Last updated on May 8, 2019
Dear friends, family and fellow drifters,
I have some personal news that I wanted to share with you, a sort of quick life update…
It’s not “big” or “important” news in the grand scheme of things, but it’s something I wanted to mention in an effort to stay closer to those of you who have followed my story since I first moved to Barcelona to pursue my dream of becoming a travel writer/photographer/blogger.
Well, the news is that I no longer live in Barcelona, and that I have moved to Gijón in Asturias (northern Spain), where my novia Rosana is from.
For many reasons.
As is true of everyone who goes to Barcelona, I was shaken by a thunderously passionate romance, with the Mediterranean way of life, with the beaches, mountains, climate, architecture, food and people.
I’ve said it many times before, but there’s something so rousing about living in a place that’s so universally adored. Barcelona is one of those places where you rarely wonder whether the grass is greener elsewhere.
It’s a haven for dreamers, a place people go to escape the “norms” of society and design their own perfect life. I was, am, one of those people and I like to think of mine as a success story.
Then and Now
When I left the security of my digital marketing agency job in London all those years ago, ravenous for a chance to work for myself and live a life of creativity, tapas and vino, Barcelona seemed like an obvious and even sensible choice.
The rent was less than half what I had grown accustomed to in London (this is definitely not the case anymore), and with the pound being so strong against the euro (also something of a distant memory), I was confident I could make some sort of living as a freelance writer, which is fundamentally what I am, with only a few UK-based clients.
My life in Barcelona gave me so much so quickly, from unforgettable friends and memories to a new perspective on life. It has also been something of a muse, spurring me on to carve a career as a travel writer/photographer. I still can’t believe I did it, that I am doing it.
The Course of Love
What’s more, Barcelona gave me Rosana, my strong, beautiful, inspiring and ridiculously intelligent Asturian girlfriend.
As with all love stories, our relationship has changed the course of our lives in the most unexpected of ways. Rosana lived in Barcelona for over 10 years and knew it infinitely better than I ever will. If anything, it was harder for her to leave than for me.
And whatever her dreams may have been when she moved to the big city all those years ago, I doubt very much that she ever imagined she’d be returning home to Asturias a decade later with a scatterbrained, vino-guzzling Welshman in tow. Poor girl.
A Natural Paradise
We visited Asturias multiple times over the years we lived together in Barcelona and with each visit I grew increasingly fond of the region (and “Green Spain” as a whole, which also includes the Basque Country, Cantabria and Galicia).
Asturias is often referred to as a ‘natural paradise’ and offers pretty much everything I could wish for: the dramatic Picos de Europa (a staggeringly beautiful mountain range), a unique cultural identity coloured by its Celtic roots and wildly pristine beaches with world-class surf conditions (this is actually one of the main reasons I’m so excited about our move here).
And of course it’s one of the best places to eat and drink on Earth. And did I mention how amazing the surf is here?
Like Barcelona, Asturias is another one of those places where the locals can’t quite believe their luck, a place no one ever wants to leave.
Oh, and the cost of living here is almost half what it is in Barcelona, which is something we value greatly as we move into the next stage of our lives.
As I write this post, my 35th birthday looms large on the horizon. We both have a thousand things we want to do, see and achieve before we start a family, but there’s no question that it makes more sense for us to be here, in a more affordable city and close to Rosana’s family, if and when we start making moves.
Going to Gijón (Pronounced ‘He-Hon’)
We weren’t sure whether we wanted to move to Oviedo (the capital of Asturias) or Gijón (the largest city in Asturias), but it hasn’t taken us long to fall completely in love with Gijón.
It’s a ridiculously handsome oceanfront city, a city packed with buzzy cider bars (the local tipple of choice), cafes and fishing-village-vibes, with surfers and cyclists and professional terrace-loiterers.
It doesn’t matter what time of day or week it is, every bar and restaurant is constantly overflowing with people. I’m sure the free tapas you get with every drink has something to do with it. And what people the Asturians are, too – so genuinely warm and welcoming.
It’s not the most beautiful city you’ll ever visit. It doesn’t quite have the crumbling old world charm of cities like Rome or Barcelona, but it is an incredibly colourful and well maintained city, a city with a deep and alluring sense of character.
There’s a certain nostalgia about it, as if it were built from scratch in the late 70s or 80s and never touched again. And it’s all so beautifully preserved. Living in Gijón is like living back in the good ol’ days.
