The Initial Decision

There’s not really a good way to start this.  Indeed, I never thought I’d be doing a “trip report” on our move to Tenerife, as it wasn’t supposed to be a “trip.”  I’m writing this, or at least starting this, from our home in Pahoa, Hawaii, over a month after we returned – unexpectedly soon – from our move to Tenerife in early 2021.  Crystal and the pups are currently in San Diego.  All of us are currently doing well.  Yet every day, I still feel residual sadness at what should have been.  Things didn’t go as planned abroad.  This will discuss how and why.  But it will also discuss many of the thoughts and emotions along the way.  It’s not so much a trip report as a life report, and will hopefully memorialize one of the best “trips” of my life.

This will undoubtedly read much different than our other trip reports, for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, the narrator won’t be us, but rather me (Justin), since many of the items in here were specific to me, and also reflect my own thoughts and opinions.  Second, while some of the entries will be for specific days, many will encompass entire weeks or months, with the information still (hopefully) chronological, but not carefully delineated.  Third, many of the events happened many months ago, and my memory may not be 100% correct regarding what happened and why. Fourth, I'll be using a lot of YouTube videos from another person, a local with the handle "Canary Relax", to show a lot of stuff I describe here, because he has tons of videos of the town and I (sadly) have barely any. I am forever indebted to him for taking all these videos, as they give a great idea of how meandering around town - what I did for most of my time there - looks and feels. Fifth, I can't think of a good transition to the report itself, so I'll just jump straight in.

The genesis of our move actually started whilst walking across the Galata Bridge in Istanbul back in 2017.  We were enjoying our second trip there, and seemingly out of nowhere Crystal remarked that she wanted to live in Istanbul (or somewhere else abroad) before “our” 55th birthday.  Our respective birthdays are equidistant from January 1, and so we made that “our” birthday when making plans and goals.  For our 35th, we wanted to visit all seven continents.  We accomplished that when we were 33.  For our 40th, we wanted to have a place in Hawaii.  We accomplished that when we were 35.  For our 45th, we wanted to pay off our mortgages.  We were all set to do that when we were 42, and would have except for the fact it was actually preferable not to pay off our home in Hawaii, as there was an active volcano a couple blocks away and we figured if we ever needed to deal with an insurance company, it’d be better to have a lender who had some skin in the game.

When we were in Istanbul that day, we hadn’t paid off either mortgage, and were thus still working on our Year 45 goal, but Crystal added another one.  Not for age 50, however, but for age 55.  We knew it wouldn’t be easy to move our dogs internationally, and we didn’t want to have a goal that would be potentially impacted by us still having dogs. 

But similar to how simply contemplating the goal of having a place in Hawaii led to us actually doing it far earlier than planned, the idea of moving abroad created an itch that we constantly wanted to scratch.  We took our first Euro-centric trip in late 2018, visiting Czechia, Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary, and we really enjoyed our time there, particularly in Vienna and Budapest.  Then, in the spring of 2019, we took a fateful cruise that docked at several of the Canary Islands, including Tenerife, and ended in Barcelona, where we spent several great days.  Both of these trips increased the itch.  In fact, literally within a few hours of us getting off the ship in Tenerife, it reminded us a lot of Hawaii, but with many more of the creature comforts of San Diego, and we were asking our guide some pointed questions about medical care, ease of travel to the mainland, mosquitoes, rum availability, real estate costs, and more.

Sometime later in 2019 we decided (I use that term loosely) to re-visit some of our favorite spots to see which of the “finalists” would be where we’d move.  Candidly, I don’t remember any sort of an explicit discussion such as “so, are we actually going to move abroad?”, but maybe there was one.  But there for sure was a discussion of what places we wanted to re-visit: Vienna, Budapest, Barcelona, and Tenerife.  We visited in December 2019, and visited Barcelona first, then Tenerife (specifically, Puerto de la Cruz, a town we’d visited our second day on Tenerife on our cruise), then Budapest, and finally Vienna. 

On that trip, at each stop we checked out neighborhoods, perused grocery stores and other markets, checked for veterinary offices, used public transit, closely examined prices of certain goods (e.g., bell peppers, bottles of rums, raspberries, dog food, a glass of wine at a bar, etc.).  We tried, as best as possible, to get an idea of what it would be like to live in these four cities.  We really liked Barcelona, but it just seemed a little too big and noisy for us to live in.  We like San Diego much more than Los Angeles, and Barcelona seemed more like LA to us.  Budapest and Vienna, while both picturesque and full of culture, were bitterly cold (it was December, after all).

And then there was Puerto.  This time we flew in, and on the approach we had a clear view of Mt Teide, the third largest volcano in the world, behind Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea (both of which I saw clearly earlier today when I drove into Pahoa to swim).  From the airport we took a cab north, and – like our first trip to Puerto in April 2019 – we were greeted with jaw-dropping views of Teide and the Orotava Valley before arriving in Puerto.  This time, Teide was even covered with snow.  We stayed in an Airbnb right next to Plaza de Charco, the main square in the heart of the city.  We were a block from the ocean, and could see Teide from our balcony. 

Over the course of three days, we walked all over town, literally from end to end.  Our first day we headed out west, starting along Calle Mequinez, a gorgeous street lined with Royal Palms and huge art murals, which we’d first walked along in April 2019.  We kept going, walking along a large black sand beach, Playa Jardin, and ended up at Punta Brava, the western edge of the town.  We had a cheap lunch in a local pub, having food and drinks for less than $20 total.  Thereafter we walked back to the center of town, stopping at some grocery stores to check what was available and what it cost, and then enjoyed a nice clear afternoon overlooking the coastline and Calle San Telmo, where the Atlantic Ocean crashed into huge rocks immediately adjacent to the pedestrian walkway along the shore.  That evening we went to a small Tiki Bar, The Waka Shack, just a few minutes east of our place, and chatted up the proprietors regarding their thoughts on Puerto.

Our second day we walked south from Plaza de Charco, walking through farms full of banana plants as well as a few busy streets, and eventually ended up at one of the only flat places in town, Parque Sortija, which had lovely running paths, large swaths of grass, and dozens of mature palm trees.  Just north of Parque Sortija was Parque Taoro, with incredible views along the north shore of Tenerife, and less than a 10 minute walk from Plaza de Charco.  In the late afternoon we met Alicia, our guide from April 2019, and she showed us some of the Christmas activities and events in La Orotava, a town just upslope from Puerto, across the autopista (main highway).

The third day we checked out the eastern part of Puerto, walking uphill to La Paz, where the Botanic Garden is.  We’d visited the Botanic Garden in April, and I’d really liked it, as it had a wide variety of plants from all across the globe, including a couple giant banyan trees from Lord Howe Island.  We visited the garden again, then checked out the nearby viewpoint from La Paz, overlooking the other main beach, Playa Martianez, and we walked down the hill to check out Playa Martianez and Lago Martianez, an enormous pool area designed by renowned designer Cesar Manriquez.  We had a nice lunch outdoors, then later a happy hour overlooking the water at San Telmo, and ended the evening at a nearby Mexican restaurant that had some incredible Al Pastor tacos.

Our Airbnb had a poster that read “Whatever you want to do, do it!  There are only so many tomorrows” – it was very prescient.  Somewhere during the three days, Crystal said “I like this better than Barcelona.”  I did too.  Budapest and Vienna never really got serious consideration, although we did still check prices of goods, explore local neighborhoods, etc. When we returned to San Diego just prior to the end of 2019, I got started on the due diligence.

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