EMBRACING CHANGES, Lessons learned by an ex-pat family who left the UK rat race in search of a simpler life

Embracing Changes

After the shock of our youngest boy, Mayhem being seriously ill, we quit our jobs, quit the rat race and moved our family to Spain to seek out a simpler life.  This is how leaving the UK has changed our family.


We are by no means the hub of the community but we know our neighbours, they have given us several bottles of their homemade sweet wine, the boys grapes from their vine and we have given them some Walnuts from our tree.  We know the café owners in our nearest town and we are welcomed and greeted locally; we are even on first name terms with our postman.  Families are a massive thing here in Spain and children are welcomed and expected everywhere, especially late into the night at Fiestas, which seem to happen a least monthly.  Children and families are at the heart of the community and people want to get to know you.  A big change from life in London and latterly Kent. Yes we miss family and friends, we wish we could have everyone nearer, but we thought that when we lived in Kent as we have family all over the world.  Obviously the language is a barrier but even with very basic Spanish, we get by and really feel like we are part of this community.


I used to shop online, a lot.  Clothes, supermarket, Amazon, stuff.  I would have no qualms at all browsing in an evening and spending the odd £20 or so, or more.  I was by no means a spendaholic but we earned enough and I never had to be that concerned about spending.  Now we are living off our savings and taking some time out from work, spending online is is no longer a problem, because we don’t buy anything.  Literally.  Nothing, nada, zilch! Yes, of course we still go supermarket shopping for food but we rarely shop for anything else.  In just over a year I can count the number of purchases we have made on one hand.  For the whole family.  We all had new trainers, apart from Mayhem, who only ever gets hand-me-downs from his older brother Chaos.  We also bought the boys €1 wellies (bargain!) and Paul €5 wellies, pretty essential in the campo.  The boys have been given lots of clothes that other children have outgrown, we spent €3 on a few essential clothes for them from a social shop and they have received some clothes as presents from my mum (thanks mum) for Christmas.  Our clothes are showing signs of wear but they now get repaired, sewn and patched up.  We also only have the clothes that we actually NEED, not just want.  Especially the children.  It’s all too easy to have loads of clothes that are never even worn and are a complete waste of money.


As a family we always managed to save a little each month, even when we only had statutory maternity pay and a part-time wage coming in but I still look back and regret all of our spending.  We could have saved so much more, instead of buying things that we really did not need, just ‘wanted’.

One thing I will never regret spending on is holidays.  When Mayhem became seriously ill at ten months old and we finally found out that he had a tumour, we thought we might loose him.  It certainly wasn’t a consolation but it was a comfort that we had so many brilliant holidays and times together to look back on.  It took a very long month to find out that the tumour was benign, operable and wasn’t cancerous or terminal.  In our darkest moments we had no regrets about all the time spent together as a family and the money spent on the holidays we had been on in the UK and abroad.  What certainly wasn’t important was the clothes or labels any of us wore.  Experiences really are so much more valuable than stuff, and that is why we are here…

Oh and we have also bought the boys some toys as presents for Christmases and Birthdays, we are frugal but not stingey!


We have gone from a very squished two-bedroomed flat jam-packed full of stuff to a two-bedroomed Casita (cottage).  We don’t have many possessions, in fact, the most clutter we have are toys.  Apart from that we are actually pretty minimalistic.  I guess what that means is that we have space.  Yes, space and it’s wonderful.  Read our post here on trying to live a simpler life.  We also only have a shower and a limited kitchen.  With only a two-ring gas burner and no oven cooking is sometimes a little difficult.  We do have access to a bath and an oven in the adjacent house but mainly, we just adapt.  In our old life not having an oven or full cooker would have been unquestionable.  Now, it just does not matter.  This whole experience really has made us realise that nothing really matters as long as we are together as a family and are all healthy.

njoying an alfresco bath in the courtyard, Topsy Turvy Tribe


We used to have a fig tree in a pot in our flat.  This was the closest we came to a garden.  Even though we had Reggie, as he was christened, for over four years he failed to bear any figs.  Now we have four fig trees that produce wonderful and massive figs, a walnut, nispiro, plum and almond tree and a small olive grove!  The boys have the chance to run free outside rom the trees and help harvest and collect the fruits, nuts and most recently the olives.


