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We left the U.S. for Spain and pay $915 a month for a penthouse with a terrace: Why we're so much happier here

Photo: Jiri Bakala for CNBC Make It

In September 2021, after 10 years of wishing and planning, we moved from Lawrence, Kansas, to Logroño, Spain with two dogs, four suitcases and about $45,000 in savings. The move wasn't the only major change in our lives. 

When we arrived in Spain, Jessica was seven months pregnant with our son, so we were about to become first-time parents in a foreign country without family close by. On top of that, our visas for teaching English were only valid for two years.

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This meant we had to find a long-term solution for living in Spain before our visas expired and our savings ran out. We had no idea that accidentally becoming influencers would be the answer to making our dreams come true. 

How sharing our life in Spain turned into a new career

When we moved to Spain, we did so with student visas. Eric was teaching English and making about $753 a month.

After six months in Spain, Jessica created a TikTok account as a way to share our experiences with family and friends back home. One day, she decided to post a video about moving from Kansas to Spain. That video got more than 300,000 views, and it inspired us to start posting consistently. After a year, we had amassed more than 10,000 followers. 

One Saturday night in February 2023, we decided to post a video sharing all of the reasons why we loved Logroño. We talked about the friendly people, incredible wine, delicious food and the lower cost of living, when compared to many other cities in Spain. By that Tuesday, the video had received more than a million views.

Within two weeks, we had gained 25,000 new followers on Tiktok and another 25,000 followers on Instagram. We were featured in news publications from the Balearic Islands to Barcelona. After we did a live interview on national television in Spanish, we met the mayor and the president of our region. 

A look inside our life in Logroño

That viral video was the start of a brand new career opportunity for us. In October 2023, with self-employed visas in hand, we started working full-time as content creators. Our business has been growing ever since.

We are still in the first year, so while our income can be variable, we can make anywhere between $1,000 and $4,000 per month. We're at the point now where we are earning enough that we don't have to work a traditional 9-to-5.

We're also currently building a course to teach other Americans a step-by-step process for how to move to Spain. We receive so many messages from people in the United States that dream of living abroad.

We rent a three bedroom, two bathroom penthouse apartment with a rooftop terrace that overlooks the city center for $915 a month. For our utilities, we spend $243 a month: $162 for gas, $33 for electricity and $48 for phone and internet.

Here are some of the biggest reasons why we love living in this vibrant city. 

'Everything we need is right outside our door'

We haven't driven a car in more than two years because we can easily access affordable public transportation — on which we spend about $34 per month — or we just walk. 

Everything we need is right outside our door. Within a five minute walk from our place there are four bakeries, five fresh fruit stands and 20 pincho bars.

We also no longer have to spend hours in traffic. When we lived in the States, I could spend up to 90 minutes in the car commuting to and from work.

Now, we have a home office, and we also enjoy working from several local coffee shops and a co-working space that is a 15 minute walk from our apartment.  

Here we are on our terrace, enjoying a meal as a family.
Photo: Jiri Bakala for CNBC Make It
Here we are on our terrace, enjoying a meal as a family.

We have an active social life, even with kids

Prioritizing family and social relationships is very important in Spain. All of our friends live within a 20 minute walk from our apartment so we see each other all the time, even though most of us have kids. 

The hardest thing about making friends when we first moved here was the language barrier. It wasn't always easy to start building these relationships, but it was very important to us to try and become a part of this community. 

Jessica went to group events for expats and made friends through fitness classes. I made connections with a number of my fellow teachers at school. And ever since that video went viral, we've had many more opportunities to meet new friends in the area. 

Every weekend there are multiple family-friendly events and kids are welcome almost everywhere. Just recently we attended a jazz festival and a big football game.

We also love going to our local park. It's common to see multiple generations of families out and about, enjoying each other's company and seeing their neighbors. 

We got to challenge ourselves

We had both taken two years of high school and two years of college Spanish. It didn't in any way shape or form prepare us for living in Spain. The vocabulary, the accent and the pace were all so different than what we had learned.

It was difficult the first couple of years because I only spoke English at school, and we primarily spoke English at home. We practiced when we were out, but our Spanish only really began improving when we enrolled at the local university.

We took classes full time, Monday through Friday, for eight months, from 9 am to noon everyday. In the end, we took 450 hours of grammar classes and 75 hours of cultural classes. We're planning to take more courses next year.

Going back to school full-time, with a toddler, in our 30s (Jessica is 35 and Eric is 37) was not easy, but we are very thankful that we decided to do it. It was so important for both our personal and professional lives.

'Here, every day feels like an adventure'

Our lives in the United States felt very repetitive: Wake up, drink coffee, drive to work, stare at the clock, drive home, eat dinner, drink wine, watch Netflix and repeat. We were living comfortably, but our lives were mainly centered on work and lacked excitement.

Our experience in Spain has been the total opposite. Here, every day feels like an adventure, even the most routine things, like going to the grocery store. At first, that was one of our biggest challenges. There were so many options and brands we didn't recognize. Small details, like the fact that you won't find eggs in the refrigerated section, surprised us.

Even when we have experiences outside of our comfort zone, we have found them to be joyful and memorable. If you told us five years ago that we would have a child in Spain and start a business here, we would have said that was crazy. But if you have a dream, our best advice is to go for it. 

Logroño is our home and we can't imagine living anywhere else other than Spain. There have certainly been challenges along the way, but we are so much happier now for having taken this risk. 

Jessica and Eric Smith moved from Kansas to Spain in September 2021. Today, they are self-employed content creators sharing their lives in the city of Logroño, Spain. To learn more, follow them @smithsinspain.

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