Barcelona, Spain

Will and Lisa

Sixty five year old Will and 61 year old Lisa, who still feel European despite being third generation Australians, said ‘We have decided to move to Barcelona and not to Asia because in Asia you are always the foreigner.’

Lisa speaks French, her grandmother was French and her first husband French—though she prefers to live in Barcelona.

Port Vell and skyline of Barcelona

One reason is language. ‘I have spent a lot of time in France. I have lived in Paris and it is like that book Almost French. You are never going to be French. Even though I am part-French, I am not when I go there. I babble away and my French friends will correct my grammar. “Do you mind, I am telling a story,” I say. Whereas in Barcelona, I speak very bad Spanish, I yap away and they are so welcoming – “Oh okay, good, good.” It doesn’t matter.’

It was a year or so of travelling  after finishing their careers that triggered the urge for Will and Lisa to move away from Australia permanently.

They had travelled widely in Europe and then spent nine months in Sri Lanka.

Will said: ‘We went back (to Australia) and thought, “Fuck, it’s boring.” And that is a really shocking thing to say. We lived in a perfect little townhouse, overhanging the ocean at Tamarama in Sydney, and we were bored shitless. No adventures.’

Will and Lisa had effectively retired. But they spent the nine months in Sri Lanka in 2011, running a hotel for a friend, and discovered they liked the hospitality game and were very good at it. That was when they realised that perhaps the hotel industry offered them an adventure in their so-called retirement years. The question was: where?

The couple had always liked Barcelona but it became a contender after some very good friends bought and renovated an apartment near the Gaudi church. It has soaringly high ceilings, three bedrooms and had been untouched for 70 years. Their friends paid A$180,000 and spent A$120,000  doing it up, with the intention of renting it out.

For Lisa and Will, the light bulb went on. ‘We thought, “Hang on, we know how to run a hotel. We could easily manage a rental apartment.” And we were watching with interest the seismic shift in accommodation. It is all done online now,’ Lisa said. ‘We worked out that we could have a five-bedroom apartment, rent out the rooms, and live off the income. You don’t need licences for that; you just take out an insurance policy and do it.’

It was the perfect solution to their sunset-years dilemma.

‘There are 7 million tourists to Barcelona every year,’ Will said. ‘Barcelona is a port. It was always the place that everyone came to—a melting pot, a place of industry and business. The city and its people are open. And they are wealthy compared to the rest of Spain.’

The huge amount of tourism and the fact that property is cheap in Barcelona means that expats like Will and Lisa can generate an excellent income from rental holiday accommodation. And they get their slice of adventure as well.