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Choosing Valencia: The Process of Picking a New Home

Part III of ‘How did you guys do this?’ 

We were excited to decide on Spain, but it took more time and work to figure out which city to settle in without having spent significant time there (besides Sevilla for me, but nearly 20 years ago). We/I had traveled to many Spanish cities over the years but of course it’s very different to be a tourist vs. a resident somewhere. Some recommend a month-long reconnaissance trip to your desired city, but this is often unrealistic for those with traditional jobs and kids in childcare, and with the changing pandemic-related travel restrictions at the time. 

First, we needed to define what was important to us for this time-limited experience:
• a much smaller city than LA but big enough to have a good public transit network, international airport, historic core, etc. 
• ability to live comfortably without a car/bike-friendly 
• decent year-round weather, and close to beach
• enough preschool options to get a spot (and feel good about our choice)
• affordable cost of living 
• family-friendly arts and cultural activities and parks 
• sizeable, friendly, but not overwhelming expat community 

In researching and most importantly, having numerous conversations with expat parents of young children, Valencia rose to the top of the list, particularly for its family-friendly reputation. (We also considered Alicante and San Sebastián.) Valencia checked nearly all of the boxes for us, and many expat parents I spoke with reported being happy living there. 

In terms of approaching the daunting moving/storage process, I recommend the blog, podcast, and especially the ‘moving abroad’ checklists from @expatability.carole and her ExpatChild website. Although our move was a bit different since we knew we’d eventually return to LA, I still relied on her detailed checklists working back from 3-6 months to 1 month and then weeks and days out. Shared Google docs, spreadsheets, or task-based apps helped us to break down and assign the dozens of to-dos into manageable tasks. Our immigration lawyer and relocation specialist also helped for the visa process and Valencia-related prep work, respectively, to stay organized and on track. 

Next, our best-laid plans vs. the reality of settling in Valencia, in the next post.