We always liked to spend as much idea as possible together, sickening I know, but we actually like being together.  Yes it is hard, being a full-time family, every day, all day.  We have both said that it is easier to go out to work than to look after two very active children; we have never picked up as much Lego in our lives, played as many games, dealt with as many tantrums or had as much family fun.  We wanted to do this, as crazy as it may sound to some, we wanted to spend as much time with our children as possible before they leave us and go off to school.  We hope that the boys will benefit from being with their parents 24-7, we are rewarded daily spending time with them.  With Mayhem being so ill it really did bring home the importance to us that life is too short and that we need to enjoy and savour every single moment together.

Topsy Turvy Tribe hiking in El Torcal, Antequera, Andalucia, Spain


I hardly ever wear make-up now, only on special occasions,  and only when I feel like it!  In the UK I HAD to have a full face of make-up on to visit the corner shop.  I never wore tonnes of make-up and it certainly wasn’t caked on but I wore it every single day.  Let’s face it, I totally look better with make-up on but I felt unable to go without it because people around me, even those who didn’t really know me, were used to seeing me with make-up, including myself!!  Not only is my skin thankful for the make-up holiday, but so is my bank balance, even though I didn’t wear really expensive brands, it all adds up.

I dyed my hair from aged sixteen onwards.  Initially to be more colourful, then from necessity to disguise the silver fox streak which appeared in my early twenties.  I also always washed my hair in a brand leading shampoo and conditioner with a hefty price tag of over £5 every couple of months.  I have now embraced my grey am  now totally ignoring my grey, and we use the cheapest shampoo we can find.  No conditioner apart from the luxury of a small amount of leave-in conditioner to tame the frizz.  My hair is in the same condition using cheap shampoo and is actually in better condition because I no longer use conditioner (go figure?!).

I now have a chance to breathe, relax and enjoy life.  From when Mayhem was born life became a whirlwind of concerns, illness and hospitals.  It is only really now, over a year on from his operation that I can truly appreciate that he is well, marvel at both boy’s daily developments and enjoy every single minute of being a mummy.

Mummy and boys enjoying a walk by Topsy Turvy Tribe


Is much hairier, as he has grown his hair and his beard and is just, relaxed.  In Kent he was a sixth form tutor with a very demanding job dealing with hormonal teenagers and having two under two, the youngest of which was sick, he was a pretty stressed out guy.  I have seen the worry and stress lift from his shoulders.  Seen him enjoy and relish gardening, working the land, creating, building and trying his darnedest to communicate with anyone and everyone.  Ultimately though his most favourite thing is to spend time with his children, he is loving every single minute of being the doting and attentive father to our two lucky boys.

Daddy with Mayhem by Topsy Turvy Tribe

Chaos & Mayhem

Mayhem started walking and talking since we left the UK.  His personality has grown by the bucketful.  His favourite things are tree shakers, leaf blowers and chainsaws. He has a pair of children’s scissors he loves to play with (we know, not the best toy!!) which alternative between his three favourite pieces of equipment, with buzzing, whirring and chopping noises to boot.  When Chaos was a similar age and we lived  in Kent opposite a large shopping mall, his favourite things were riding on the escalators, lifts and cherry pickers.  The saying goes that we are a product of our environment and I so love the fact that we are now surrounded by nature and the boys favourite things reflect this!  Chaos has just turned four and grown from a toddler into a boy, he’s so enthusiastic about everything and talks non-stop letting you know about his latest adventure!  Both Chaos and Mayhem have become firm friends and really do play well together (most of the time) and are totally at home being outside.  We spend most of the day outdoors and try to get a walk, or even a hike in (read our tips for hiking with small children here).  We can do this the majority of the days because the weather here is pretty amazing.  Although it is cold in the evenings and early mornings during winter it’s pretty fantastic during the day and hardly ever rains.  Bliss!


