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Moving To Spain On A Digital Nomad Visa

Carlie: Hey there it’s Carlie with the Expat Focus Podcast. If you’re lucky enough to have a job that you can do from anywhere, you’re now pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to the number of countries offering digital nomad or equivalent visas. UN Tourism reports that almost half of all global destinations now offer visas for at least a year.

Spain is in the spotlight in this episode, as I chat to American nutrition strategist Aimee Gallo, who moved with her husband and young son to the Catalonia region.

You’ll find out why Aimee and her family chose Spain, the telework or digital nomad visa application process, timeline to approval, what their remote working life is like, and why, if you follow in Aimee’s footsteps, you should get comfortable in the uncomfortable. Now, one point we didn’t cover in this interview is what the minimum income requirement is for Spain’s digital nomad visa. Tune in until the end to find out.

Amy, welcome to the Expat Focus Podcast. It’s lovely to have you.

Aimee: Thank you so much. I’m really excited to be here.

Carlie: We were just speaking before we hit record about how you have two podcasts at the moment. Can you tell me a little bit about them?

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Aimee: I do, I do. Because I’m a fairly new expat – I’m less than a year out – I started logging and recording my experience with a friend of mine who is also beginning her own expat experience. And so she’s moving to France, I’ve moved to Spain and we have created a podcast called Bonjhola. It’s B-O-N-J-H-O-L-A.

Carlie: A little bit of a riff on Bon Jovi, or no?

Aimee: A little bit of a riff on bonjour and hola.

Carlie: Okay. Totally off. Not the eighties rocker, but that’s fine.

Aimee: Not the eighties rocker. No; I’ll tell her you said that, though.

Carlie: Is that showing my age that that’s the first thing I thought of?

Aimee: You’re not alone. Then I have a nutrition podcast for my own practice, really. It’s called Blasphemous Nutrition, and it’s a very nuanced take on the trending health topics of the day, as well as advice and tips for people who are struggling to implement their health goals.

Carlie: One of my favorite podcasts at the moment is Maintenance Phase, which talks and debunks a lot of health and diet kind of culture stuff. So yeah, it sounds like yours might be up my alley, as well.

Aimee: It very well could be.

Carlie: And I love the idea of chronicling in real time your expat journey because I always think to myself, if I had made more blog posts or written more emails when I first moved abroad 10 years ago, I wonder what that would be like to revisit now, you know?

Aimee: Yeah. As it was happening for me, I was very aware, day-by-day there’s so much going on, I won’t remember all of this. It’s almost like the first couple of weeks of having a newborn. And you want to write it down, but you’re also so very overwhelmed. Rebecca and I did not start recording our podcast until about three weeks after I arrived in Spain and she was just really kind of beginning her transition out of the United States. So for the last nine months or so, we’ve been meeting weekly and discussing each stage, me of integration and her of preparing to leave. And it’s been really wonderful and for her very grounding to have someone to talk to through that process. But what we capture with her transition is the real world, the tears and panic and overwhelm that we missed when I left.

Carlie: Yeah, it must be so interesting for you to be that little bit ahead and then discussing with her where she is and reflecting on where you were at that stage.

Aimee: Yeah, exactly.

Carlie: Well, it sounds like Bonjhola is a podcast that I will definitely have to check out, as well. But today we’re here, Aimee, to speak about essentially your journey to Spain, because you are an American who moved to Spain on the digital nomad visa. And there are so many digital nomad visas being offered by countries around the world now, or it certainly feels like that. So my first question is actually, how did you land on Spain and why Spain for a digital nomad visa?

Aimee: I’m half-Mexican but not fluent in the language, and so it’s always felt like something that I’ve missed out on for the duration of my life. And we have a 10-year-old son, and it was really important to me that he not miss out on the experience that I’ve missed out on: not being fluent.

And I’m still young enough that I can definitely gain competency, if not fluency, although I don’t think at this point I’ll ever sound like a native speaker. And so moving to a country that spoke Spanish was important. That said, as much as I adore Mexico with all of my heart, I am not too keen on the levels of corruption and some of the safety issues that can arise in that country that appear to be going completely unchecked and unattended to.

And when comparing Spain to Mexico, it just seemed like it would be nicer to go to a country where there was less turmoil, less, I won’t necessarily say instability, but perhaps less corruption that had a tendency towards violence. I won’t say Spain is not without corrupt politicians, that would be very naive of me. However, I don’t have to fear kidnapping here.

Carlie: That’s a big one.

Aimee: It is a big one. And also being in Europe, we have access to all of these different countries, a great deal of travel. My son is obsessed with history and so he has opportunities here, I think more opportunities than he would have in Mexico to really flourish.

