Recently, someone asked Jonathan what prompted us to spend a year abroad. His answer was “Andrea is restless.” When I related his comment back to him, he was surprised that he’d said it, I think, worried that he’d hurt my feelings.
But, it’s true. I am restless. Doing the same thing more than a few times bores me, which means I have trouble keeping habits and being in the same place for an extended period of time. I’ve never lived in a house longer than two years. I switch up the coffee shop I visit throughout the week. And, if I don’t go on at least one trip per month, my spirit languishes.
I find familiar spaces and situations heavy with expectation. The unknown and the new provide freedom.
Luckily, I’ve found a partner who also enjoys the thrill of experiencing new things and understands how it nourishes me.
Jonathan and I have traveled frequently throughout our relationship. We usually take two trips outside the US each year. One trip is almost always to Europe over the holidays and the other is to somewhere else like Cuba or Canada.
In August 2016, we spent ten days in Vancouver. We enjoyed the people and the water. We stuffed ourselves with Poutine and rode bikes. The weather and ease of getting around without a car was dreamy. So dreamy that we discussed the prospect of moving there.
Later that year, during the holidays, we spent three weeks in Stockholm, living in the cozy neighborhood of Kungsholmen. Getting up each day and walking across the street for a workout and then taking the train deeper into the city to visit one of the many sights. After a couple of weeks spent abroad, we felt like pros and again the idea of moving came up.
As we entered 2017 and we became more comfortable with the flexibility of our remote businesses, the idea of moving abroad took a clearer form and we made a decision—2019 would be spent outside of the USA.
After much preparation and planning, a frantic December 2018, visits with friends, and a full day of flights, we’re finally here, kicking off our adventure in Barcelona, Spain.
The final days before our departure had a couple of challenges. To start…a freezing, snowy move. Our house was packed up on December 30th, on a beautiful clear day. Our house was moved to storage on December 31st in snow and freezing cold. It took six hours to move our 800 square foot apartment. We had planned for four.
When we got to the storage space, the movers suggested that everything might not fit. I frantically started packing random shit into our car to make room. Luckily, we all worked together to pack the space as dense as possible and made it work. I'm not exaggerating when I say that we have shit from the ceiling to the floor and the back wall to the door. There’s no chance we’ll be pulling anything out of there until we’re moving it all out!
I also managed to throw away a bag full of my nicest beauty products—perfumes, lotions, makeup. Probably $700 worth of products. NBD. I'd put everything into a Whole Foods bag to take to my parents house where we’d be spending the night before we left. As we were clearing out final items from our place, I thought it was recycling and I took it down the dumpster and tossed it. After driving through the snow to Louisville and saying goodbye to our place, our street, Pearl St. and pulling into my parents driveway, I realized what had happened. So! We turned around and drove through the snow, back to Boulder, where I dumpster dived for my makeup. Luckily, it was a success and now I can say that I've been in a dumpster on New Year's Eve 🙂
But, the memory of the move and the smell of dumpsters feels like decades ago. After arriving in Barcelona, we’ve been blown away by the complexity and diversity of the city.
Neither of us have ever visited Spain, so we didn’t know what to expect. Everything I know of Spanish culture I know from Mexico and Cuba. Now, I'm in a European country that speaks Spanish. I don't have a model for that in my brain!
There are mountains in the city, and water as a backdrop to Gothic architecture, and a dozen languages being spoken in any restaurant we visit.
It’s also still Christmas.
Apparently, unlike the rest of the world, Spain celebrates the twelve days of Christmas, after the 25th and the culmination of everything is the weekend of The Epiphany—this past weekend.
Saturday night was the big event—the parade of the three kings—Melcior, Gaspar, and Baltasar. They all arrive in the city to be given the keys to Barcelona. Children write letters not to Santa, but to the three kings and then they leave out their shoes and a bowl of water for the king's camels to drink. The kings deliver presents, dropped into the children's shoes, which they open today, while they eat the Kings Cake, which is the same cake that people eat for Fat Tuesday.
The parade was a trip. The turnout was as big if not bigger than the crowds for the Macy's Day Parade. Families show up with ladders so that their kids can see. Brilliant. There were huge floats for all three kings and their entourage, nets swung into the crowds for kids to put their letters for the kings into, and then at the end three floats shoot candy (rather violently) at the crowd. It was fantastic!
Everyone was wearing crowns and kids LOST THEIR SHIT—screaming desperately, "Hola, Gaspar!!" "Hola, Baltasar!" Throwing their letters into the nets.
My face hurt from smiling so much and Jonathan and I have been singing the song from this video for the past 36 hours.
We’ve been to several wine bars, run on the beach, walked all over the city, and shopped at the fresh food markets for our groceries. We are settling in to our place and starting our first full week in the city.
Next on the list is to brush up on my Spanish. I’ve got work to do.
The other day, we went on a search for coffee grounds. We visited our local market where we stood wide-eyed at a counter watching all of the hubbub and waiting for someone to help us. We gave up and started to walk away, when one of the cashiers became available and, in a rush, I returned and asked “Yo tengo cafe?” Wrong conjugation, dummy. The woman stared blankly at me until I exclaimed “coffee?? Coffee grounds?” Ah! Yes. The stupid American doesn’t know how to find coffee. The woman was gracious and showed us the options and ultimately it was a success. But, seriously—get it together Andrea. “I have coffee!?” No you don’t, idiot.
I’ve soothed the humiliation of my coffee hunt, by making an excessive amount of coffee each day in a moka pot and feeling oh-so-european.