A Year In: Reflections of Living Abroad
This Tuesday, Columbus Day coincidentally, will mark one year since I packed my bags and headed to a country where I didn’t know a soul, didn’t know the language and was completely unaware of how the experience was going to change my life. Rewind to a year ago, I had been a college graduate since the start of the new year in 2009 and after job-searching for nearly 8 months was completely burnt-out. I felt conflicted: getting a good job in the field I had spent the last 4 years interning and learning every minute detail of was what I felt i was ‘supposed’ to do, but if I was being really honest with myself, my heart wasn’t in to it.
Graduation Day, 09’
A year before, in 2008, I had taken a life-changing trip to Europe that awakened a passion for travel in me that I previously didn’t know existed, but really was in my blood the entire time. I have my family to thank for that: my Mom was a huge supporter of me studying abroad after living in Florence for a year during her college years, my Dad, a native of Mexico, has inspired me being an expat living in the States for 25+ years, my Grandma was from Australia and lived the expat life in the States for the majority of her life, my brothers and their girlfriends pitched in together and helped me create a travel fund for my graduation present and my aunt Kathy has been traveling for as long as I can remember and spent an unforgettable 2 weeks with me during my first trip abroad.
Exploring Ireland with the best travel partner: Aunt Kathy.
Europe presented to me a land of intrigue: ancient history, diverse cultures, historic architecture; essentially the antitheses of home. Not to say that I don’t love my hometown of Seattle, I absolutely do, and throughout my travels I’m still convinced it is one of the most naturally stunning places I’ve seen. However, living in the same place my whole life, with the exception of a brief stint in a state that leaves little to be desired (Missouri), I was itching to get out and continue seeing the world after absolutely being bit by the travel bug the first time around. Every time I submitted a job application or inquired about job opportunities at one of the many PR firms I interned at, and was told some variation of “we’d love to have you, but this hiring freeze…” I breathed a sigh of relief. I remember feeling that if I found a job I would be signing my life away, and that if I didn’t make travel a priority now while nothing was tying me down, that it would only become more difficult to achieve in a world of deadlines and limited vacation days.
One of my first photos in Europe; officially bit by the travel bug.
I still remember the look on my parent’s faces as I sat them down in the living room and told them I was making plans to move to Spain “just for a year, to learn Spanish and wait out the bad economy.” Hesitant at first, they slowly accepted that I was serious about making this dream a reality, and before I knew it we were in the airport saying tearful goodbyes. Now, plans have changed and I find myself living in Spain for my second year as this country has captured my heart in more ways than one. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make, though I miss my friends and family dearly, I still wasn’t willing to give up travel and experiences I couldn’t have back home. I feel so blessed to have an opportunity like this to step far outside my comfort zone and be immersed in a new country and culture. I’ve seen countless sunsets on the Mediterranean, seen the works of Picasso and Gaudi in their home land, struggled to adapt to the Andaluz accent, met some amazing people, siesta-ed, fiesta-ed and all in all have come to appreciate a culture and its people in a way that a quick vacation never would have allowed me to.
One of Spain’s, ahem, Basque Country’s beautiful towns; Lekeitio.
Living on my own, on the other side of the world and learning and living in a new language has built a confidence that remaining in the States couldn’t have afforded me. Many days I have to consciously push myself out of my comfort-zone to communicate and not take it to heart when I get laughed at for having a Mexican, or worse, American accent, usually I’m known as the ‘guiri’ or ‘gringa’ and often I find myself shaking my head at the round-about way things seem to be done here. But, I respect it. Everyday is a bit of a beautiful struggle, and though some days are more trying than others, this experience is something that will stay with me forever.
Camp Nou in Barcelona.
So, Happy 1 year Anniversary to my expat life and christineinspain.net Thanks to everyone who has supported my journey by reading and commenting, it means a lot to me.