This is probably as good a time as any to share that we've decided to stay for an additional year in Spain. We'll begin our visa renewal process in March, to be sure that all of our paperwork is in order for government approval over the summer. Our current 'estimated time of return' to California is July 2018.
Why Stay Longer?
The decision to stay abroad is both a happy and a sad thing. We're thrilled to extend this joyful time of adventure in Europe, yet deeply sad to be away from our beloved family, friends and colleagues for longer than we'd originally planned. We made the decision as a family though and, as profoundly as the kids continue to miss their dear friends at home, when given the option they each individually voted to stay abroad.
Our choice probably won't come as much of a surprise to most friends and relatives who have been keeping up with our European adventures. The past nearly seven months have flown by in the blink of an eye and they've absolutely brought us closer together as a family. From incredible moments like diving together into Lago Maggiore from a floating dock in Maccagno to really sour moments like the bedbug incident in Paris, we've experienced so many new things together! With each new experience, we've gotten to know each other better and strengthened our bond.
Leaving behind everything and everyone without question solidified our relationships with each other. While our children definitely have more freedom here in Europe (since everything is so much safer in Spain!) they are without question more connected to us - and also to each other - than they have perhaps ever been.
Disrupting The Status Quo
Moving to Barcelona was a disruption, in the best possible sense. We successfully disrupted our status quo... our set routines, equilibrium and lifestyle! The move also disrupted our typical conversations, disagreements and habit patterns.
Señor Aventura and I have gone from being quite typical 40-something American parents of young kids (stressed and exhausted, worried about all of the normal things) to younger, more enthusiastic versions of our best selves. For example in the past month my husband has gone from cycling with new friends in the Canary Islands off of Africa to working with heart in Mexico City, to watching our sons play soccer on a beautiful plateau overlooking the Mediterranean. Next month he heads to the United States, and then to Mallorca!
Known in California for going to bed at 9pm and rising with the sun, Señor Aventura has changed his Circadian rhythm... and now finds himself routinely up late to make the most of the evening. He's happy and well rested, exercising daily, and very focused. He's made many friends and connections here in Spain. His horizons have really expanded!
Slowing Down - In A Good Way
The kids and I are growing and changing too, in profoundly positive ways. First, health!
I realized the other day that I haven't driven a car in more than half a year! This from a person who drove a minimum of 80 minutes daily M-F for the prior four years, commuting to a job I adored.
80 minutes x 5 days/week x 40 teaching weeks/year = approximately 16,000 minutes a year commuting in the car... not including regular family stuff, errands, etc. If my calculations are correct this means I was routinely spending at minimum 267 hours a year in my car driving to and from work. That's more than eleven full days!
In the USA this lifestyle is very common. In Europe, it's so rare.
I don't hold a European driving license, nor have any desire to get one. The streets in older parts of European towns are narrow and cramped, and I'm always in awe of the way my husband navigates tight corners so deftly. I'm convinced that me driving in Spain would be dangerous for everyone, so I've chosen to abstain. Which is no big deal, because my husband rarely drives anywhere either!
How do we get around? Well, it's really simple. I've spent the last seven months walking nearly everywhere I go and taking the occasional bus or train, or even grabbing a taxi when in a big hurry. Señor Aventura rides his bicycle nearly everywhere and could not be happier about it.
What does it do for a body to stop driving completely after years upon years of traffic stress? It heals, of course! When you add extra sleep and less stress to the mix, I'm easily in the best health I've had for a decade... with the blood tests to prove it!
Accomplishing Bucket List Goals
While the kids and I haven't been jet-setting as much as our good Señor, we have been working slowly and tenaciously at accomplishing the life goals we too set for this amazing adventure.
First, we've been really dedicated to improving our Spanish language skills. Learning a new language was so much harder than all of us had anticipated. For my kids, the language barrier has been a huge wall to climb at school. In order to make friends, communicate with their teachers, prove their understanding of concepts in class, and pass examinations, they've had to bust their booties and fully tackle Spanish language learning.
There have been plenty of setbacks on their path toward fluency (and we're not close yet). So many days when they've come home sad because someone at school said something mean to them but they didn't fully understand the insult or know how to respond to it. Other times they've studied really hard for an exam only to discover when handed the actual test that it was written completely in Catalan or Spanish, and they had no idea what the questions were even asking.
For kids used to being at the top of their classes in America, the first school year in Spain has been humbling to say the least. Yet, they rise! Every single day The Scientist, Soccer Dude and Little Angel tackle the school day and bus ride with a positive attitude. Slowly but surely their scores and school experiences get more and more successful.
This has been the 'grittiest' and most substantial, sustained challenge our three children have ever faced. We've offered them extra tutoring, lots of 'Mom and Dad' help and even the chance to switch schools... but even on the toughest days, they insist that they will stick with it.
"My teacher says moving here is like a dinosaur egg, Mom," one son confided. "The shell is very hard to crack, but once I get inside of it, I'll find the sweetest honey."
We're very happy about the amazing growth our kids are experiencing and SO proud of their resilience!
As for me, in addition to my own daily persistence with Spanish I am also focused on exercise and writing.
I've been working out with weights for the first time in nearly 20 years and even after just a few months I can really feel the difference in my core strength and stamina. I actually want to get up and work out in the morning, something new for me!
I'm also making a point of getting enough sleep at night, and meditating once a day. I've always sucked at meditating but I found a guided meditation app called "Calm" that has helped me so much! I highly recommend it.
I came to Europe with the dream of finally (Finally!!!) writing a novel, and as of now I've crafted (in addition to this travel blog) a chunk of two different novels. The one I'm more excited about is for young adult readers somewhere between the ages of 10 and 13, and revolves around (what else?) a mother and three children moving abroad after a death in their family. I've written about 30 pages of it so far... plus 80 pages of another story based on my former life in the Los Angeles rock n'roll scene. I really hope that by the end of this first year I will have managed to complete at least one of the two novels! That would be a huge bucket list item checked off.
(I still haven't been brave enough to share excerpts of my novel writing with anyone but my children... but getting to that level of vulnerability is one of my current goals!)
Trying New Things
In a few days we will drive north to stay in a small mountain town called Queixans in the region of Cerdanya and head from there to learn how to cross-country ski! I haven't skied or snowboarded since I was in my early twenties, and in fifteen years I've never once seen Señor Aventura on a slope. This will be a brand new thing for us as couple and for our kids too! How exciting to know that there are still plenty of surprises left for us, even after so many years. In fact, we can't stop ourselves from planning new adventures!
You Can Do This Too!!! Become an Adventurer!
As Andre Gide once said, "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
A lot of people have confided in us over the last seven months that they've always dreamed of doing what we're doing... moving far from home (with their family) for a real-life adventure.
Here in Europe, local friends dream of heading out to a tropical island for a year, or maybe to Thailand, Australia or even to the USA. At home in California, countless friends dream of moving to Europe!
I really hope our move to Barcelona inspires other people to believe in their ability to change up life and do things that might at first seem impossible. You are never too old or 'too tied down' to get back out there! Anything can happen once you let go and dive in.
You don't have to be rich to travel abroad - with or without kids. There are opportunities everywhere if you are looking for them, from temporary jobs to dirt cheap flights. Travel on a shoestring! Have the confidence that you'll be fine. You can teach in your native language (definitely lots of work for English speakers here in Spain!) or look for work in any number of businesses, restaurants, schools and niche industries.
All it takes is the will to do it, and the perseverance to hang in there step by step until your dreams become a reality!
We love and miss you all. Come and visit!
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