A change of scenery is one of the best ways to understand what you are taking for granted.
In my latest posts, I promised I’d tell you a bit more about our recent decision to change our life—quite drastically, to be honest.
For you to understand where I come from, you should know we’ve been living in one of the best areas in Marbella for the past ten years and in one of the nicest complexes in town for the past five years. We were lucky: when we rented, the market was down and we got a very good deal (for the area) for our apartment, a spacious two-bedroom first line of the beach. Recently, though, the market has gone up again and apartments are back at their normal prices (we’re talking a 50% increase).
It was clear that at these rates, with only two bedrooms and our second monkey on its way, we couldn’t stay there. And we were faced with a decision: either find another apartment in the same area and pay more for less quality; or move to a different, less good area where we would save (quite a bit of) money on rent.
It might not sound like a difficult decision, but it was.
We’ve lived in paradise for years, surrounded by tropical plants and flowers, where everything is peaceful at night and birds chirping wake us up every morning. From our terrace we saw the mountain on one side, and the sea on the other. We’ve lived among foreigners and tourists, which I loved. I loved the diversity of cultures, the different languages and backgrounds we encountered there. We’ve met beautiful, well-mannered, kind people who we highly appreciate. When we walked out the door, we were 30 seconds from the best part of the beach promenade, two minutes from gorgeous (although overpriced) cafes, and ten minutes from the city centre.
Let’s admit it, we got spoiled. I got spoiled, especially because I work from home and receiving people here feels nice. You see, status is a tricky thing, if you learn to care about it, it’s quite hard to let go.
So no, moving away from all this wasn’t an easy decision at all. It scared us to give up on all this. It’s hard to say no to what you can afford—maybe by stretching yourself thinner—in order to do what is right. But truth is, we have lived the past five years the way we could live when we retire on our savings in 20-30 years… But in order to actually get there, we had to change something. It was time to stop trading financial security for pleasure and, yes, also a little bit of status.
So for the first time in a long time—after lots of questionable decisions dictated by our comfort-seeking tastes and allowed by two good incomes—we chose to forget about status, appearance, preferences, and we made the decision that felt right.
We’re going to a part of town that is not exactly to our liking, it’s not close to the beach, it’s not great for walks as it’s on an uphill, and it’s further away from lovely cafes. Streets smell at times and they’re not as clean (which sadly reflects the people who live here). It’s not the best area, not even close to it. But the apartment is good, it’s got three bedrooms and it’s renovated (which is a lucky find around here). The neighbourhood is lively and the people who own the small shops around here actually give a damn if you buy from them, because it might make a difference at the end of the month. And everything (not just the apartment) is cheaper, the kind of cheap that you pay 30% less for your usual nappy cream from the pharmacy!
I’d lie if I said it’ll be easy to adapt, but this decision feels right and I’m proud of us for being able to make it.
And funnily enough, as soon as we said “let’s do it!”, all the fear of change disappeared. We sort of felt liberated. And we’re looking forward to starting this adventure, to try a different lifestyle, to learn something new about the town, other people and ourselves, to explore new limits, to learn (and eventually teach our kids) that the way we are—honest, kind, caring, respectful—trumps what we own every day of the week.
Sometimes, in life, fear of change might hold us back. Status might hold us back. Appearances might hold us back. But like it or not, people will always look at your car, your house, your clothes, your accessories and judge your status from them. We should all try to be aware of and learn to let go of status.
Letting go of the idea that you always have to “go up” is liberating. And we learnt that sometimes what some people—the ones that are stuck in their own trap of status and appearances—see as “going down” is really just you growing up and making smart(er) decisions for a brighter future.
And sometimes—not always—it’s as easy as saying “let’s do it”.
If you’re interested in reading up on the subject…
Money for Something, Matt Henderson, a super easy guide on how to start investing (and saving) today, even if you don’t know anything about investing.
The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas J. Stanley