And so we ended up choosing Spain for those reasons. And Spain also ended up being among the more inexpensive places to move on the digital nomad visa and, and to be an expat, there was a lower barrier of entry than say Sweden or Norway, and the cost of living is less than Ireland.

Carlie: And what do you do that enables you to apply for a digital nomad visa?

Aimee: I’m a nutritionist and I’ve had a private practice for about 20 years and I moved online for the bulk of my practice back in 2008. And so I’m very comfortable working remotely. My husband is a software engineer and his work office shut down in March, 2020, just like everybody else’s, and when we had left in 2023, they still had not resumed working in the office.

Carlie: And so a lot of offices just never reopened, did they?

Aimee: Exactly, yeah. So everything has been virtual for him for several years. And like many people, we were like, what is the point of staying in a city that is increasingly unaffordable with fewer opportunities and in a country where I do have to be concerned about my son’s safety, going to school or, you know, stepping outside? And I don’t have to even think about that here.

Carlie: So what was the application process like for the digital nomad visa when you decided Spain was the destination for you and your family?

Aimee: It was fascinating.

Carlie: Oh, here we go. This can go one of two ways.

Aimee: Yeah, we originally were set to apply for the non-lucrative visa, because when we found our lawyer and decided to commit to this process, the digital nomad visa had not been released yet. So we had squirreled away as much money as we could for almost two years and we’re set to apply for that visa when the digital nomad visa went live, as it were, in Spain. So, we were one of the early adopters. And there are some downsides to being the ‘test crew’ for something new that’s rolling out.

Carlie: “I haven’t quite got that form working properly yet online.”

Aimee: Oh, if only it were that simple. After we had started applying for the process, the rules began to change.

Carlie: Oh.

Aimee: Yeah, because Spain was discovering that there were documents that they needed from the United States government that the United States government did not have. And this created complications and Americans were being rejected for the digital nomad visas because in the United States, if you are an employee, you cannot file for the digital nomad visa unless your company essentially receives a document from the US government or creates a satellite office in Spain.

There’s a missing piece there that I never fully crystallized for me because we had an out, and that out was to apply as independent contractors. And fortunately, my husband’s boss has been very supportive throughout this whole process and so he transitioned from an employee to an independent contractor, but that delayed our ability to file by three months because he had to have three months of invoices as an independent contractor in order to submit for that visa.

Carlie: So you have a freelance-working-for-yourself history.

Aimee: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So that was one of the things that, and this is my understanding, and because this visa is still relatively new, this may have changed, but my understanding is that as an American, you will not get accepted for a digital nomad visa unless you are an independent contractor at this time.

Carlie: That’s a good point to note.

Aimee: Yeah, so that was one of the changes that happened midway. We did have a change that benefited us in our favor regarding our security checks. So another thing that needs to happen when you’re applying for the digital nomad visa is you need a federal background check. And for Americans, you cannot use a state background check, you have to use the background check from the FBI. And this involves snail mail, so it’s a little touch and go.

And from the time that you submit your fingerprints and your documentation to the FBI from when the Spanish government says this document is no longer valid was 90 days; they only gave that document validity for 90 days. The US government is unable to get that hard-copy, notarized document into your hands in less than five weeks.

Carlie: Okay, so that’s really running down the count here.

Aimee: Exactly. So I made the mistake initially of applying too early. And then by time, our expiration date on that document was essentially two weeks before we were scheduled to leave the United States.

And our lawyer contacts us about five weeks beforehand and says, “Is there any way that you can leave in three weeks instead of five?” Panic ensued. Digestive systems shut down. There were lots of tears on my end, a bit of alcohol, if I’m honest. And we spent the weekend sitting down, assessing, changing flights, what this meant.

And we were looking at five weeks from departure, that’s the time when you’re clearing out the last of your belongings, putting anything in storage. We also in that period of time had a family reunion and a wedding in Mexico that we needed to go to. And it was just madness, it was just madness. So we came back to the lawyer and said, “The cost to change the flight and everything else, there’s no way we can accomplish that.” And she’s like, “Okay, well, that’s fine. You can just reapply again” which is what we ended up doing.

So we submitted everything back to the FBI for a second notarized document. And while that was in process, the Spanish government changed the expiration date of that document to be six months rather than three months.

Carlie: Okay. So then you didn’t even need the second application after all.

Aimee: Exactly, exactly. So one really important thing: if you are applying for a visa that is not long-standing textbook, very simple, is to be prepared for anything goes. Like, you really can’t dream up some of the things that will end up happening. So it’s very much a situation where you have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable if you’re not already.