So much has changed since we chose to change our lives and there are definitely more changes afoot as we need to start earning money again and return to the world of paid teaching work in September.  Chaos is also old enough to go to school (scary)!.  What, where, when, how?  We haven’t got a clue! Worried…well actually, not at all. That’s the great thing about having no plans, it means that absolutely anything is possible.

What we do know is that we want a similar lifestyle, love to travel and be outside and want the best possible environment for the boys.  It could be back in the UK or somewhere overseas and as long as we are together, everyday is a new adventure.

Topsy Turvy Tribe, a family day out in Montefrio, Granada, Andalucia, Spain

We are going to embrace change, follow our instincts and passions and make sure the next chapter is as amazing as this one!

EMBRACING CHANGES, Lessons learned by an ex-pat family who left the UK rat race in search of a simpler life

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Post Author: Topsy Turvy Tribe

Paul & Andrea ex-pats escaping the rat race with Chaos (aged 4) and Mayhem (aged 2) along for the adventure.

64 thoughts on “Embracing Changes

    Fiona Cambouropoulos

    (March 18, 2017 - 10:47 pm)

    What an uplifting and positive post. I love how you say experiences are more important than things, that is so true. It is holidays that make happy memories not the latest stuff. #KCACOLS

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 19, 2017 - 10:00 pm)

      Thanks Fiona, it’s definitely all about making memories!


    (March 18, 2017 - 10:52 pm)

    I love you guys and your ethos and I’ve totally loved following your story this last year too – one of the nice things about blogging – picking up some virtual friends along the way. I hope the next year is just as chilled and exciting for you 😘

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 19, 2017 - 9:58 pm)

      Thanks Alex, that’s so lovely of you to say, love reading your blog too! 💖


    (March 18, 2017 - 11:47 pm)

    I loved reading your Blog. Travel really is the one thing you buy that makes you richer.💜 Enjoy your family becoming richer!

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 19, 2017 - 9:55 pm)

      Ah thanks Lilia, lovely to know that you are reading about our adventures, we’re having a great time! x

    Alana - Burnished Chaos

    (March 19, 2017 - 10:24 am)

    I love this post. I’m so in awe of the decision you made and the amazing life you are now living with your kids. You’re so right, it’s all about the experiences and spending time together and you’ve achieved that by the bucketful x

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 19, 2017 - 9:54 pm)

      Ah, thank you Alana, such a lovely comment! Family time is definitely so priceless!

    Madeline (This Glorious Life)

    (March 19, 2017 - 2:28 pm)

    This is so inspiring, and really does show that at the end of the day you can get by quite happily without all the ‘stuff’, if you have your loved ones with you! x #KCACOLS

    Devon Mama

    (March 19, 2017 - 7:21 pm)

    Some gorgeous photos – it sounds like such a different but beautiful way of living, especially being able to take that time to enjoy all of you being together. #kcacols

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 19, 2017 - 9:44 pm)

      Thank you for your lovely comment. It really is going back to basics and being happy together as a family!

    Sara | mumturnedmom

    (March 19, 2017 - 8:29 pm)

    Loved reading this, what an inspiring and positive journey you’ve been on x

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 19, 2017 - 9:39 pm)

      Thank you Sara, we are loving the journey… what’s the saying… it’s the journey that counts not the destination! So true!

    Heather Keet

    (March 21, 2017 - 7:00 am)

    I’m so happy your family is getting to live this adventure and glad your little guy is doing better. #DreamTeam

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 21, 2017 - 9:48 pm)

      Thank you, what an adventure, the medical care our boy has received so far has been superb.

    Naptime Natter Wendy

    (March 21, 2017 - 7:24 am)

    Wow, what an adventure!! I would love to try living like this one day, I love how you are able to spend so much time together as a family. So inspiring xx #dreamteam

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 21, 2017 - 9:43 pm)

      Thanks, we are so lucky to have our family, and cherish all this time together


    (March 21, 2017 - 8:13 am)

    Lovely story. Frugal living is our goal too. The older I get the more minimalist I become. Fingers crossed that a new family life doesn’t upset the apple cart with too much ‘stuff’. #dreamteam

    Karen - The Allergy Mum

    (March 21, 2017 - 9:44 am)

    What a wonderful post, on so many levels. What lucky children, what a lucky family. I look forward to reading more of your posts to see where you end up. So glad I found you via #TwinklyTuesday!

