Expat Interview: Linda Rubright Expat Outside Of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Linda Rubright is an expat living outside of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. She is currently working on a book profiling people who figured out how to move to, live in and work in other countries. Linda interviewed us over Skype. We’ve never met Linda in person, she interviewed us and we found out during the interview where we were both were living at that moment. After our interview we asked Linda to share her own expat story with us.

Linda Rubright

Linda Rubright – Writer – Living in Catalonia, Spain

Where is/was “back home” for you?

The United States. I was born outside of Detroit and lived for the last 12 years in Denver and Vail, Colorado.

How long have you been an expat?

In total, about two and a half years with most recent experience being 14+ months.

Outside of your “home” country, where else have you lived/worked?

Puerto Rico (US Commonwealth), Amsterdam and Catalonia, Spain in a town north of Barcelona.

Why and how did you choose these places?

They chose me. I went to Puerto Rico and Amsterdam for work and Spain for love.

How long did you stay  in each place and what is your opinion of each?

10 months, 6 months and 14+ months respectively.

All are incredible and I would highly recommend each of them. Puerto Rico is extremely laid back. The perfect place to be in the Caribbean but not have to deal with any visa / immigration issues (if you are from the US).

Amsterdam is nothing short of magical. It is an amazing international city powered by bicycle and truly is there anything, better?

And there are very few places in the world like Catalonia – home of amazing mountains, wonderfully kind and gentle people, delicious food (served via 3 hour bottomless wine lunches for 10 – 15 Euros a pop, total), former home of some of the most well known artists in the world, fascinating history, a first class major world city and what National Geographic calls one of the 2012 must go to places – Costa Brava.

What motivated you to “leave home” and 1. Travel 2. Become an expat in these places? Did your primary concerns include:

For the adventure of being alive and in love.

Exactly what do you do to earn a living?

I am a writer. I have a website thedeliciousday.com and I recently wrote a book ’14 People Who Cured Asthma’. I am working on my second book profiling people who figured out how to move to, live in and work in other countries, without the aid of marriage, job transfer or similar situation which would facilitate getting a visa easily. My husband and I also do SEO and web development.

Describe your current lifestyle

Tranquilooooooooooooooo

How do you see the move to Barcelona impacting your life?

I think living in another country is an extension of who I have always wanted to be, but not necessarily what I have always done. In that regard, now that I am here I feel very much at peace. I have found my cadence, my rhythm.

Describe the local folks in Catalonia from your perspective.

Small town Catalonia is like small town anywhere as far as way and pace of life. It and the people are very tranquilo. I find Catalan people to be extremely humble, kind and accepting. I do not know if there is a place I have been where the men are more genuinely polite to women as they are in Catalonia. It is a very community oriented culture. When you go out with your friends it is always with a group of 6 – 12. They are, as they should be, very protective of their culture and language and are extremely proud of Catalans of notoriety in the world.

Were the locals friendly and tolerant? How were you treated as a foreigner?

They are very polite. As an outsider, especially one who does not speak Spanish and/or Catalan fluently, it is far more challenging to integrate in the community. I would very much recommend if someone is moving to Spain that they move to a larger city or a more international place to start. There are enormous joys in living abroad but there are also frustrations and those frustrations can be easily exacerbated in a place that is not as accustomed to foreigners. I, of course, have it a bit easier as I came here with family and friends built in but I think it would be incredibly difficult for others without that structure in place.

How did you find a place to buy or rent?

My husband found it. As a note, if you go through a rental agency you are expected to pay the rental agency one month rent as a finders fee. Read the lease VERY closely.  As they put things in there, which at least by US standards are ludicrous such as ‘if the furnace breaks you pay for it, if  the roof needs repair you need to do it’ etc.

Please give us some highlights of your Book that you writing?

The first is 14 People Who Cured Asthma which I published in August of this year. Writing about people who have cured themselves of diseases Western medicine claims are not curable is something I have done extensively on thedeliciousday.com. I start researching this when my husband David’s lifelong asthma was going from bad to worse. I was tired of seeing Western medicine pump him full of drugs and laugh (literally) when he suggested there could be alternatives.

I set out to find people who had cured themselves of asthma to help him and to help the almost 10% of the world’s population that suffers needlessly as David was. What I found is not only natural and healthy ways to eliminate David’s asthma symptoms but incredible stories of people from all over the world who decided to stop listening to the doctors who said there was no cure for asthma and through their own research and healthy lifestyle changes now live a life completely asthma (and asthma medication) free.

