One of the most common dreams in the digital nomad community is being able to work on your laptop from a beach, in a not-so-expensive city, where the sun is shining and the water is warm. There are a bunch of places around the world that fit that bill, but Valencia, Spain is one of the top destinations, as it has all of the charms you can expect from a Spanish city while being affordable and well connected with the rest of Europe. I have spent a few months there but wanted to interview a friend that made Valencia his home for the last 4 years.
While the COVID pandemic is still going strong in Spain and around the world, I tried to steer the conversation away from that, as I hope that the situation will improve soon and want to keep this interview more helpful for the future readers.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you chose to move to Spain?
I’m Max, from Germany and I’m 28. I have actually moved to Spain once before, during my Bachelor’s, but that was for 6 months and in Barcelona, as a part of the Erasmus program. I really loved it back then, of course, Erasmus cannot be compared to regular life, but I really enjoyed the culture, the food, and the weather in Spain. There’s a different energy here, compared to Germany and I really felt more at ease. After my 6 months were up I moved back to Germany, finished my studies, and got a job in Frankfurt.
It became clear to me that the corporate world wasn’t a great match, so I started to make plans for a different future. I was saving some money from my job and also got into the crypto world. Slowly, I started to earn some money on the side, decided to quit my job, and began traveling and working as a digital nomad. Like most people, before COVID, I went to Asia and spent a year and a half there, traveling around the continent, only coming back to Europe twice during that time, and of course, I worked on my “businesses”, if you can really call it that, but I decided I wanted to be closer to home and have a bit more stability, so I moved to Valencia four years ago.
I have to ask you, what made you go to Valencia, instead of Barcelona? I know the two cities get compared a lot.
Yes, they are similar in many ways, I look at Valencia as the smaller sibling of Barcelona, but that is not a bad thing in my opinion. I had only been to Valencia once, before I moved there, just for three or four days during my Erasmus exchange, but I really loved it, and when it came to picking a place to live in, it was high on my list. Like many digital nomads I don’t have an insanely high income, so moving to a place like London or Sweden was out of the question and I did want to practice and improve my Spanish. One of the things that Barcelona lacks, in my opinion, is a good environment to learn Spanish, because most people speak Catalan. In Valencia, they also speak Valenciano, which is essentially the same as Catalan, but it is not nearly as dominant and in the city itself Catalan Spanish is much more commonly used. Back to the cost of living, the rent in Barcelona had grown considerably since my student days and was approaching Northern European levels, while Valencia remained a bit more affordable.
Besides those things, the two cities are similar, they both have a beach, they have a lot of tourists and students and there is a very exciting nightlife and lots of great food. Valencia is, of course, the home of the paella, but there are all kinds of good restaurants, so you also have pizza, burgers, sushi, and an abundance of bocadillos and other Spanish foods. I don’t feel like I miss out on much in Valencia, it’s not a small city after all. It’s also well connected, there is an airport nearby which is pretty good, Ibiza is very close and there are a couple of cool villages and nature spots that are worth it for a day trip.
And what do you dislike about the city?
That’s a tough one because I really do like it. It does get very hot in summer, sometimes it gets up to 40 degrees celsius, and you pretty much have to remain indoors and keep your blinds down while the sun is up. If you’re German, like me, it’s a good idea to always apply sunscreen, even when you are just going to the supermarket. You definitely need an air conditioner in your place, or at least a fan, in order to survive the summers in Valencia. It can also get surprisingly cold in winter, and the buildings are not isolated very well, so you need some kind of a heater, may an electric one, or just an air conditioner.
Besides that, I would say that the mosquitoes are an issue, but that can be said for all of Spain. Some people do not get bitten a lot, but I’m not one of those people and I really need to watch out for that. You can spray yourself with insect repellent, and at home, there is a special thing you plug into your electric socket that keeps them out of your room. With that setup, it’s not much of an issue, but it is something I need to pay attention to. I think that’s pretty much it, I do have a lot of other things I love about the city, so I can live with the heat and mosquitoes.
Is there a good International community in Valencia?
I would definitely say so. There are different groups being formed all of the time, some filled with exchange students, others with ex-pats and there is some intermingling too. Digital nomads, like myself, are often in between the ex-pat and student lifestyle, in the sense that I have a lot of flexibility to go trips of having a wild night of drinking during the work week, like the students, but I am a bit older and also prefer to have adult ex-pat friends. There is a big community in Valencia, so everyone should be able to find people they like, but I must admit that Barcelona and Madrid have much larger international communities.
I work at a co-working space, and I consider myself outgoing, so meeting people wasn’t too hard, but there are also meetup.com and Facebook groups to help with that sort of stuff. I have stayed here for four years and have a circle of closer friends, but I very often meet people from all around the world.