Introduction: In 2018, I moved my family to the Canary Islands. It was a carefully planned adventure that we had dreamed of for a decade. My daughter is less than thrilled and as a charismatic and firm willed 9 year old, she sat me down so that I could truly explain why we uprooted her life. I shared it with a few friends, and they encouraged me to publish the letter.
Hi Serenity. I know you are pretty upset with our choice to move to Gran Canaria. We sat together this afternoon overlooking the ancient city of Dubrovnik while on a quick holiday, and you managed to really get across how lost and betrayed you feel. You miss our dog. You miss your friends, your home and living somewhere everyone speaks English. You asked me to explain why we moved.
Since you landed yourself in a whole grip of trouble today, you owe me an essay on the importance of respecting the word ‘No!’ As you are writing your paper right now, I am going to write an answer to your question. This is why we moved to a small Spanish island off of the coast of Africa. And unlike what many people seem to assume, it has little to do with a troubled American nation, although getting a break from the intense noise is a real plus.
Why did we leave the States?
Live well & do good work
I have never been all that interested in separating my career and the other parts of my life. You know I have multiple businesses and use them to chase my passions. I wanted to be present as you grew up, craft great work when I felt inspired and surf when the waves are good. I helped shaped our company Modern Tribe to be entirely remote and give us the freedom to be located pretty much anywhere in the world. I can flex my schedule depending on my life priorities. It is a real gift that I treasure and we try to enjoy as much as possible. Living well for me isn’t about stuff or toys, its about choices. But choices don’t mean much if you don’t take advantage of them to do what is important to you. This trip is in part my testimony to you and Sojourn, to mom, to the 115 people who work with me at Tribe and to my friends that you can both live well and do good work. Too often I feel people paint them at odds.
I’ve dreamed my whole life of living right on the beach with good surf. It is the very first item on my list of dreams and aspirations (followed by owning my own billboard on which I can put thoughtful puns, living a life free of socks and getting a thank you card from the Whitehouse). It’s cheaper in the Canaries, so we could afford to be waterfront, which would never be an option in the SF Bay Area. Little lady, you have got to admit that this pad we live in is amazing and walking out to boogie board after school together is a gift. As for mom, Julie got used to the cold of coastal Northern California but always dreamed of somewhere warm.
When my grandfather passed away, I was your age. “I’m only taking my memories with me”, were his last words that I really remember, “so make good stories”. I measure the quality of my life by the degree of adventure and the memories we create together. Julie and I treasure the novel experiences that comes with being immersed in another culture. My whole life I dreamed of going deep. Getting past that surface layer we peel back on our shorter trips. Building friendships, seeing local festivals, learning the nuances of a dialect. And for me personally, there is a certain magic to the delightful discomfort tied to new adventures.
Raise good kids
Being able see from multiple points of view is part of being a good adult. I love Santa Cruz and will gladly spend the majority of my life living there. But everyone in Santa Cruz is really pretty darn similar when compared to the day-to-day life of people in other cities and continents. In a world where most people don’t like anyone or anything they don’t understand, I want you to gain empathy. Unlike mom who was born with the gift of empathy, you and I have to work hard to nurture it. When you can understand the context of a situation, then you can make things better. The more perspectives we can give you, the more tools you have available to find solutions to the problems that arise in life.
Adapting to change gracefully is necessary for you to flourish as a adult. Holy cow is this world changing fast. The odds are good that the business you start or the career you choose in 10-15 years doesn’t even exist today. I don’t have the skills to teach you to be a deep sea marine biologist or a technician on the ship to mars. I asked my dad what he would have changed as a parent now that my sister and I are grown up. “I would have taught you to dream beyond college. We thought if we just got you there in one piece, the rest would take care of itself. After all, it worked for us. But, what we needed to do was teach you to adapt if the first plan didn’t pan out.” Julie and I decided that the best way for you to become comfortable with change is to be carefully exposed to a bunch of it. Moving to the Canaries is uncomfortable for you, but overall is pretty safe. It is the best way we could think to stretch you and your brother and teach you to adapt to new situations. And lordie are we finding lots of them. While some have been tough, just as many are delightful. Think how much you love snorkeling every evening out to the Barra to find new types of fish.
Julie and I both want to be truly fluent in Spanish and wish the same for you and Sojourn. God I’d love to drop my thick French accent. Spanish is spoken across multiple continents and all throughout California. Speak another language with ease and you have so many more options for friends, fun and a career. Language is a cornerstone for navigating the world. I’ve personally found speaking three languages offered me a number of opportunities in life that are closed to most people. And to be candid, while we tried for about 3 days to have a multilingual household in the states, I just didn’t have the discipline and the energy. So we moved to a place where you can be immersed and become bilingual.
Why did we choose the Canaries?
You’ve explored a number of countries with us since you were young. We tried a month in Hawaii and a couple years later a month in Barbados. We explored living in Japan, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Mom made a list of the top things we looked for in a home.
So I can work
- A strong and dependable Internet connection and electricity
- An international airport in close proximity for business travel
- Daytime overlap with US eastern hours
So we can live well
- Cost of living at least 25% lower than Santa Cruz, CA
- An easily accessible, consistent, quality surf wave
- Weather where we don’t need air conditioning or heating
- A city big enough to have an educated community where we can find friends
- An economy that isn’t just focused on tourism
- Access to a variety of interesting cultural experiences
- Ideally Spanish speaking
So you are safe and healthy
- Quality schools with some multi-language education
- No killer mosquitos or diseases
- Good medical care
- A stable government and low crime
It turned out that getting everything on this list was really difficult. We have been looking for our new home since you were born, over 9 years now. When Papi and Mami convinced us to check out the Canary Islands, we were blown away. Weather is perfect, averaging between 70-80F year round. Surf breaks 300 days a year in front of our new house. You are learning Spanish, Chinese and French at your new school. An ocean front 4 br tricked out apartment costs 1/2 the rent we are getting for our home in California. That apartment has a 1 Gigabit ethernet connection, which is over 10x faster than my old home 40m away from Silicon Valley. There are no mosquitos or diseases!!!! Canary Islands is basically Europe’s cheaper Hawaii without the humidity and bugs. Frankly, I’m stunned how much we love it here and wouldn’t be surprised to see a nomad boom take place in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria in the next decade.
Every time we’ve talked about this trip, before moving here and since, people tell you how lucky you are; That some day, you will thanks us. We’ll, that is the point and I hope its true. This is going to be pretty uncomfortable for a while and pretty magical too. Thank you for joining us on this adventure. We love you.