I’m coming up on six months since my arrival in Europe. I can’t believe it’s already been half a year since I hopped on that plane and started this crazy whirlwind of an adventure.
As I reminisce about the series of events that lead to this new chapter… I look back and wonder why I didn’t make this move sooner. And the only answer is FEAR.
For so many years, it had been responsible for halting the pursuit of my dreams. I let excuses pile up, got comfortable, always finding a way to justify why I never took the risk to follow through with my lifelong dream of living in Europe. The idea of making this move just seemed indescribably impossible. As every year went by, I got deeper into the hole of inevitability, meaning that I’d have to eventually get a boyfriend, get married, have kids, and focus on growing my career. The only one of those things on my radar was work and career progression, but also that started to matter less as my career goals were overshadowed by fear of regret. After all, this move was the last thing I thought about at night, and the first thing on my mind as soon as my eyes opened.
Finally, when I thought I had a job offer abroad, it fell through. Fueled by anger, I said enough is enough, time to take my life into my own hands… the emotions that followed were what gave me the motivation to say F*CK it, I’m just going to buy a one way ticket and figure it out when I get there. Sometimes, that’s what we need in order to make a change.
This was the first step of a journey to overcome this mindset of apprehension. It’s as though my brain was programmed to think this way. The ticket was only the beginning. After that, thousands of anxiety-inducing thoughts ran through my head… “What if this?! What if that!? What if!?”
I recently re-read the blog post I wrote before leaving the US, which is all about the things I was most afraid of before leaving. Now I chuckle at that post. Of course, these were all valid concerns at the time, but it’s funny how one way or another, things have a tendency to work themselves out.
If I could talk to myself six months ago, I would tell myself to shut up and chill out.
What I keep thinking is how much a person can grow when they take risks to overcome their biggest fears. Now, I feel things I’ve never felt before: true belief that I have the power to accomplish whatever I set my mind to, no matter how scary, along with complete liberation, openness, acceptance, and happiness. Real, smile-for-no-reason, HAPPINESS.
I write this post not only to slow down, take a moment to look around at how things have changed and be grateful, but also to inspire you if you also have that little voice in the back of your mind. You know the one.
Pros & cons of the decision
Don’t get me wrong, this has been the most eye-opening experience of my life, which has lead to unprecedented self-discovery. And just like any major adjustment, it isn’t all peaches and cream. Although I’ve punched my biggest apprehensions in the face, there are still times where uncertainty takes over and dread sets in.
The pros are likely obvious by now: experience, travel, fulfillment, happiness, self-awareness, confidence.
The cons? Although they are few, they’re significant.
The first and most important is not having my sister, mom, grandma and niece close. As much as I want to squeeze my Lili and kiss my baba, I can’t. But thanks to technology, we can see each other almost every day.
The second is finding friends. I haven’t stuck around in one place long enough to find friends outside of La Familia (you can read about them here). There’s still a gap that needs to be filled. In due time.
The last con is my lack of focus. Now that I’ve done the ONE thing I’ve always wanted, I’m not sure where to focus my efforts now. I love learning and have always been very career-oriented, however all of the traveling has muted that constant search for career development. I hope to find the same fulfillment professionally as I’ve found personally.
So what’s next?
Commitment. I’ve been splitting my time between my mom’s friend’s place in Madrid as well as visiting family all over Europe, but feel it’s time to start settling there. The idea beforehand was to land in Madrid and travel as much as possible to figure out where I want to live in Europe. After doing that, I realized that there was this magnetism between myself and Madrid. No matter where my travels would take me, I’d secretly miss the Spanish culture and always look forward to going back to Madrid.
With that said, the loose plans are to start looking for a place in Madrid, sign up for Spanish courses (the Spanish is coming along but needs a lot of work,) and possibly start looking into getting a Masters. Stay tuned!
Here is a timeline with highlights from the last six months, enjoy!
March: Spain/Basque Country
My sister joined me for three weeks when I first moved to Spain. We rented a car and headed up to Segovia, Bilbao to meet our cousin Dorina, then beautiful San Sebastian for a few days.
About a month later, my mom paid me a visit. We ended up staying at an amazing hotel/spa/monastery/winery in the middle of nowhere. It was one of the best experiences ever! From there, we ended up booking last minute tickets to the charming Portuguese city of Porto, where we sat on the river, drank porto, and climbed the hilly city like two lost mountain goats.
April: Cantabria, Northern Spain
Over Easter weekend, Giuliana, my mother’s best friend’s daughter who I lived with in Madrid, me, and two Spaniards, ended up going to an awesome surf camp ran by incredibly nice, friendly Italians. Read the post >
May: Düsseldorf, Germany
Dusseldorf, land of cool architecture and one good tapas restaurant. This was a fun trip, including meeting another Roumena from Bulgaria and going to a Bulgarian party.
June/July: Bilbao, Basque Country, again
Man, Madrid gets HOT during the summer. I heard that before going, but after looking at the temperature charts, it’s about the same as Idaho. I’ve never been a fan of heat, but I’ve been able to manage. Well, nope! There’s a big difference. The temperature & humidity might be almost the same, but the difference is that Madrid is a concrete jungle. The buildings and streets heat up, and many buildings don’t have central AC. I learned everyone takes July 15 – August 15 off in Spain and Madrid becomes a ghost town! It’s the weirdest thing… The only people crazy enough to wander the streets during this time are tourists. Little do they know the city is dead during that time. So, I decided to peace out earlier than that, when the heat wave first hit. I went up to Bilbao to stay with my cousin, Dorina, and became neaaaarly local after my 3-ish weeks in total up there.
July: Although only a day trip, deserves a call out. San Juan Gaztelugaxte
This is a magical place. Take a look at the island in the background – you’ll see there is a man-made wall which connects the mainland to this little island where you can find a church and awesome views.
July: A random trip to Estella & San Sebastian
This was one of the most random trips I’ve taken, but unforgettable. Highlights include staying in a tiny town called Estella, smack dab in the middle of wine country. I visited a winery with a wine fountain, where a man was pouring wine into his toddler’s mouth for a photo op. #Spain
July/August: Ohhhhhh, Bulgaria
I haven’t been back to Bulgaria for over 11 years. But when I found out that some Madrid friends are going… how could I not join? Bulgaria was so mind-blowingly memorable, that it has three separate posts.
August: Budapest, Hungary
It had also been 11 years since I visited my closest cousins/family on my mom’s side. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised with a birthday gift from my cousin to a giant music festival called Sziget, where I spent some quality time getting to meet my 15 year old cousin, Sztefi. I’ve been in Hungary for about 10 days and it’s been an interesting trip. I’ve learned a LOT about the history of my family, the interesting family dynamics and much more.
September: Who knows?