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 21, 2017 - 1:35 pm)

      Oh thank you so much..we felt very lucky that our youngest had a tumour but everything really does have a purpose. We now consider ourselves very, very lucky. Really appreciate your kind words!

    Just Only Home

    (March 21, 2017 - 10:45 pm)

    I enjoyed reading this SO much. I dream of having more freedom and traveling with my children. It’s something I’m working towards. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog!

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 24, 2017 - 10:08 pm)

      Thank you for your lovely comment, sometimes when you have nothing you have everything, we are very lucky!


    (March 23, 2017 - 3:52 pm)

    Wow it sounds like you made the right decision – very brave though! #KCACOLS

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 24, 2017 - 10:04 pm)

      Thank you, it’s sometimes harder to leap into the unknown, but a lot of fun too.

    Hannah Jane

    (March 24, 2017 - 12:22 am)

    I love reading about you and your family, I find your way of life so inspirational and I dream of living a simpler way of life, it seems to have had such a positive affect on your whole family. I can’t wait to hear about the next chapter of your lives. Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 24, 2017 - 10:03 pm)

      Thank you for your lovely comment and thanks for hosting. We think we made the best choice for our family, we are definitely enjoying a simpler life. In a way it’s so much easier to be totally out of consumerism!

    Emma T

    (March 24, 2017 - 12:35 am)

    It sounds like you’re having an amazing time and the best one for you. #sharingthebloglove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 24, 2017 - 10:00 pm)

      Thanks Emma we are having the best time, trying our very best for our family!

    Katy - Hot Pink Wellingtons

    (March 24, 2017 - 12:40 pm)

    Wishing you all the best with your next chapter – I’m sure it will be just as amazing as this last one! I love reading about your story, it makes you realise all the important things in life. Is it weird though that out of everything I find it staggering how you get by without an oven?! I’m honestly not sure how I’d cook! Thanks for joining us again at #SharingtheBlogLove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 24, 2017 - 9:58 pm)

      Thanks Katy and thanks for hosting. Ha ha, so funny about the oven, I used to use it nearly every dinner but you honestly just adapt… don’t be too shocked but we don’t have a microwave either!

    Ordinary Hopes

    (March 24, 2017 - 1:07 pm)

    I always love following your wonderful stories. I hope that you can find a way to get back into working find a way to fit paid work into your wonderful way of life.

    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time.

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 24, 2017 - 9:55 pm)

      Ah, thank you for your lovely comment. I’m quite positive things will work out for the best!


    (March 25, 2017 - 8:48 pm)

    What a wonderful post that shows as long as we have our family, happy and healthy, nothing else really matters. So glad you are embracing this new life – I think we can all learn from it! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 25, 2017 - 9:23 pm)

      Thanks for commenting and hosting. It really is very different to our previous life in the UK, it is so much easier being less materialistic!


    (March 25, 2017 - 10:10 pm)

    Wow! You guys live a amazing life! I can’t imagine how scary it must have been to leave everything you know behind but what a fantastic change! I wish you all the best for the future ☺️ #sharingthebloglove


    (March 27, 2017 - 11:28 am)

    What a lovely post, you have been through such a lot and can totally understand why you chose to seek out this simple life. I hope you all continue to thrive and be happy, it does sound like bliss.

    Annette, 3 Little Buttons

    (March 27, 2017 - 12:35 pm)

    What a beautiful post. I was gripped, and I am in total awe of how resourceful you all have been. Amazing and super inspiring. Thank you for sharing with the #DreamTeam xx

    Shal Anslow-Davies

    (March 27, 2017 - 2:13 pm)

    Hi to you all! I’m so glad to see you’re having such a wonderful time! I hope to see you soon xxx

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 28, 2017 - 6:09 pm)

      Thank you Shal, so nice to know you read the blog. We really are having the best time!


