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By Nancy Todd
Seven friends and I, plus two suitcases, piled into a van – my escorts to the airport from Asheville, North Carolina, to Barcelona, Spain. I heard statements: “Oh, you are brave.” “I could never do anything like that.” “Why would you want to leave Asheville?” “I admire your courage.”
The move was never about courage. It was about having lived in one culture all my life. There was a big, wonderful world out there and I wanted more of that world. I needed a fresh view. I wanted my perspectives on life shaken, my palate tingled, and to walk the unknown paths. Once I recognize a latent dream, I must follow my passion.
I got on the plane. With no place to live, I did have reservations in a horrid youth hostel. Reading Lonely Planet on the plane, I discovered Barcelona was a bilingual culture. Whoops. I did not know the difference between “up” and “down” in Spanish, much less Catalan. I knew no one in the city. I had no job. I had no map. I had few belongings (years after my move, removals to Spain would have been useful…but that’s another story). I only knew that I was on the threshold of a new adventure.
Arriving at dawn, I sped toward the city in a taxi with a golden sun peering out of the Mediterranean Sea. With tears of joy, I took it as a good omen. I had done it. I followed my dream.
The hostel didn’t even have sheets. Leaving the bugs and pealing walls behind, I registered at a good hotel in the same neighborhood. I figured it would take me 10 days to find an apartment. Wrong. It took three and one half weeks. I kept downgrading hotels as it was getting expensive. In the interim, my phone blew, my purse was stolen from a copy shop, and my leather jacket stolen out of my hotel room. I called a friend boo-hooing. WTF? Was I not supposed to move? Was I to go back to Asheville?
I have always believed in networking. I found some expat groups, met Nanette, a Brit, who not only was fluent in Catalan and Spanish, but was also a realtor. She was my angel as I could not read the ads, and most agents did not speak English. She previewed apartments, told me the best neighborhoods where she thought I would fit.
My apartment was a one bedroom overlooking a small plaza. Home. It was newly furnished and I covered the glaring, pumpkin orange sofa with an Ikea spread. I had two burners for a stove. My frig was the size of three shoe boxes. There was exactly one foot of walk space around my bed. I loved my new humble home and I had lived in some beauties.
8 tips on what you need to move to a new country:
l. Prevent the “Whoops” experience and learn some basic language skills.
2. Know that perseverance is your best friend. You will dig into your perseverance like you never knew you could.
3. Network through Internations and other expat groups before you move. Ask questions. People will help you. Perseverance.
4. You do not have to know everything. If I had known then what I know now, I might have chickened out and not moved.
5. Tourist information offices are incredibly resourceful. What website to find an apartment? List of realtors? Banks?
6. Find a bank where people speak English and where their online access is in English.
7. Get a phone right away. Again, perseverance with the cell phone companies will pay off.
8. Have some money as a backup. I can’t say how much to have. Depends on cost of living, whether you want roommates or not, etc.
Live you dreams. Follow your heart. I have. I love that I moved. I have never looked back.