And there is an element of, I hesitate to use the word faith because I’m a fairly secular person, or trust. At some point, you just really have to surrender and adopt a mentality of whatever’s going to happen is going to happen because so much of your life is out of your control. Especially towards the end, you are relying on governments and bureaucrats and movers and house cleaners and veterinarians to submit documents for pets in a timely fashion and so many things that are essentially beyond your control. And it’s really a fantastic exercise in trust and patience.

Carlie: Throwing things out to the universe and hoping it all works out.

Aimee: Exactly, exactly. It’s funny because throughout the process, we would be really nervous about something or have a lot of questions for our lawyer, and she would always be like, “Don’t worry, it’s all fine. It’ll be okay. Don’t worry.” And we’re like, “But what if this or that or the other?” And she’s like, “It’ll be fine.” And yeah, throughout the process, one of the things we did to keep us motivated and strong was watch a lot of videos about Spain, things to do in Spain, where to go in Spain, and I was looking a lot at Spanish history and realizing what this country has been through over the last hundred years and how much they have endured.

I decided that my lawyer’s perspective that everything will be fine stems from the fact that in Spain, really, for all of us, if you’re not dead in a ditch, you’re doing okay.

Carlie: Wow, that’s a low bar.

Aimee: It’s a low bar, but let me tell you, that got me through some tough times.

Carlie: So how long did it take in the end?

Aimee: Originally, when we started this process, we expected that we would have all of our paperwork ready and file stateside and then wait for the consulate to approve the visa, which also takes give-or-take 90 days and then move to Spain. With all of the moving deadlines and then the challenges that were arising with my husband needing three months of documented work as an independent contractor, we were looking at that possibility preventing us from arriving in Spain until right around the time my son was scheduled to start school. And the last thing I wanted to do was be in the process of being in transitional housing, jet-lagged, and throwing my kid into school where they speak two languages he’s relatively unfamiliar with.

So I asked the lawyer if there was any way that we could apply from within Spain, and it turns out you can, which we didn’t know.

Carlie: That’s really nice, because for some visas, you must be out of the country.

Aimee: Exactly. And actually, had we gone through with the non-lucrative visa, that would have been the case; we would have had to stay in the States until we received documentation from the consulate that our visa was approved. So what we ended up doing was we ended up flying to Spain before we submitted our visa application, while we still had two months left of pay stubs to create and submit.

Carlie: So was this you flying to Spain on like just a usual tourist 90 days in Europe visa?

Aimee: Precisely. If we were unable to get everything together and submit it before 90 days, we would be in the country illegally, having given up our home and our cars and everything else. So again, very much trust that this is all going to work out. And in those moments, I reminded myself, you are an American and this is an advantage in this situation. You have a fantastic lawyer who is really well-versed in what is going on and keeping you up to date with the changes and this is an advantage. You have a really high probability this is going to work out.

Carlie: And it did.

Aimee: And it did, it did. So instead of having our visa in hand when we arrived here in July, we were not actually able to submit the paperwork until the end of September. So, the moment that my husband had that last invoice that he needed, and the receipt was in the bank account, because they also want to look at your bank statements, we gave it to our lawyer, she submitted it immediately to the consulate, and we actually received approval for our visa in about 15 days.

Carlie: And that’s pretty fast for Spain?

Aimee: That greatly exceeded our expectations. We were told we could expect about a month.

Carlie: That’s fantastic.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah. It was amazing.

Carlie: And what does the digital nomad visa enable you to do in Spain?

Aimee: Oh, here’s an important thing to know as well, if this is something you’re considering: if you apply from your home country, your visa is approved for one year, the digital nomad visa is. Because we applied from within Spain, our first visa, our initial visa, has been approved for three years.

Carlie: That was the only difference that gave you three years instead of one year.

Aimee: Yes.

Carlie: That’s amazing. That is such a good tip.

Aimee: It was like we were being rewarded for the pain and suffering of being an early adopter. In the end, everything ended up working out in such a really beautiful way, because of when we actually ended up arriving and how long I had expected it would take us to transition into more permanent housing, we ended up finding our permanent apartment without a realtor, without any third party support, just through a Facebook group I was reaching out asking about, you know, an agent to help with housing. And a woman responded and said, you know, we’re planning on leaving in August and our apartment’s available. What are you looking for?

And it turned out what we were looking for was in the neighborhood she was in, had the inappropriate amount of bedrooms for our family, and they were leaving the country about three days after our Airbnb, our temporary housing had ended.

Carlie: Oh, that’s such good timing.

