And it just seemed like nothing else was gonna align any better. We weren’t exactly sure what we would do. Like we thought maybe both trying to get jobs, but we figured we’d deal with that when it happened. You know, I guess we kind of figured why not? That was the biggest question. We couldn’t think of a reason not to do it. And so off we went, like right after he retired. We took off for what was supposed to be a year and then we hadn’t really gone back to our regular life.

Jim 4:07
When I retired, we pretty much shifted right into second careers. She had gotten a job teaching with the department Defense Education Agency. So we were overseas teaching in schools at military bases teaching kids, dependents of military and so that led us move around the world for quite a long time.

Corinne 4:29
Another 20 years actually.

Stephanie 4:32
Yeah, that’s a whole other career but you got in lots of travel it looks like.

Corinne 4:35
Oh yes, we had plenty of time to travel. So where are you staying, are you like in an Airbnb or have you got an apartment or what did you do when you moved to Rota, Spain.

Stephanie 4:47
We have a regular apartment. We have a one year, soon to be renewed, visa here in Spain. So we’re just regular residents here. We have a one year lease in a furnished apartment, furniture is sort of a loose term, but it had all the basics. And so yeah, we had to, you know, we ended up buying a used car here in Spain, we’re, we’re fully living here. It’s not just a transition, for the moment anyway.

Corinne 5:15
That’s great. How long do you plan on staying there?

Stephanie 5:18
That’s kind of the million dollar question. I think our initial thought was, we’ve applied to renew our visa. What’s called a non lucrative visa. So it’s good for one year, initially, and then when you apply to renew, you get two years, and we’ve been approved for our renewal. And we should be able to pick up our new cards, hopefully next week. So our thought was, we don’t know if Rota is like our forever home. But we were planning to, because I mentioned we did buy a car, we were planning to do a bit of a road trip throughout Europe for a while. And then we also want to spend the summer back in the United States, because that’s actually not the best time to be in Rota.

Jim 5:59
Yes, it’s hot, but it’s also like its population doubles, right?

Stephanie 6:03
Yes, three times the normal population. So it’s just a completely different place in the summer. And then my family is in Chicago, we also have family in Washington and friends in Washington. And those are, you know, those are great places to be in the summer. So that’s probably what we’ll do this summer. And then maybe we’ll come back here in the fall. I think that’s still TBD. But, well, the road trip is also TBD. Because right now, with COVID, it’s a little, we’re not sure, you know, is our vaccine card gonna be accepted everywhere? We’re gonna get somewhere and then they’ll say, “Oh, you don’t have the European QR code,” and we can’t get anywhere. So we’ll see.

Jim 6:41
Yeah, it’s a challenge everywhere. A road trip in the States isn’t quite so much of a challenge. Of course, it’s such a free for all for the most part. Well, it’s all free. But depending on which way you’re going and where you’re going you may or may not need a VAX card. We have ours, we’re always ready. And it’s been okay here. But yeah, we’ve had a couple of international trips planned. And we’ve had to, they’ve been canceled for one reason or another.

Corinne 7:13
Yeah, we just had another one cancel just yesterday.

Stephanie 7:17
Oh no, where were you supposed to go?

Corinne 7:19
We were going on a cruise through the Panama Canal. We’re not really, I don’t like to say that all the time, but we’re not cruisers. We’ve never taken a cruise. And the only reason we were planning on taking a cruise this time was because it was going through the Panama Canal. I won’t, I don’t want to just see the Panama Canal. I want to experience the Panama Canal. And a ship is the best way to do it. But it’s the only way I could really figure out how to do it. But now it’s canceled. So I’m gonna research some more.

Jim 7:51
Back to square one. Right? Yeah, so back to your visa. So you called it a non lucrative visa, I’m guessing that means you can’t work?

Unknown Speaker 8:03
Right. So it’s designed basically for retirees, people who have a pension or something like that. So that you can come here and spend money but not take a job from a Spaniard. So we couldn’t, I couldn’t get a job on the Spanish economy.

Jim 8:22
Okay, and do you have to pay taxes at all? Or is it you just had to pay for the visa?

Stephanie 8:26
If you become a tax resident of Spain, you’re…

Jim 8:31
…then you’re not “non-lucrative”…

Unknown Speaker 8:35
Right, yeah. Then you’re subject to their taxes. But military retirement is not taxed here. There’s a tax treaty with Spain. So the military retirement and also of course, VA is not taxed. There’s a fair number of people who come here to retire. It’s a popular place among retirees, whether they’re, I think government pensions also are not taxed. I’m not positive, just like regular government pay pension. So there’s a lot of people coming to Spain.

Jim 9:03
That’s a good way to do it.

