Looking back at 2022…and forward to 2023
I always say it: I do these year-end posts as much for ourselves as for readers. This year it’s truer than any other year. Readers might find this one overly introspective. I was actually thinking of not writing anything this year. But I’ve been doing these since 2013 and it would have been dishonest not to do it this year.
I’ll be frank about it. Looking back at the last few years of year-end posts it’s pretty obvious that our happiness level has gone down. Most of it is understandable and I think 99% of the world feels the same way. 2020 and 2021 were all about Covid and lockdowns. 2022 started well and then we had the war in Ukraine which has impacted everyone in one way or another.
But there’s maybe more to it than that.
I’ll get into the above below. But first I’ll sum up our year as I usually do…
A Quick summary of 2022
I had finished off 2021 saying “screw Covid, we’re not going to let it dictate our lives anymore”. And we didn’t.
On January 2nd I had my first hike of the year and almost fell off a cliff when the ground gave way under my left foot. I somehow anchored my right foot to keep my body from falling off the path (falling on my face instead) but heard a snap/crack in my ankle during the process. Nothing was broken but the ankle was sore and swelled up. It would stay swelled and sore for a few months and it would be 5 months until I felt comfortable to hike again.
Today I can hike and I even go jogging but even a year later the ankle is always stiff in the morning.
Despite everything, the hike of Almendron (in the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park) is spectacular and was a highlight of my year.
February was great. We had a month-long trip through Spain, our first major trip since early 2020. We re-visited Cordoba (love Cordoba!), Madrid, Toledo, Avila, Segovia, Salamanca, Burgos and Zaragoza. (See Mapping Spain where we detail all these cities). We were in Barcelona on February 24th when we woke up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Most readers know that we spent the equivalent of 5 months in Ukraine (in Lviv and Kyiv) between 2018 and 2019. It holds some of our fondest memories.
That’s when the rest of our year started to go downhill.
March – October
Like most people we saw our investments plummet and inflation soar. All repercussions of the war. We had tentative travel plans for the summer that would have taken us from Prague to Berlin and across Germany and France. But like a lot of people we decided that maybe it was more prudent to stay home and be careful with our money.
We did a lot of gardening which honestly was more about maintenance than about enjoyment. I mentioned that last year we had a huge problem with Asian Tiger Mosquitos (which are aggressive daytime mosquitos that you’ll find along the coasts of Spain). I fixed the problem by cleaning out all undergrowth in our gardens and covering the earth with mosquito netting and rocks. No more Asian Tiger Mosquitos! But the problem this year has been mealy bugs and ants. Summer was a never-ending battle spraying our lemon tree and bougainvillea using natural “solutions” found on the internet: soap and water solutions, apple cider vinegar and water. Just know that all that is a crock of shit. None of it helped. In the end I decided to cut back half of our lemon tree and trim our bougainvillea down to nothing. Just know that it all grows back quickly (it’s amazing how aggressively nature comes back along the coasts of Spain).
When it wasn’t mealy bugs it was cockroaches. After seeing a couple of huge cockroaches in the apartment last year we did a ton of sealing up this spring/summer. Our complex was built in the 1970’s and there seem to be a lot of crawl spaces behind walls and under floors. We sealed up everything and also put mosquito netting on all windows to stop all creepy crawlies. The neighbours must think we’re crazy. Nobody else screens their windows. But we didn’t get any cockroaches until September when suddenly we started seeing baby cockroaches emerging from our downstairs bathroom. We set up cockroach traps everywhere, sealed up the bathroom door shut with duct tape, and started a routine of washing the floor with a mixture of water and bleach every night before going to bed. Every morning we’d wake up to 4 or 5 dead baby roaches which whittled down to 2 or 3….we haven’t seen any in 2 months now but have maintained our washing the floor habit.
When it’s not the mealy bugs or cockroaches it’s the cats. The stray cats all over the property which linger because we have 2 wacko lady neighbours who insist on feeding them. Our neighbour next door “has” 4 cats (“has” = she has 4 cats that spend most of their days in the common space and jumping into people’s yards).
We have nothing against cats but when they come into our yard peeing and pooing we get upset. So the summer was a running battle of setting up natural barriers, putting spikes in our plants (so cats don’t use them as a litter box), and always having the garden hose handy.
Reminds me of a funny story. Back when my mom was working one of her co-workers was a cat lover. For the anonymous Christmas gift exchange one year, my mom bought her a book entitled “101 uses for a dead cat” (you can google that. I see they sell it on Amazon). My mom thought it was hilarious. The co-worker didn’t. She was pissed. Lucky for my mom the co-worker never found out who bought her that book…
As I say, we seem to have spent a lot of time maintaining and protecting our property and apartment rather than enjoying it.