Aimee: It was phenomenal. It was nothing less than magical.

Carlie: That’s so good.

Aimee: I have forgotten your original question.

Carlie: So, now that you and your husband and your son are in Spain on this digital nomad visa, what does the visa entitle you to do? I mean, clearly you’re both working remotely online as independent contractors. So you’re able to work in the country, you have three years there. What other advantages are there to this particular visa for you?

Aimee: Those are the primary ones. For non-US residents or anybody who is able to use the digital nomad visa as an employee, they are also granted the Beckham law for the first couple of years, so they can pay reduced taxes to Spain.

We were initially told that we would qualify for that regime as well, but because we had to file as independent contractors and not employees, that prevents us from actually taking advantage of it because we’re essentially acting as autonomous rather than employees. And so that’s unfortunate, but that is a situation which is really essentially limited to Americans right now until that little hiccup gets fixed, however long it takes the US government to decide to give Spain what it wants. We also are able to obtain up to 20% of our annual income from within the country, but no more than that.

Carlie: Okay. So you could have nutrition clients and your husband could have IT-related clients within Spain, but no more than 20% of your incomes.

Aimee: Right. So, they don’t ban you outright from earning money here, but they definitely tamper your activities so that you don’t take money away from the Spanish population, which is totally understandable.

Carlie: Okay. But you are technically paying Spanish taxes. You are paying tax in Spain.

Aimee: We do have to pay tax in Spain after the first full calendar year. So, because we arrived after half of the year had passed last year, we did not need to pay taxes to Spain for 2023, but we did for 2024. And the United States is one of perhaps two or three nations left that taxes on worldwide income. So we have a situation where we owe money to Spain and we owe money to the US, and there is an agreement between the two countries that reduces fully paying double-taxation. It’s complicated, it makes me angry and my husband’s taking care of all of it. So, unfortunately I cannot be of help to anybody, but it is really important if you are in that situation that you get a really good tax lawyer here in Spain. And then if you’re also an American, it’s a good idea to also have an American accountant, as well. So that way you don’t end up getting in trouble with either party.

Carlie: A segue here: expatfocus.com. Check out our services section. We do have vetted financial advisors, including for US expats. So if you are living abroad and you do need to file US taxes, you might find those professionals very helpful to you.

What’s your daily life like as a digital nomad in Spain? When I think of people on digital nomad visas, I think we work offices, cafes just full of people on their computers with their headphones on, digital nomad meetups after work. Is this the life you’re living in Spain, Aimee?

Aimee: I would say it’s about 30% accurate. So, because, again, I’m still new here and I haven’t built up a European audience or following quite yet, and so most of my clients that I’m serving are still in the United States. So my client-facing work hours do not begin until around 3 or 4 pm Spanish time, and then they go until usually about 8 pm. I lock it down so I can spend a little time with my son after school.

And during the day I’m doing podcasting, editing, scheduling, you know, background work, right? Sometimes I do that from home because the house is quiet and we are fortunate enough not to have a very tiny, very dark Spanish apartment. So it is pleasant to stay here and work. And then sometimes if I’m just not feeling it at home, I will go to a co-working space and kind of suck up that energy. My husband is a huge fan of working from coffee shops. We live in a town that has a lot of foreigners, but not a lot of digital nomads.

So there are some coworking spaces, they tend to shut down by about six o’clock at night, which doesn’t work for him because he’s also working for us.

Carlie: Just when you’re getting started to your work day, suddenly you have to change location.

Aimee: Yeah, exactly. And the company that my husband works for is on the west coast of the United States and so there is a nine-hour time difference. So when he’s just starting his meetings are when most co-working spaces shut down. So he does a lot of his background work, coding, programming, at coffee shops during the day. He has always really loved that vibe. And then he takes meetings in a bedroom/office that we’ve created in the evening.

Carlie: How do you balance enjoying Spanish culture and really soaking up the day-to-day life, because that’s why you moved, with needing to leave your work life aligned with a different time zone?

Aimee: We’re still kind of figuring that out. So much of the first six to seven months has been about learning what it means to live here. How do I find laundry detergent that I like? How do I ask for this specific cut of meat at a butcher? How do we access the healthcare that we have here? Very, very rudimentary fundamental parts of living.

And so in our personal experience, we ended up moving here and just really hunkering down, getting established, getting comfortable, figuring out how to live here. And there are some friends of mine who are just kind of like always going, always going and not really settled, and they spent, you know, the first five or six months traveling all the time. But we really felt a need, I think perhaps because the process of leaving was so arduous, that we really needed a lot of time to recover. So, the balance piece hasn’t fully been established. However, because we still work US hours, we have unstructured time for the first half of the day.

