Mallorca isn’t just home to people retiring and living their dream life in the sun, it’s also the destination for many younger couples who are moving here to build a family life they feel they can’t achieve in the UK.
My partner, O and I have lived in Mallorca since 2004. And we’ve answered the same set of questions time and again from inquisitive people we’ve met : what brought you to Mallorca, do you like it, will you ever go back. The answers are complicated, sometimes we give the long version, sometimes the short, it depends on how much in love we are with Mallorca at that moment. We were living in north London when we met in 2001, both my husband and I were single 30-somethings, living it up in the most expensive capital city in the world. Good jobs, great friends, fantastic social and cultural life. What on earth made us change our lives so dramatically? Why leave when you’re onto such a good thing? We wanted to have a family, in a kind of ‘at some point we’ll try’ kind of way, but knew that the very unleafy environment of Walthamstow was not what we would want for any offspring we may be fortunate enough to produce. We wanted to make and build our own businesses, but yet again, the competitiveness and expensiveness of London made the prospect of doing that very daunting. We wanted to live in a community, which a city the size of London wasn’t physically able to give, but we didn’t want to live in the suburbs and do a long commute everyday into the city, so living outside of London was never an option.
But the concept of living abroad was not on our agenda, we hadn’t even considered it. We just knew that we weren’t happy with where we were. A holiday to Mallorca in 2002 to see my father, E, who was already living here, was to be the moment of epiphany. Stressed out from struggling with the agressiveness of London, the traffic jams and the constant draw on our energies, we were unprepared for the gentle, friendly reception we recieived in Mallorca – both by the locals, and the ex-pat community which E had integrated into. The one week break finished with a road to Damascus conversion on the way back to the airport to fly back into the melee. Getting out of the car at Son Sant Joan I found myself in floods of tears with no real understanding of what was going on. A thorough debrief from my partner on the plane home lead to the realisation that I simply didn’t want to go back to London, but had to. Unlike so many people who I have met who told me that they’d come to Mallorca on a holiday, liked it and just didn’t get back on the plane again, it was to be a full two years before we raised enough money to be able to finally rent out our flat, pack our bags, bung the cats in a carrier, and make the two day dash across Europe in a Mini Metro to start our new life.
It’s not been a easy road since either, we were not prepared for the stresses of living in a foreign country; illnesses, accidents, tragedies, dramas and intrigues; the complications of getting married; the extreme highs and lows of expecting or having a baby; the gossipy (occasionally cruel) incestuousness of living in a small community or the reality of our own family life. Missing our friends, longing for Tescos, wanting desperately to be able to get the Sunday supplements with the English papers, wondering where the decent clothes, books and record shops are, with no chance of ever going to a Premiership match on a Saturday. And, oh yes, starting and running three businesses, and buying a house.
So why the hell are we here? It’s certainly nothing to do with the weather. And we’re a lifetime away from ever being able to retire and play golf or hang out on yachts. It could have something to do with the incredible support we have from our international group of friends and colleagues, it might also have something to do with the fact our daughter is growing up speaking three languages, and it may even have something to do with the fact that everytime I drive into the valley that we live in I have to stop and look at the view. Who knows, it’s complicated, but never ever boring. But then family life is, isn’t it?
Copyright VMcLeod 2008