Non-Traditional Interviews: Retiring to Europe

Do you want to follow a different path in life? The non-traditional interviews showcase people who have chosen to make up their own rules and do something different. Today’s interview is with Bev and Bruce about retiring to Europe and living a semi-nomadic life.

About Bev and Bruce

Where are you from?
West Coast of Canada, suburbs of Vancouver, and Sunshine Coast

Where do you live now?
Part time in Freiburg (fall and spring) and part time in Seville (winter because it’s warmer there!). In the summer we go elsewhere because our flat in Freiburg is co-owned with Bruce’s sister and husband so they use it then and for part of the winter.

What do you do for a living?
Retired small business consultant, and Bruce is a retired Professor of Psychology

What do you do for fun/what do you love?
Travel obviously, eating out, cooking, reading, visiting with friends.

retiring to Europe - non-traditional living

What do you hate?

Liver! When things work the same way multiple times before and stop working for no apparent reason, usually computer related.

Tell us about living in Europe. What’s that like?

Always a challenge – in a good way! Learning languages and customs. We live in minimum two completely different cultures and it takes about a week for us not to automatically reply in the other language we’ve been immersed in. I love it though because there is always something new to see or learn.

You have 2 semi-permanent bases and you travel around in between. What made you decide to do this instead of living in one place? And how did you decide on those two cities?

retiring to Europe - non-traditional living

We fell in love with both cities (can you love a city?). Bruce has loved Seville for years, we visited Freiburg when we lived in Heidelberg and liked the size of the city, a University town, liked the vibrance.

We travel slowly, appreciate living in neighbourhoods where we can make friends with locals. In Freiburg we live adjacent to a green space and the architecture is modern. In Seville we live in the centre of the city and architecture is old (and sometimes a challenge). Summer we rent flats usually through Airbnb, hotels are used for short stays of one or two nights.

See how much Andy and I spent living in Sevilla for one month.

You have a few extra concerns when traveling – your cat and Bruce’s mobility issues. What extra steps do you have to take when traveling?

We book ahead, book Lexi in-cabin on flights and pet friendly hotels. We book train and plane boarding assistance for Bruce’s chair and book taxis with ramps. Not spontaneous but it works, most of the time. We’ve traveled quite a bit before having these requirements. We’ve done much of central Europe by car, New Zealand and parts of Australia, and were lucky to have done that before acquiring the cat and chair.

How easy or difficult is it to travel in Europe with these issues?

We certainly have had glitches but mostly it’s a matter of taking the extra steps to book. The plane and train assistants have always been great but sometimes the glitches happen in the company policies, or lack of, which are difficult to find out about ahead of time.

retiring to Europe - non-traditional living

How long have you been living in Europe?

Since May 2012, when we spent 4 months in Heidelberg for a teaching post for Bruce (he was recently retired he missed teaching). After a couple of trips back to Canada, it’s been full time since September 2013.

What inspired you to leave your traditional life behind and retire to Europe?

Honestly we were bored! We lived in a beautiful place, dream come true for me, living with a water view and access, but it was time to make new dreams.

From the time you got inspired to move to Europe, how long did it take you to actually leave your home behind, and what were the steps you had to take?

A year, we spent our last time in Canada summer 2013. We found a great renter/caretaker and that was very important! She’s been the cornerstone of allowing us to remain in Europe, keeping our home in good shape and taking care of issues. Thank you Sylvia! The house is now up for sale, I’ve sold my beloved Mazda Miata and Bruce his truck. We didn’t sell everything right away to make sure our decision was a good one, it was!

retiring to Europe - non-traditional living

Did you get any resistance or negative feedback when you announced your plans? How did/do you deal with that?

No resistance, but caring friends and family ask when we are coming back to Canada which we have no current plans to do. They’ll just have to come visit us!

What’s the best part of being semi-nomadic?

We experience different cultures, but also importantly, we avoid extreme cold or hot weather.

What have been the biggest challenges or problems you’ve faced along the way?

Getting used to how things work i.e. cell phones, internet service, getting things fixed when you don’t speak enough of the language to handle complicated questions.

In retrospect, these were minor incidences but monumental as they happened…thankfully overcome.

Losing Bruce, since he doesn’t carry a cell phone.

Our cat Lexi climbed into a hole in the plumbing in Paris for 12 hours.

Finding taxis that can carry Bruce’s chair. Most of the time it is difficult to book very far in advance.

Many European elevators are too small for the chair, we’ve learned to ask very specific questions about elevators!

How do you afford your lifestyle?

Good investments made from an inheritance, working, Bruce’s retirement funds.

What’s the weirdest or most common question you’ve gotten about living and traveling in Europe, and how do you answer it?

“Why do you travel with a cat? My cat would not travel well!” All of Bruce’s other cats didn’t but Lexi does. We got her when young from an animal shelter and when we decided to come to Europe the first time with her we took her on a “test run” to Seattle; she passed with flying colours (pun intended). She doesn’t meow until we get to our destination, which she knows somehow, and then meows to get out of her travel box STAT! We joke she has more travel miles than most people.

Do you have any tips for those thinking about moving to Europe?

Do some research ahead but do it anyway if it’s your dream! Learn the Schengen rules if you do not have citizenship in one of those countries. We were able to get Irish citizenship through our grandparents. We know people who stay in Europe but do the “Schengen dance” meaning they move out every three months, or if staying in one country you can get a long term Visa.

Learn at least some of the language and customs. Simple example, people in Southern Germany will gladly share a restaurant table, but it’s just not done in Southern Spain.

Bring a sense of humour for when things go wrong and learn to wait, patiently. Bring your curiosity, it helps while waiting.

We have found a more “kindness to strangers” attitude here than in the bigger cities in Canada. The reason for that, I believe, is that the life pace is slower. This is perhaps because we’ve chosen smaller cities to live in but it happened in Paris, Vienna, Brussels, also.

What’s next for you?

This summer we’re going back to Paris, Left Bank instead of Right for “new to us” neighbourhoods, and then Amsterdam, back to Freiburg for the fall, Seville for winter.

Bio: We are Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat. I blog about our adventures, and sometimes just living. It is to keep our friends and family in touch with where we are and what we are doing only, not a professional one, Both of us (not Lexi) retired early, Bruce got an offer from the University he couldn’t refuse. I finished a contract as a business consultant and we have been traveling ever since. Our method of travel is staying in one place for one to four months doing day trips to nearby places and then moving on.

Check out more non-traditional interviews:

Bev and Bruce made a non-traditional decision by retiring to Europe. They have bases in Germany and Spain and travel with a cat and mobility issues.
Bev and Bruce made a non-traditional decision by retiring to Europe. They have bases in Germany and Spain and travel with a cat and mobility issues.