The other is on people who have managed to live and work in another country without the help of marriage, job transfer or similar to assist in facilitating the process. I think many people around the world are realizing the dream they were told as children they should want not only doesn’t exist but is actually spiritually unfulfilling. I think they crave living a life in another country but have no idea how to do it or think such things are for ‘other people’. This book will break down how people, just like them, figured out how to work within the system and live a life – outside of the physical and mental borders of their home country.

Have you had any need of healthcare services while traveling? How did that work out? Are you satisfied with your access to health care?

Before I got state healthcare here I had to go to the local health center once because I was bitten by some freak insect and got an infection. The visit was in total about 60 minutes, 80 Euros and 15 Euros in antibiotics. I felt better in a few days.

How is your expat life better? Can you give some specific examples? Draw a contrast between the home life and the new one.

It is calmer.

While in the US I was, to the point of being frequently made fun of by my friends, ‘anti-rat race’. I did not buy into the insane work schedules or the disproportionate value people put on their jobs. I was not much of a consumer. I did not have credit card debt. I mostly ate at home. But being here even further illuminates the utter insanity of the money I was still spending and the unfortunate culture many in the US buy into of  “spend, spend, more, more, bigger, bigger, new bathroom, new couch, new house, NOW.” I hope to someday have the words to explain that the US culture although it tells us that having things is what brings you solace, the truth is that not having things is where true peace is to be found.

Conversely, I have also realized there are a lot of amazing things about the US. I have grown tired of listening to people bash it. I vehemently disagree with US imperialism and nation building. I also think there are truly amazing things about the US that are not recognized or understood beyond our borders. As the US has much to learn from the world, the world could can learn much from the US. The media unfortunately does not do any country or any peoples any favors.

What are your future plans? Will you move somewhere else, travel extensively? Do you see yourself settling down somewhere else? Do you see yourself travelling in another 5 years?

Keep living, loving, traveling, writing, enjoying. I am not sure I know what settling down is. It would be fabulous to find a long term housesit somewhere fabulous in the world.

What sort of advice would you offer somebody interested in doing what you did?

  1. Luck has nothing to do with being able to do this
  2. A lot of money has nothing to do with being able to do this
  3. No matter what you are doing now, if you are open and interested in experiencing life in another country the experience you have elsewhere will be more enlightening, more memorable and more ‘you’ than anything a paycheck or a bathroom remodel will ever be able to give you.

Final thoughts you want to share?

‘Someday’ is today.

To contact Linda Rubright please visit her website thedeliciousday.com.

Expat Interview: Uli Bartke of Casa Cubana B&B in Granada Nicaragua

The best thing about our world travels is that we meet very interesting expats from all walks of life living out their dreams. In our interview series we share their stories. Today, we’d like to share the story of Uli Bartke, owner of Casa Cubana B&B in Granada Nicaragua. We were fortunate to be his guests for 3 weeks and loved every minute of it.

Uli Bartke, Owner Casa Cubana

Uli Bartke

  • Where is/was “back home” for you?
    • Home was in Burcot (near Oxford, UK) on the river Thames, still own a property there, which is rented out long term.
    • home now is where I am
  • How long have you been an expat?
    • Started travelling 5 years, 11 month ago
  • Outside of your “home” country, where else have you lived/worked?
    • Worked in various positions in pharmaceutical industry  in Germany (Berlin, Hildesheim, Munich) as well as 4 years in UK and 2 years for a company in NY
  • Why and how did you choose these places?
    • Driven by job opportunities
  • How long did you stay in each place and what is your opinion of each?
    • Berlin: 8 years at a time, when the city was still enclosed by the wall: now a great place to live
    • Hildesheim: 12 years: medium sized town in northern Germany, good schools, great place to bring up kids
    • Munich: 6 years: fabulous city, great location close to the Alps and Mediterranean, great outdoors (skiing, hiking)
    • Burcot (Oxford, UK): 5 years: great University town, lots of young people and activities
  • What motivated you to “leave home” and
    • 1. Travel
      • I spend a lot of time travelling during my working life, typical business travel (airport, hotel, conference room, airport). In the 1990s I (with my family) did a 6 week trip in a motor home through western Canada and really enjoyed it. Always wanted to experience the many national parks in US and Canada and to do it in a motor home is the way to go. In 2006 my partner Lesley and I were both between jobs and we decided to have a new life time experience. We rented out our home in UK, bought a motor home near Philadelphia and started travelling North America. At that time it was not planned as a permanent change in lifestyle, initially we were thinking 6 to 18 month. So I was still in contact with headhunters, even attending job interviews. After 12 month Lesley and I decided to continue the travelling lifestyle as long as we were enjoying it. We ventured out into Mexico, spend 3 winter seasons there and really liked the country. With growing confidence we decided to travel Central America for the next 15 month. When we came to Granada we fell in love with the city and after 3.5years continuous travel we were ready for another life time experience. We loved the colonial house style there and decided to build us a home with a view to spend a significant time every year in Granada. After one year of project work, building and finishing the house, adding garden, pool, searching for furniture etc. we continued travelling south in Costa Rica, Panama and northern Colombia, ready to do 2 year travels in south America.