I feel isolated, protected even, from the political and environmental troubles that face our planet (not that I don’t still worry about it all obsessively).
My Very Own ‘New World’
Most impressively of all, Gijón is almost unknown by people outside of Spain. I don’t know about you, but “Gijón” is not a place I had ever heard of before meeting Rosana.
Ever since I was young, I always dreamed of absconding to a remote village somewhere in Europe, somewhere off the map, somewhere that had yet to be discovered. My very own little hideaway.
Asturias may be a long way from being an undiscovered or unknown village, but it is a bonafide hidden gem in comparison to Barcelona.
Our new home doesn’t boast the icons of Barcelona, there are no Gaudí masterpieces or Picasso museums, but it has pretty much everything else I/we want and need at this point of our lives.
Luckily, with my “job” as a Spain-specialist travel blogger, I’ll still be in Barcelona on a fairly regular basis anyway, and also exploring the rest of this magnanimous country I am fortunate enough to call home.
So stay tuned for more of my overly-sentimental travel journals… from Gijón and beyond.
What do you think? Have ever visited Asturias or anywhere else in northern Spain? Do you have any questions for me?
Leave a comment below and let me and our community of drifters know below!
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… for more travel journals and advice on what to see, so and eat in Gijón, Spain and beyond!
More from Asturias
Essential Things to Do and See in Asturias, Northern Spain ~ An Inside Guide
What to Eat & Drink in Asturias, Northern Spain ~ A Foodie’s Guide
Hiking Gijón’s Coastal Path ~ The Joy of Winter Sunshine
Gijón Carnaval ~ Blanco y Negro Photo Journal
Celebrating Love and Life in Northern Spain ~ A Photo Journal
Good luck in your new life! It’s quite a change, but Asturias is definitely charming.
Gracias Yohay! Yes, very different, but in all the ways we were craving. Love it here so much. Saludos!
Used to live in Gijón and loved it there. Suited for old times sake last summer and loved it again. Good luck Ben, Asturias is the best
Gracias Graham! I agree, it’s such a great place to live! Let me know next time you make it here!
Have enjoyed your blog for a while and even followed your many suggestions on my trip last year.
Today’s blog may have given me an idea to visit northern Spain and southern France next May. I spend a month each year and enjoy devouring every day!
Good luck !
“Green Spain” is definitely worth a visit! Gracias!
Congratulations on your new adventure! I love Gijón, and Oviedo too. I visited Llanes almost 20 years ago and have really lovely memories from there!
Gracias Maria! Really happy to hear you enjoyed your time in Asturias! You’ll have to come a visited again in the summer and we can head out for sidra and seafood!
Good luck in your new life in Gijón.
Thank you for inspiring us with your wonderful stories.
Thank you for reading and commenting! I’m happy you enjoyed it – will keep the content coming!
Hi! I live this piece!!Thinking of moving there in a couple of months with my family. We are very keen surfers. Where is the ‘nicest place to live’ close to great surf? We are excited!
Be careful, your peace could be interrupted if you keep sharing photos like this! Looks like a beautiful place. Best of luck!
You’re right haha! I was actually talking to some friends about it – maybe I should keep it to myself. Gracias David!
Nice to hear this Ben, thank you for sharing this personal journey and we wish you and Rosana all the best. We really enjoy and appreciate your writings about Spain and especially Asturias. My wife, our 11 yr old daughter and I visited the region for 3 weeks in 2016 and are returning this April for another visit as we are scouting the area as candidate for relocating from the US. Oviedo is high on the list and Gijon is a consideration as well. Wondering if their is any chance we could meet up with you two to chat about Austurias while we are there? I would love to treat you guys to some buen comida! Saludos, Miguel Morejon
Hola Miguel – gracias for reading and commenting! So glad to hear you enjoyed your time in Asturias. Would be lovely to meet up for a sidra or two (assuming I’m here – constantly travelling still). Let me know and we’ll ‘sobre la marcha’. Salud!
Spectacularly composed photography sir.
Muchisimas gracias sir!
Just read your post on Barcelona ! Wishing you, Rosana…and the cats(?) all the best…
Gracias Hermani! We’re all good thank you!
We miss you Ben, but we know we only have you a short plane ride away!