Corinne 9:06
The interesting thing to me is of all the countries to live in now I get the Spain as got me I love Spain. So I get that part. And like I said, I’ve been to Rota a couple of times. So I really get it. However, of all the countries that the military is in Spain is the one country that wasn’t as helpful to retirees. I don’t think any of the others don’t let military retirees use the, the commissary and px.

Unknown Speaker 9:34
So there’s different restrictions throughout Europe like in Germany, if you’re just visiting, you cannot use anything even the mini mart. If you’re just flying through and you want to buy some water or some snacks at the mini-mart you can’t. The employees at the base are not supposed to, you know, you have to show your ID card and so the employees in the stores if you have like a retiree ID card they’re not supposed to let you shop there. But if you become a resident of Germany, you can shop there. But then you have to pay their 17 to 20% taxes and everything, which sort of defeats the purpose. I think at that point, you might as well just buy it on the economy.

Stephanie 10:15
But I don’t find that to be a big problem here in Rota. I think a lot of people kind of get stuck on that. Oh, no, we can’t use the commissary. But quite honestly, the grocery store has fresher, cheaper food, we can shop with them. Basically it has every kind of like personal care toiletry item, which those are the kind of things that I would find most difficult to find an equivalent on the economy. But there’s so many other things we can use. So we can use the gym, that’s the main thing that we use, you can use the golf course, we can get space available care at the hospital, and it’s pretty available. I mean that we’ve never had a problem. So that’s a big thing. Yeah. From what I understand, like Landstuhl, for example. It’s not as easy for retirees,

Corinne 11:02
Well, no, there’s just too many expats in the area. Too many retirees in the area.

Jim 11:07
Yeah. Well, that’s good to know, in the past, like in the 90s. If you weren’t on orders in Spain, retiree or active duty even, you couldn’t even get on base.

Corinne 11:18
Yeah, they wouldn’t even allow you entry. So that has changed.

Jim 11:21
Wow, significantly. So that’s nice. Yeah, that’s interesting,

Stephanie 11:25
So yeah, if you don’t live here, if you’re just visiting, you have to get a 24 hour base pass, you have to stop at the guard station outside of the gate and the Spanish military are working, and they’ll give you a 24 hour pass. But if you live in the area, you can apply and you get an annual pass for yourself and your vehicle. So that makes it a lot easier.

Jim 11:48
It certainly does, like you said, the supermarkets around the world, for the most part are almost always as good. In some ways better, like, like you said, with the produce than the commissary. But having the medical is really kind of nice. For the language, if nothing else.

Stephanie 12:10
Yeah, I think the the conveniences of the base far outweigh the thing. You know, the two things that we can’t use, and even with the the BX now, basically, you can go there, if you see something you want to buy, you could go to the Exchange website, buy it and have it sent to you. it’s not quite as convenient, obviously. But yeah, you could still get the stuff.

Jim 12:34
Yeah. So about how long was the process of applying for the visa and getting accepted?

Unknown Speaker 12:39
Oh, well, we were doing that during 2020. So it was probably a little bit of an anomaly. But I would say, from when we actually submitted our documents to receive the visa was about four and a half months. But we started the process way earlier than that, in part because we knew that one of the requirements was to have a police report from everywhere we’ve lived. Wherever you were that you lived for more than six months within I forget what period, but we had lived in Japan, and we needed that so we needed to get a police report from them. So we had to go to the Japanese embassy in Seattle, get the fingerprints and everything and have them send off for that which takes two months, which is fine. You know, because it really does take two months. I mean, one thing about working with the Japanese Embassy, if they say it takes two months, that’s exactly how long it takes.

Corinne 13:29
Yeah. They are very punctual.

Stephanie 13:34
Right. And so we were able to plan that in. And then we had to compile the other documents. And then the trick with the non lucrative visa is there are certain documents that cannot be more than three months old at the time you submit them. And so that includes, ironically, like your marriage certificate, and maybe your birth certificate means some documents that wouldn’t change over three months, but then you have to have those apostilled. And for anyone who doesn’t know what that means. It’s sort of like an international notary. So you have to send those to the State Department for a pastels. So there’s a lot of documents together. So that was the process.

Stephanie 14:17
The thing that actually worked in our favor last year is because you you apply via the Spanish consulate that corresponds to your state of residence. So we are residents of Washington State and we had to use the San Francisco Council it and every Spanish consulate has a slightly different process and slightly different requirements. But they had a wet so pre COVID The process was you had to go on their website and trying to get an appointment and you were supposed to apply in person. But the website was such that it was impossible to get an appointment and in theory you would try to log in at one in the morning when they would late release. Another day’s appointments three months out. For something like that, but we just we weren’t sure how we were going to even do get to appointments, let alone one. Sure. So, during COVID, though they changed their process such that you just mail in your email your documents when you have everything. And then when they feel comfortable that you’re going to be approved that you have all the required documents, you send them your passport, and all the documentation and then they send it back with the visa in it. So that actually worked well, because it spared us to in person trips to San Francisco.

