We have been in a lockdown light for more than 5 weeks now, a so-called kind of quarantine. Politicians hate clear communication and so they name the current situation with what it is not, it’s not a lockdown and it’s not quarantine. What it is, then, everyone pretty much figured it out in their own way. The call in the streets for clarity was great and so there have been as many clarifications as there are politicians and it is now crystal clear for everyone.
It’s simple, I apply my tried and tested peasant logic and stay at home, I go for a walk with our dog, I go for a bike ride on my own and wash my hands till they peel.
Now that we’re not allowed to take a number at the butcher’s to wait his turn, we soon have to take a number to go walking or cycling along the Flemish country roads. The BMI of the average Flemish guy has to be in freefall with all that walking together with a lack of Trappist on terraces. The “nice” level of quarantine is still relatively high here in Belgium, in Italy it’s slightly different, the rules are a lot stricter. In Italy there is neither walking nor cycling and the supermarket allows one customer at a time and not 15 customers like it is the case here.
I had imagined our ten-year anniversary in our house alongside the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea differently. The outlook looks bleak. All those clever people and also those virologists are already preparing us for a summer on our balcony, a staycation they call it.
The television show “I’m leaving” follows Dutch people who emigrate to the craziest regions of the world, mostly without money, with foolish dreams and first and foremost a great desire to flee Holland. After the interventions of the Netherlands within the EU to block the Corona bazooka I start to understand that fleeing a bit more. That curious dream to run a camping or a B&B for Dutch people usually turns into a nightmare.
Our story is neither a story of flights, nor of a B&B or a camping. What we do have in common with those people from “I’m leaving” is that we lost our reasonableness and decided to buy that house purely on feeling and emotion.
Nobody knew Calabria then and neither did we. Once, during a holiday in Sicily, we were in Taormina and saw Calabria across the Strait of Messina and what we saw didn’t make a good impression. Dry ochre-colored hills with very little green, turning into the dark blue across the sound. I certainly didn’t have a wow feeling with all the aridity and drought I imagined from the other side.
Life can turn on a dime. We chose the green part of Calabria, although the arid part is also magnificent. A few years ago, we cycled through it and it is beautiful.
One might think that we acted impulsively or just that we are crazy. Maybe we are crazy, but impulsive no, this was not the case. We thought everything through, reasoned, consulted with the children and an important logic came into being. The logic of investing in our family, in spending time together in a place and in an atmosphere that connects.
I worked hard and a lot and during the week there was little time for the children. My weekends, my free time and my holidays were completely dedicated to my children. Investing in a place, a place where I can go ‘later’ to be with the children and grandchildren again for a week or more and relive my family was an important motivation. This may sound utopian and naive, but I keep believing in it and I ‘cross my fingers’ as the grandchildren are not there yet so there is still hope.
So we remained very rational and lucid and we started to behave like accountants-virologists: dry, calculated and cautiously looking for the smallest risk. We maintained this attitude until the moment we entered the driveway with our rental car. Virologists also run the risk of being infected. All the intended good intentions, our hard logic, our calculations, everything then melted away like snow in the sun. We had fallen victim to that invisible creature, the virus had caught us and today it is still in our blood and you know, we are happy with it.
People may claim what they want, but buying a house abroad is never a rational decision!
Years before, we regularly dreamed away at the thought of finding ourselves a place under the Italian sun, but really concretely we hadn’t taken any steps until we actively started our research in 2009.
How do you start buying a house abroad? Of course, with the choice of ‘abroad’ and preferably as a couple and, if possible, with the children. Of course, there are other elements that also play a role and some even a not unimportant role such as: the budget, accessibility by plane or car, climate, culture, safety, sea or mountains, gastronomy and so on.
Our first pit stop was in Barcelona in October 2009. I had signed up for the Barcelona Olympic triathlon and we had booked a few days longer to soak up the atmosphere. Fantastic city, buzzing with both an old and modern part, with beautiful beaches and different harbors and lots of possibilities to do and to enjoy. The climate is warm and dry in spring and autumn and hot in the summer months. We were looking for this kind of climate, ideal to escape from the cold and humidity of our rainy country from time to time.
Locals are sometimes very critical of their own country, their own city and our first taxi driver was one of them. Politics, economics, crime, everything went through the wringer. The only thing that sticks with me is the great scarcity of water, rationing of drinking water and special swimming pool water to order by tanker. We never got to the point of visiting houses and apartments and so the prices remained a big unknown to us, but calculated at the price of my cerveza or vino tinto, I can imagine the prices are probably galacticos.
Even though it’s a fantastic city and we’ve been back on several occasions afterwards, the click was never there. Had I eaten too many ‘tapas’, paella and ‘patatas bravas’, who knows? De gustibus et coloribus non disputandum.
To be continued…