It’s not all sunshine and oranges in Valencia. Well, it kinda is. But for the past week we’ve been reflecting on what we have learned over the last year. And it’s been conversations filled with smiles, laughter and A LOT of ‘Remember when we first got here and we ….’ and ‘I can’t believe we did that!’
One of the first things we’ve learned is that when an opportunity presents itself, take it. It might be a party, dinner, coffee, a class, an introduction, a Pokemon Go raid in the Jardin, travel promo. Almost anything. You meet people and you learn. And new friends emerge. People who will help you, and to whom you can lend your helping hand.
Whatever you think your travel budget will be – quadruple it. When you move to Europe you’ll get emails for cheap flights and cheap rental cars or luxury hotels at off season rock bottom prices. You’ll want to go on more adventures than you can count. I haven’t posted all of ours on this blog but we have traveled a ton in the last 12 months. This is EXACTLY what we wanted to do.
People moving to a new country are uncomfortable and unsure of where they fit. It’s natural. Like going off to college and you know no one. Give those you meet more than one look. Especially those who are expats, like you. Meaning everyone has a bad day, and you never know if someone you’ve just met is always like that, or if it’s just a tough stretch of adjustment. Who knows, they may become a close friend, but you’ll never know if you just scratch the surface one, or possibly a few times. I’ve circled around and I have made friends here I’ll have for a very long time – from a pool I might have missed if I didn’t dig a little past some rough edges. Cut them some slack, while you cut yourself some too.
Laugh, laugh and laugh some more. I have made such a fool of myself so many times I’d win the award for ‘Fallas Court Jester’ if they had one. Language faux pas and miming that would embarrass Jeff more often than he’d likely admit. (See my bear impression at the Haribo store looking for gummi bears) But then he’s learned if you’re willing to make fun of yourself, it disarms and frees others to do the same. Their self-consciousness fades too, and soon everyone is laughing and figuring it out. He encountered this on a recent trip to the local Farmacia to get me cold meds. He came back laughing as he and the farmacist had made fools of themselves, fake sneezing and miming throwing up. But they got to the right meds in the end.
Don’t over plan. Sure, lists are good (I love lists) but taking a left instead of right and getting lost is part of some of our best adventures. Don’t be afraid to eat, drink, listen and walk a new way to places that are completely unknown. Sure, we’ve joined groups that schedule things, but we’ve learned that there will always be beer or coffee afterwards and the day isn’t about packing in as much as possible.
Not everything is available in Spain. As a matter of fact, A LOT of what we would normally take for granted in the US isn’t available (or at least readily available). Especially electronics. And the selection of many household things isn’t as broad. But we’ve learned how to redefine ‘Good Enough’. And I find we’re actually happier, even though we can’t get every little thing with a selection of 50 choices. Sometimes having to delay gratification means that we find we didn’t really need it to begin with.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, is impossible or insurmountable. You just don’t know how to do it yet. And not knowing is OK. I’ve learned to take a deep breath, tap into my network and keep trying. It will come. And to have patience. Most importantly, with myself.
Lastly, I think we would both agree – this past year has been one of the biggest growth years of our lives. And also some of the most fun! As we start year two, the adventures will just keep on rolling as we head to Bilbao next week. Our initial renewal papers filed, and me behind the wheel of a compact manual transmission car, driving on roads I’ve never been on. Jeff’s idea of heaven – for sure!
We arrived yesterday last year, in monsoon rain, in the dark of night, 7 hours late, with nothing but 4 wet duffle bags into an empty apartment. And look where we are today. We have built a life for ourselves here. One filled with gratitude. Things have a way of working out. Happy 1st Anniversary to Us!