Carlie: That must be so nice.

Aimee: So my husband and I go for lunch dates, and we can take those two-hour Spanish lunches with a glass of cava and oysters and pâté.

Carlie: And then sober up for work in the afternoon.

Aimee: Exactly, time  sober up for work. Precisely. As long as you’re modest with your intake.

Carlie: Everyone’s getting their morning coffee and you’re in like afternoon food coma mode on your video.

Aimee:  So true. I wake up in the morning, I can sleep in and get a little bit of a late start to my morning run because I do have that extra time. That will change in the summer; I’m an avid runner, but the heat just destroys me, so I will be forced to get up as the sun is rising. But for now, I’ve been able to enjoy sleeping in, which is something that I wasn’t really able to do in the States, either. So there is definitely more leisure here.

We are not in a vehicle driving everywhere. We walk. That gives us more time to be out in the world, rather than stuffed in a metal casing in transition, which now that I don’t live that lifestyle, it feels like another way of being isolated that I don’t have to worry about now.

And with the time that we do have, it’s so easy to just take the train to Barcelona. Semana Santa is next week and my son is out of school, and so last night we decided, why don’t we take the train north instead and check out France?

Carlie: Oh, lovely!

Aimee: Yeah. So we just, you know, made a very spontaneous decision to go to France for four days. And with the level of easy travel that exists within the European Union, it is much easier to have what as an American feels like an incredibly extravagant experience for a lot less effort and money than what we would be doing in the States.

Carlie: How is your son adapting to life in Spain?

Aimee: That is a great question. We all are very lucky that he has this love of history. And when we decided on Spain, and then we must have kind of toyed with the idea out loud to him because when we told him he was not at all phased. He was like, “Okay, that sounds great.” And the apartment that we’re living in actually overlooks an archaeological site where there is a kosher butcher from the 15th century. And so we don’t have a backyard per se, but we have very, very old architecture outside. And when the previous tenant had been WhatsApping me videos of the apartment and I showed it to my son, he said, and mind you at the time he was about, he was nine years old and he goes, “Oh, ****, that looks like an ancient wall!”

Carlie: Of all the characteristics to notice, that’s quite insightful.

Aimee: And he was correct, yeah. We didn’t realize how old it was until we moved here. So he’s been really thrilled about his access to foreign currency and history. The integration into the school was very challenging for him for the first three or four, probably actually the first five months or so of school. Not so much because of the language barrier, but because of the cultural differences. In Spain, it appears to still be very much a rough-and-tumble, boys-will-be-boys kind of culture, kind of mentality. And my son has spent nearly all of his life in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, which is a very passive, helicopter parenting kind of culture where teasing doesn’t really happen. At least not, I mean, teasing doesn’t happen until children reach a certain age that is older than when children start teasing and like bullying here.

Carlie: Interesting.

Aimee: Yeah. And so, I will say, that is at least true for the area of the country that we were living in. That likely is not true across the nation, but certainly the area that we were living in. Children are very protected, very coddled, if I may be so judgmental. And he, my son anyway, had not had exposure to anything like that.

So he enters a Spanish school and the boys do teasing and name-calling and like punching, and he’s like, never experienced anything like this at all. So, I started finding some books to read with him on bullying, and I think it helped him realize that what he was experiencing was not severe bullying like he thought it was. You know, he wasn’t being beaten up, he wasn’t being maliciously attacked, he was essentially experiencing what my generation experienced as normal, but he had had no previous exposure to.

Carlie: Was he being bullied in Spanish?

Aimee: No, they use English curse words.

Carlie: Interesting. Okay. He didn’t have the luxury of not getting it.

Aimee: Exactly, exactly. And I think some of that is the foreignness of it is probably more exciting. It’s also what you see in movies.

Carlie: And let’s face it. I’m not sure if he’s in an international school or a local Spanish school?

Aimee: He is in a local Spanish school.

Carlie: So maybe he’s a bit of a novelty being the American kid?

Aimee: He’s not the only American kid. There are enough foreigners here that the principal said that about 10% of the population is from outside of Spain. So he’s not an anomaly, he’s not even the only American in his class, but it’s definitely primarily a Spanish and Catalan demographic in the school. So, we met with his teacher and his teacher knew he was struggling and we had a conversation and I had many conversations with my son and we did consider switching schools. He was reticent to do that. And from what we’ve heard from all of the other expats here, it’s like, well, that’s just Spanish culture. It’s not necessarily going to be better anywhere else.

Carlie: How is he doing now? Has he settled a lot more now?

