Prior to Spain I had done a lot of traveling for a variety of durations – weekends, four-day trips, seven-day trips, etc. For work, for fun – you name it. However, moving my life to another country/city for 6 months was a first for me. Based on my travel experience I assumed I would nail the life packing portion of this adventure, but I think I scored a C-. Below are my tips to perform better than average!
CHECK THE LOCAL WEATHER
I was moving to Spain from a very consistent, warm climate. With the exception of November, December & January, the weather in Los Angeles is pretty much the same – sunny, 70s and no rain. Even in the “winter” it is still warm, and the chance of rain is uncommon. Part of the draw to Spain, for me anyway, was the similar Mediterranean climate that I love in SoCal, but just like how it depends on where you live in the States, the climate differs on where you live in Spain. In Huelva, we are southern and coastal, so the weather is extremely comparable to LA, but in Madrid it is much milder and stays cold for a month or so longer. My suggestion is to check the year-round averages, highs, lows and chances of rain then pack accordingly.
…BUT THINK ABOUT YOUR OTHER TRAVEL
It is also important to consider where in the world you want to travel during your time in Spain. The warm months of Spain start much earlier in the year than the rest of Europe (although quite similar to Portugal). Germany, for instance, does not get warm until April/May. I made sure to prepare my suitcase for not only Spain but the other countries I planned to explore in the earlier, colder months of the year. Map out your desired travel ahead of time, do a little bit of research, and use that as a roadmap.
ASK YOUR COORDINATOR ABOUT THE SCHOOL DRESS CODE
A month before my departure I shot my coordinator a quick email to confirm the school dress code. She responded with a “it is casual” which I have discovered is pretty spot on. I typically wear sick chinos or dark jeans, except for the days when I have PE all day, and a button down or sweater; however, the other men dress even more casually. It is still a tad chilly here, so most teachers keep their jackets and scarves on all day. Generally, it does seem like the dress code for teachers is more relaxed than what I knew in the States, but it is best to confirm with your coordinator ahead of time, just to be safe.
CLOTHING IN SPAIN IS CHEAPPPP
I was told that clothing in Spain was much cheaper in comparison to the States. In fact, I was told that multiple times, but for some reason I continually shrugged it off. Man were my advisors correct – clothing in Spain really is cheaper than it is back in the US! The first time I walked around Huelva to window shop I could not believe the prices. Shoes, pants, jackets…everything…all cheap! Even the prices before the rebates were super cheap. And as time passed it seemed like all the clothing was always on rebate…the sales seemed permanent, which is cool by me. The point is if you forget something or on the fence of leaving something behind, it is ok because buying in Spain should work with the budget.
PACK LIGHT (SERIOUSLY)
I did not pack light and a part of me wishes I had. First, my bedroom does not have a ton of storage space. A lot of the housing I have encountered is meant for short time residents, so the rooms are pretty bare bones. That said, there is simply not a lot of space to store my suitcases, clothing, jackets, shoes, etc.
Second, packing light also makes it easier to travel around during the first week or two when searching for a perma-room. I was getting in and out of taxis, buses, trains, and then lugging my suitcases through the middle of town, up steps, into cafes, etc. Having one less bag filled with socks and shirts would have made this way easier. I’ve read that the best suggestion is to pack the bags, then remove half of what was packed – now, I full-heartedly support this idea.
My ultimate summary is this: consider the weather for the entire stay, figure out the school dress code, and pack light – it is cheap to buy socks, undershirts, and the other light stuff in the city.
Oh, and use a Kindle…do not bring actual books like I did!