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How to Move Abroad, in 5 Easy Steps: Our Story

When we moved to Spain in August 2017, it was the culmination of over five years of dreaming, planning, and working towards our goal. Here’s how we did it

Wedding Photo
Us in October 2011

Step 1: Commit to your dream!

Right after we got married, we took a “mini-moon” to an organic farm and ranch. Freed from the shackles of planning our wedding, we could finally plan our future. We made a bucket list of things we wanted to do in the first five years of our marriage: Having a baby was one, and living abroad was another.

We went on our honeymoon to southern Spain that summer. One afternoon spent drinking wine and eating tapas on a plaza, we said to each other, “Yeah. We could live here.”

Our son Emmett was born in February 2014, but the dream of living in Spain still burned in our minds.

Step 2: Light a fire

One night, when our son was about 2, we were at a party when Lindsay found herself sitting next to one of Marshall’s colleagues, a Spanish teacher. “We’re thinking about moving to Spain for a year,” she said.

“Oh really?” said the Spanish teacher. “My best friend lives in Barcelona, and he wants to live in Austin with his family.”

That was the moment where “moving to Spain” turned from a dream into something approaching reality.

Emmett as a baby
Four day old Emmett at home

Step 3: Plan

The Spanish teacher connected us with the family in Barcelona – an American father and his Spanish wife and two school-age boys. After a few Skype calls, we both decided we were serious about a house exchange. We decided on a timeline of two years. During this time, Spain seemed like an event on an unmoving horizon line.

But that changed when in fall 2016, when the father moved to Texas to find a job ahead of his family, staying with us for a week or so at a time. We told our family and friends that we were moving to Barcelona.

Step 4: Do the work

In early 2017, we buckled down. We gathered the papers for our visa, which took about 3 months. To our surprise, the Spanish consulate processed our application faster than advertised. Once we received confirmation, we were officially moving to Spain.

Our Spanish counterparts were not as fortunate, though. Due to the uncertainty around immigration policies in the US, the mother’s visa application was slowed by about 9 months. Our housing exchange fell through. But our families had become close in the process. Now we had best friends in Spain.

Emmett in front of apartment
Emmett on his “patinete” in front of our apartment in Barcelona

Step 5: Move!

Not only did we have to pack for a year abroad with a 3 year old, we now had to rent out our house and find an apartment in Barcelona. Fortunately, our Spanish friends found us an affordable apartment in a wonderful location. But we didn’t find a tenant for our house until a week before our move. It was stressful, to say the least!

But once we arrived in Barcelona, jet-lagged and luggage-burdened, everything it took to get here melted away. We were at the beginning of a great adventure.


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