Gracias guapa! Hope to see you soon xx
I just moved to Barcelona and just found your blog – sad to read you have left the City! Really like the way you write and also your suggestions on food are great. Thank you for your work and good luck in Asturias!
Gracias Stella! Glad to hear you discovered my blog – hope you’re enjoying life in Barcelona! I’ll still be visiting a lot, so there in spirit.
I will visit Asturias and Galicia this year, la tierra de mis abuelos.
Greetings from Buenos Aires
Gracias Pablo! I’m sure you’ll have a great time getting reacquainted with you homeland. Let me know how it goes.
Hi Ben. I am selling my condo in Southern California this summer and am planning to move to Gijon. I am a single 60-year-old single male. I am moving simply to get away from the rat race (and Trump…hehe) and to live a quiet and peaceful life. I speak fluent Spanish. Is Gijon a good place to live that kind of lifestyle? Thanks Ben. I wish you happiness in Gijon! Luis
Sounds like a great adventure you’re about to set off on. Gijón is a fantastic city and offers a similar coastal lifestyle, albeit with significantly older history and culture.
Definitely let me know if/when you make the move and we can go out for some sidra!
Meant to say, continued happiness in Gijon. :)
How exciting to embark on a new journey! I look forward to hearing more about it. I have enjoyed reading your blogs.. our first trip to Europe was to Spain and thankfully we found you in our early planning stage. We found Sarah and Spain Savvy through your blog and we followed so many of your food and spirit suggestions!! So many things you simply can’t find on generic touristy run of the mill travel sites. I recommend you to everyone I know seeking info on Spain! Italy is next for us hoping to find “another you” for some guidance!
Gracias Rachel! Really makes me happy to hear my blog was helpful/inspiring for you!
I also adore Italy – that’s actually where my love affair with Europe truly began. My original plan was to move there but somehow I ended up in Barcelona.
I have quite a few posts (mainly on Rome) on my blog here: https://www.driftwoodjournals.com/category/europe/italy/
… and have recently been to Naples, Positano, Amalfi, Bologna and Modena, so will be adding more Italy content soon.
Happy travels and thanks again for your kind words.
Hi Ben,it was pleasure to read your story how you fell in love living in Gijon ! I was looking
@ some info on Gijon & it’s attractions. We will be travelling to Gijon in September to my
son’s wedding to beautiful Asturias girl ,similar story to yours my son went Gijon for short
holiday & met his love in Gijon ! Last year he left London to live in Gijon and he loves living
there.We are so looking forward to go to Gijon & so delighted about wedding !
I will tell my son to find you on Instagram !
That’s amazing to hear, thank you for this. And glad to hear others are as in love with Gijon as I am. We should get in touch! :)
Great article! I am from the US and moving to Asturias next month. I will be working at a school in Siero, but am hoping to live in one of the surrounding cities. I am 23 years old and looking to live in a fun neighborhood with young people and good access to transportation. Do you have any advice on choosing Oveido or Gijon? Thanks so much!
Hola Kelly! Thanks for your comment, amiga.
Basically I would say you either want to live in Gijon or Oviedo. Both are fantastic cities with their own charm. If you want to feel like you’re in a city – a capital city at that – then I would recommend Oviedo. It’s tiny but it feels grand and important – kind of like Madrid. I don’t know for sure but it seems to be quite hip, with more in terms of music/art/culture. There’s a really important university in Oviedo so I think that gives it an edge.
However, Gijon is just a spectacular place to live. You can live anywhere in the city and be no more than a 30-minute walk from the beach. There’s great nightlife here too, although it doesn’t have the same hip feeling as Oviedo.
But it’s also worth noting that you can hop on the train in Gijon and be in Oviedo in around 45 minutes (or vice versa). Ultimately I suppose it depends on what sort of lifestyle you want to live. We chose Gijon for the beach – it has always been a dream of mine to be able to walk out of my front door with my surfboard and go surfing. And I can finally do it!
Here’s a short film I made about my summer here:
PS ~ Both cities are walkable (no need for bus and there are no metro services in either), so it doesn’t really matter which barrio you live in.
Let me know how your move goes!
It’s sad that life in Barcelona is getting more and more unaffordable! The north is so beautiful though, I haven’t been to Asturias but I’ve been to Galicia and the Basque Country and loved both. I found Galicia to be especially charming, I can imagine Asturias to be the same! Love your photos :)
Hey, gracias Stefany! Really appreciate your comment.
