Moving to Tenerife: A Paradoxical Paradise

Amanda Whitten Moving Abroad

I was out on a tourist pirate ship dolphin-tour one midwinter afternoon in 2016, and the water was just the deepest sapphire blue. The waves crashed about like small avalanches of pearls. Although I didn’t see any dolphins that day, I still had the ultimate blast as I flew from the boat via rope and into the open sea, as carefree as I had ever been. That day I told my sister half-jokingly that I wanted to try moving to Tenerife. 

The day that I truly fell in love with Tenerife, though, I was standing on the black sandy beach, Playa Jardín, with the Atlantic water lapping at my calves and the weather warm and comforting when Mt. Teide caught my eye. It was capped in snow. My first year in Madrid was one of the most stressful of my life, but that memory stayed with me, helping to center me in times of strife. 

Moving to Tenerife and Discovering What Living in Paradise Really Means

“Imagine living here” is something that we all say when, or if, we find ourselves fortunate enough to holiday in an extraordinary place. We rarely get to make it a reality, however. Moving to Tenerife seems like a crazy, impulsive, reckless thing to do even to this day, and yet here I am. With the two suitcases I packed, one backpack, and a half-baked plan, I got on a plane. The original idea was to get assigned as a teaching assistant on the islands, but it didn’t work out. I wasn’t deterred. 

Living on the island is definitely a little different from vacationing here. During my initial nine-day stay, I traversed nearly the entire perimeter. I’ve been here now since September 2020, and I’ve barely left Puerto de la Cruz — the town I now call home. Part of it is due to the pandemic, yes, but it also comes down to my personality. I’m adventurous in short bursts, but otherwise, I’m a homebody. That said, I’d like to share with you a few things about living here in this paradoxical paradise.

The Cons and a Few Small Heads-Ups about Renting an Apartment Here

  1. If you do move here, and you don’t have a Spanish-based income, regardless of your savings, people will hesitate to rent to you. I make pretty stable money from VIPkid and Cambly, but that didn’t really matter to prospective landlords. 
  2. If you want to rent an apartment alone without a partner, you will have a hard time. They will fear losing money should something happen to your income. In this way, I was, and am, lucky to have my boyfriend. They also prefer to rent to older retired folk with a pension.
  3. The weather in Puerto is finicky. It’s definitely warmer than in Madrid, but it often changes from hour to hour, if not even faster. It’s best to dress in layers because it could be absolutely cloudy one minute, and a bright, clear, sunny day the next. 
  4. Everything is uphill and steep. Somehow, I conveniently forgot about this or didn’t realize it my first time around. Prepare to sweat.

A Few Good Places to Eat

  1. Pizzas Magic Corner — You know those places that look slightly off the beaten path, a bit like a dive bar, but they always have the best, yet cheapest food? That’s how I would describe this place. Forget the fancy-schmancy pizzas from the Italian eateries. This joint’s pepperoni and mushroom pizzas are out of this world. And if you don’t like mushrooms, I only have one thing to say to you: How dare you?!?! (They have other options, of course).
  2. La Croquet Deli-Café — This place is in the center of it all. Believe the hype you’ll see in the reviews. Their gorgeous desserts and elegant coffees are 100x better than Starbucks. And this comes from a loyal Starbucks fan. If you aren’t an SB fan, and you’re maybe not all that impressed, consider this: The hot fudge brownie with a scoop of coconut ice cream will infuse your senses and skyrocket you to heaven. They have other crazier options, but that is now my go-to favorite. 
  3. Any place on Calle de la Verdad, translated to “Street of Truth.” This little side street is easily missed if you blink for too long. Should you find it, however, you will notice that it is generously decked out in all kinds of plants, giving it a really nice, quiet atmosphere. You’ll love sipping a glass of Vermouth here at any one of the little terrace restaurants while escaping the heat of the day in a veritable street garden. 