Only at that time we decided to make use of our home in Granada as a B&B while we were on the road. We found a professional girl from Atlanta to take on the job as a B&B manager.

2. Become an expat in Nicaragual?

    • We decided for Granada because we fell in love with this colonial city and the time was right for us to have another lifetime experience. Liked the year round warm climate, the mixture of locals, expats and tourists which provides for a buzzing and colorful environment, variety of restaurants and things to do. It is a safe environment, lowest crime rates in Central America and low cost of living contributes to a great quality of life.
  • Exactly what do you do to earn a living?
    • I have income from properties in UK and Germany, the properties are rented out and managed by professionals, so I am not involved in day to day management.
    • B&B in Granada, Nicaragua, managed part of the year by myself, majority of time by professional
  • Describe your current lifestyle (Travel & Run a B&B, else?)
    • Travelling in a 31 foot Winnebago motor home for most of the year, currently in Bogota, Colombia. Planning to travel South America for the next 2 years along the Pan-American to Tierra de Fuego
    • Living in Granada and managing Casa Cubana for about 2-3 month / year
    • Visiting family and friends in Europe for about 6 weeks / year
  • How do you see the move to Nicaragua impacting your life?
    • I have lived in Granada for about 18 month now, on and off. Every time I go back to Granada, I like it again. Fabulous town, nice vibes, great mixture of locals, tourists, expats.
  • Describe the local folks in Nicaragua from your perspective?
    • In general very friendly and curious people, happy to help, if you need help
  • Were the localsfriendly and tolerant? How were you treated as a foreigner?
    • Very friendly and tolerant in general. Locals are used to foreigners, as Granada is a tourist center. From time to time you might get a stare, especially if you are tall and blonde. Kids might try a few words of English on you and adolescent boys might call you a Gringo, nothing to worry about! As Nicaragua is a poor country, you will have beggars in the streets asking you for money and handouts. In the tourist spots you will experience local vendors trying to sell to Tourists everything from handcrafts to cigarettes and chewing gum.
  • How did/do you feel for personal safety?
    • Nicaragua is considered the safest country in Central America and it is politically stable. In Granada itself you can walk anywhere in the center of town during day and night. I would not recommend to walk outside the center (in the barrio’s) during night times, taxis are plenty and cheap so why take a risk. Lots of tourist police on the ground, patrolling the central areas and parks.
  • How did you find a place to buy?
    • Used a realtor to show us around, she provided a good overview of what is available, both, fully restored colonial homes and fixer uppers and anything in between.  We looked at places in town as well as in the vicinity.
  • Please give us some highlights of your colonial B&B project?
    • Bought an old colonial house (375 sqm, 5 accomodations) in the central area of Granada, which was half way restored: new roof, back part of the house newly build with open kitchen and 2nd level accommodation.
    • Build ensuite bathrooms  into each room
    • painting, decoration and furnishing of the rooms,
    • tiling of staircase and 2nd level accomodation
    • outside fencing,
    • new central water system
    • build in pool and garden
    • woodworks: restoring all doors, windows and all ‘old’ furniture
  • Have you had any need of healthcare services while traveling? How did that work out? Are you satisfied with your access to health care?
    • I had no need for serious (hospital) treatments so far, access to doctors and dentists and medical labs in Granada is easy on short term notice and cost for medical service is very low compared to US and Europe. For example, I had some significant dental work done in Granada and I am very satisfied with the quality and extremely satisfied with the cost.
    • Granada has a local hospital but most expats prefer to go to the Pellas Hospital in Managua where medical service is on par with any good hospital in US, as I have been told. The Pellas hospital is about a 35 min drive from Granada.
  • How is your expat life better? Can you give some specific examples? Draw a contrast between the home life and the new one.
    • I very much enjoyed my previous ‘executive’ working life with a nice income, lots of perks, travelling around the world in business class, staying in 5 star hotels, a nice home.
    • But this life came at a prize: stress, not enough time for family and friends, no time to explore what else is out there in the big world. I always felt, there is more to life than just working and making money. For a long time I had a personal goal to be able to stop working when I turn 50 and to be able to do different things in life and with my life.
    • My new life is very different: no more 5 * hotels, gold cards gone, air miles gone, no use of business class lounges at the airport, no preferred treatment at check in, the list is long… But now I have all the time in the world to stay at places and with people I like, to explore the wonders of nature, where I find them. To go on a chicken bus with the locals, to enjoy a winter in Mexico, Nicaragua or any other place I like. There is a great feeling of freedom now and I have not missed my old life for one day!
    • Do I feel bored sometimes? Missing the structure of a 9 to 5 job? No way, there is always projects around the corner, try volunteering in an animal rescue station, or work with children or do some serious hiking, learn diving…..
  • Ok, we saw your wonderful B&B in Granada. What are your future plans? Will you still remain a few months out of the year there? Do you see yourself settling down somewhere else? Do you see yourself travelling in another 5 years?
    • I am planning to be in Granada for 2-3 month in a year, enjoying Casa Cubana and life in Granada.
    • For the next 2 years I am committed to travel South America, after that, the jury is out. I am planning to travel parts of Africa and Asia, but at this stage it is more ideas than firm plans.
  • What sort of advice would you offer somebody interested in doing what you did?
    • What are you really interested in and what is the driver to change your life? Escape the rat race? Different life experience???
    • Read up on experiences others made, keep in mind, that other people not always telling you the whole story….
    • Give it a try first, without burning all your bridges
    • Get clarity on your financial situation, income, savings, budget, do you need to earn money while being Expat? Remember, cost of living is cheap in many places, but opportunity to earn money is also limited
    • If you have a partner: is she/he on board and do you share the same goals
  • Final thoughts you want to share?
    • Put a date in your diary, otherwise it is not going to happen!
    • Initially it was a bit scary to leave my old life behind and to go for the unknown. My concerns were in 3 areas: Will my relationship with Lesley be ok, living together in a 31 foot motor home 24/7? Will I be ok financially? Will I place myself out of the job market if I take a ‘holiday’ of 18 month
    • You need to get comfortable with your new life as well as saying good bye to your old life, which you know well and are so used to.
    • I found this process takes 6 to 12 month.

