How does an expat become an expat? What leads to that day one gets on the plane and starts a different life in a foreign land? As expats in Spain, the Scoopettes have met countless transplants to Barcelona from all over the world, each with a distinct reason for packing their bags. Today we look at Liz’s reasons for coming to Spain and making it home.
By Liz Carlson
It was a blisteringly hot day, when I stepped off the bus in Granada. Shuffling along with my high school classmates, we dutifully listened to our tour guide rattle on about the Alhambra’s superb architecture and colorful history, snapping photos with our disposable cameras. But I barely heard her. My mind was busy absorbing everything around me like a sponge. The way the flowers grew wild all over the maze-like gardens, families chatting in lyrical, rapid-fire Spanish around me, and above-all, being able to stand inside and walk around a place that’s been standing for over 1000 years. We don’t have many spots like that back home in rural Virginia.
Almost a decade later and over three years here, my love affair with Spain has only grown. Far from the wide-eyed and overwhelmed teenager wandering around a foreign country for the first time, I am now more comfortable in Spain than I am back in the States. Studying abroad in Salamanca for a year wasn’t enough for me; it left me wanting more, so as soon as I graduated university, I packed up my bags and bought a one-way flight across the pond. I haven’t looked back since.
Faced with the decision of slaving away at a 9 to 5 job after university just to pay my bills and student loans, or to return to the country where I felt the most at home, it was not a question of if but when. Combined with the high demand for English teachers and guaranteed work here, the decision to come back to Spain was a relatively easy one. After a tough but rewarding year in Córdoba, I felt that Spain hadn’t finished with me yet, so I decided to stay on, and get to know her better. Now settled in the small and comfortable and laid-back city of Logroño, capital of wine country in the north, I couldn’t be happier.
The unhurried and easygoing lifestyle in Spain is alluring. Time passes slowly here, almost as if nothing matters besides enjoying yourself. In many ways Spain is unchanged, from family-owned shops to local markets, from the infamous mid-day break to never-ending holidays and festivals. Walking around cities and towns older than your country, surrounded by breathtaking nature, puts things in perspective. And the food, my god! As much as I miss the variety of ethnic food back home, I cannot live without cured Spanish ham, tortilla de patata and the incredible variety of tapas and pinchos!
In Spain, the old world mentality clashes with more modern sensibilities, creating a rich and diverse culture that never gets boring. My path to Spain has been anything but simple or easy; filled with challenges, obstacles and difficulties, it was almost as if I had to pass a test. As another year ticks by, I know for certain that my journey to Spain is anything but finished. Who knows where next year will take me?
Have you every lived abroad or wondered how your life would be if you lived in Spain? Tell us about it! Or shoot us your questions about expat life.
Liz writes Memoirs of a Young Adventuress which is about traveling and expat life abroad. Four years ago, she said goodbye to the freezing cold New England winters and ‘hola’ to sunny, warm Spain, and hasn’t looked back. Unsatisfied living in the same place for too long, she has called several cities in Spain home, from Salamanca to Madrid, Córdoba and Málaga, and now Logroño in the north.