It is time I record our journey of goal setting for our family. But first, a quick recap of us: Tom and I met at Utah State University in 2009, dated for 9 months and then were married in May 2010 at ages 18 and 22. When I was 21 we had our first daughter, and we have since had 3 more daughters – that makes 4 daughters within 8.5 years.
In 2015-2016 Thomas and I watched a lot of HGTV (Home and Garden TV channel). We were so inspired by the shows House Hunters International and Fixer Upper. Both of those shows had a huge influence on the future we wanted for our family.
Tom worked for a company in Providence UT that was based out of London UK. Tom and I began dreaming of living in London and raising our 2 children there for a few years. Tom spoke with his managers about switching to the London office and they said that we could move as long as he was okay staying with his Utah salary. This obviously wasn’t ideal, living on Utah wages in one of the most expensive cities in the world, but we have money in savings and felt that we could make it work. We started working on passports for the 2 kids and searching for housing. I also applied for the House Hunters International TV show and we were accepted to be on the show pending our arrival in London. The plan was to move in September 2015. As we continued preparations the HR manager at Tom’s work said that the work visa was trickier than anticipated. The visa would cost $10,000 for the company to apply for, and where this was a favor for Tom, our family would need to cover that cost. At this point, we realized that our moving expenses were far too expensive to make the move. So we decided to cancel our plans until we were more financially stable.
In the meantime we began watching Fixer Upper (also on HGTV). Tom and I realized that we could renovate an old home and save a lot of money. We started looking at the market and found that our Smithfield home (that we purchased in 2013) had increased in value by $50,000. We purchased that home with hardly any money and not much was needed for a downpayment with the Rural Housing Loan we had. We purchased that home at the top of our budget, and at the rate we were going, it was going to take us at least 25 years to pay off.
We started to look at older homes in need of renovation. We loved the charm and story of an older home as well and found the search very exciting. We put an offer on a home in the spring of 2016 but someone else’s offer was accepted first. It worked out though because it gave us the push we needed to sell our own house so that we would be ready when the next “right” house came along. We sold our Smithfield house at the end of 2016 and moved into my in-laws basement while we continued the house hunt.
In Dec 2016 we found a darling house that needed updates, we loved it and put an offer in for $163,000. We then found out that the house had another offer for $10,000 more than ours by someone who wanted the home as an investment property. The owners loved that we were a family who wanted to breathe life back into the home, so they accepted our offer over the higher one. We were stunned and so grateful. We got the Logan house Jan 3, 2017 and had a 15 year loan on the house. We planned to pay the home off in half of that time. We used almost 50% of the equity gained from the sale of the Smithfield house as the downpayment for the Logan house. The other half of the equity (~$28,000) was used as our renovation budget. The home had knob and tube electrical wiring and so our biggest expense and top priority was to hire an electrician. We had a difficult time finding an electrician who would update the electrical system with plaster walls. But we finally found an electrician who was willing to work around our plaster walls and would rewire the house for $12,000. It was nearly half our budget but it was worth it. Over the next 5 months Thomas and I removed layers and layers of wallpaper, cracked plaster ceilings, layers of carpet, and many other jobs to renovate the home into a place our family could call home. During this time we continued to live with my in-laws and often would put our 2 children to bed at 8 pm, and then head to the house to work until midnight. I was pregnant with our 3rd child and was due July 7th. I ended up going into labor May 14th (32 weeks pregnant) and was in the hospital for 12 hours while the doctors worked to stop my labor from progressing. My contractions stopped and I was then on bed rest for the next month while Tom continued working on the home without me.
We moved in at the end of June and had our 3rd child July 1st of that year. Our house was still far from finished, but it was *mostly* livable. Over the next 5 years Tom and I continued renovating and time and budget would allow. In October 2021 we knew we were close to paying off our mortgage. We discussed and prayed about what our next step would be. I have never lived outside of Utah, and while I love it there, I craved the opportunity to experience living in a new culture with new people. We discussed moving to North or South Carolina, or moving to Europe. The idea of moving to Spain began to unfold as we realized the cost of living was affordable, the weather was gorgeous, the language was a dream (Tom speaks Spanish and I am working on it), a remote worker visa was possible, and the country was beautiful.
In May 2022 we paid off our mortgage for the Logan house! We had discussed with our children the dream of moving and found that they were less interested in moving for a full year (or more). We also realized it was going to be a while before Spain’s Remote Worker Visa would be available for applications. So we compromised and decided on a 3 month stay in Spain (90 days is allowed for US tourists to stay in the EU) and 3 months in England. As we started searching we found that Airbnb was our best option. We needed a place that was fully furnished and ready to go since we were staying for a short time period. We were searching for a place with the following qualities: near the ocean (neither of us have lived by the ocean and wanted to experience that), adequate public transportation, close to a church building of our beliefs, a desk space for Tom to work remotely, and within walking distance to groceries and other shops. We found a place in Nerja Spain that was absolutely perfect for our family of 6. Our Airbnb was $1500 per month.
Our search for Airbnb’s in the United Kingdom was a bit more complicated. One of Tom’s co-workers recommended we stay in York England, as we researched York we found it checked off most of our criteria, except it was quite expensive. So we decided that we would stay in York for the month of May and then move to a less expensive area for our remaining two months. So we booked a place in York for $3200 a month. As we continued searching across the UK for our June and July stays we found that housing that fit our criteria was >$3000 per month. We originally were searching for less than $2200 a month. So we checked our finances and decided if we could rent out our home in Logan while we were gone it could offset the added cost of living in the United Kingdom and it could still work out. We ended up booking a place in Scotland for June and a place near Bath England for July.
During this time of planning (summer of 2022) tragedy struck our family. Our oldest daughter, Audrey, was reaching through a fence feeding cows when one of the cows swung its head into her abdomen. While she had no external injuries, her liver and bile ducts were lacerated and she was bleeding internally. We spent the month of August at Primary Children’s Hospital facing a liver transplant and multiple surgeries. Audrey was miraculously healed by the skills of medical staff, and also by the power of God. She was able to keep her own liver and the doctors surgically reconnected her bile ducts with a Biliary Roux en Y reconstruction. In September her surgeon cleared her for travel this winter and said she would fully recover from the accident. We are still humbled to tears by the experience and are incredibly grateful to still have her with us on earth.
The past few months (really the past year) were incredibly busy and complicated. We have been homeschooling our children in preparation for this move, preparing the house for us to be gone, finding renters (our friends are renting the house and we are so thrilled), planning flights and places to live, wardrobes for a family of 6 in a small suitcase, etc. One member of our family broke out in hives the night before we left because of the stress and anxiety of the move. It has not been easy.
But here we are: currently living in Spain and amazed that we are actually living out this dream of ours. It took so much work, time, and planning, and we plan to fully appreciate this time exploring together. Our hope in sharing our story with you is that you will be inspired to dream big dreams and set big goals for yourself to accomplish those dreams. I don’t want to spend my time wondering “what if…” I want to find ways to make the “what if’s” happen … Do you?