We had a few nearby excursions to Mara, Torre del Mar, Torrox and Malaga (for the annual feria in August). But the highlight of our summer was trying out many of Nerja’s Tapas bars. That included participating in the Ruta de la Tapa, a yearly competition for the “best tapas in Nerja”.
A few photos from the many festivals/fiestas we attended this summer.
Mid-October to Mid-November
In October I spent 3 ½ weeks in Mexico with my mother (she lives in Mexico). I always love Mexico.
We spent 3 days in Mexico City, about 10 days in San Miguel de Allende (where I experienced Dia de los Muertos for the 1st time), and then visited 4 of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (“Magical towns”): Tepotzotlán, Real del Monte, Zacatlán and Atlixco. I’m up to 14 Pueblos Magico towns now and I’ll be updating my post on the best Pueblos Magicos in Mexico in the next little while.
But just know that Mexico is beautiful, colourful and still great value for your money. Food is fantastic and people friendly.
We’re not the depressive types and we’re not the introspective types who talk about their feelings all that much. But a few months ago I think I said it. “I feel depressed sometimes”. Lissette looked at me. “I’ve also felt depressed”.
I don’t know if either of us can put our finger on why we feel that way.
The 6 years we travelled full-time we never felt depressed. Sure, sometimes we needed a break. It was sometimes hard being a nomad and not having a home. But we always looked forward to discovering new places and having new adventures. It was always exciting. We enjoyed the lifestyle.
In 2019 we just felt in our bones that we had to establish a base somewhere and that it couldn’t wait until we were in our 60’s. Neither of us wanted to go back to Canada (6 months of winter, too expensive). We wanted to be in Europe. Spain made sense.
We have been incredibly fortunate to get our Non-Lucrative Visa in 2020 and to find a base in Spain. Somehow we slipped through different travel restrictions, squeezed our paperwork in despite consulate and Canadian government closures, and snuck back into Spain just as travel restrictions came back into effect. It was a labyrinth of events and we somehow made it through the other side.
I’ve written it before. Spain is great. The people are open and friendly.
We’re incredibly lucky. We know that.
But the last two years have been difficult.
Part of it is this apartment. We feel like we’re a slave to it. As I wrote this summer (Thoughts on the freedom of being a nomad), it’s “f*ing boring”.
Most people won’t get it. They don’t get it. That’s fine. But we had a few comments there from people who DO get it and we take inspiration from that*.
*Ps. Thanks Don. You really hit the nail on the head with your comment.
Before leaving Canada to travel full-time (in 2014) we worked like everybody else. Even after we left Lissette continued working remotely (until 2019). I had this blog which kept me motivated and which I took on as my “job”. So we travelled and worked, both in our own way. And both – travelling and the blog – fed off each other.
Now in Spain, we’re not travelling as we were and we’re also not working per se. It’s really changed our lifestyle. In a way, maybe what we’re experiencing is what people go through when “retiring”?
I’m not sure. But we’re not ready to be retired. So 2023 will be a year of making changes. We’ll live “old people life” one day but the last two years have shown we’re not ready for it yet.
Our Plans for 2023
Lissette and like to get together and have a meeting at the end of every year. This year I asked a simple question: “if you could do anything you want in 2023, what would it be?”
Her answer was simple: “get rid of everything and travel as we did”.
We won’t go to that extreme. We’re still working towards Permanent Residency in Spain and have 2 more years to go. We’re not going to put that in jeopardy. We really like Spain and getting permanent residency here is important to us.
But there will be some major changes this year which will include more travel. I’ll share details at some point as things become clearer…
2022 was our best year ever on the blog. Lots of traffic, tons of new readers, and more hate than ever. I always say you know you’re doing well when people write you a 10-paragraph comment telling you how much you suck and how you’ve become irrelevant. I love that.
We’ll have a lot more content this year as we travel more. We’re also working on a couple of partnerships that will bring more expert-content to the blog, specifically on Mapping Spain. Finally, it’s something that I’ve been saying but that I’m going to do more of in 2023. More videos! I had promised it last year but it always ends up on the backburner. In 2023 I have a mission to do more videos.
* Here’s one I did a couple months ago. Bit of a boring subject but you get to see my face. Expect more boring videos and more face in 2023 🙂 **
** Not Lissette’s though. I can’t seem to convince her to be on camera.
Finally, this is the one time of year where I beg and remind you that if you enjoy reading the blog, to please keep us in mind when booking hotels, flights, tours or car rentals. It doesn’t cost you anything and it helps support us in travelling and writing the free content you see on this blog. This page will help you out with that. You might not be travelling anytime soon but if you remember us when you do we very much appreciate it.
Thanks for your continued support!
All the best to everyone in 2023!
See all our past Year-end posts on our “Travel Diaries” page.