Some Historical Legends

Tenerife and the rest of the Canary Islands are so much more than popular holiday destinations. They are a place with their own rich history, culture, and even myths. For example:

  1. Legend has it that the islands originated from the mountain tops of the lost city of Atlantis
  2. Guayota was/is an evil entity said to have made his home in the bowels of Mt. Teide. It’s said that Achamán, all-powerful god of the Guanches, the pre-Spanish Berber-descending inhabitants of Tenerife, fought Guayota and this explains why Teide has been less active. 
  3. Guacimara, a Guanche Princess of Anaga and an amazing warrioress, fought off the Spanish invaders, and at the last moment, rather than being taken hostage, threw herself off a cliff, and became a mermaid who lives even until this day.
Mount Teide, Tenerife
Teide, Spain’s tallest mountain, does a mean impression of Mount Fuji

A Trio of Random Things

  1. There is a butterfly sanctuary and it’s delightful. It’s not in Puerto, so you’ll need to head towards Icod de Los Vinos. It’s a village a bit to the south and it’s super nice in its own right. You can also see the 1,000-year-old “Dragon” tree while you’re there. 
  2. Something you might not notice if you’re merely vacationing here is that there are a lot — and I mean a lot — of cats here. I think I’ve counted at least five black neighborhood cats in particular. The locals feed them and they are just the sweetest things. I already have two “friends” who sometimes wait for me on my evening walks, and they compete for my attention. Additionally, a lot of people not wanting to go through the hassle of moving with their pets abandon a lot of them on the islands. If we end up staying here permanently, I think adopting one would be a lovely thing to do. If you would like to know more about rehoming your pet on the island, check out the Canary Island Pet Re-homing Service group on Facebook. The group has dedicated itself to helping out strays from all over the Canary Islands. 
  3. Islands do Christmas right. Usually, by the end of the holiday, I’m so over it. I never wanted it to end after moving to Tenerife. There were lights up everywhere and they had lovely holiday music blasting in the streets. It was pretty cool, to say the least. 
Inspired by moving to Tenerife, Amanda painted some flowers on a trellis
The Canary Islands are as pretty as an Amanda Whitten picture

Only time will tell what happens after moving to Tenerife. This is one of the first occasions I’ve ever felt so safe and secure in my living situation. I find it so comforting to simply exist in a place filled with so much beauty. I find ample opportunities from which to draw my artistic inspiration. There are so many gorgeous flowers on the walls, in the ravines, and on the wooden trellises that populate the streets everywhere. The people are very friendly. It’s enough to make even the most unpoetic person (like myself) desire to compose something. Speaking of which….**Ahem**

Haha just kidding. I wouldn’t subject you to all that.

Thanks for reading…

Squirrel Girl

Majestic Malta, Just Another Restless Auxiliar in Madrid

It’s simply not enough to say that I enjoyed Malta or that I would go back again. These are both undoubtedly true statements – in fact, they’re almost an understatement. How could I not fall in love with Malta and its ancient temples, its fairy-tale seashores, and its miniature cathedrals dotting the villages? Every cathedral served as each town’s crown jewel. The goal of my Dreams Abroad articles is to give accurate estimations of the places I see and the things that I experience, whether positive or negative. Malta will be no different. Let me elaborate.

Pre-Arrival Expectations vs. Post-Arrival Realizations

gardens travel abroad maltese culture

It was easy to choose Malta as my next destination. Places such as Norway, Iceland, and Greece are definitely on my bucket list. That being said, they aren’t as economically attractive as flights to Malta (€55 round trip through Ryanair, as opposed to hundreds of euros regardless of airline or search engine). My not-so-thorough Google searches quickly led me to believe that Malta had literally the nicest climate in the world (which is a bit comical after being confronted with the reality). Furthermore, I would be conveniently and attractively plopped into a most ancient culture with all of the niceties of modern convenience. Hey, they speak English, too! Ever hear of that song with the lyrics “they paved paradise to put up a parking lot”? Yeah, that’s Malta.