Costa Rica Highlights

Highlights from our stay in Costa Rica. We experienced some Costa Rican adventure, beautiful nature including spectacular waterfalls and deserted beaches as well as the Cowboy culture of Guanacaste region. We enjoyed the Arenal Volcano area and the southern pacific region of Costa Rica: Costa Ballena.

Slovakia – A road less traveled – Spiš Castle

Slovakia made a wonderful impression on us. We drove to Slovakia through a mountain pass from Zakopane, Poland. The drive itself was spectacular, hardly any other cars on the road, views to die for.

 

Tatra Mountains Poland & Slovakia

Tatra Mountains

When we travel we look for moments when we feel that we are truly experiencing a country instead of getting a tourist served experience.  We crossed the border to Slovakia and immediately noticed the sheer beauty of the landscapes.  Slovakia is not densely populated which ads to its beauty. The road infrastructure was excellent which made for a wonderful road trip.  We set our destination for the Spis Castle which is a UNESCO world heritage site. We love those…

Storks in Slovakia

Stork Nest in Slovakia

On the way we encountered small towns and vast valley landscapes. We even saw a stork family nest in one of the towns.

Our drive from Poland took us only a couple of hours and we made our destination city Spišské Podhradie.  Above this city are the ruins of one of the largest castle complexes in Europe.

When we first saw the Spiš Castle in Slovakia we immediately knew that the road trip was worth it.

