Life in Sotogrande as a child: First-hand recount of growing up in this coastal resort.
Growing up here, we always knew we were lucky, and for the most part were well aware of the fact that we were living in paradise. My first experience with Sotogrande was with the International School, and while my dad was already very familiar with the area thanks to his real estate ventures, for little 5-year old Innin, everything was grand, and new, and in a strange language: english!
S.I.S., Year 1: That is where my Sotogrande adventure starts, and also the start of an incredibly happy and safe childhood. This was also true for most of my peers who I graduated with, children of new and long-time Sotogrande residents, who all grew up to become great and kind people, living all over the world; and yet most of us would still choose Sotogrande.
Growing up here means growing up with lots of freedom. Freedom to explore, to become who you want to be, and a specially a lot of freedom to dream. This is thanks to the resort, our parents knew we were safe as long as we were inside Sotogrande. People here are incredibly international and open minded, so you hear stories and meet people from all over the world, even as children. The school pushed our thinking limits everyday, and provides an amazing environment where no dream is unachievable, and everything is done to ensure their students realize those dreams, which was especially true for me.
Sotogrande International School was a key in I think most people’s childhood in Sotogrande. I can, and do, 100% vouch for the school. I feel so lucky to be able to have gone to a school that was so internationally oriented, where all the teachers saw you grow up and truly cared, and everyone felt part of an extended family that we didn’t have locally as expats. The memories are endless, but both socially and academically, we hit the jack-pot in Sotogrande. All the events, the school trips, the awareness raising for environmental and humanitarian issues, the sporting competitions, the public speaking; it helped us reach our full potential. In my case, I was even able to attend IE University on a scholarship for academic excellence right after completing IB at SIS.
Being so young and free to move around with friends was incredible, and allowed us to become independent thinkers. It has to be noted that the worst part of growing up in Sotogrande was the lack of public transportation, so we got extremely creative with our options, which stretched from go-karts, bikes and skateboards, to asking extremely nicely if our parents could play taxi, or even hitch hiking, which isn’t a problem, because chances are whoever picks you up, knows your parents! I remember fondly rollerblading through paseo del parque with my friends, in between the stunning villas, over the bridge and into the port where the walkway is smooth and perfect for any activity on wheels (something I still do, but now also with my dog!).
We would spend our summers and weekends on the beach, where we would get together before deciding to cross over to the other side of the port in the free boat taxi. Once the other side, we would venture (walk along the beach for what seemed like an eternity then, but is a few minutes walk now) to what we called ‘the current’: the river mouth by the Octogono beach club. After some ‘adventurous’ swimming, waving sheepishly at the group of older kids from school and buying sweets from the little shop on the corner, our biggest dilemna was choosing whose swimming pool to go to, or if we wanted to go and watch the polo match or not.
Of course, a question I always get is about going out here, a lot of parents are worried that their 16 years olds wont have anything to do, but again, this isn’t the case. In fact, growing up here meant that we didn’t even want to go to Marbella to party in the clubs, because we saw right through the pretentious and artificial scene. When I was growing up, there was one bar with each wall in a different dark red or green colour, covered in photo frames, in Pueblo Nuevo, that welcomed us. We would all get together every Friday night and play pool (yes, this is why I am freakishly good!), and it was about spending time together, laughing, and dancing on the nights when Joaquin (the owner of this bar with his signature white moustache), would play good music (or we took over the music laptop). I know that now every weekend the youngsters get together at different houses, where they have their own private parties in a safe and controlled environment, but the essence is still very similar to what I experienced. When we would stretch out further, we always chose Tarifa over Marbella, and that meant camping, spending time on the beach, and of course, enjoying a couple of drinks in the old town.
It wasn’t often that partying was our priority, because we all had so many sporting opportunities and commitments, so that normally came first. A lot of my afternoons were spent at the paddle club, when my parents played the mix-ins or my brother and I were taking lessons; or by the tennis court watching my brother practise his super-fast, almost always ace, serve. In my case, it was horse riding everyday, and with that came early mornings, so I couldn’t afford to prioritise the party, because I was too excited to get up and go swimming with the horses in the river, hack out to the mountains, or stick and ball on the polo fields.
After the most amazing childhood, came moving to Madrid for university. Both scary and exciting. While leaving Sotogrande felt like a big world opening up, it also meant leaving the place where I felt safe, very taken of, and home. Although I knew I had been prepared for this, and given all the possible tools necessary to make it ‘in the real world’, I was adamant I didn’t want to leave. When I did, I was grateful, I experienced city life, metros and the feeling of being ‘anonymous’, while continuing to receive world class education.
I also realised that when you grow up Sotogrande, you are different. You make friends so quickly, ‘where are you from?’ is a normal question yet the answer doesn’t define you; hearing sirens will always shock you; your definition of a night out is talking to a load of people, laughing and having healthy, genuine fun; and when you bump into someone else who grew up in Sotogrande the other side of the world, the connection is instant.
I quickly realised that it didnt matter how much money I could make, how high I could climb the corporate ladder in the big five, or how many people my age were in the city. I was and am happiest in Sotogrande. I know that while I give up the prior to live here, I have also beat the system, because I get to live in a paradise most people work so hard for 12 months a year to come to 2 weeks a year. I grew up to know that the things that matter are at home, in Sotogrande.