Moving to Spain all by myself…
I still can’t really believe I did this. And I’m still really bummed that it’s all over.
I’d been to Spain once before on a holiday, and fallen in love with the place – Barcelona specifically (who doesn’t love Barcelona though, am I right?!) I was determined to return to Spain, but planned to live in London, because that’s where I had friends so it seemed like the most logical place to go.
But then almost like a small epiphany, I realised that I didn’t have to go London just because that’s where I knew people, and even better, I didn’t have to work if I didn’t want to.
Well actually I would have to work (I didn’t have a lot of savings) BUT I mean, who said that I had to get another corporate 9-5 job, why not take a year off and just do something random?
So that’s what I did.
How did it work out?
Looking back, I think at the beginning I was too busy dreaming about my fantasy Mediterranean life, that I didn’t give myself a chance to really worry about how ‘d make the logistics of this life work for me – ignorance is bliss.
I just assumed I’d just get a job easily and the 8 classes of Spanish I’d taken in my community learning centre (yes, just 8) would set me up superbly for life as a Spanish local.
Of course it didn’t quite work out this way… but it wasn’t all bad either.
I heard that working as an au pair would provide me with a stable income and free accommodation, which seemed like a perfect solution for me, so I used a web agency to find a host family and without much consideration I’d soon moved to Madrid and was living in the suburbs with a random Spanish family.
While I’ll admit au pair work wasn’t my favourite, my move to Madrid is what kept me in Spain.
The first 3 months in any new city are the hardest, as you try to establish a new routine and network. Having a ‘home’ to go to every night, food in the pantry, wifi and just general support from this family was huge.
It provided a massive weight off my shoulders, which let me focus on other things like getting to know my new city, making new friends and figuring what I really wanted to get out of my gap year in Spain (unfortunately it wasn’t au pairing).
By chance I met another expat who helped me put together a late application to teach English in Spain, and when that job came through I was away laughing.
It was a total game changer.
Suddenly I had a job I loved and I was making enough money to rent my own room in the city – and really enjoy the city.
As for speaking Spanish…
Don’t let anybody fool you – learning a language is hard!
For about 6-8 months I couldn’t have a proper conversation in Spanish.
While I learnt new words every day and could quite confidently point at things like a toddler and identify them in simple, monotone words, sentences came out in pigeon-Spanish, as if I was slow to evolve from my caveman ancestors.
I’d say things in Spanish like, “How hot is sun! I want beer, and you?” when what I’d be really mean was, “Gee whiz, that sun sure is hot, I’d really like to go and cool down at a bar and enjoy a refreshing glass of beer.”
Feeling confident to speak Spanish took quite some time.
The teaching job helped a lot. It’s so much easier to learn off kids who don’t overcomplicate sentences or try to explain everything – they just tell you how to say whatever you want to say.
But that was all part of the adventure.
Looking back I’m pretty amazed that I went.
I mean who just moves to foreign country, where they don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, don’t have a job lined and just don’t really have any particular reason to move?
I’m impressed with myself.
I wish I could be that spontaneous and determined now, rather than just fluffing about in Auckland trying to figure out what this chapter of my life is actually all about.