It’s been two years since we got off the plane, lugged our three giant suitcases to the curb of Valencia’s little airport and butchered the pronunciation of our AirBnB address to the cab driver. Two years since we searched for part time jobs, only to land a 4-week gig at an English summer camp earning less money than we did when we were 16, and yearning for the security that came with the salaries we left behind. Two years since we searched for an apartment and had three legitimately fall through before emptying our savings account to pay the entire year’s rent up-front because we didn’t have a Spanish job contract. Two years since we walked through the park every day making up songs to memorize basic Spanish verb conjugations in present tense, only to freeze in terror the moment someone spoke to us. And two years since we relished in the everyday excitement of life abroad - fully embracing the Spanish siesta, afternoons at the beach, warm late nights spent on streetside patios, and the beautiful and unapologetic focus on family and time together over money, status and things.
Our first year in Spain was a year of a thousand firsts, each day ending with a well deserved glass of Spanish wine after learning/experiencing/doing/trying something new. We had our first Spanish class, our first paella lunch, our first fallas, ran our first Spanish race, survived our first August shutdown, met our first (non-Spanish, but still) friends, and landed our first paying travel client, leading us to think “maybe we can actually do this long-term?”
We constantly evaluated the ups and downs of expat living, the many, many things we missed about the U.S., and the many, many things we loved about our new life in Spain. We both started part-time jobs, Ryan teaching English to business professionals at offices around the city and Megan working in PR for a short-lived Danish startup, giving us a bit of financial security until Cohica settled into a full time business. And we figured more things out - how to navigate the city outside of our little barrio, how to get residency for Ryan, how to score the cheapest RyanAir tickets so we could travel cheap and without debt, and how to throw Cinco De Mayo parties and Friendsgiving dinners. There were everyday frustrations and moments that were flat out infuriating, but we ended year 1 feeling less like we were on some bizarre 30-something study abroad program and more like we actually lived here.
Now, two years in and we still don’t have it all figured out. We (Megan moreso) get weirdly sweaty during Spanish conversations that include more than one tense. Just the other day, we accidently bought two different bottles of conditioner and no shampoo. But the major difference is that now, after two long years, we really feel at home in Spain. We love our apartment (the “winner” in our House Hunters International episode, which does have a rooftop terrace, btw). We have a somewhat steady income from a combination of Ryan teaching and a solid stream of Cohica clients. We have a group of awesome friends from all over the globe to hang out with and a sweet little 8-month old puppy to keep us on our toes.
Now that we’re no longer treading water, we can actually look forward into the future and we’re carefully considering what kind of life, work and balance we want long-term. Our dream is to be 100% supported by our own business(es), and eventually, have the freedom to live in a different country or travel for a portion of each year. We’re determining what we need to do to get there and are strongly considering starting a second business based in Spain to integrate into the community, improve our Spanish skills and (hopefully) solely support ourselves. More on that coming soon, but it may involve a little smoothie and health food cafe in a centuries old building. We shall see….
In the meantime, we’re happily celebrating our second anniversary living in Spain and are very excited to see what year three will bring!
Do you ever fall in love with a place then, when it comes to planning your next trip, struggle with the decision of returning or exploring somewhere new? This is a constant conversation in our house. We always want to explore the world and experience new cultures, but then there are those memories - sharing a bottle of red wine on warm stone steps overlooking ancient Rome; jumping off a 20-foot cliff into the clear water and swimming to the next cove to do it all over again; hiking along the narrow ridge of a volcanic crater surrounded by wild hydrangeas with the ocean on one side and a lake on the other - that we just want to go back and do all over again.
Are we the only ones who spend a ridiculous amount of time every January brainstorming and researching all of the places we want to visit in the year ahead? Travel, afterall, does take planning… oh and saving, and discipline too.
It's 2018, and we’re reflecting on the best parts of last year as we adjusted to our life as expats in Spain and explored new travel destinations throughout Europe.
In 2017 we finally started to get the hang of life in Spain and are wrapping up the year feeling more at home in Valencia than ever before. Afterall, in the last year we…
We’d read about its hilly neighborhoods and red-roofed buildings covered in colorful tiles; its lively bars full of aged port, solemn songs and whole fish dinners. We’d seen photos of its breathtaking river and mini-golden gate. Its many similarities to San Francisco made it all the more intriguing. When did this previous non-destination become such a major European destination? With a smidge of homesickness and a giant dose of pure curiosity, we had to find out what all the hype was about.
“Whether experiential travel is a term you’ve heard before or not, the phenomenon is redefining where we go and how. As more and more travelers crave immersive itineraries, hospitality and tourism companies are working overtime to design specialized activities that meet this demand….”
Travel + Leisure, December 2017
In the 2.5 years since we left our jobs to travel the world, we’ve visited nearly 30 new countries, wandered through countless new cities, moved to Europe and planned a wedding in Tuscany. When we think back about the most life-changing, awe-inspiring moments, they can nearly always be attributed to the people we’ve met along the way.
The excitement for our trip to the Azores had been building for months, if not years. Ever since we’d first heard about these mysterious Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic, our interest had been piqued. Maybe it was the geographical, topographical and cultural similarity to Hawaii. Or maybe it was because of all the places we’ve traveled, this was somewhere no one (that we knew, at least) had been. Or maybe it was the realization that, in many ways, we had no idea what to expect.
The idea of quitting a job to travel the world might seem far-fetched. Maybe even scary. We’re sure you can think of plenty of reasons not to. But if you’ve been struck by the same urge to travel as we have, we’re here to tell you that it’s not as hard as you may think. And that taking a risk now, rather than putting it off and telling yourself you’ll do it someday, is totally and completely so, so, so worth it. Because at the end of the day, you’ll probably regret the things you didn’t do. Not the ones you did.
So here it is. Nine tips to make a trip around the world a reality.
Living less than 200 miles away in Valencia, it’s hard to understand why it took us so long to go to Mallorca. The largest of the Balearic Islands archipelago, Mallorca (also spelled Majorca) is home to some of the most absolutely epic beaches we’ve ever seen.
Happy Spanniversary to us! We’ve officially survived year number one of expat life (undoubtedly the hardest one, right? Wait, right!?). In some ways it’s hard to believe– we’re just now starting to feel more settled, more secure and more at home. But in other ways, so much has happened over the past twelve months.
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