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it was the pandemic and being locked up that made me realise how much i needed travel in my life. sorry that your year had been crappy but I think many are in that boat. The second half of 2022 I experienced a number of people passing away in my life. Well, three. and I think we are all hoping for a better, a much better 2023. I’m sure you’ll find it. I am off in 9 days, touchwood, myself. And as for receiving hate, well honestly it means you’re doing something right.
Sorry to hear you guys haven’t had the best year, but know that you’re not alone! We’ve been feeling down in the dumps too, and probably for the same sorts of reasons without there being any one thing in particular. I think we had such high expectations for 2022 after the craziness of the past couple of years, but it turned out to be not much better, in part due to the UK being a bit of a rubbish place to live at the moment. Never been more embarrassed to be a Brit, thanks to the crumbling economy, the complete scuppering of our national health service, the ridiculous never-ending political dance (who is our prime minister this month?), and the strikes that are crippling the nation right now. The airport chaos earlier this year put paid to our first post-pandemic overseas trip too. Not amused. We’ve never talked about emigrating so much (and probably would if it wasn’t for Hubbie’s pension) – Peru and Spain have been foremost in our thoughts! Though not sure I could cope with all the bug infestations you’ve had, hope you’ve managed to tell those critters who’s boss! And don’t get me started on cats…we have the same issue with our neighbour’s fiendish feline. Highly recommend the use of supersoakers!
Good luck with the video mission (something we attempted a few years ago and promptly gave up as it took too much time, and we were crap in front of the camera). Look forward to seeing what you come up with and whether you ever persuade Lissette to show her face, I’m sure she’d be amazing! 😊
Ha! I still have memories of hubbie sitting on the pottie. I thought you guys did brilliant on that video!
Yes, I’m a bit of a news junkie and I’m aware of all going on in UK. I often wonder how it will affect the many Brits here in Spain, many who just get by on their pensions. I feel for you, younger and more educated people the ones most affected by Brexit and I’m sure you often feel screwed over by some of your countrymates. We almost went through the same thing many years ago in Quebec, it was only by the slimmest of margins that separation never happened (the company I worked for had already planned to move to the US had it all gone through. I would have been majorly f*ed).
I hope you both a better 2023! If you want to move to Spain we have a lovely 3 bedroom which we’ll happily transfer over to you 😉
Ha, sorry you still have those memories 😉
And yeah, it’s always those of us in the ‘middle’ who work hard that end up paying the most to sort our country’s problems. Still also totally pissed that as a freelancer I received zero financial assistance from the gov during covid, while most employed people were furloughed with healthy pay, and I have the pleasure of paying for that with my increased taxes. Totally get why the work-shy are happy to sit around and reel in their benefits. Glad you didn’t have to deal with a Quebec-exit back in the day, some things really are best left alone .
Anyway, here’s to a much better 2023 for all, hope you get back to a bit of travelling again! And we could be tempted with your 3-bed, although I think you’d need to throw in a full-time gardener as an incentive 🙂
Hi Frank, I was waiting for your 2022 review! Reading all about the bugs and roaches, I thought you two should maybe move to a smaller flat somewhere higher up. We have quite a small flat as a base, that is very low-maintanance. Most of our friends think it is too small for two people but we are very happy with it. Anyway – you will travel more again in 2023 and we are looking forward to showing you around in Berlin!
You nailed in Natascha. As I said to someone else, at the very least we have to downsize. Like you, Lissette and I can do with very little size-wise. This place has killed us with all the maintenance.
Look very forward to the day we see you in Berlin!
I totally get it. Many people don’t handle retirement very well if they don’t have a plan to spend it meaningfully, so going from full-time travel to having a base that’s not so easy to leave when you want sounds a lot like retirement. Throw in covid lockdowns, inflation, etc. and it’s not what you had planned. Your rental place sounds like too much maintenance even for those who are used to staying put! I hope you can get back to more travel this year.
Thank you so much Claudine. I think when we came here we thought we could have it all – a base and travel. But we didn’t know that the place would need so much maintenance. It’s been hell honestly and has put us off ever owning a house (I remember Lissette saying “I’ve always wanted to live in a house!” How that’s changed).
Well, the key to making mistakes is realizing when you make them and then doing something about it. That’s what we’ll do in 2023.
Lisa & Robert
This post hits so close to home. Robert and I had the “are we depressed” conversation about two months ago. And, yes, we are. For many of the same reasons as you — we are slaves to our house, the house is a money pit, we are bored, and we miss traveling. But, we also like having a base. And, there are real advantages to having a base. So, we have a dilemma. We too have decided to travel more in 2023, focusing on places we have never been. Fingers crossed this helps alleviate the problems.
Very much appreciate the comment, I know you guys lived the same lifestyle we did so you can relate. Most people just don’t get it and they think we’re over-privileged. As you know we all give up other things to live our lifestyles, other things that other people take for granted. I don’t think people will ever sympathize but hopefully they can at least understand.