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From Portland to Girona: The cyclists travel guide to choosing the best destination to live abroad, what to pack + Girona Insider Tips!

Updated: Jun 5

Adnan Kadir chillin after a bike ride with feet up on his bike, sitting under an olive tree.

Overall, I feel pretty fortunate!

After over two decades of living in Portland, Oregon, my psyche could no longer handle the damp, dark winters and so my wife and I made plans to escape.  Since 2017 it’s been an annual pilgrimage to somewhere sunny - Thailand, California, and more recently, the cycling mecca of Girona, Spain.  We don’t just go for a month, either - we fully live there for half of each year.  

In order to do this, it takes some fairly specific circumstances:  We both work for ourselves - she in the wellness sphere, and I as a founder of VeloPro, the world’s first AI-based training system for endurance athletes.  Moreover, we don’t have any kids, and we happen to own a very rent-able house in Portland.  All of this adds up to making a twice-yearly shift of living spaces relatively simple.

When looking at places to live and travel abroad, we take into consideration many factors:

  1. Weather

  2. Livability

  3. Cycling friendliness

  4. Language

  5. Proximity to a good international airport

While the first one may seem obvious, but it’s not like we look for sandy beaches and palm trees.  In fact, if it’s a bit chilly, that’s okay as long as it’s mostly dry.  Livability is perhaps more specific to individuals.  We prefer not to drive, so we look for great transit and bike infrastructure, as well as walkability.  Those things, and a relatively low cost of living, are things to consider.  

A smiling selfie of Adnan and Stacy while cycling in Girona Spain.

Cycling friendliness may seem like a no-brainer, but that’s perhaps a little relative, too.  Some people don’t mind riding on four-lane roads with rough shoulders.  We prefer as few cars as possible, though, so that’s what we aim for.  Girona and Thailand both fit that requirement.

My wife speaks fluent Spanish.  I get by okay (but I’m learning!).  So, that is part of what drew us to Spain.  People in Girona speak Spanish, but they definitely prefer to speak Catalan.  So, of course we’re putting some effort into that.  Administrative tasks, which are important when you’re a part-time resident, are all done in Spanish, though.  It’s trickier, but of course not impossible, to do stuff like this in countries where you don’t speak any of the local languages.

Finally, being close to an international airport is a big deal for us.  When I say close, I don’t mean in terms of distance (since there are plenty of big-ish airports around, especially in Europe), but rather in terms of accessibility.  Without a car it would be hard, for example, to get to Barcelona airport from somewhere in the countryside.  From Girona, however, it’s a short train-and-bus trip.

One thing people ask about all the time is how we transport our bikes. 

If I could give one tip regarding that, it would be to invest in a high quality bike transport box.  We actually just use old Thule hard cases.  They are heavy, but highly protective.  When traveling abroad, the only time you really lug the cases around are before check-in and after you get your luggage.  So, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot of lugging around.  Another thing I prefer to do is pad each part of the bike.  Some folks use pipe insulation.  This works, and it is definitely a cheap option, but I prefer cut-to-fit velcro pads like these, available from a variety of suppliers. 

A tube of Dialed In muscle cream with other items to be packed for cycling trip to Girona, Spain

If you’re checking other bags, I find it helps to put things like saddles/seatposts, pedals, and QR skewers/axles in those bags.  That way, you save weight in the bike box and lessen the chances of an inspector accidentally leaving some of your stuff behind when they open the box.  One item I always pack in my suitcase is a tube or jar of DIALED[IN] muscle cream!

The last piece of advice I would give travelers, to Girona and anywhere else, really, is to pack light. 

Some folks think it’s crazy, but I only pack an international size carry-on (45 liters) for the entire 6 months I’m away.  This includes my casual clothes, cycling kit, and helmet.  It’s perhaps not as important if you’re staying for a long time, but if you’re just visiting for a week or so, a lost bag could really hamper your enjoyment of your trip.

When we consider all of the above, it’s easy to see why we keep heading back to Girona.  It’s an amazing city with an abundance of history, culture, and activity, yet it’s not too big and the riding and weather are fantastic.  If you plan on visiting, there are a lot of resources you can use to make the most of your time there. 

Girona Insider Tips!

While hotels are solid, and AirBnB is always an option, local apartment rental outfits like Bravissimo and Sleep and Stay are great places to get the lay of the accommodation land, so to speak.  They also specialize in bike-friendly accommodations and can help you get sorted with a great rental bike, should you choose that route.  

Speaking of which, several local businesses offer high-quality bikes for rent. These include Eat Sleep Cycle, The Service Course, Tata Bikes, BikeCat, Cycle Tours Catalonia. The Castelli store in Girona offers weekly guided social rides on road and gravel, for free.  It’s a great way to connect with other visitors as well as Girona locals.  Plus, they have free coffee!

Stacy sitting at an outdoor cafe in Girona with a tasty looking plate of cake

Once you’re done riding, Girona has a lot to offer.  There is no shortage of tapas

places, and for some reason there are a bunch of great Argentine restaurants. My favorite is Chef Guevara on the north end of town. 

Local favorite post-ride stops include La Comuna (great coffee!) and La Taverna.  If you don’t mind the walk, there is great Pakistani food at Mughal.  

So that’s it - sunshine, bike-friendly, and pack light.  All those ingredients make for a great time abroad! Happy travels!


PS: If you want to receive Kirk and Jenny's monthly newsletter filled with inspiration, free coaching/exercise tips, plus find out about special offers, sign up for the DIALED [IN] monthly newsletter below:

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