Tenerife: Where Time Stands Still

Living on an island, especially one like Tenerife, can make one feel like an insect fixed in amber. Time seems to move slowly here, if at all. The weather has a distinct pattern in Puerto de la Cruz. The mornings are bright and sunny, while the afternoons are usually cloudy as the cool air crawls in from over the mountains. All the days move forward lazily like sap dripping from a tree. Cars and tourists blur by, but even they seem to have certain circular rhythms to them.

But the gray strands in my hair now beg to differ, as do the crows feet around my eyes. So is my growing belly. They are evidence that time has continued forward as stubbornly as ever.

Coming to Tenerife

I came to Spain in 2016, at 28 years old. I had decided it was finally time to make my goals happen, as I had an “it’s now or never” moment. Before making the trip, I went on several dates, perhaps subconsciously trying to find love and excuses to stay in Oklahoma, even though living in Spain had been my dream since I was about 20 years old. I had finally found a career with OKDHS (Oklahoma Department of Human Services), and it was one that could have led to owning a house and adopting a dog. However, I dreamed of seeing the world, and not just for vacation. I half- expected to only stay a year, but I couldn’t have foreseen making a life here in Tenerife.

I met my media naranja, Esteban, and we moved from Madrid to the Canary Islands mid-pandemic in 2020. Now, we are in Tenerife, expecting our first child. Even though I have been the arbiter of my own destiny, I sometimes suspect that I was set on a winding path that I was definitely meant to follow. I felt so incredibly certain that I needed to come to Spain, and then later to Tenerife, that it wasn’t until I was actually on the plane that reality set in.

I packed my bags to start over once more, putting everything I could into two large suitcases. I had a fuzzy outline of a plan that included becoming officially self-employed and teaching online classes, as soon as I l secured an apartment. When I finally was on the plane, though, a sudden panic broke through my haze of perpetual blind faith and confidence in myself, shouting at me, “Oh my God! What are we doing???” I can answer that question now. Mostly we are trucking along through each day, working and enjoying the small moments of bliss that life in Tenerife can bring.

Embracing the Pregnancy

I have to admit that the pregnancy was unplanned. I’d like to say that it brought me joy from the very first moment that I suspected it,but the honest truth is that I rather liked my life how it was before. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but it was enough for a child-free lifestyle in Tenerife. My apartment isn’t huge, but it’s quite perfect for two people. I hadn’t been traveling much recently but the option to be spontaneous was always there (well, after the pandemic lockdowns calmed down a bit).
I liked my body. I had been working out and eating healthy for a couple of years in a row. I had become a certified scuba diver and was looking forward to doing more scuba trips and adding on extra certifications. Pregnancy definitely threw a wrench into all of those things. I always liked the idea of having a traditional family, but it had never been my number one priority. I always thought that if I aged out, maybe adoption could be an option.

There were a lot of feelings and impressions, some of which feel rather silly to write “out loud”, to process surrounding choices and options. I thought about how I might feel if I saw children around the would-be former due date if I decided that I didn’t deserve to be, couldn’t be, or shouldn’t be a mom at all . I thought about my age and wondered if it was actually a miracle that I was pregnant in the first place, since I had never had a pregnancy scare in my life. Also, I considered how many times I remarked to Esteban that we were in the perfect place to raise a family. Children run around in groups here, playing soccer in the plazas and laughing, safe and carefree.

The climate in Tenerife is perfect. Parents make outings to Playa Jardin and introduce their little ones to the ocean for the first time. Their little screams of joy and wonder had been filling my heart with longing for a while. Right before I got the news, a white dove landed on our terrace and seemingly stared at us in such a way that it felt like some kind of sign. Esteban and I are very stable as a couple, and have had so much time to get to know each other and grow in our adoration for and commitment to each other. I considered that the child, which I now know to be a boy, would grow up feeling secure and loved immensely. When someone said to me, “Where two can eat, three can eat as well,” that was that.

Life in Tenerife Now

I’m enjoying my life: watching the misty mountains, observing the snow on Teide, swimming throughout the year( even February), painting in my free time, feeling my baby’s kicks, which startle me with happiness every once in a while. The physical kicks may wake me up a bit day to day or night to night, but impending motherhood has awakened me in other ways.

I have finally put in motion things that I had been putting off for years (again, where did the time go?). For example, I bought some resin because I’d like to try my hand at making jewelry with flower blossoms. I framed a couple of paintings and found a store that let me put them up for sale. I also found some online print-on-demand stores and was able to set up online businesses through Etsy and Redbubble. I hope that, with any luck, they take off.

Some things have had to go on the back burner, of course. Esteban and I planned to see all of the Canary Islands at some point, especially El Hierro and La Gomera, and one day we will. Traveling will just take a bit of extra planning now, whereas before we could be much more spontaneous. I wanted to finally get my masters in art therapy, since I finally had my ducks in a row in that regard after I completed the necessary psychology courses for the prerequisites to apply to a master’s program. Oh, well. Hopefully, time and money will allow me to follow that particular dream when it’s the right time.

 

What’s Next for Us?

Only time will tell, but as far as I can predict, the next several months, or even years in Tenerife, will be filled with sleepless nights and even sleepier eyes. They will also be filled with joy and giggles and burbling and coos. What I know for sure is that we’re really excited for the next chapter in our lives and our next adventure.

Curious to delve deeper into Amanda’s captivating journeys in Tenerife? Check out one of her first experiences and prepare to be inspired.

 

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