La Grande Plage - Biarritz France

Lunch in cosmopolitan Biarritz – France

If you can’t stand over commercialization then you will love this destination.  Yes, the area is protected and there are some vendors and places to grab a drink and some food.  However, the cheesy carnival atmosphere hasn’t arrived yet. Perfect for us as we love those still authentic places to travel to.

Spiš Castle Slovakia

Hike up to Spiš Castle

We hiked up to the castle ruins, a 20 minute hike with vast views from the castle hill.  Once we got a little closer we really noticed how immense these structures really were.  It was a really hot day in June…30 Celsius and the hike took some energy out of us.  But we were amazed that we were only two of a few people hiking up to the castle.

Spis Castle Nature

Spis Castle Nature

We loved the fields of flowers and tall grasses next to the immense castle walls.  You could practically feel the history.  We’ve been always intrigued by history and castle ruins have something that awake our curiosity.

Spis Castle Views

Spis Castle Views

The castle hill has been occupied in one form or another since the 5th century B.C. but the Spis Castle was built in the 12th century on top of other previous castle remains. Jan Zapolsky who later became the king of Hugary was born in this castle.  He was later defeated by Ferdinand Habsburg for the Hungarian throne and the family lost their Spis Castle posessions.

Spis Castle Slovakia

Inside Spis Castle

In 1780 a huge fire swept thru the castle and the castle was never rebuilt.  Over the centuries the castle was slowly vandalized and left in the state we saw it.  We can’t even imagine how gorgeous it had to be in the 18th century.

Roxy & Bailey Taking a Breather - White Collar Vagabond

Roxy & Bailey Taking a Breather

We were really glad that we took the road less traveled to Slovakia and were rewarded with the spectacular historical destination. You can find very nice cabin style rooms for rent below $10 per person per night. The country is filled with hikers, bikers, and scenery that will satisfy any outdoor lover.

Top List – Central America

“Hey Everyone, Jen and Konrad here with the White Collar Vagabond. First of all we would like to thank all of you for following our journey, we love hearing feedback from every one of you. It makes things so much more fun to have your engagement.
Secondly, we want to give you a quick rundown of the first leg of our journey, as we are preparing for the next portion of our trip.
We just wrapped up the Central American leg of our travels, and man was it a blast. As you are all aware, we drove 4,000 miles all the way from Atlanta Georgia, through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and finally completed our Central American journey in Costa Rica. All in all, it was a fantastic experience, sometimes a little unnerving but overall well worth the experience.
So here are a few things we have learned on our Central American journey.
1. We are thrilled that we did not wait for retirement to enjoy our lives. There are too many amazing places to visit and not enough time, so embarking on this journey has been very rewarding for us.

2. In Latin America, anything is possible, for the right price that is. This includes getting through the borders quickly and without hassle, paying off crooked cops to avoid a ticket or worse, and getting your passport and car papers stamped in one country, all while enjoying your time in another country.

3. Don’t trust the cops

4. The Spanish language is different in every Latin country

5. Don’t ever forget the sunscreen

6. Trying to sell a car to a Mayan is a family affair

7. The fruit just tastes better in Central America

8. There are dozens of ways to earn a living on the road

9. There are more expats living in Central America than I expected to see

10. There are numerous opportunities to start lucrative businesses abroad

11. Our company is not only surviving our travel, it is thriving and we are more productive than we are in the States.

12. Central Amercia has as many different words for “”speed bumps”" as Eskimos have for the word “”SNOW”".

13. You can in fact become a “”morning person”", even if you never have been one, especially when the sun rises by 5am everyday

14. Not only does a chicken bus provide a cheap form of transportation, it also provides amazing entertainment.

15. A snake is a snake, is a snake, unless it is a viper

16. All insects are supersized in Central America

17. Some people like to Astral Travel!

18. There are phenomenal opportunities to invest into beautiful property

19. You can get a 2 hour massage for only $40, yes, I said a 2 hour massage for $40

20. All Americans are rich, or at least that is the perception

21. It is much more pleasant to wake up to a rooster than it is to wake up to a blaring alarm clock, even when the rooster starts crowing at 4am.

22. There is an adventure waiting to happen around every corner

23. Time really does fly when you are having fun

24. Traveling with our dogs is easier than we expected

25. Many young couples travel with their kids for extended periods of time and say it is easy as well

26. And most importantly we have learned that we have so much to be grateful for !

We hope you have enjoyed being a part of our adventure so far and we look forward to sharing our journey with you going forward.