Corinne 15:30
Sure, sure.

Jim 15:33
What a process. I don’t think we will be attempting that. I like the idea of living in Spain, but having because we’ve lived in so many places Korea, Japan, Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands. Oh, my. Yeah, just getting those documents with just a challenge. Turkey would be a huge challenge.

Corinne 15:55
Yeah. I mean, even when we were living there, getting your car registered, or getting your household goods out of the country, or into the country, they have this Beyanames thing, and that is just I mean, it’s crazy. And that was living there presently, that wasn’t, you know, handled how many years since we’ve lived there at least 10 years ago, and it would be hard to get a police report. It wouldn’t work. No way.

Jim 16:22
They take red tape to a new level.

Corinne 16:24

Stephanie 16:27
That’s what people seem to say about Spain, but and then I heard about Portugal. And then I think, you know, what’s a country that has like a really great bureaucracy? I don’t know of one. So I think they are they’re all tough.

Corinne 16:39
Yeah, we do have friends who are living in Portugal under the same type of visa. I don’t know if it’s called the same thing. But then they’ve been there. And they’ve already been renewed. So I think they’re on their third year or something. They didn’t seem to think it was that big a deal. I don’t know what if you heard is it worse, better?

Stephanie 16:57
I’ve heard that the Portugal D seven visa’s a lot easier,

Corinne 17:01
I think it’s one of the easier ones. The one in Germany isn’t too bad. I mean, I know lots of people who’ve done that one, too. The big thing that most people run into is the health insurance. They don’t want to give you health services. I mean, you can pay for health insurance, but you don’t want to pay health insurance prices. It’s just outrageous.

Stephanie 17:30
Oh, really? How much is it?

Corinne 17:33
I don’t have a good figure to give you but the you know, the German system, they are taxing 30% of their paycheck and a lot of that goes to health. So if you take a paycheck and take 30% of it. That’s how much they want to charge you. So I mean, it’s more than you know, most expats are making. Wow. People that I know basically will get a travel insurance or I think for us, it’s not such a big deal because we like you we have the TRICARE probably I don’t know, I should assume Yeah. Any most military retirees, retirees have TRICARE? So I think that’s okay.

Jim 18:14
As long as it you know, they’ll tell you what country you’re in. Yeah, yeah. I was noticing on your website when you’re talking about the process that TRICARE wasn’t good enough for Spain? That’s correct. Extra. Yeah.

Stephanie 18:27
Yeah. But fortunately, it’s it’s pretty it was cheap. I mean, compared to the United States and apparently compared to Germany, but are we? The reason they won’t accept TRICARE is because TRICARE who does have co-pays and because their care in Rota is technically space available. But the so you have to have a plan that’s no copay, no waiting periods, no deductibles, that also includes repatriation of remains. And so you know, they have packages designed exactly to fit with the visa. But even for me and my husband, it was about 2000 US dollars for the year. That’s done so but that’s, that’s everything. I mean, we actually never used it. But if you ever go basically you have more than that’s all you’ll ever pay. You’ll never pay anything at the doctor. So that’s pretty good. I mean,

Jim 19:18
In TRICARE, by itself is like I think it’s up to 650 a year for a family. Yeah, so plus the copays of course.

Stephanie 19:29
Yeah, I should mention that we did not need when we renewed the visa there were some things that we were like we were able to use TRICARE it’s just the consulate wouldn’t accept it. But the country work fainted Yes.

Jim 19:44
Oh, that’s interesting. Had his interesting so the renewal process was not as bad as the original initial process.

Stephanie 19:52
No, no come in. It was a piece of cake in comparison. I mean that we definitely did a few things wrong. I mean that but It was, it was pretty easy. I mean, I’ll let you know when we actually get our cards in hand. But so far, so good.

Corinne 20:05
All right. Well, those are things. I know a lot of people are always wondering about the different things that you can different places you could go. And nowadays they have, you know, what do you call them, like digital nomad type of pieces in some places, which I haven’t heard anyone who’s really taken up those yet. So I don’t know, if they’re charging you a big amount of money at the beginning or how it’s working. But I don’t know, for Jim and me, we recently became grandparents. So we don’t really want to live overseas anymore, anyway. We just want to travel but we want to travel for longer times, although I think most places are 90 days. And that’s a good, that’s a good chunk of time.

