My Spanish story: Swapping the city for a writing life in the campo

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My Spanish story: Swapping the city for a writing life in the campo
Sam Michaels found the perfect retreat to begin her writing career. Photos: Sam Micheals

Sam Michaels relocated to very rural Spain to pursue a life as a writer. Here she describes how she adapted to a quieter pace of life and a house full of adopted animals.


I’m a Londoner, born and bred, which makes me very much a town girl at heart. So, imagine my trepidation when my husband suggested a new life in the country – not the rolling green fields of Hampshire. Oh no, he meant in rural Spain, amongst the almond groves, olive trees and grape vines.

After I reluctantly agreed, we jumped on an aeroplane and began our search in Murcia. As far as the hubby was concerned, the more remote, the better. He’d have been quite happy to live off grid, though I wasn’t quite ready for that. I wanted my comforts – reliable hot water and electricity to blow-dry my hair!

We viewed some very old country fincas but eventually agreed on a modern casa in a valley with stunning views that go on forever. My friends and family thought I’d gone mad. They couldn’t imagine me living so far away from the nightlife and bustling café culture of the Costas. We’re only four kilometres from the nearest town, but with no neighbours and no taxi or bus service, it feels like we’re in the back of beyond. We don’t even have a postal service but rent a post box in the estate agents in town.

After settling in, the adventure of discovery soon began! Yes, we have running water rather than having to draw it from a well, but it’s agricultural water. Very cheap but requires filtering and boiling. I soon got used to that. The electricity is supplied via a Spanish chap, we think an ex goat herder, and we’re often plunged into darkness for an hour or two. I’ve even got used to that – when my favourite television program goes off, I talk to my husband instead.

When we lived in the UK, we both had jobs that kept us busy and worked long hours. Now, we found ourselves enjoying the slower pace of life. Late mornings, relaxing in the sun with a glass of vino produced at our local bodega topped off with balmy evenings watching the sun set behind the mountain. Bliss! But there’s only so much of doing nothing that one can do. At first, it felt very much like being on holiday. Our brains hadn’t yet accepted that this new way of life was permanent. One thing we soon learnt – to live isolated, you really have to enjoy each other’s company!

After a couple of tranquil months, the real work began. I took up writing and my husband began small renovation projects. We were both attempting new things and quickly discovered how much we enjoyed it. That’s when our plethora of animals joined us. We took on one rescue dog. An old boy who had been abandoned by his hunter owner.

This led to a further three dogs that needed rehoming and six cats. Yes, ten of them now share our sofas and though we jostle for space in the bed, we’d never be without them. It’s funny when the local farmer passes our garden on the way down to his fields. We’ll hear him, sitting up on his tractor and singing away to our barking dogs. The farmers always give us a wave and a toot and they find it amusing when the cats follow us walking the dogs on their land.

Many people have the view that nothing starts in Spain until 10am. That’s no so on the campo. The farmers are sometimes out at 6am, ploughing the groves before the scorching summer sun is high in the sky. And when it’s grape harvesting time, around September, they’ll work through the night. Unfortunately, along with grapes comes flies! That was a bit of a shock – it’s almost impossible to eat al fresco during the warmer months. But again, we’ve adapted. Ceiling fans on the terrace keep the flies away and we’ve embraced the Spanish idea of eating later in the evening. The flies are asleep and there’s also the advantage of it being cooler. And we get to take full advantage of the amazing night sky. With little light pollution, the stars are breath-taking!

Apart from flies, I’ve seen an array of magnificent wildlife. We used to have several geckos living on our terrace but the cats have chased them off. They’ve even brought home a scorpion – twice! I’ve witnessed wild boar running across the fields, deer, partridges and all sorts of fascinating reptiles. We’ve had hares, foxes, mice and even a frog in the garden. The frog was a bit of a surprise as there’s no water around here for miles. Our garden is huge and came with forty-eight almond trees. It looks so pretty during March when they spring into life with pink and white blossom. Then later in the year, we get to collect the delicious nuts. We could take them to our local co-operative and get a price per kilo but we’re not that industrious and just eat them instead. The shells also burn well in our log stove which is our source of heating. At 650m above sea-level, it can get cold here. We had snow last year!

All in all, I’ve abandoned my city-life outlook and am now truly rooted into rustic living. The peace and quiet is ideal for writing and I feel blessed to be spending my days in such a beautiful and welcoming country.

Sam Michaels' debut novel Trickster, a gritty-gangland thriller that has already garnered rave reviews,, will be published shortly. Pre-order on Amazon and follow her on Facebook at or on Twitter



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