Too often, we tourists are so hypocritical. We want a place that is as authentic and as pure and untouched as Carthage in 405 BCE… but then we turn around and complain if the buses don’t run more than once an hour! In my case, I was happy that English was the official language. Unfortunately, that came about from being formerly owned by the British Empire for about 200 years. Despite that, Malta retains (thankfully) much of their amazing limestone architecture that rises up almost seamlessly from the terra firma. They also were able to keep their unique, local Arabic/Italian-sounding language. However, other Maltese aspects appear to have been all but lost unless you really dig beneath the surface.

Maltese Culture

But what is Maltese culture really? The strategic location of these beautiful islands has led to an almost continual conquest from foreign powers throughout history. Truly, it is a topic deserving of its own post. I’ll get on with it then. I said all of that to give one example: nearly all of the food has been westernized. If you want to try a local dish in any random restaurant, Maltese rabbit will probably be your only choice. Indeed, I did feel as though I arrived a few centuries too late. Even now, the last vestiges of this grand land and its people are being drained away by modernism all in the name of progress. But that’s just a foreigner’s observational opinion after nine days. So don’t take my word for it.

city abono gozo malta market

(It may not be Starbucks like I originally thought, but it seems certainly a bit derivative in its own unique way.)

A Myriad of First-Time ExperiencesMalta lagoon island water travel abroad

Being in Malta felt new for me in several different regards. It was my first time being in a place where people drive on the wrong – sorry, I mean left side of the road! It was my first time buying my own ferry ticket and traveling between islands. This is something I didn’t even do in the Canaries, as it was way too expensive there. It was a unique place with a unique language to my ears. Also, it was my first time ever scuba diving! This gave way to an abundance of new micro-experiences: I saw my first few octopuses in their natural environment! They were hiding in their little cubby holes and I was enthralled by their combined cuteness. When had I ever thought of full-grown octopuses as adorable? Never before that moment, I was certain.

Malta lagoon island water travel abroad octopus scuba diving

There was a moment when I looked up from the ocean floor and gazed into the watery, sunlight-drenched heavens above to realize that we were being silently serenaded by perhaps hundreds of angels of the sea. Or in other words, perfectly harmless jellyfish.

Never in my life had I imagined that breathing underwater through a fallible human contraption could after, a short amount of time, begin to feel like second nature, but life is full of surprises.

After each of the two scuba diving sessions, I felt a unique sense of elation. It also gave rise to wondering how anything ever could top it. I asked myself, what now? Nothing would ever compare!!

Malta Recommendations

If you go to Malta, I recommend that you don’t go in late September. I had about five hot, glorious days of summer sun and cloudless skies that amounted to perfect visibility. Then, suddenly the season changed on a dime to the chilly rainy season.

I recommend that you buy the €21 seven-day Abono traveling card. These can be bought at bus stations. They allow you to take as many buses as you want on either of the islands, so you can get around quickly and cheaply!

Go to Comino, the smallest of the islands and the most touristy. When you go, go as early as you can because by mid-day it will be suffocatingly packed to the brim with people – at least in the most well-known spots.

Some life-changing tips: take an umbrella. There is almost no natural cover or protection from the sun. Rent a kayak so that you can explore otherwise inaccessible and unbelievably gorgeous cracks and crannies that lead to beyond perfect snorkeling opportunities.

Split your time between the two main islands of Malta and Gozo. Gozo, Malta’s little sister, can only be reached by boat or ferry. The price is a reasonable €5 roundtrip. Each island offers so much and deserves your undivided attention.

Parting Thoughts

In the back of my mind, I have always staunchly maintained that eventually, I want to live in the Oklahoman countryside surrounded by nothing more than family, trees, animals, and peace. However, either ancient, picturesque, crime-free, tranquil Gozo or equally breathtaking, busy-as-bees Malta could seduce me away from that life, with nary a look backwards.

Malta beach travel abroad fun life love