Yes, Barcelona is now one of the most desirable places to live on the planet, so not at all surprised prices are increasing. But, yes, it’s great living somewhere that feels so ‘undiscovered’.
Where are you going next?
Hello Ben, fantastic photos of my hometown. I have made the opposite way than you did, living in Slough now. I appreciate people in UK can love other places/countries. I am moved by your description. Living abroad, sometimes one misses his hometown.
Hola David, gracias por tus palabras.
I really love Gijon and Asturias in general. But, yes, I fully understand what you mean. I think home will always be home, and that’s something you can’t find or replace anywhere else.
Hope you get to visit sometime soon, amigo!
Gracias y hasta la proxima,
Hello: My wife & I both descend from Asturian grandparents & coincidentally my grandfather was born in Gijon but migrated to Cuba with his parents in the early 1900’s.
We discuss retirement options & Asturias is our first choice. Neither one of us has visited Asturias but just based on what we know & hear we know it is a beautiful place.
The only question is whether we can really afford to do so on our retirement & savings.
What is the cost of living in Gijon compared to a big city in the USA?
Thank you for your very informative article & best of luck to you and your girl.
Thanks for your comment. It’s tricky for me to say as I have no idea what your standard of living is, or how much money you’ll have, but I’d be almost certain that life in Asturias would be up to 50% cheaper than life in the US. The rent/property prices is dirt cheap for a start.
Best of luck!
Hi! I think I commented on someone else’s post above sorry! I was so excited to see this blog. We are moving there in a couple of months. I’d love to know where you think the best / nicest place to live is for great surf? Kids will be at school just south of Gijon so can’t be more than 30 mins from there. Thanks so much!!!! It looks just gorgeous
Gracias! Yes well anywhere near the coast is great for surf in Asturias. Gijon is bigger than you might imagine so have a look around there. I also LOVED Salinas and that’s obviously an epic place to surf too. Let me know where you end up living!
I was so impressed by your article about Asturias. I am a son of “Asturianos”.they were both born in the outskirts of Candas in Perlora. My wife who is Chilena and now lives on Long Island New York with me for over sixty years was so overtaken with the beauty of Asturias when I first took her there some forty years ago. We both met when we worked for Pan Am back in the day and so we took advantage of the airline benefits. Needless to we have been back just about every year since It is an extraordinary place and hope that it will remain undiscovered by the tourists. Unfortunately we are not able to travel there due to the epidemic but hope to return the following year. I’m so glad that you too have grown to love my ancestral roots,
Gracias Alfred (or should I say ‘Alfredo’). It is in deed a truly special part of Spain, and I kind of hope it remains a secret forever. You’re lucky to have roots there, and with a bit of luck I’m sure you’ll be able to visit soon.
Let me know when you do!
Thanks for the insight. Well written article, a real pleasure to read. I am coming to visit in September!!!
Gracias Scott! Enjoy your time in Gijon – and let us all know how it goes!
I just came across your blog on Gijón and found it enlightening. I have not been to Asturias (yet) but will be going there. I am planning on moving to Spain over the next year and want to really sort out where to live. I’m familiar with Catalunya, Valencia,, La Mancha, and Andalucía, I’m focused on places not so full of tourists, but not necessarily unknown either. Gijón, Avilés, and Ribadeo have caught my attention in Asturias. I feel I need to spend some time there in the winter or spring though to see if I can be happy with the climate. I used to live in Oregon and hated the winters there but loved the rest of the year. The part that I find so attractive about Asturias is the epic landscapes and the welcoming people plus la cidra of course! The cities are so walkable and lots of things to do despite not being that large. I’m somewhat anti-car and do not want to have to use one on a daily basis, so a city like Gijón looks very nice. Thanks for your excellent blog.
Gracias Tim! Yes, I think you’ve really nailed it. The winters are pretty good – not extreme. And spring is like a mild summer, so it’s good for most of the year. Suerte!
Hi Tim, We are looking at Asturias also. Although originally from The Netherlands we have lived for years in Portland Oregon; loved nature but not the winters. We also tried Panama and Mexico but find ourselves now (being retired) in Ireland. Climate in Asturias is better, nature stunning, cities beautiful so there is potential for a good life. However, a concern is our limited fluency in spanish. This blog has some informative writings that offer food for consideration. Thanks.