Stephanie 20:53
It is, and I think, you know, there is an argument to be made just to forget all that visa stuff. And, you know, even if you come to Europe, if you just pay attention to whether you’re in the Schengen zone or not, and, you know, 90 days, like you said, this is still a good chunk of time, not everybody even has that much time anyway. But yeah, we’ll see. You know, we’re, we’ve kind of enjoyed trying different countries. So we’ll see what we do next. I don’t know if we’ll try for another renewal of our bees or move on or what we’re gonna do. Alright,

Jim 21:25
so getting a little bit away from the visa, I guess. How much travel were you able to because you said you had planned on like a gap year of travel. That was the initial plan. So how much travel were you able to do before you settled in, in Spain?

Stephanie 21:47
We see we started out with a road trip in the US for about three months. And then we took off in the fall. So it was my husband retired in May of 2015. To travel during the summer. Then for the fall, we took off and we flew took a military flight we flew space a into Germany. And the whole philosophy behind our travel was basically like slow travel like we didn’t have we weren’t trying to hit 30 countries in a year or anything like that.

Stephanie 22:15
We we basically said we’re gonna go somewhere and stay until we feel like leaving. We did have a few things that we wanted to do like I want my husband wanted to show me where he was stationed like his old stomping grounds in Germany. He wanted to show me Garmisch, which is a beautiful area in the mountains in Bavaria.

Stephanie 22:31
I wanted to go with him to Normandy, just because I know how much you would enjoy it. So we just we had a couple things we wanted to do. But we ended up spending, we only went to on that trip, Germany, France and Spain. And that then we ran out of our 90 days. And so we came back.

Stephanie 22:49
And we spent holidays in the US. And then we flew to Ecuador. And we kind of had an open I think I use frequent flyer miles for that with the idea that if I wanted to adjust something, it wasn’t that hard to change it without penalty. And we plan to go multiple places in South America. But actually we loved Ecuador, so much we spent we spent the whole time there.

Stephanie 23:11
It’s kind of like cheaper, Costa Rica and that it’s this tiny little country. But you have the city, you have the ocean, you have mountains, you have the Amazon and so on. And the Galapagos. So yeah, there’s just so much to do there.

Stephanie 23:27
Then we came back to the US. We took another military plane to Hawaii went to a friend’s wedding. And then we went to Japan, which is my husband, that was another hard stuff, I guess you could say because my husband had just met some my husband’s half Japanese, and he had just met his relatives in Japan, the year prior. And they had said, come back and bring your wife. And so we did. And they wanted us to come back during the cherry blossom season. So we went there in April.

Corinne 23:55
Nice, because that’s time to go. Yeah, it was beautiful.

Stephanie 23:59
So that was we were coming up on a year. We kind of we didn’t know where we wanted to settle in the US. And we kind of said, well, we’re not ready to come back yet. And my husband’s relatives don’t speak English. And they told him he needed to learn Japanese. So he said, You know what, I want to go back to Japan and do an intensive language study. So we said, Okay, well, we found a program and we moved to Fukuoka, Japan that later that year. And that’s where we live for the next two and a half years. Where was his family from? One way his mom was one of 11 brothers and sisters from Kagoshima area, and one and one and two lives down there and then they had their lives in Nagoya.

Corinne 24:44
Okay, cool, because Fukuoka is quite a ways from Nagoya. Yes. I mean, it’s a train ride but still. Yeah, yeah. Well, did you enjoy Fukuoka?

Stephanie 24:57
We love it. It is a nice city.

Corinne 24:59
It’s warm most of the year to.

Stephanie 25:02
Yeah, it’s a prettydecent climate and it’s, it’s, we, we I had actually never even heard of it until we started talking about moving there. And then it’s a really unexpectedly, like most people from the America I don’t think are familiar with the club unless you were like stationed in San Diego but everyone. Everyone who plans a trip to Japan, you know, thinks about Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and so on. And nobody even I think the island of Kyushu is more popular with Asian tourists. They’re the ones that are more likely to be familiar with it. But there’s just it’s to me it’s such a if you like, outdoor stuff, and more. I don’t know, real Japan, I suppose you could say Kyoshi was definitely the place to go.

Jim 25:47
Oh, yeah. Yeah, we enjoyed it.

Corinne 25:51
We love I love Japan. But yeah, Kyushu is really pretty too, for sure. And it’s got some really different things there that you don’t find in other places. Like with all the hot springs come up, and they’re different color pools. I forget what it’s called.

Jim 26:06
The hot sand on sand. That’s a really cool, yeah.

Corinne 26:09
Did you do that? That was amazing.

