Retired Early and Loving It



Imagine retiring early and moving from the UK to a fabulous place? Well that is what Joanne Harris did.

We decided to speak to Joanne Harris and find out why she moved to Tenerife, and to find out more about her life back in the UK.


Why did you move to Tenerife? 

I had always thought that my husband and I would take early retirement and relocate to one of the Greek islands, and after a long day at work followed by an hour and a half stuck on the M6, I would often ask if we could retire at 40. Two and a half years ago my husband was given the opportunity to work in Asia and my wish of early retirement (for me anyway) came true. I packed a few summer dresses and set off to meet my husband in Manila. He works alternate months so that first month was packed full of adventures such as island hopping, sailing and the best New Year Party I have ever been to. However, when he went back to work in another part of Asia I was stuck on my own and hated it. Being white and blonde was an advantage in that I wasn’t checked for weapons upon entering shopping precincts but it was also a beacon to potential kidnappers. I was stuck within one square mile of safe zone and desperately lonely. I lasted two weeks.

We then had to choose somewhere else to live, having rented out our house in England and deciding that we still wanted to escape the weather. Having been on one so-so holiday to Tenerife we decided to rent an apartment for a month on the island just so that we could relax and think about our options. We fell in love with Tenerife that month and a couple of months later I flew to our new rented house in Puerto de la Cruz.

What do you think of Tenerife?

The longer I live here the more I am surprised by Tenerife. My very first impressions on that first holiday were fairly negative. I was not keen on Los Cristianos as it seemed too contrived and, dare I say it, too

‘British’. I think it is great there for people with young families and those that enjoy pool and beach holidays but the island has so much more to offer. I love the diversity of climates, the amazing scenery and the traditional buildings. The people here are also so friendly and helpful which, as someone who comes from a town where everyone loves to talk, is a really important factor.

What did you do in the UK?

I was an A Level teacher in a Sixth Form College.

What do you do in Tenerife?

Currently I spend my days making renovation decisions on the new house and walking the dog.

What has been the best experience up to date of moving to Tenerife? 

The day after I arrived I started a two week intensive Spanish course. I had seen on a previous visit to the island that there was a Language Exchange evening in one of the local bars and persuaded on of the other students to come with me to practice our very limited Spanish. I met some really nice people there and have built up a friendship network from that one evening. Therefore this has to be my best experience as it gave me a place in the community and I now have friends from all over the world.

Do you miss anything about the UK?

Yes/No (Please give us three examples and the reasons why, below)

  1. I miss my friends and family but luckily there is Skype and Whatsapp so I probably communicate more with people than I did when I was living in England.
  2. I miss the convenience of being able to walk into a supermarket and buy everything that I want, including simple medication such as painkillers and antacids.
  3. I miss being able to turn on the TV without having to fiddle about with the internet and Chromecast, despite the fact that we didn’t even bother buying a TV until we had been here for almost a year.

Would you recommend moving to Tenerife?  

  1. Tenerife is a beautiful island with regular flights to the UK so it is easy to go back home if you need to.
  2. There is so much more than just the tourist areas.
  3. The people are great.

What advice would you give someone moving to Tenerife?

I would say that you should not cut off all ties with the UK until you have sampled life on the island, particularly in the winter when the climate can be very unpredictable. Rent a house for a year before buying somewhere so that you can take your time getting to know places.

Try to learn enough Spanish to get by. There are some great courses on the island and it will help you to not only communicate with the locals but also to learn about the culture and history here, which is very different from the mainland, and you could also make new friends.

Get out and about. I spent my first year as something of a barfly, which is not recommended! This year I have clocked up hundreds of miles discovering the most breath-taking scenery and have managed to lose loads of weight in the process. Don’t have unrealistic expectations.

You are not on holiday. Wages are lower, there is high unemployment and the sun doesn’t always shine. If you are moving to run away from problems, make sure those problems aren’t ones within yourself.

What has been the most difficult experience in Tenerife?

My difficult experience is a very personal one which would be the same wherever I lived. I hate the separations from my husband. Fortunately I now have plenty to keep me occupied but it was pretty horrible having no job or direction for the first few months.

Would you go back to the UK? 

Yes/No (Please give us three examples and the reasons why, below)

  1. The UK is more expensive than here and I cannot imagine choosing to pay £5.00 or whatever for a glass of wine.
  2. You hardly ever have the opportunity to sit outside a bar in the UK and restaurants stop serving food stupidly early.
  3. I have rescue animals, friends, a house and a happy life here now. Why would I want to give up all of that?