We moved to the Canary Islands! Here’s why.

Remember the post about our first year plan in Europe? Ridiculous. I can’t believe I wrote this:

Our idea is to head to Eastern Europe (Bulgaria and Croatia? Suggestions?), then drop down into the Mediterranean (Sicily, Greece, Corsica, Sardinia?), and then end in Spain–three months each region, more or less–before coming home for 3 months. 

Not even close. And, frankly, I don’t know what we were thinking. Were we drunk? With our Outdoorplay workload and a 4year old in tow, all that driving and offline time combined with the logistical nightmare of Schengen hopping would’ve been HELL for us.

Rule #1 in nomad living: Know your limits. 

What can we say, we’re dreamers. That said, we did execute a key part of the plan. We did move to Europe. 

And, really, we like flying by the seat of our pants. Recently Tree and I took one of those Meyers Briggs personality tests (INTJ and ENFP, respectively–although, I think he’s a secret INFJ. I just have to coax the feelings out of him a bit more), and one of the statements was, ”The best plans are the ones that can easily be changed.” We both agreed emphatically. 

Rule #2 – Be flexible. That foot in Eastern Europe? Put it behind your ear on an island off the coast of Africa. 

Here’s what actually happened last year. 

Almost immediately after I published the blog post, we realized we were not thirty, childless, and retired. Something about our plan being blasted across the world wide web brought us back to reality. Wait, what did we just say we were going to do?!  So, instead, we did something equally impulsive, we set out to become residents of Spain, a country I’d never been to before, but I speak the language, and that seemed clutch. Even though the process was painful (I cried at least twice), it was immeasurably worth it, and on October 25th, 2016, we took off for Barcelona with our non-lucrative residency visas in hand. Then we moved to Cambrils, a small beach town recently in the news because of the attempted terrorist attack that immediately followed the Barcelona tragedy, and, finally, we smartened up and headed south to Andalusia in January where sun-worshipping rock climbers like us belong. Our few months in Malaga were superb. Soleil went to Waldorf School, we made friends, Tree and I climbed amazing limestone, and we all enjoyed our 3 hour Spanish lunches every Sunday. 

So, why did we all of a sudden pack up and decide to move to Tenerife, also sight unseen?

For this cutie pie! 

We’ve always wanted Soleil to learn French as a third language. Since I went to Le Lycée Francais de Los Angeles and speak marginal French, we figured I’d introduce the language as a subject while home-schooling and supplement her education with trips to France and cartoons (PJ Masques, Pierre Lapin, Peppa Pig, even stupid Caillou). The process would be slow, and she may not reach native-level fluency like she has in Spanish and English, but she’d be able to get by. But, then, on impulse, we took a tour of the Lycée Francais in Malaga in April, and that got it in our head that if we put her in French immersion right now while her little brain is still empty and spongey, she’d soak it right up. It’s that easy, right?  So we applied to the school that day but were told there was already a long waiting list. Don’t get your hopes up. 

While we waited to hear back from them, we went on a family road trip to Seville, Madrid, San Sebastian, and…FRANCE! While there, we hired a French nanny who came Mon-Friday for 1.5hrs a day to play with Sol. Within a couple of weeks Soleil was conversing. Her progress blew us away. At the same time, the school in Malaga told us that they weren’t accepting any new students. What to do? Google “Lycée Francais in Spain” of course. Turns out there are numerous Lycées with the Mission Laique system in ten different regions of Spain. All we had to do was choose a new one. 

Why did we choose Tenerife? 

  1. Great weather, with a year-round median of 70-80 degrees F
  2. Rock climbing (not the best, but it’ll do)
  3. Surfing (world class)

Plus we figured, why not? We’ve never lived on island. It might be fun. 

So we applied, she got in, I booked a ferry, and we busted ass south. Since it was a long drive, we had three stops along the way.

1) The funky and affordable El Castillo (castle) hotel and bodega in Villarrobledos where Soleil pretends she’s a princess and we drink wine. (Read: Genius.)

2) The economic Hotel L’Alguer located right on the beach in L’Ametlla de Mar just south of Cambrils. (Read: Genius)

3) And, finally, Cadiz, Spain, where the ferry terminal was located. What an unexpected gem! Cadiz is truly awesome. I hope to spend more time there someday. 

Since we were staying a few days, we scored a great little  love shack off AirBnb from a fellow nomadic hippie named Beda. 

How many different tubs and sinks has my kid bathed in? Let’s see, almost 5yrs on the road, so…100 ?

Cadiz is an old port town with tons of character, great architecture, and warm people. We cruised the narrow passageways….

and saw these classic old ladies…. (the one in blue totally reminds me of Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire)

..until we popped out onto a big plaza in front of a church with live music and lots of restaurants. Our favorite place for tapas was called La Candela. So good. 

Soleil promptly put on a show. 

As it happens, her new obsessions is Moana, which only makes moving to an island even cooler for her. Here she is singing “Never know how far I’ll go” for anyone in earshot. 

I love this little girl. 

In fact, I love her so much that I felt an inordinate amount of pride when she made it to the hot-potato finals on the ferry. Even Tree kept yelling, “That’s my girl! Wow, she’s really good at this!” as if playing hot potato matters in life. 