Stephanie 26:12
We did not do that. Was that in Miyazaki?

Corinne 26:15
Yeah, yeah.,

Stephanie 26:18
We did go down to Miyazaki. That was actually my favorite place. Probably that we went just because we also went to a place called toy Misaki, which is a cape at the end of the island. And there’s it’s a sort of a natural, a national park. I don’t know what you’d call it. But they have wild horses there. And it’s not at all touristy really much. You really need a car to get there. Yeah. And so because it’s not accessible. It’s you know, that makes it so much more.

Corinne 26:48
Train so on. Were you did you have a car while you’re in Japan?

Stephanie 26:52
We did not. We rented them. Oh, okay. Yeah.

Corinne 26:56
Yeah. We had a car, but we lived there.

Jim 26:58
We were stationed there.

Corinne 27:01
Two different places. Yeah. Okay. So we were looking, we were saying geoarbitrage, right? I don’t know that many people know that term. Can you tell us what it means and how you’ve applied that. And what some of your research has shown is good places for people to go.

Stephanie 27:21
Sure. So that concept basically just means like taking advantage of lower cost places. And when you’re essentially giving yourself a raise, or if you’re willing to live somewhere that’s low cost, you can possibly afford to, you know, retire early or work online or do something different.

Stephanie 27:39
And that was not a concept I really thought about. But it hit home the first. Yeah, it I didn’t realize, like I knew that if people if we wanted to pick up and move to Southeast Asia, yeah, life would be really inexpensive. But it was really eye opening. When we were in Europe, that first time that I met. We made some, like good friends in France, and the guy was a pretty well established businessman and his income was surprisingly low. I mean, we were surprised at what you actually need.

Stephanie 28:11
And it’s partly because they have so many things that are taking care of their, you know, their health care, and the education is so much cheaper. But we just we realized that it was very possible to live in Western Europe, even on my husband’s retirement, and VA, and then I could do my own thing, build my own business and so on. So that was pretty eye opening. And that’s another part of the reason we realized the traveling was actually cheaper than living in the US, especially compared to Washington, DC, where our rent was $3,600 a month.

Stephanie 28:44
So I mean, we were kind of finding that if you, you know, for the lifestyle that we wanted, we could live a lot of other places around the world, just not in the United States. So we’re finding I mean, pretty much anywhere in Spain, you know, just for frame of reference, the average salary around here is like 1000 to 1500, I think, per month. So that’s not you know, a lot of people who are have a pension of some sort can cover that. I mean, you have to be willing to also live like a local, like, if you want the same lifestyle, like you probably share you the experience like in Japan, you’re not going to have the same size home that you have in the United States. People live a lot more simply they own less stuff and so on. But if you’re willing to do that, then you can easily get along with so much less money.

Corinne 29:36
Yeah, yeah, well, we’re not stuff people. So we totally agree with that lifestyle anyway.

Stephanie 29:42
And I’m not sure what with moving all the time. You probably didn’t want to have to cart around a lot of stuff.

Jim 29:47
No, no. We’ve always found it’s, it works out the best if you’ve got each of your rooms has its purpose, and that’s what you have. And when it’s time to move. You pack up the room and it goes to Another warehouse or another place with that room, and it goes into that room. And our last place that we lived overseas was Kamakura, Japan. Oh, wow. And, and it was a fairly small, it did have two and a half bedrooms, but they’re Japanese bedrooms. Right? More like a large walk in closet. Right. Yeah. So by then we had really pared down quite a bit.

Stephanie 30:26
Yeah. But it’s, it’s kind of freeing, right? I mean, just to know that when you, when you pack up to leave, it’s not this big, stressful event where you wonder what you’ll possibly do with all this stuff, and how you’ll pack it, how you fit it into the next place, and so on.

Jim 30:40
Exactly, exactly. It really is freeing. So did you have difficulty finding, like your apartment there in Spain, or I’m imagining it was an apartment in Japan? That can be challenging.

Stephanie 30:57
Yeah, Japan was extremely difficult. So when we move there, we moved into housing provided by his school. Oh, and that was tight. It was? Yeah, well, it was it was really, it was designed for students really. And so we were actually sharing they gave us it was a queen sized frame for the bed. And then two futons, which were really small.

Stephanie 31:22
And then there was a loft area, which I guess the idea would be that if you had a roommate situation, the roommate or one person would sleep up there, but the loft was very much, like really hot in the summer, really cold in the winter. So we ended up stacking the two futons, which were very thin onto the twin bed and we shared a twin bed for six months. Wow.

