We’ve now officially lived in Valencia for over five months. As official residents of Spain, we can both finally work legally and have access to state benefits, like free health care and paid time off. We ride our cool, Dutch-style bikes across town to teach English (Megan, kiddos ages 7-9 and 10-12, and Ryan, professional adults) for about 12-15 hours each week. The rest of our workday is spent developing experiential and sustainable travel packages for Cohica (we’re not just a blog, folks) and planning ways to grow our business so we can fulfill our dream of working full-time, independently, from anywhere. Otherwise, our days are spent cooking, running in the park, occasionally hitting the beach, and drinking too much Spanish wine. We stay up too late, sleep in too late, and still have enough time to do things like roast tomatoes and pickle red onions. Everything is going according to plan.
Yes. We know it sounds awesome, and on most days it totally is. But living abroad isn’t always easy. The truth is, sometimes, it’s really hard.
It’s very easy to feel isolated; almost like we live on an island (a smaller, and much more foreign island than Maui), far away from the people, language, culture and system that is familiar. Every day, we each come home (from the gym, grocery store, work, shopping, anything...) with a tale of frustration. Not knowing how a system or process works and not having the vocab or recalling the verb to ask; having someone literally run into us on the street because they expect us to move, or having a finger wagged at us for doing something wrong.
We recently read a blog that said “being an expat is like being an infant in a new culture.” It’s true. Everything about the world around us is different than what we’re used to (good or bad) and it will likely take a very long time to really understand how it all works. We walk into a crowded restaurant and no one speaks to us for 20 minutes while we awkwardly seat ourselves and continue to wait until we finally give up and leave. Is it because we’re foreign or because we’re supposed to say something to someone? Someone smiles and we’re not sure if they’re being friendly, feeling bad for us, or thinking we’re idiots. Even with our Spanish improving every day, it’s proven with every interaction that we’re absolutely on the outside. It’s tough.
Then, as life goes, there are some days when we step out onto the sun-drenched cobblestone streets, through the 20-foot door of a 200-year-old building, into mid-October 70-something temps to what seems to be the entire city sitting at a streetside cafe sipping a cold beer. And we think, F*&% YES. This is exactly what we wanted… the relaxed lifestyle, the new culture, the challenge of a new language, the history, the food, the experience of living in the oldest section of a vibrant young city. Yes! And we are stoked. Without fail, Valencia always seems to reward us with some serious ups to our downs.
So, we’ve decided that over the next few months, we’re going to do our best to treat life in Valencia like an awesome 30-something study abroad program. We’re going to settle in to our relaxed routine, work on Cohica, and put some serious energy into having FUN in Valencia. We chose a Spanish city first so we could experience all the best city things in Europe - futbol matches, concerts, runs, shows, restaurants/bars… communication and cultural idiosyncrasies be damned! So, if you need us, we’ll be living it up and holding on as we ride the ups and downs of the expat roller coaster.