Aimee: He has. yeah. And one other thing that everyone told us was to expect the first year to be the hardest. And usually after summer break, they come back and they’re much more settled. They have better language competency, they have friends, and it’s much easier the second year. But the first year is expected to be hard.

And in that regard, I think he’s done really well because he’s at this point three quarters of the way through his first school year. He no longer feels like an outsider. He does have friends at school. He has friends that he sees outside of school on occasion, as well. And he doesn’t have as much fear and worry about the schoolwork that he had had that first part of the year, as well.

Carlie: Is he excited to go to school every day?

Aimee: I wouldn’t say he’s-

Carlie: Is any kid excited to go to school? No matter the country.

Aimee: I would say he’s just about as excited as he was in the States.

Carlie: There you go. That’s, that’s a good baseline, right?

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, exactly. He no longer has to be dragged out the door. He doesn’t talk about hating school anymore. So I think he’s really in a good place now. He is excited for summer break. We are going back to the States. I have a family member who’s getting married and my son’s been craving American food, which is fascinating because we don’t eat like a traditional American family. But there are some things that he’s really craving nostalgia.

Carlie: What’s he craving?

Aimee: He had a really strong craving for macaroni & cheese that started about six months ago. That does not exist in this country.

Carlie: The boxed macaroni & cheese?

Aimee: Yeah, the boxed macaroni & cheese. So I had to make an urgent visit to the States right before Christmas, and I did get a half-kilo bag of cheddar cheese powder that I brought back and gave him for Christmas so that we could have macaroni & cheese.

Carlie: Surprise! Here’s a bag of cheddar cheese powder.

Aimee: Exactly! So that we could have macaroni & cheese here at home. But lately he’s been missing his favorite burger place from our hometown. He told me the other day, he’s like, “The school bus went by McDonald’s and it just looked really good and I kind of wanted to go there” which is highly amusing because he’s never eaten a Happy Meal, he’s never been to McDonald’s.

Carlie: Really? He’s craving something he doesn’t know.

Aimee: Exactly, exactly. I think he’s craving home.

Carlie: Well, on home, what’s your long-term plan, Aimee, if you know? And is there a pathway if you wanted to transition from being a digital nomad in Spain to becoming citizens?

Aimee: There is a pathway for us to take. After the three-year visa is up, we can renew for two additional years, and then after five years we’re open to applying for permanent residency. We don’t know that we want to do that yet. I would say the primary reason is the tax situation, until we have a clearer sense of what it would mean not just for income taxes, but also asset taxes.

Spain taxes things like property and jewelry and art and stuff that doesn’t get taxed the same way in the States. And so in terms of whether or not Spain is going to be an appropriate place for us to retire, we don’t yet know, but one of the things that also reinforced our decision to come to Spain was that while we were here for those five years, which at this point we still feel very committed to, we had the rest of Europe to explore.

And so we could look at, you know, if we fell in love with Sweden, and then we went there in the winter to make sure that we really were in love with Sweden.

Carlie: Because you really need to experience the winter in these countries, don’t you?

Aimee: Absolutely, absolutely. Would there possibly be a path there? You know, same with Ireland or perhaps even countries that we have yet to visit, right? But we have this beautifully diverse, gorgeous backyard here that we have several years to frolic about in and see if there’s anything better than what we’ve landed in here in Spain.

Carlie: So Spain may not be your forever home, but that doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going back to the States.

Aimee: Exactly. Yeah. I tell people we’re ‘dating’ Spain, but we haven’t moved in yet.

Carlie: We haven’t made it serious.

Aimee: There’s no ring, there’s no engagement, but we’re definitely looking at potential commitment.

Carlie: And how has your language improved in the time you’ve been in Spain so far? Because you mentioned that that’s something you did want to work on.

Aimee: If I’m objective, I think it has improved. I believe I have more diversity of expression than when we first landed here. However, I don’t feel confident that I’m actually going to pass my Spanish class this year. So, that gives me great pause and it makes me question whether or not the improvements that I feel I’ve made are legitimate. I honestly cannot answer that question until after June.

Carlie: You’re probably a lot better than you think you are. That’s me with French all the time. And also, over my eight or so years in France, I have accepted that I do not have consistent motivation for learning this language. And I will have ebbs and flows and troughs and sometimes I won’t look at a French learning book for months, and other times I’ll be really motivated and I just accept that that’s my path, you know?

Aimee: That’s a really important tip to accept the ebb and flow of the process. I think whatever goals or aspirations we have, we often do not take into account fluctuating motivation and energy.

