I wrote this for a guest post over at Shuffle Online
Sometimes in life, you get so stuck, so frustrated, that you throw every bit of caution to the wind, hoping that if you jump big enough, you’ll land somewhere amazing. That is how I came to be living in Valencia, Spain.
I had graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Journalism but had failed to find satisfying work either in or out of my field. Sick of Texas heat and Austin’s rising prices, not to mention exhausted by the government of Texas and their continual war on women, I decided I needed to get out.
I was thinking maybe California, live on the coast, live the cowabunga lifestyle, and then Trump was elected. At that point, I knew that I couldn’t live in America anymore. Now, a lot of people threaten to move to Canada or Australia or wherever every election, and never do anything about it. I am not one of those folks. First, I am an immigrant to America to begin with. I’m English, although I’ve been in America since I was eight, and you certainly wouldn’t guess I’m anything else by talking to me. Second, I am a citizen of the European Union, which makes moving to any EU country very easy. Third, I was ready for a huge change.
I had been chatting to a well-traveled friend, Danielle, when she mentioned that she sometimes looked at apartments in Valencia online. They were plentiful and cheap, she said, and the city beautiful. That was enough for me. I decided that I would move to Spain, and managed to convince Danielle to come with me.
Already an immigrant, I knew that moving to a different country wouldn’t be very hard for me emotionally. I don’t have emotional attachments to England, I was unwilling to spend any more time in Trump’s America, and I had long wanted to experience life as an adult in my home continent of Europe. I also knew that I wanted to go somewhere I didn’t speak the language. Sure, it would be more difficult at first, but I wanted to grow from this experience, and genuine growth does not come easy.
That was honestly the extent of my thought process when I made the decision to move, and booked my one-way ticket. I knew it was possible, that no matter what happened, I would regret saying ‘no’ more than I would ever regret taking the chance. So, with no job, very little money, and almost no knowledge of Spanish, I was on a plane to Valencia. It took about four months between deciding to go and landing in Spain, simply because both Danielle and I had work commitments that we had to honor.
At first, as with any move, I felt isolated. Not knowing the language is incredibly difficult. Danielle, being fluent, served as a translator often, and I was very lucky to have a friend who could do that. Within a week, I had found my footing and within a month, I felt at home. I’ve traveled enough, and moved long distances before, and so I had some tricks to help acclimate.
I used Facebook groups, joining an Ex-Pats group immediately, and asked most of my questions there. I found people who understood the difficulties of moving, the nuances of moving through Spanish bureaucracy, and could give tips on the best paella. We found short term apartment leases, friends, an agent to help us navigate the visa process, and some very good restaurants.
I started school at a Spanish language academy, to learn the language in a structured environment, and there I have met many new friends. I have also used MeetUp.com, CouchSurfing.com and Tinder all to great effect. I’m usually an introverted person, but it seems like the world greets a traveler with open arms. Almost every Spanish person I have met is genuinely nice, friendly, and helpful.
It’s still a hard and sometimes terrifying journey. Job-hunting, both remotely and in Valencia, has not yet led to employment. There are days where I swear I lose all knowledge of Spanish and my brain turns the words into gibberish. The scariest days here, the ones where I worry about money and failure, are still not as terrifying as the idea of never having tried. If I chose to fear failure, I would still be in Austin, unhappily working jobs I hated, barely scraping by, and that would be the biggest failure imaginable. So, I chose to make the gamble.
Even on my worst day in Spain, I’m still in Spain.