It’s trendy in travel blogger circles at the moment to be ‘location independent’, which is a neat way of saying ‘no fixed abode’ or travelling continuously without a fixed base.
Being location independent is nothing new, gap students and backpackers have been doing it for years but many of them still have the luxury of their parents’ home to leave their worldly goods in and return to when the glamour of life on the road loses its sheen. For those who truly cut loose and take to the road with nothing more than the luggage they can carry, life brings its own challenges and rewards.
Selling everything, buying a VW van and taking to the road was an attractive option that Jack and I dangled in front of our dreams for some time when we first resolved to downsize and quit the UK. For us it seemed like the perfect option, giving us the freedom to travel wherever we wanted and the luxury of knowing we’d always have a bed to lie down in and the means to leave a place when we felt like moving on.
But after months of deliberation and weighing up the pros and cons, we finally opted to move to a fixed location, or in trendy travel writer speak, to be destination specific, and to the most unlikely destination we could possibly have chosen.
So why did we move to Tenerife?
The only thing Jack and I were certain about after we stepped off the corporate ladder and gave up fat salaries, was that we wanted to work in tourism. Having spent 20 years travelling whenever we could get away, we both felt that we were only truly alive when we were discovering new lands and experiencing different cultures. But if we wanted to sustain a living in tourism we knew we’d have to find somewhere that wasn’t confined to a season, and the Canary Islands fitted the bill.
Never having set foot on Tenerife, except as a stepping stone to our friend’s home on La Gomera, and being pretty certain we’d hate it based entirely on the image of the island portrayed on ‘fly on the wall’ TV documentaries, when our friend told us not to dismiss Tenerife until we’d seen the north, we were dubious to say the least.
But as we travelled up the west coast, leaving the concrete hotel complexes and tacky tourist shops of the southern resorts behind us, we began to notice a physical change in the island. By the time we were rounding the outskirts of Teide National Park and heading towards the north, we had crossed a line, both physically and mentally. Where nothing but barren rock and spurge had shimmered in the heat haze, now vibrant pine forests released their heady scent into the hot air while at their feet wild flowers rushed headlong down valleys to clash with neatly tilled terraces.
Arriving in Puerto de la Cruz we took a table beneath the Indian laurel trees in Plaza Charco, ordered a couple of beers and watched as green parrots vied with pigeons for crumbs, and listened as the voices of children played and adults chatted over coffee and wine, not a British syllable amongst them. We’d arrived in our new home.
Why do we stay?
For the moment, there are two main reasons why Tenerife is the ideal location for us.
First and foremost, it’s one of the most beautiful islands you could hope to live on. We’ve just been through a winter of endless sunshine and hot days where you can count on your fingers the number of days we haven’t been able to have lunch outside on the garden terrace. Now spring has arrived and the mountains and meadows have erupted into a riot of wild flowers.
Secondly, the island is incredibly popular as a holiday destination with almost five million holidaymakers arriving in 2012, over half of them British. As such, it’s rich pickings for travel writers who are prepared to put the endless leg work and research into becoming real experts on the island, which we’ve spent the last nine years doing. Over the past two years we’ve been spreading our expertise wider to encompass the rest of the Canary Islands and we still have a great deal to see and learn.
The downside of living here
We’re too isolated from the rest of Europe, both physically and metaphorically. Travelling to anywhere else is costly and limited and we frequently have to travel via the UK as it’s our cheapest option. As Spain doesn’t so much support as actively discourage entrepreneurs, the tax system being antiquated and punitive, it’s very difficult to sustain a living, despite the tourism numbers.
Much as we adore the Tinerfeños with their wide smiles and laid back natures, they’re far too closed to change and too inward looking. It’s one of the charms of the island that it has remained culturally 50 years behind the rest of Europe but in business terms that 50 years is an albatross. The internet is still struggling to get a foothold here with the majority of businesses still not having a website and the simple concept of paying people, on time, for a job well done appears to be an alien one. Trying to promote an island that’s doing very little to help itself can be a thankless task and sooner or later we’ll grow weary of it.
Is an unwritten page but the picture on the cover is unlikely to remain Tenerife for ever. There’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered, understood and opened up to those who like to do the same things we do – walking, eating, drinking, exploring and having fun.
I may yet be checking out the price of second hand VW vans.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+