Carlie: And daily  life. The amount of people that say to me, “Oh, but you’re living in France full-time. You should be fluent by now.” But they don’t consider, well, is my daily life in French or is it in English? Are the closest people in my life speaking to me in French or English? And all of that factors into your progress.

Aimee: Absolutely, absolutely. I was really surprised at how easy it is to speak English where we’re living. I thought that by not being in as metropolitan a place as Barcelona, it would be more challenging, but it isn’t at all. And unless you are out in the community in new and different experiences, right? Because now I know how to order from the butcher. I know how to order a meal, get a cup of coffee, right? I don’t yet know how to ask for a medical appointment. It’s not something I do a lot. You know, there are a lot of experiences that I haven’t had yet that are actually quite easy to avoid taking on if you don’t feel like it.

Carlie: Oh Absolutely.

Aimee: And on top of that, to your point about the ebbs and flows, particularly early on when you’re still figuring out how to be in a functioning adult in a new country, you don’t have the bandwidth at the end of the day to watch a movie in dubbed in Spanish, or pick up that Spanish book and start reading it. It’s just, you just want your brain to have a break. Really low-key chill time. And so that’s an area where I definitely have not been pushing myself. You know, I listen to podcasts in English, I read English books, I resist Spanish dubbing on Netflix. And given my exceedingly poor performance in Spanish class, I have had a little sit down with myself, the assessment about my language.

Carlie: What about your son? Is he showing you up in Spanish yet?

Aimee: Not yet, not yet. I still get to teach him about different tenses that he’s being introduced to, but hasn’t, hasn’t mastered yet. He’s coming along very well though and is conversational in Spanish, as well as Catalan, which is fantastic because my sum total of words that I know in Catalan are probably less than 20. But he’s able to have conversations with his favorite baker when he goes to get a pain au chocolat from her, and he doesn’t feel as confident in his Catalan as he does his Spanish, but he’s really doing well in both.

Carlie: And it’s such a gift to be able to give him too, isn’t it?

Aimee: It really is, it really is. It just opens up so many doors to him that I think will serve him very well in his life.

Carlie: Aimee, looking at your journey so far with the digital nomad visa, what would your advice be to anyone looking to apply for that for Spain today?

Aimee: The process will be more expensive than you expect because of the unforeseen things. And you don’t want to go into this process having just enough; you want to have a buffer. And I think maybe having 20% more than you think you need, I honestly have not crunched the numbers on what it ultimately cost us to move, but I think if you have an extra 20% of wiggle room, that will make your life a lot easier because there will be unexpected costs.

Carlie: Does that go for 20% in terms of cost and 20% in terms of time?

Aimee: Oh gosh, the time? Oh, that’s a completely different thing. Goodness. Again, that also ultimately depends on what your situation looks like. I really ratcheted down my work hours so that I could focus on exclusively moving for the final four months that we were in the States. Not everybody’s going to have that luxury. And so, in the absence of that, I would anticipate giving yourself an extra three to six months longer than you think you need to get out of where you’re going.

Carlie: That’s not insignificant in terms of-

Aimee: It is not. No, it is not insignificant. And that’s not just based on my personal experience, that’s also based off of my friend Rebecca’s experience. Their original intention was to be in France by the end of 2022. And as of this recording, we’re into the first quarter of 2024 and they’ve just landed in Paris.

Carlie: Make your plans and throw them out the window.

Aimee: Exactly, exactly. Our original intention was to arrive in Spain a year before we did. And so I had found my lawyer in 2022, and looking at all the paperwork online and looking at how this would be, I was like, “Okay, great. This should take about six months. So let’s leave this summer.”

Carlie: Three summers later.

Aimee: No, no. That’s not quite how it worked. And so when I realized when the writing was on the wall and I faced that reality that would not just be a six-month process, we stopped, I paused, I stopped driving myself crazy. We chose to spend a month in Spain to make sure we were really committed.

So that’s one thing I hadn’t shared before is that we had made the decision to move to Spain before anyone in the family had actually been to the country. So we were very much like blind date kind of situation with Spain, and that year in between that we took to really do this in a way that was sustainable, allowed us to come here and spend four weeks during the summer, make sure this is what we wanted, find a school for our son, meet the head of the school, tour the grounds, and really step into it from a place of confidence, as much confidence as you can have entering a country without a visa and hoping it all works out for the best. But it really definitely put us into a place of arriving in the country more certain and less depleted.

Carlie: Do you think that test trip is really essential before making a commitment to an international move?