Stephanie 31:42
So I you know it just funny what you get used to because I remember our first night there falling asleep thinking to myself, if we’d only committed for the first three runs, and I was falling asleep thinking to myself, there is no way we’re gonna be in this apartment past, you know, three days from now, literally. Three months, but we just got used to it.

Stephanie 32:05
So when we decided after he, you know, a four or so months into we decided, You know what, we kind of like it here, we want to stay longer than the six months we had planned. We found out that because of my husband’s Japanese heritage, we could apply for a residence visa. So when we figured that when we did that they’d give us a year, which was seemed to be pretty standard from the people we knew that had visas.

Stephanie 32:27
But they actually gave us three, which was surprising. Wow. But once we had that we were starting to look for regular apartments just like an unfurnished standard lease, but that proves virtually impossible at the time just because they they make no bones about the fact that they don’t want to rent to foreigners, but they’ll flat out tell you that.

Stephanie 32:49
And then there’s a few people along the chain that have to approve, so maybe the person who owns it would be fine renting to a foreigner but the guarantor the bank, or somebody else along with chain says no. So we had several failed attempts to do that.

Stephanie 33:07
And then finally, what we ended up doing is we connected with a real estate agent, who was actually French, and she sort of understood what we were trying to do what we were looking for. And her company had an apartment that was furnished and they hadn’t decided whether they were going to rent it out as a regular apartment or as like a corporate apartment. So they somehow agreed to give it to us and we were paying more than the average Japanese person pays for an apartment but it also included heat in I don’t know, you probably know what a big deal that is because he really expensive.

Stephanie 33:39
So we ended up we got a two bedroom, one bath apartment. And that was great. Yeah, it felt incredibly spacious. So and that’s getting to like our frame of reference has really changed like that. Yeah, the place that that I mentioned in Washington, DC that was 3600. That was a townhouse with like, three bedrooms, four bathrooms or something like that. And so now we feel like a two bedroom. One bath is what we have here in Spain. That’s fine for us. I mean, obviously two bathrooms would be convenient, but that’s okay. We can have two bedrooms, one bath is just fine.

Corinne 34:17
Do you get visitors or?

Stephanie 34:21
My parents came to visit us in October and they stayed at a hotel nearby our second bedroom and this is pretty standard at least in our town because a lot of these Disney apartments are designed for vacationing families. So the second bedroom has bunk beds. And it’s really, really tiny and it’s just one bathroom. So my parents kind of like to have their own space. So that worked out perfectly. I put them in what I think is the best hotel around here and my mom actually still raves about it. So yeah, she loved it.

Corinne 34:55
We have friends who live right off the beach there but their house humungous Wow, they don’t own it. They’re renting. But they have such great landlords, and they’ve made such close ties with them that they’ll never move, I think, at least 10 years by now.

Jim 35:10
Yeah. It’s the same, like you said, because it’s Rota, which has a huge summer population. The house since they’re right near the beach, the house where they’re at is surrounded by all these other houses, that most of them sit empty most of the year. Yeah. That’s quiet except for the summer,

Jim 35:30
Till summer. They’re right on the main street where the party train goes through. And yeah, that kind of that part. Of course, he’s a teacher as well. That’s why they’re there. Oh, wow. Okay. So at least every other summer, they go back to the States, and they kind of escape all that. Like you said, that’s a good time to get out of Rota.

Stephanie 35:50
It is. Yeah, let the let the tourists have it. It’s just it’s so it couldn’t be more different just because it is really quiet in the winter. And you can go in this huge beach, this beautiful beaches empty. And it’s, you know, especially first, like I’m from Chicago. And so when it’s 60 degrees out, I’m like, this is a great day.

Jim 36:10
Perfect weather. Yeah.

Stephanie 36:12
Whereas, you know, the Spanish people don’t think it’s that gray today. So, but yeah, and then in the summer, then suddenly, the beach looks like that infamous picture of Coney Island, you know, it’s like you can see a spot of sand and every restaurant requires reservations and so on.

Corinne 36:31
And have you noticed that the price has changed during the summer? For like breads at restaurants?

Stephanie 36:37
That’s a good question. I don’t I don’t, I don’t think so necessarily. I mean, we’re just trying to we’ll start trying to figure out if we’re getting American prices when we go to restaurants because we we have a tapas restaurant that we went to a few weeks ago.

Stephanie 36:54
And we ordered some things that we thought were tapas. One thing that was they didn’t happen to have. And so they said, Oh, we can give you something else. Instead, we said okay, well, we’ll take that. We didn’t see it on the menu. What turns out, it was like some 18 Euro octopus. Right, so we get the bill and it’s like 40, some Euro. So then about a week later, we were back there but with local friends. And we everybody had two drinks, we had all kinds of tapas. I think we had a dessert and all this stuff. And it was like 37 euros. Can’t figure out if they just get a discount, or we get the gaijin price or what?