And, I let her crawl on my lap and eskimo kiss me when she had her face painted Smurf blue. 

And when she insisted on sleeping in the same bunk as me, I said, I’d love that! And was only half lying.  Being a mom does weird things to a person. 

Finally, after 48hrs of being cooped up on a boat, we made it to paradise! 

And beelined it to straight to the beach.

Tree bought a surfboard and is SUPER excited about teaching Soleil to surf. (I think the feeling might be mutual).

We got incredibly lucky and found a perfect furnished apartment on our first day house hunting. AND WE SIGNED A YEAR LEASE. Oh my god. We’ve never done that in our 10+ years as a couple. In fact, Tree and I have never lived together in the same place for more than 6 months. We’ve always been on the move. And the other day, we went to IKEA– IKEA!!!!– and bought house stuff for our new digs. Eeek! Who are we? 

Anyway, back to the apartment. It’s right next to public transportation, the outside mercado (fish market, butcher, fruits and veggie stands, bakery, herbalist), the historic district where all the great restaurants and boutique shops are located, and the boardwalk where I go on a morning run along the beach.  Although, admittedly, this is the nicest apartment we’ve ever had (we usually rock tiny dumps), it’s really all about the location. I can walk everywhere, and when I can’t walk, I just jump on the tram. I’m in heaven!

On our way to school! 

Oh, and we have a small, heated kid’s pool! 

Which brings me to the other reason we chose to settle down for a year in Tenerife. 

In the “one year plan” post, I wrote this as a reason for wanting to travel with Soleil.

What stories do I want Soleil to tell herself as she rapidly expands into self-awareness? Every experience she has in her young life right now will influence who she thinks she is and where she fits in this world.

While I still hold those words dear to my heart, we also have come to realize that some experiences are hard to have on the road. Like swim lessons. Theater school. Learning to surf and ride a bike. Soleil has led an extraordinary life thus far, and that has shaped her into a very bright and brave little girl, but I think a little bit of ordinary is going to do her (and us) some good, too. 

First day of kindergarten. She was so brave. I couldn’t have been more proud of her. 

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing more about Tenerife as we explore “our island,” as Soleil says. It’s home to the 3rd largest volcano by extension. It has the world’s largest solar observatory and is equally famous for it’s star-gazing. We’ll be camping and surfing and climbing and wine tasting and taking trips to the other Canary islands and probably Morocco (we’ve practically got a foot in Africa so we may as well pop on over) and maybe Portugal. It’s hard saying what we’ll do exactly. You know how we are about plans 🙂

Rule # 3 – Be still, at least sometimes?

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  1. Sean

    • Sean!!! I still owe you a Sedaris book. Come to Tenerife so I can give it to you 🙂

    • Kelly Breathe <3 how many lifetimes now?

    • I am already looking to update my pasaport & get Sean his… that would be a perfect 1st out of the country trip…
      How many.. I lost count many ago… kind of like “how many times did we go on that ride while at the park?”
      Far or near .. I am holding your hand skipping through every adventure with you.
      (Like the 2 souls in ‘The Little Soul and the Sun” book illustration… we have played together mant times, you & I. We have been the up & the down, the brother & sister, the teacher & student.. the bffs of this delightful dat at the park)

    • I’ll head over whenever can 🙂
      I liked what I read of Diabetes with Owls

  2. please post lots of pics – I havent been, but it is on the list

  3. I want your life so bad.

  4. I love this. Great read as always. PS- I can’t believe you went to ikea! 😉

  5. No, no no, this is all in your imagination…. Malaga was soooo much better we miss you all!

    • Undoubtedly our whole family friend situation was better in Malaga! We just have to convince you all to move here. Let’s just start with a visit. We have an extra room. I’ll buy a bassinet and hire a nanny. See you in December! 🙂

  6. Beautiful.

  7. Why couldn’t I have been born your kid? LOL Great stuff Stevie!

  8. amazing. a few long pit stops can work out well.

    • That’s the trick with kids, isn’t it? Our M.O. is always take a red-eye on transcontinental. Fly during the day on flights less than 8hrs. Limit driving to no more than 5hrs a day. And…visit friends who have a kid and an extra room in Tenerife! Seriously, venga chica!

  9. Donna Watson says:

    This post is so awesome! I can’t wait to read more of your life on the beautiful island. Also….Congratulations on your published articles. I”m looking forward to reading them. Cheers!

  10. Tessa Hill says:

    Another fabulous post! So great to get the update! Your open-hearted spirit and exciting adventures never fail to inspire me! Enjoy your island – hopefully you’ll be able to take jaunts also to Madeira and The Azores (I’m headed there myself this summer- was born on Terceira in the Azores and have yet to return). I know flights are very inexpensive between them, and hopefully also from your island. Hooray Soleil for being so brave starting Kindergarten in your new school! Thanks again for sharing your adventures!!

  11. Love this post… and the openness to know when a plan wasn’t meant to be. It is so fantastic to see parents such as yourselves, and all of the others we meet on the road, out there teaching their kids what life should be about. Enjoy!

  12. Today I learned that there’s an IKEA on the Canary Islands. The Swedish World Invasion continues!

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