Aimee: I don’t think I can answer that question. I can say in my case, yes, Spain is absolutely where we would want to be. That said, our original intention was to move to Barcelona. Now that we’re outside of Barcelona, which only happened because of the school that we chose for my son, and that only happened because the school in Barcelona did not get back to me after several repeated inquiries. we’re really glad that we didn’t end up in Barcelona.

However, our decision to move to the town that we moved to was really based on taking a train and a taxi to the school, spending two hours at the school, walking around and talking to the principal and then heading back to Barcelona. We spent time in the train station, and we grabbed lunch at a cafe next to the train station, but saw nothing of this town before we decided to move here.

So, again, I feel it’s impossible to answer that question. The better you know yourself, and the more you know about what you’re looking for, and the more that you can fact-check your beliefs about a nation with people who are there to ensure that what that nation can provide you and what you want are aligned, I think the better off you’ll be if you take that risk. If you are extremely spontaneous and very much moved by your heart and you watch a documentary and decide to move to a foreign country, I applaud you.

Carlie: I am not you.

Aimee: I do not think that is ultimately the best way to go about this, especially if you’re looking to be long term, right? Like, being a digital nomad varies. Everybody does it for a different reason.

Carlie: And for different periods of time. Like, some people will be perfectly happy with a one-year digital nomad visa. Others like you, yourself and your family are looking at a longer term commitment, you know?

Aimee: Yeah, if you’re looking to spend a year somewhere you’ve never been and you, you know, throw an arrow at the map and go where it lands, that’s a much less risky situation than, you know, selling everything you own, like we did, and uprooting your entire family based on where the arrow hit on the map.

Carlie: Aimee, we’re recording this on a Friday night. Can you tell me what is going to be your typical American family in Spain weekend?

Aimee: We always spend Friday night when we’re in town with dad’s homemade popcorn and a movie cuddled up on the couch. And Friday night movie night has been a standing tradition in our household for many, many years. It is probably about as long as my son has been old enough to sit for a full movie. And so that’s happening this evening. Tomorrow, I do spend a lot of the weekends running, so tomorrow I’ve got-

Carlie: For pleasure.

Aimee: For pleasure, yes. Not from official government affairs, angry Catalans, no. So I’ll run early tomorrow and then we will be taking the train into France for this weekend. So sometimes we do take the train to Barcelona for the weekend, or even for just an overnight or a day trip during the weekend.

Oftentimes, at least throughout this winter, my son has been more inclined to just stay home and rest and recover. I think because he is the one who’s truly immersed; he’s in a school that has a longer day than what he had in the States and uses predominantly Catalan and Spanish, except for a German class once a week.

Carlie: Throw German in there.

Aimee: Yeah, just throw the German in there. And so his brain has been really, really tired when he gets home. He doesn’t want to go out. He just wants to like, almost melt into the couch and just recover. So we’ve not been very adventurous, to be honest. I do think that will be changing with Spring. My son also, his weekends are the only time that he can catch up with his friends in America. And so he will play Minecraft with them on the weekends because our evenings are their mornings. And so his buddies aren’t awake and able to play except for Saturday and Sunday mornings in the United States. And it’s so important for him to keep those connections, and he’s so lucky to be alive at a time where it’s so easy to move halfway across the world and maintain friendships from your hometown. So that’s something important. And we do factor that into how our weekends will play out.

Carlie: Well, Aimee, it’s been fascinating to hear about your journey to Spain on the digital nomad visa as an American. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Aimee: I’m so happy to have been able to do so. Thank you for inviting me.

Carlie: And where can people find you if they want to listen to your podcasts or learn about your business?

Aimee: My podcast is Blasphemous Nutrition, and that is available on iTunes and Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also learn more about our expat experience, Rebecca and I at Bonjhola, that’s B-O-N-J-H-O-L-A, also wherever you listen to podcasts. And I am on Instagram at Vibrance Nutrition, as well as my website, VibranceNutrition.com.

Carlie: That’s almost it for this episode, as promised – the minimum income requirement for Spain’s digital nomad visa. At the time of recording this, it is 200% of Spain’s monthly minimum salary, which is 1,080 Euros, so you need to be making a bit over 2,000 euros a month.

For more Spain content, search for these interviews in our podcast archive: What non-Europeans should know about moving to Spain. And we have another one, called Living and thriving as a black woman in Spain.

If there’s a destination or topic that you want to learn more about, tell us on social media, we are Expat Focus. And I’ll catch you in the next one!

Where you can find Aimee:

IG – https://www.instagram.com/vibrancenutrition/

Blasphemous Nutrition Podcast: https://blasphemousnutrition.buzzsprout.com/share

Bonjhola Podcast: https://bonjhola.buzzsprout.com/share

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