Corinne 37:36
Guide team, I went to the equivalent to Gaijin as a misprint in Espanol. I don’t know.

Stephanie 37:44
But but they don’t use it so much the way they do and is it’s not uses the same way as in Japan.

Corinne 37:49
Yeah, that’s interesting.

Jim 37:51
So how about finding the apartment there in Spain was that difficult?

Corinne 38:00
Because you know, every military base and we all know this, who’s live who’ve lived in these communities. When you rent an apartment, or a house, in the military community, you’re paying extravagantly more than anybody else, any of the locals. And you know, that’s worked into the economy, blah, blah, blah, whatever. We’re not paying for it. The government is. So it’s okay. But in your case as an expat in the military community, that seems like that might be a little bit of a detriment.

Stephanie 38:30
Yeah, it definitely comes into play. So we moved here, we, we had reserved an Airbnb for a week, to give ourselves time to find something. And since we arrived in December, that was that worked in our favor, just because, you know, trying to find a place in the middle of the summer, or like the busy season when lots of military families are coming and going, that wouldn’t be good.

Stephanie 38:51
But we, we officially, like you’re supposed to complete all these things associated with the visa within 30 days of arriving. And for one of the tasks, you need your lease, and so we were in this big hurry, has it turned out, like they’re pretty flexible about that, because it would be virtually impossible to complete all those tasks, just because of the waiting periods and so on.

Stephanie 39:12
But, so yeah, we kind of mostly used Facebook groups that were all variations of Rota real estate, you know, homes and Rota, those kinds of things. And we looked at a few places, and we’ve we pick this one pretty quickly. Our building is only Americans. It’s four units. And I think this place had been vacant for a little bit. But uh, one thing we we did negotiate the price down a little bit because we had also received an offer from the place for an Airbnb that we’d stayed in the past and they had offered us a lower price.

Stephanie 39:51
So we could be able to say, hey, we have another place we can move that’s less, but my husband negotiated down like 100 euro and then We also to make them feel comfortable because they’re used to having a contract with the base and the guarantee that comes with the base. We paid six months cash upfront. So, of course, I was under the assumption that in future months we could pay with wise or something like that. But actually, he still wants cash. But we that’s just because they don’t they want to pretend they’re not really renting it.

Corinne 40:25
Right. Exactly.

Jim 40:28
Interesting. That’s all Yeah, it’s always fun.

Stephanie 40:32
Yeah. But to your point about military, you know, we can say, you know, we’re retirees, we don’t get overseas housing allowance. And they understand that I mean, I have friends that are here on the same base that we are, and we they had a lot of people just flat out say, No, we only rent to people, you know, assigned to the base who have, you know, overseas housing allowance. Knowing what I know, now I feel comfortable. Like if we were ever to try to get another one year lease here, I feel like we could get much closer to a normal rate. I mean, one negotiation tip here is to say, hey, I’ll rent the place from September to May or June, then I’ll go elsewhere for the summer, you can charge three or four times that. Yeah, exactly. And then that’s really what they care about.

Jim 41:18
That’s a really, that’s actually for someplace like Rota, where like, like I was saying, our friends, neighbors, those houses are empty for all that time, I’m sure they would rather have, you know, even if a third of the price they get in the summer in the summertime, right to fill it up during the winter.

Stephanie 41:37
I think I think that could be an option. And there’s a lot of places in Spain that are very seasonal, like the place that we went in Spain, our the first time we ever came here was excuse me called Ganzia and it was a beach area on the Mediterranean coast. Similar thing like it’s super busy July and August, a little bit into September, October, but then it’s just really quiet. So I think people people could try that. A lot of highly seasonal locations.

Corinne 42:05
Good northern coast of Spain. So beautiful up there.

Stephanie 42:11
The part above Portugal or the other coast.

Corinne 42:13
I’m talking about Northern Spain. You’re talking about Southern states still, right? Yes. Yeah. I like Northern Spain. I like green.

Jim 42:24
Not quite as hot. It still gets hot, but it’s not quite as hot. Yeah, it’s rainy. So can you hop out of rota on military space a flights?

Stephanie 42:34
Normally you can not stay? Yeah. So normally, yeah, that was part of the appeal of Rota, because to be honest, like when I first visited Spain, and I was, I was the one that pushed to move back here or to cook to move here. After Japan, I kind of had Valencia in my head. But Rota has so many other conveniences. And that was kind of that would have been one of them. If they say we’re still we’re not restricted is yes, we could easily hop all over the place.

Jim 43:08
I think yes, lights in, in and out of Rota.

