Moving to Spain solo…

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.


moving to spain

Why Spain?

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.

moving to madrid

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 found casual work quite easily, first working at a kid’s summer camp, and then working in a hostel. These jobs were both really fun, but neither was long term.

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.


moving to spain friends


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.


move to spain


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.



This post is part of the awesome Travel Blog Link Up hosted by Angie, JessiEmma and Andrea. Thanks heaps girls – great topic!


  1. This post has made me feel so much more confident about what I want to do next year. I’m currently in my last year of college and I really don’t want to go to university straight away so I have been looking at TEFL and just moving away for a year or 2 to Spain. You’ve made me feel so comfortable. If there is anymore advice you could give I would love that! Thank you.

    • Oh do it!! It was the best thing I ever did. Spain is an amazing place to live, and there is a great community of English teachers there all in the same boat as you, so making friends and having adventures is easy. You’ll love it.

  2. This article made me feel a lot better! I just moved to Queretaro, Mexico. I know no one here and cannot speak Spanish. I got a job teaching English before I moved, which made the job situation a lot easier, but I keep beating myself up for not being able to speak the language and knowing you were okay with not speaking for 6-8 months and knowing that it could take 3 months to really get accustomed to everything honestly just took a lot of stress off and I feel a lot better about everything. Thank you so much!

  3. It’s experiences like these that will stay with us forever! I did a similar thing to you but moved to France instead of Spain. Looking back on it now I still can’t really believe I did it. We should be proud of ourselves as it is such a big accomplishment 🙂

    • Exactly! It wasn’t really until I explained this story to other people that I realised how much of an accomplishment it was! And you’re right, it did change me!

  4. I was so excited to see this post because I’m actually from Madrid! (so if you ever need anything, just let me know). Moving to a new country is definitely such a huge adventure! I’m glad your host family was a good one!

    Be | lovefrombe

  5. Fantastic Blog !! Spain is cool place and relax with full of fun. Its’ s look like adventure of life and always memorable I really want to go one time in life spain and enjoy full with my family and friends. Very Great content !! Update me to at: pax

  6. Good on you. Totally understand re. Spanish – my 8 weeks hardly helped me for my 8 months of travel through South America! With ya again – wish I could be that spontaneous again rather than fluffing about with stuff in Auckland!

  7. You should be impressed with yourself! Moving to Spain is massive! A great experience for sure.

  8. I really like your writing style – very cool. I also am very jealous of your. My sister moved to Barcelona and taught English there – but she could speak Spanish beforehand, and I’m terrible at languages! I’ve been instructed that my moving to Singapore won’t involve any language barriers though, so hopefully that side of things will be easier than your struggle! It’s about the only thing I don’t worry about in my Linkup post actually !

    • Oh thank you, that’s such nice feedback to hear 🙂
      Good luck with your move to Singapore – I’d love to live in Asia at some stage, I think it would be a lot of fun!

  9. When we looked at expat opportunities, I was pretty adamant I wanted our first adventure to be to an English speaking country because I am terrible at languages. Even though I grew up in a Mexican-American household where some form of Spanish was spoken regularly, my ability to speak the language is laughable at best. Even here in Ireland, with some of the really strong, heavy accents and the speed at which people here speak, I’m sometimes lost. I can’t even imagine if we’d gone somewhere like Germany, France, or Spain. I’d be stumbling around pointing at things. Congrats to you for not only going somewhere so different but also flourishing!

  10. Wow, I wish I had the guts to do this! I am so in love with Madrid, and back when I was a student I spent 2 amazing months there studying Spanish. It was so much fun and I wish I could have stayed longer!
    Very inspired by your story x
    Anne-Sophie – City Cookie

    • Madrid is a very loveable city! Studying there would’ve been awesome, I met a few students while I was there, and they were loving it too… oh man, i’d love to go back! Thanks for reading 🙂

  11. That sounds like so much fun! Funnily enough my travel link up post mentions not being able to speak Spanish either, but I think your “pidgin Spanish” is easily much better than mine!

    • Haha yes! I don’t know why people assume that as soon as you move to a new country you’ll instantly become fluent in a new language?! Far out it’s hard! It all starts to come together eventually – though I’m worried I’d already forgotten a lot of it now that I’ve left!

  12. I’m seriously impressed! It looks like it was the adventure of a lifetime. I’m so glad that you ended up finding a job that you loved. Something like that changes you, for the better!

    • Thanks so much! It definitely changed me and my outlook on life and just putting it all into words now, makes me want to pack up and do something like this all over again!

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