    (March 28, 2017 - 1:52 pm)

    I love this! I’ve adored reading your blog and following your new life and I can’t wait for the next chapter to see where it will take you. It really is amazing how much your life can change, to the point that nothing apart from you is the same. Yet you are happiest you’ve ever been. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 28, 2017 - 6:03 pm)

      Ah, thank you Laura, for your lovely comment and for hosting. Yes it’s very true, we have changed our lives so much but all that matters is that we are together!


    (March 29, 2017 - 4:13 pm)

    You really have such a wonderful life. It must be so nice for your boys to be able to run around outside so much.

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 31, 2017 - 9:42 pm)

      Thank you the boys love being outside, it’s hard to get them in for dinner!

    Sarah Stockley (@kipperscurtains)

    (March 30, 2017 - 8:52 am)

    I think you guys have done an amazing thing for your family. I wish in a way we could do the same. I feel I am constantly spending money which we don’t have (just on necessities) and I yearn for a simpler life. I adore looking at your pictures on Instagram. Sarah #SharingTheBlogLove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 31, 2017 - 9:52 pm)

      Thank you so much Sarah! I never thought I could live like this, without doing, without stuff, but once you commit to it, it’s so much easier. I must admit though, It would be 100% harder to do in the UK as the society is so materialistic!

    Little Ladies Big World

    (March 30, 2017 - 10:28 am)

    It really does sound like you have the perfect mix for your family and this is amazing, lately i have been dreaming of a huge change and time spent together is most definitely the greatest gift of all x #sharinghebloglove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 31, 2017 - 9:56 pm)

      Thank you, time really does feel so precious it’s the best feeling in the world to spend time together as a family.

    Tooting Mama

    (March 31, 2017 - 2:49 pm)

    I love your simpler life, embracing change and keeping that with you. You have such a wonderful and positive outlook on life – it’s been brilliant keeping up with your adventures!

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 31, 2017 - 10:01 pm)

      Thank you do much it is lovely to get such positive feedback, we really are just trying out best to be happy together with our family!


    (March 31, 2017 - 8:01 pm)

    This is a beautiful post. Being teachers you could work anywhere in the world and your children could study anywhere too. I imagine it will be between Spain and the UK though.#SharingtheBlogLove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 31, 2017 - 10:03 pm)

      Thanks Helena, were really positive the next move will be fantastic!

    Mary Peterson (@carolinatwinmom)

    (March 31, 2017 - 8:19 pm)

    I love your adventurous spirit and dedication to your children. Bet with all of the friends that you are making that the language barrier will be lifted before you know it! All the best to you and your family! #SharingtheBlogLove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (March 31, 2017 - 10:04 pm)

      Thanks Mary, really are trying to get to grips with Spanish, but with a little help we’re getting there!


    (March 31, 2017 - 11:19 pm)

    Wow, what a great adventure to have with your children, and it sounds like it is really suiting you all. Simpler is definitely better and experiences are memory making and a lot better than the clutter that comes from thinking we need stuff. #sharingthebloglove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (April 1, 2017 - 8:55 pm)

      Thanks Jo, we really hope that we are setting the boys up for a wonderful life ahead!

    […] Turvy Tribe – EMBRACING CHANGES – My first WOW is from Andrea, Topsy Turvy Tribe about how changing to a simpler way of […]


    (April 3, 2017 - 3:35 pm)

    That’s so interesting, I had no idea how ill your son was, I’m so sorry, that must have been terrible for you. I’m so glad he’s ok now and you’re enjoying your simpler life. It definitely puts things into perspective xx #SharingtheBlogLove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (April 5, 2017 - 8:28 pm)

      Thanks Susie, you’re right having had an ill child totally gives you a new perspective!

    Double the Monkey Business

    (April 5, 2017 - 2:54 pm)

    I love this post, as someone who moved to germany a few years ago I can very much relate to this – especially the language. I love hearing about your transition and it sounds like such a lovely life, so much more laid back than life in London x #SharingtheBlogLove

      Topsy Turvy Tribe

      (April 5, 2017 - 8:27 pm)

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. It is really interesting being in a totally different culture and language, as Germany must be. We are loving life and making the most of every moment!

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