Sevilla, Spain

Seville, Spain: Gorgeous, Welcoming, and Affordable
By Karen McCann

The first time I visited Seville, I was dazzled by the city’s vibrancy. Now, nearly two decades later, it still takes my breath away. This ancient metropolis is a heady mix of gorgeous Moorish architecture, trendy restaurants, and conviviality. Sevillanos take their social lives as seriously as Americans take their careers. Time for family and friends isn’t relegated to life’s margins, it’s a top priority every day with extra helpings on Sunday. Eating great food with people you love isn’t reserved for holidays but part of the fabric of daily life.

“I could get used to this,” I told my husband the first time we visited.

Rich and I were living in Cleveland at the time, and when the next bitterly cold, slushy February rolled around, we unanimously voted to leave the Snow Belt for another visit to Seville. We went back again and again, staying longer each time. Luckily we had a flexible schedule; Rich had taken early retirement, and as a journalist I could work anywhere. Finally, in 2004, we decided we’d move to Seville “for a year.” And we’re still there.

I soon learned moving abroad is the best opportunity to reinvent yourself outside of the witness protection program! A Spanish friend persuaded me to join her art class, and for the first time in decades I began painting again. I started writing for a local expat publication, focusing on travel and culture, and am now the author of the blog Enjoy Living Abroad and five travel books, three of them Amazon bestsellers. I’ve mastered masses of technology, including social media, self-publishing, and video-making. It’s tremendously exhilarating. And I’m convinced it’s doing more to stimulate my brain’s synapses than Sudoku, bridge, or online games ever could.

And then there’s the travel. Rich and I can walk out of our Seville apartment, stroll to the railway station, and step onto a train that will link us to the farthest reaches of Europe. Twice we’ve taken three-month railway adventures, visiting places I’ve dreamed of since childhood.

One reason we can manage all this travel is because we live in an affordable city. I grew up in what’s now Silicon Valley, and one family member who’s still there pays six times our Seville rent for roughly equivalent lodgings. Meals in Silicon Valley easily run $50 per person plus wine at $10 to $15 a glass. In Seville, dinner at a trendy restaurant might cost $25 a person with wine, and in old-school eateries away from the center, lunch or dinner for two is often just $14.

To some, my decision to live in Seville appears inexplicable or eccentric. But the reality is most expats move abroad for much the same reason we went away to college—not because we love our family or country any less, but because they have prepared us to go out and embrace a bigger, brighter future.

Expat life is a splendid adventure. The French writer Émile Zola said, “If you ask me what I came into the world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” And if you ask me, I will tell you there’s nothing like moving to a city like Seville for pumping up the volume on your life.