Stephanie 43:12
Oh, totally. I mean, we want to have the places we really want to go. That would be easy. Hops would be suitabIe, Greece and Sigonella and Sicily. But hopefully, I think I mean, it will come back eventually.

Jim 43:25
I just don’t exactly.

Corinne 43:27
Things are spiking again. It’s horrible. And we just got over COVID Actually, oh, as you can hear.

Jim 43:40
It’s really that Omachron variant has really been running rampant through the states, of course, and I think the rest of the world too.

Stephanie 43:47
Yeah. It’s hard. It’s hard. As far as I know, we’ve managed to avoid it so far. So I have my fingers

Jim 43:53
crossed. Yeah. Good. Do you have any other tips or helpful hints that you can give to people that are considering long term overseas expat life? I guess?

Stephanie 44:06
Sure. I would say for one, if you have any thought of moving anywhere, like just becoming a resident, rent an apartment there first, you know, there’s no rush to apply for a visa and become a resident, but really give it time to see if that’s the place that you want to live.

Stephanie 44:23
Because it’s easy to see the great things about a place when you’re on vacation. But spending even a few weeks there is different and then of course, a few months is different still. So and I definitely would buy something until you’re very, very sure that it’s it’s the right place.

Stephanie 44:41
But I also would say that you know, not not necessarily for people planning to move abroad, but just for traveling. Our favorite way to travel is what we call slow travel. And so don’t plan too many things. Just if you only have one week, or you only have two weeks I wouldn’t say try to visit us many possible cities as you can, I would say, pick a couple places and then have some free time to just wander around and sit in a park or a cafe and experience the life there, versus just hitting all the tourist things because you just get a richer experience than if you were always at the train station and running back and forth trying to arrange all the logistics.

Jim 45:21
That’s good advice. Yeah, one of our friends talked a little bit about slow travel and, and what she tries to do is be in a location long enough to become a regular at a coffee shop, to where you could go in and they know what you’re going to order and they know your name, that type of thing.

Corinne 45:43
And even if it’s only for a week or two weeks, it’s amazing how quickly people will take you in. Like if you just show up once and then you show up a week later, it’s not the same thing. But if you go every morning at you know, in the morning and order breakfast, or like Jim said a coffee or something, then look third day, they’re like your old friends, you know, right?

Stephanie 46:08
Yeah, yeah. And that just makes it so much more memorable. You could probably attest to this, you probably remember the people you’ve met and all the places you live more so than, you know, the museums.

Corinne 46:21
That’s that’s my thing. Big time. It’s all about the people. It’s not about the places, every places are important in fine. Yes. But it is about the people it is. It is the cultural connection. And they’re just that human bit. I’m not actually as important. Great tips.

Jim 46:44
All right. Well, thank you for joining us, Stephanie. We’ve this has been a great conversation.

Corinne 46:49
I told Jim it’s funny because he’s been much more active who would say this conversation that he has about the podcast and it’s because we can relate so so easily to where you’re at because of our military background as well. And even we were Dodds teachers. I mean, literally, we’ve lived in the military community, for me pretty much my entire life. And for Jim, you know, his entire adult life.

Stephanie 47:17
Wow. Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully. Yeah, we’ll catch up somewhere. Maybe you’ll come to Rota, we’ll be back in Washington State.

Corinne 47:27
I was gonna say we’re in Tacoma. So just let us know. We’d love to meet up. That would be so much fun. I don’t think we’ll be in Rota, even though we have good friends there. And if this pandemic ends, we’ll go but …I mean, it just so hard to plan it and yes. I’m not getting my hopes up.

Stephanie 47:46
Right now. I hear Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard to plan.

Corinne 47:50
Well, thank you once again. And whatever you decide to do whether you guys decide to keep staying in Rota or move somewhere new, we’ll be following you on your website, and we’ll see what you’re doing.

Stephanie 48:03
I appreciate that. Thanks to you both. I enjoyed it.

Corinne 48:05
All right. Take care.

Stephanie 48:07
All right, you too. Thanks.

Jim 48:11
All right. Thanks for listening to this episode of streets and eats. If you liked what you heard, please show us some love. Hit the like button and leave us a review. Maybe even subscribe so you don’t miss any future podcasts. Also, we’d love it if you joined us on our Facebook private group streets needs where we just have an ongoing conversation about all things travel. Ciao for now.

Transcribed by

Podcaster Bios for Jim and Corinne: Jim and Corinne are a married couple who love everything travel. Having met and married in Germany, they’ve never stopped. Along the way, they have raised two kids, visited over 90 countries (including every country in Europe), and have plenty of stories and travel tips to share. Read more about them on our About page.